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?
This is a much belated response to Trevor's post of 5/22, @ 3:53 pm, but since we've run out of "Reply" buttons, I can only hope this ends up near where it belongs, in order to make sense.
I was saying there has to be a God in order for there to be an objective universal moral standard that all people, at all times, and in all places are bound to.
Otherwise all you have is one society's or persons 'judgment' call over anothers. Thats a relative morality.
Yet I maintain Trevor, that Man created god in his own image, consequently, the "objective universal moral standard" to which you refer, is one constructed by a society of bearded old men, thousands of years ago, who felt they knew how people should live. Times change, and a single objective moral standard does not allow for that - it implies that our 21st century lives can be held to a multi-thousand year old standard.
I don't know enough about British politics to know exactly upon what, since the Magna Carta, your government is based, but the Founding Fathers of this country created a Constitution, that they believed should guide this country's leaders in governing the nation. But within it, they had the foresight to add the provision that it could be altered, amended, as times, attitudes, and necessities required, making it clear to any and all that they did not believe their personal wisdom of the time, to be the final authority.
Yet those who wrote your Bible, those who sat their god on their knees, stuck their hands up his bhut, and like any other ventriloquist's dummy, mouthed his words for him (doubtless moving their lips ever so slightly), clearly believed that their wisdom was so great, that it should be eternally true. What audacity!
But maybe they didn't believe such a thing - maybe their words were intended only to control a population extent at the time, and they had no idea that their words would be preserved past their own lifetimes, or that anyone would be such idiots, as to apply their limited knowledge to conditions millennia into what would have been their future. We'll never know.
There is no objective morality, morality is man made. Life is not fair and it doesn't have to be. The universe does not owe you "fairness." Grow the fuck up already.
One of the main reasons theists believe in god and an afterlife is that they want to believe the bad guys get punished and the "good guys" get rewarded. Because if there is no god and no hell, well people like hitler just got away with their crime! Yes he did, bad people get away with bad things. Instead of using the two healthy braincells you've left in your malformed skull to clutch together your hands and pray that the evil guys get punished, take some action and actually do make it go away.
The fact that you saw a lot of suffering and still believe in god does not show the strength of your faith, it shows the weakness of your character. You want to believe that all the evil will be punished. That they wont get away. That someone is still watching over your shoulder, and will hold your hand in bad times when you slip and fall and have a "booboo." Someone who will reward you for going through all of that stuff.
Well tough shit, once again, grow up.
"If everyone said it was ok..."
Stop with the weak examples. This only reveals your own sick character. You're essentially saying that without god you would not know that killing someone is bad? That raping and stealing would be fine if others told you to do it? That's not only stupid, it's an admission of guilt. "If it weren't for god, we could all just fuck and kill children, right? You can't deny that right? Right? Guys?.. right?"
I'm not going to waste more time on you, but since you claim the monopoly on morality, here's the Hitchens challenge:
"Name one moral action performed by a believer that could not have been done by a nonbeliever."
Take all the time you need, you wont come up with anything.
"Name one immoral or unethical action or behaviour that could only me performed in the name of god."
Unless you're really slow, you have already thought of one.
Suicide bombings? Child marriage? Holy war?
These and hundreds of more crimes are carried out in the name of, and justified by religion. "god" has been used as a tool to justify the most hideous crimes in human history. Until you answer this challenge, don't bother writing any more about morals. If it were up to religion, your 6 year old daughter would have been married to a 50 year old muslim pedophile prophet and raped. But hey, at least while hearing her screams and moans, you can kid yourself by telling yourself that he'll be punished in the afterlife right? That's where theist thinking leads to.
kOrsan, many atheists think this is the case, but I think once they look at the data, they will realize there is no other choice than the acceptance of objective morality. Since value is a measurement device there has to be a most accurate measurement. All forms of morality are based on value. It can be used to determine what behaviors are justifiable actions, and which ones are irrational ones.
"Calm down and have a cup of tea". (English humour). All that swearing and ranting makes it look like you don't actually have any ideas. I am sure you have if you take a breath ;-)
Where to start. I'll start with Hitchens who like you are making a point that no one contests. Its a silly straw man. The discussion at hand is not whether atheists can be moral its what the basis for that morality is. Because there is a God who has endowed man with a conscience and a reflection of His own character, atheists can be moral. Hitches was always funny with that challenge, as if it actually meant something or had any value.
