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?
Andrew - one of my favorites! Read his Letters From the Earth, published posthumously --
Fascinating article, in case anyone's interested --
Church Sues Woman for $500K After Negative Google Review
Church Sues Woman for $500K After Negative Google Review
@ archaeopteryx - LOL - 1 Corinthians 6 (New King James Version) - Do Not Sue the Brethren....
I wrote a blog about this a while ago http://www.thinkatheist.com/profiles/blogs/people-believe-it-even-a...
The reasons why people don't accept the truth when faced with it has nothing to do with them being idiots. A large portion of the populace does this with a variety of different beliefs. It is just a product of human nature.
It is not surprising to see the phenomenon of Belief Perseverance manifest within religious belief.
I was once a devout believer. I certainly believed in heaven, and hell. Once I no longer believed in god, thus heaven and hell, I had to come to terms with the concept of death. I also had to basically re-grieve for the few loved ones who had died...after all, they never really died; they were in heaven....or perhaps hell. But, then again, I no longer feared eternal torment. Not for myself, or anyone else. That was very relieving....enough to more than compensate for the lack of a heaven.
Now that I've given myself time to learn and grow, I'm actually fine with my single, temporary life. I don't think I had ever before fully considered what an eternal, blissful afterlife would mean. What happens after I've experienced everything, a million times? Is there an escape clause? Can I opt to cease to exist? Or do I have to endure another 100 billion years? And then another...and then another...and then another. Even bliss seems like hell when you think about it. Would I like a few more years? Sure! But I am grateful (?) for the life that I do have. Hopefully I have another 50 years to enjoy it, though I realize that I was fortunate to have been born in the first place. And considering just how fortunate in terms of probability....wow! Everyone should know that amazing feeling that comes with the realization that they are here in spite of the odds.
I think you may be missing the woods because of the trees.
My nephew is 10. He's a very loving, intelligent child. His mother has raised him for all of his life. He doesn't know his father, but he knows that his father knows of his existence. He knows that he has a father out there...somewhere. And he harbors fantasies that have caused conflicts between his mother and him. "I know my real father loves me. He's probably working really hard right now so that he could come get me one day."
Adults are simply experienced children, in terms of emotion, would you not agree? As a child (or during some other emotionally unstable time of a person's life, the believer was told he has a creator...a god. And that, if he believes (and is thus obedient) he'll get to be with that loving creator some day. The belief is then cemented by scripture, anecdotal experiences of loved ones, and their own personal experiences, not to mention fear of death, hell, Satan, God's anger, etc. He then supports any person (or organization) that claims to uphold their god, or at least the values and virtues of the doctrine, and rationalizes away anything negative about that person (or organization). We are, after all, a gregarious species. We love being around others, especially those that share traits with us. Natural selection at work. Believers are trained in such a way that they are told not to question it, but also (and this is very important to stop natural curiosity) taught in such a way where they don't even WANT to question it.
Then you come along...an atheist. Not only do you not accept their SPECIFIC doctrine, you don't even accept that a sky-daddy exists at all. I mean, a different god is as simple as being confused by Satan into thinking that the internal feeling of "God" is some other god besides his own. You deny that feeling entirely. You SAY you don't feel it. But the believer feels it. He believes. Everyone does. You must be deluding yourself.....you must be lying. Or so confused by Satan and so misled that you can't even feel God trying to save you anymore. So he then pities you.....or hates you. Immediately. Any believer who says that they neither pity you (being an atheist) nor hate you......I would question the motives of the believer because (chances are) they are probably not being honest.
I know because I was once that believer. That's how I felt, so that's all I can go on. I don't think it's as simple as one factor, such as an afterlife, or scripture, or personal experience. It's all of it. That is what makes it so powerful. Any of those pillars can take a hit, but the other pillars will continue to hold up that god concept. It's a tough nut to crack, this belief stuff. But then again, not all beliefs are crazy. Just the supernatural ones! :P
Kim - RE: "Everyone should know that amazing feeling that comes with the realization that they are here in spite of the odds."
Let me tell you something that increases those odds exponentially. Gold is a very heavy element. When stars first formed, after the Big Bang, they contained only hydrogen, the only element in existence. As nuclear forces fused the hydrogen atoms, the residue remaining was a heavier element, helium. Only after one of those early stars went nova, did the residue collect to form another star, containing both hydrogen and helium. Further fusion of the helium formed still heavier elements. Some of the second tier of stars, containing the heavier elements then exploded, creating residue that contained those heavier elements, until a third tier of stars formed, fusing the second tier's heavier elements into still heavier elements. It took the residue from three successive supernovae to create the residue that finally formed this solar system and our planet, and ultimately, ourselves.
Think of the odds of that!
Of course the other possibility is that there is really a God, and not everyone religious is nuts or avoiding reality after all! I think it takes a lot of faith to be an atheist (sorry for the pun), I can understand and even sympathise with agnostics, but atheism seems a bit - sorry to say it - arrogant. Certainty is a luxury not really afforded to us. Accepted completely that I, like other theists, must also appear arrogant saying there definitely is a God. Thats a pickle!
