I've had thoughts on why many cling on to religion, even after constant debunking and debating. I think I may have a possible reason why some do not give them up.
Most religions all have some system of an afterlife. People practicing the religion believe that, if they follow their specific book and appease to their specific God, they get to go to a magical place where nothing bad happens and they get to live out their wishes and desires that were either impossible in their mortal life, or there life was too short to live it.
When someone suddenly suggests that such a concept does not exist, the believer becomes defensive. Death is a bitter result of life. We dread the day we where we breathe our last breath, or if our life was suddenly cut short. To us, the concept of an after-life is comforting, a God protecting us like a Dad telling his son everything is going to be alright, even though he knows the bitter end is near.
I think, while not the sole reason for many that hold on to their faith, a denial of a mortal death being a permanent death is what keeps them from swallowing the bitter pill of reality that life is not fair, and that shit happens and you may not get to do everything in life or you could drop dead the very next day.
I was born in Mississippi, and raised Baptist, although, my family was mostly lazy Christians who only went to church on around the Holidays. I had the hope as a small child to go to Heaven and be with Angels and no kids there would ever be mean to me again. The thought that I couldn't have any of that would probably have scared me back then.
I came to realize that it's for the best that there is no afterlife. Imagine what exactly you would be doing in an afterlife. As the eternity went on, you would grow tired of the same mundane things. Would you truly want to spend your mortal life appeasing some God, only so you can appease him the rest of your life? I can't think of anything else that would be so...well, boring.
In a way, I feel more confident in this life. It won't be okay if I skip out on opportunities, because I may not get the chance again. This is my one shot, and I don't want to blow it on wishful thinking.
How about you? If you were once religious and now Atheist, how did you overcome the hurdle of accepting there is no afterlife? Or, do you not believe in an afterlife, but in some way, wish/hope there is one? Has any of this changed your perspective on how you live your life than how you lived your life beforehand?
Hi Atheist Exile. People deconvert themselves or reclaim their reason through their own efforts. However when I can I help this process I do. I never see it as a case of Us v Them. There is no air of hostility and the person who comes to reason by seeing through the delusion is the winner. If I see that they have doubts I try to get them to challenge those doubts and talk through the other possible answers. Sometimes they have not thought about some of the basic beliefs they hold dear. I will try to explain it with a few examples.
Most theists never really consider what an afterlife actually is so I ask “dumb atheist” questions. If I go believe what in your god and get to heaven would Jesus allow me to play golf for the first 20 billion years? This sounds like a stupid question at first but the Theist is compelled to consider what 20 billion years means. Often you will see a look of confusion on their face because they almost know (if they used logic) that this is highly unlikely. Then I might ask if God would allow me to travel around the Universe because I would love to see Orion close up. I have confused the simple but usually naïve concept of what eternity means and planted a seed of doubt that they are now compelled to consider and usually do when on their own. As Woody Allen says - Infinity is a really long time especially towards the end!
When they claim that their god answers their prayers I ask them what do his voice sound like? This usually gets another weird look and they say he always answers by actions. So I will ask if they would mind saying a prayer for my friends arm to grow back. If they say he only helps believers I will ask why did a god who knows everything and therefore preordained how everything will fall into place when he created the world do it in such a way that he would not have to intervene to help you find your keys by making sure you would look behind the couch in the first place? Then I usually say “”Wow I wish I could interrupt the creator of the universe every time I misplace something”. A bit disrespectful but gets them to think about what they are saying.
Actually this is a good one that is recent. I had a Jehovah Witness call to me over a period of weeks. We got on well and he is an ex-JW now. I asked him what had done it for him and he said it was the way I spoke about evolution. On one occasion he had said that Evolution was wrong because it did not explain how life began. I explained that Evolution only explains how life evolves after it started. Whether life began in pool of mud or from a comet hitting the Earth or even by the hands of a god has nothing to do with it. That is a different theory called abiogenesis. He returned the following Saturday and said that he had spoken to some people and that he now agreed that what I said was correct. So after he read some “Daniel” to me I further explain the Theory to him. We both agreed that Evolution was “true” we just had different ideas on what started it all. However I knew he understood the concept.