The examples are not weak, far from it. Let me give you an example. Some time ago there was a BBC documentary called 'the gathering' were holocaust survivors met together to share their experiences, which were horrific. One of them related how one of the guards taunted them by saying "there is no God I can do what I like to you" He was the cruelest there. So actually the knowledge that there is punishment for sin is a deterant. If you think that is immature then you should disagree with their being a police force, rule of law, and a court system. Like Nuclear weapons they are a deterant for people who might be inclined to do wrong. (Not a Nuclear comment).
The history of the world is littered with examples where one person's or one nations morality clashed in a big way with others. Hitler would be one. saying "Grow up hitler" doesn't really help. Enforcing an objective moral standard is the only recourse. Of course you don't have one, which could be kind of a problem if another hitler comes along.
"I asked if abusing children would always be wrong even if everyone said it was ok."
(OK I'm not drunk now.) This is a false and misleading question. "Everyone" is never going to say that abusing children is OK. Only a very small minority of people are ever going to say it is OK. For everyone to say that, it would require the world to be very different to how it is.
Jesus provides an objective morality both to Christians and atheists. Because:
1) he's an eternal, unchanging, external standard of morality
2) the human race as a whole regards his morality as a good one, and one to be emulated.
3) it has been found through practice and experience that his morality is the most positive and life-affirming one available.
OF COURSE, you can arrive at this morality through other means than Jesus. It's just that he provides a ready-made story-book of vivid examples of how to do it properly.
Clearly Trevor, you've had some experience at this - your dialogue begins with rational statements that anyone would accept, then moves in increments through the incredible, to the absurd.
Absurd is thinking that if you give dead matter enough time it will come to life, think and become self aware. Thats absurd. Which of course is why one of the most outspoken atheists of the 20th century became a theist. Antony Flew was asking how long would it take if you put a marble table in the corner of a room, for it to become self aware. Never obviously - its absurd.
Matter isn't dead, it's inert. Death only applies to something which was once alive.
Quite frankly, the basic ingredients of life can happen under extreme circumstances. This has been proven in the lab. What probably can't be done in the lab is reproduce a process that takes many billions of years.
Is thinking inert matter might eventually become alive any more absurd than that the entire universe with its billions of galaxies and trillions of stars was created by a an all-powerful and all-knowing magical sorcerer believed in only by (depending on how you view it) one or several Mediterranean religions? What makes the beliefs of Christians any more likely than the beliefs of the Hindus, for example? or the Zoroastrians?
In other words, even if you doubt that life can come out of inert matter, how in the world does this prove or even imply the existence of Yahweh?
Antony Flew. What would you theists do without Antony Flew. Okay, you believe that a magical sorderer God makes sense if it helps you believe that something awaits you after you die.
Trevor - Wanna hear something absurd? An invisible, supernatural entity took some dead matter - dirt - formed a Man in his own image, breathed some magical breath onto him and He came to life!
Yeah lets look at that for a minute. You have marble tables become self aware and intellgent given enough time. And I have a God who first of all creates of nothing and then people out of dirt. Both seem pretty incredible.
Currently though, the general consensus is that the universe started at the big bang and that all time, space and matter began at that point. There are a couple of other theories but nothing that displaces this main one. It means that whatever caused the big bang must have been outside of time, been spaceless and immaterial - as none of those things existed.
hmm, what is the best inference to explanation. Evolution, nothing creating nothing. Absurd, or a timeless, spaceless immaterial being who created out of nothing? You may not like the second option and I am not layering with all the probability stuff etc which makes it more likely - but obviously and I mean obviously - the science is better explained by theism than atheism. Not with certainty - were talking what more reasonable.
And given that it would not be a problem at all that the same God made man from mud - carbon based life forms that we are and all.
Evolution on the other hand can't be inferred by any of it. Oh its just a big mystery so atheists say. Well, not really, only if your dead set on not beleiving in God - but its not a very thoughtful position.