I mentioned on another thread (I think), that if all we have is social and biological evolution then what the majority think and beleive is what evolution determines to be right and good for our survival. As the vast majority of the world are theists and you (not a pajoritive 'you') atheists are the tiny minority then you are genetic lumps of meet that are misfiring and should hand yourselves in for reprogramming. You are after all, just that, a tiny minority; all be it a radicalised one (wide brush sorry).
I do freely confess though as a theist that my beleif in God is not based on science but on experience, and of course experience can just be subjective and wrong. But I don't expect good science to contradict my belief - and I don't beleive it does. I do study these things out of interest, and I think the rational, scientific pointers are towards theism and not atheism. But its just data and you have to want to beleive either to come to those conclusions.
A second confession, I love the idea of an afterlife! If this life is all there is then the atheistic existential philosphers are right about meaninglessness and despair, no matter how much you try and create a little bubble of meaning for yourself. Again there is data I think that points to more than bodily existence but you have to want to beleive or not want to.
Science provides data but isn't philisophical and cannot answer the question of God, meaning and afterlife. Its bad science when you try to. There is just data that you can try and be as unbiased as possible about (not many can do that) and look for pointers to best explanations in philosphy.
Sorry, rambling now. Nice to chat.
Hi John, thanks for the warm welcome.
Sure, fair point about the mix of religons. I don't know what is the biggest. With the size of India's population it might be their poly theistic strains.
Who's to say what truth is, or how it may be discovered, or even if it exists? The thoughts in our heads then are just the collission of atoms, the very concept of trusting your own thoughts becomes highly dubious. The nature of reality itself is unthinkable and unfathomable on an evolutionary model. The only truth we have is what evolution supplies for us. I'd run to the nearest synagogue if I was you! (sorry my sense of humor often lets me down, no disrespect intended).
No need to apologize Trevor - you're probably the most rational theist we've had on this site. We on this board represent a wide divergence of thought and precepts and often, among us, things can get quite heated, even though we share the common thread of atheism.
As far as I'm concerned, you're welcome here to share your thoughts. I would like to be welcomed on theist sites, but that rarely the case. I've actually been banned from a couple, and I'm SUCH a nice guy --
A few points:
1. Evolution doesn't "determine" what is "right" and "good". You see red birds flying around? Does being bright red protect them from predators? Nope....it makes them a bright, red target. However, it does help them get laid, which is equally important. So, the red bird has to compensate for its weakness against predators....perhaps the red bird's vision evolved to spot potential predators. Maybe it developed better reaction time, or increased speed and take-off. Or maybe an unpleasant smell or taste.
The point is, not all evolutionary developments are beneficial in all circumstances. That's what makes it so complex....figuring out the whys and how comes. You are asserting that belief in god is a genetic trait, which I sincerely doubt that it is at all. But, let's go with that idea..
Not very long ago, women were regarded by the majority of the population as property. Subhuman entities. I guess that too was "right and good" for our survival. We shouldn't never changed that! What were we thinking?!!!
Or, perhaps, given the rise of atheism that is very difficult to ignore....maybe theism is no longer beneficial to our survival and YOU are the one who needs an upgrade. Just a thought....
2. Most atheists ARE agnostic. The two are not mutually exclusive. Most of us state, "I don't know for certain if there is or is not some sort of god out there somewhere....but I don't believe in one." Just like, "I don't know if karma exists, but I don't believe in it," or, "I don't know if aliens helped the Egyptians build the pyramids for CERTAIN, but I don't believe they did." You don't believe in Thor, or Ra, or Zeus, or Ba'al, or Allah. Well, neither do I. And I don't believe in your god either.
3. To say that atheists see this life as meaningless is absurd....THIS LIFE is all we have. It is extremely meaningful by that fact alone! I personally feel it is you guys who see this life as meaningless. "What's a handful of years on life compared to the eternity of the afterlife? Why not serve an invisible god for 80 years when you'll get eternal bliss thereafter? You'd better, for if you don't god will torture you forever thereafter!!!" How could I claim such a thing, you might ask. It is evident in the real world with climate change denial. "God wouldn't let that happen, and even if he did it won't matter because Jesus is coming and we'll be in heaven forever anyway."
I have a son, a husband, and a family. I have a community, a country, and a world. I have a universe out there. I will try my best to take care of the people and the things I love so that my children's children will learn to do the same. I will uphold education, equality, and empathy as being the most important foundation of a person, and of a society, and of all humanity. I see dogma, superstition, and inequality as the poison that drives us mad, killing each other and destroying our home. And, this, my "little bubble of meaning", is more important to me than the hedged bet of a fantasy afterlife. Especially one that I only earned because I accepted an innocent man's life to pay for my own wrongdoings, without which I would deserve hell....if it does turn out that I deserve hell for my wrongdoings, I will accept my sentence without regret. But, luckily for me, none of it is true.
Just my perspective.
So many excellent points! Great and accurate response!