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?
An excellent reply. I'll have to save it for later use.
Hi John, I may need a couple of bites of the cherry, but here is how I see it.
1. We agree that something has to be eternal, a first cause of some kind.
2. Kalam is only used to show inference to whats probable. There is no certainty in this. You mention a ton of historical data that goes against Kalam, you would need to give some examples here.
3. You say that nothing supernatural is validated. There are atleast two problems here. Firstly, modern science only has the tools to measure things that are natural, it is not equipped, have the language or anything else for things other than that. So absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
Secondly, going with the most common modern theory that the universe did have a beginning at which time, space and matter began, it is completely necessitated that the cause was super-natural, i.e different to nature, as nature did not exist.
4. A static God. I don't see the force of this argument as God in His nature is static and unchanging, but it does not follow that He cannot do something. He is still static in his character and nature. Of course it does dictate the kind of God that would need to exist, an omniscient one that does not have discursive thoughts in the same way we do as he knows all perfectly in one single intuition etc. It has implications also for whether God is timeless or in time now, which after the point of creation I would say in time, though I haven't thought a lot about it.
I will think it over more, very interesting. Thanks.
I don't have a lot of time, so I will go back to the static argument. Change is a product of being finite. But remember we are not talking about God, as in YHWH, we are talking about the unmoved mover.
Change is a product of being finite. The bible says God is unchanging, but I am not talking about that. I am talking about the properties of the entity required for the Kalaam scenario. That entity would need to be infinite in every way because the scenario requires something infinite in nature, and you can't have a partial infinite.
But anything infinite can't change because it is completely infinite. It would be more than just character and nature.
Thanks for indulging me. I just wanted to show why suffering confirms my faith instead of having the effect it had on you.
@ Trevor - One day you may see suffering on such an enormous scale, that you will question the existence of your God, no matter how confident you feel right now.
If that happens to you, I will not be glad about how disappointed you will be, however there are some positive aspects for not believing in your maniac God.
And I am sorry that you exalted your intellect over God and just because you couldn't understand thought that it cannot be true. What suffering does produce is often humility, something we all need with quesitons like this.
It seems you imagine that I have not seen much suffering. That would be a mistake. I have a robust faith because I have seen more suffering than I can handle as a human being, and have worked through the issues. A lot of that has come from being in disaster areas in 3rd world countries, other from personal tragedy that did not make me want to give up on God but definitely on life.
You imagine wrongly that when someone thinks about suffering as you do it will be so insurmountable that they will lose their faith. Actually when that happens it just betrays a very shallow faith in the beginning.
Trevor wrote: And I am sorry that you exalted your intellect over God and just because you couldn't understand thought that it cannot be true.
How can I exalt my intellect over a god that does not exist???
Trevor wrote: You imagine wrongly that when someone thinks about suffering as you do it will be so insurmountable that they will lose their faith. Actually when that happens it just betrays a very shallow faith in the beginning.
Hey, I didn't say all people will lose their faith when they see or experience great suffering. That would be enormously stupid to say something like that.
I said that it is what happend to me so please take back your remark about what I imagine wrongly because that is not what I imagine so I am not wrong.
At a funeral a few years ago, a cousin and I had a long discussion and each discovered the other is an atheist. He told me his father often said that religious people spend their entire lives preparing to die. He was saying pretty much what you said here and what I have often thought.
You might enjoy Mark Twain's "Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven" ---a spoof on what people think heaven will be. I found it amusing ---but then I love Twain for being such a religious skeptic.
But there must be thousands of reasons why people cannot give up on religion. Here are just a few:
From a young age, they were so brainwashed that they cannot let go.
They want to believe. They are afraid not to believe.
They pick and choose what parts of their religion to believe ---making it more comfortable for them. How many Catholics do you know who use birth control, have been divorced ---or, I should say, had their marriage annulled? ---believe priests should be allowed to marry, woman should be priests, even support abortion rights ---yet still claim to be Catholics?
People don't study the history of religions, not even their own. Honestly, I cannot understand how anyone who knows anything about the history of Christianity (Crusades, inquisition, witch hunts) can remain a Christian (or more specifically Catholic) let alone more recent scandals ---pedophile priests, Magdalene Sisters' laundries, and now Spain's scandal of the church telling women their babies had died while giving away them to "good Catholic" parents.
Church gives people a sense of belonging and community. Everyone likes to hang around with like-minded people.
Believing that they are in possession of the whole truth gives a sense of self-satisfaction and superiority.
Church members help each other when in need. When my sister was dying of cancer, church members took her to appointments, cooked for her family and did other chores she couldn't do, and continued to help her family after she died. If I had a fatal disease, there is no one who would do that for me.
Some people have just never thought at all about whether their religion is reasonable or could be true. They don't study their own religion's beliefs or read its "holy" book (except for a few "nice" stories.) As they say, the Bible is like a software agreement. No one reads it ---just scrolls to the end and clicks on "I agree."
Or the other option is that God does exist and the vast majority of the world isn't delusionsal, rather the very small minority of atheists are denying reality as they don't want to answer to anyone. Thats also an option too ;-)
Trevor - RE: "the vast majority of the world isn't delusionsal" - but I'm sure you wouldn't include the followers of Odin in that group, nor the followers of Zeus/Jupiter, nor the followers of any other gods of the world's vast pantheon that Man has invented to explain that which He doesn't understand --
Frankly Trevor, I suspect that you and I are both atheists - and we are definitely in the majority - I simply disbelieve in in one more god than you do --
Thats an overly used quote.
What all of them are not delusional about is that there is a God and atheism is untenable. The fact that the world is split on what God is real and which are not fits perfectly into the christian worldview. Sin cuts us off from God, but we are left knowing instinctively that He is there. The result is many religions trying to know / find the God that they don't know any more. This is why it wasn't arrogant for Jesus to say "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me". It was an exclusive statement but a necessary one as He is the only one that has dealt with the problem of Sin that cuts us off from God.
I do sympothise though as you have no experience of God when your cut off, only once you have been reconciled do you really encounter and know for yourself that He is real, as you are back in relationship with Him. The promise is though "You will find me when you seek me with all of your heart". I commend that to you.
Sin cuts us off from God, but we are left knowing instinctively that He is there.
@ Trevor - It's not instinct, it's neediness and wishful thinking, being hijacked by religion instead of something that can better meet needs which could be knowledge, for example.
I'm not saying feeling needy is wrong but sometimes when you satisfy your neediness by believing something that is not true, you end up in worse trouble than if you had rejected that belief.
The human race is basically a stupid race. It would be far less stupid if religion could be exposed for the huge sham that is, provided humans could find a way to psychologically deal with truth.
A dog that has lost his owner due to death, can faithfully wait for him to return for the rest of his life. We are kind of like that, waiting for a god to come and save us like mother used to do when we were hungry babies and needed milk, but it just won't happen. The child grows up and has to feed himself. The sooner we grow up and realize that, the better the odds will be for making a better world.
Oh no, you're right, how did we not think of this?
My atheism.. it's gone!