A month or so later he was pointing to my car and asked how I could not see that it was an intelligently designed product. If a person who had never seen a car saw it for the first time he would know that it was “created” and therefore had to have an intelligent designer. (Sometimes they use the analogy of finding a modern house in the jungle). So I disagreed and said that although it was designed by intelligent people it was part of the process of evolution that started out when man invented the wheel which led to the cart, chariot, horse and cart etc. When we look at early the earliest automobiles we can see how they evolved from the stagecoach. There are no missing links even though stagecoaches are not so easy to find!! Over time the idea was developed until it became today’s car. If we look to the future a little we can understand that today’s models are still evolving into the models that we see in the intelligent designed concepts.
He said it was the deconstruction of this ID concept in his head that started the process that eventually broke the spell. So I can’t say what specific fact did it. It was more a process of addressing challenges and working through concepts from different angles. However once people discard their faith they will begin to consume facts as the thirst for knowledge then really begins.
Take a look this at which is my "evolving intelligent" approach. I find it worthwhile as I debate a lot of them.
I just read the link you provided and it's obviously a good technique to use. I don't think you can be too obvious about it, though, without blowing your cover.
I have always maintained that religion was born out of a dread fear of death and dying
I attended a fundamentalist, new earth, hellfire and brimstone, Southern Baptist church until I was about 19 or 20. A few years later, I got out of college and moved 400 miles away. That was 40 years ago. I haven't been to church since.
During the last couple of years, I've re-connected with several of my old church friends on Facebook. I always assume that they've out grown all of that silly religious indoctrination. But that is usually not the case.
One friend has spent the last 40 years in Brazil translating the bible into the native languages. Another friend did the same thing in and around Australia. Some other friends are deacons or elders in their churches. Other friends talk about spiritual revivals, being filled with the holy spirit, or feeling the power of god in their life.
I just ignore their ramblings...usually. There have been times when they have talked about immoral, ignorant, or rebellious atheists. A few times, I have spoken up and challenged them. It's interesting to read their responses. They're convinced that I just hate god and that I want to lead a selfish, immoral life. And if I ask jesus into my heart then I will be filled with the holy spirit and I will experience the love of god.
I don't claim to be the smartest guy, but I have an answer for all of their claims and objections. After a few email exchanges, they will either just drop out of the conversation or they will get angry threaten me with spending eternity in hell!
I feel sorry for them. They have spent their entire life surrounded by other bible believing christians. I don't think that anyone has stood up challenged them in their entire life. I can almost hear the cognitive dissonance burning in their heads. It must be very threatening and dis-orienting for them.
I do not believe there is an afterlife. There is a very famous quote by a philosopher who's name I do not remember that goes very similar to this "If death exists, I do not. If I exist, death does not. Why should I fear that which cannot exist when I do?" That is kind of my philosophy as far as an afterlife goes.
I have accepted my death will be final, but I want to die knowing I did something worthwhile, I did something important, that I helped someone. I want to be as a good of a person as I possibly can while I am still here, because I know my time is limited. I know eventually it will come to an end, so why waste it?
I wish there was a way I could see my dead grandparents again, healthy, happy, and carefree, I wish they could be in Elysium because they were nothing but good to me while they lived, but I also know that in all likelihood, all that's left of them are a few photographs, a few letters, and my own somewhat fuzzy memories of them.
Heaven is a nice thought. It's comforting. It's also not real.
I can't remember who said this but I found it rather profound. Ok so it's not THAT profound but I'd never thought of it this way and it makes a lot of sense. It basically goes like this, I'm paraphrasing...
"Someone once asked me if I know what it's like to be dead so I asked them if they remember what it was like before they were alive and I said; 'like that'..."
Similar to one of my favorite quotes ever, by Mark Twain:
“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it."
@ Exile I am slow on the uptake sometimes or most of the time. LOL!! Please will you explain to me how and when you where insulted.
This should be entertaining.
Not at all. As @KOrsan observed, it just sounded like a childish threat in response to the most benign of comments. Why not apologise and move on rather than give the tough guy speech?
Showing your balls are bigger than the next guy's is how people in some environments prove their worth. I see he's "not from around here" (not from the U.S.) and perhaps where he's from you're not a man if you suffer an insult. And maybe you're not even a man if you aren't perpetually thin-skinned and acting like a gamecock. He is the way he is. I am really curious, though, what the imagined insult was. Up till now, I've been so amused by his behavior that I haven't even bothered to wonder.
Unseen, you need to watch your mouth.