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?
Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Much appreciated. I will try and respond to each point.
1. Women are still seen as property in many parts of the world. Whole societies and countries hold to that value. Your talking very western language. On what basis do you think that your societies interpretation of beneficial evolution is correct? If whole societies think the opposite you have no arbitrator who decides which is 'better' or 'right' or 'beneficial'. Never the less, the world has been religious for as long as there has been thought and the tiny atheist population is in no danger of ever changing that, thank God! Obviously I am not arguing that religion comes from evolution, I was just saying that if it did then your out of step.
2. Thats not my experience of atheists. My experience of people who call themselves atheists is that they are actucally quite bent on there not being a God, and not even being open to their being a God. Wide brush. I think differentiating between agnositic and atheist is helpful, at least from my point of view.
3. Kim its just not sensible to say that its Absurd to say that atheists see life as meaningless, which I didn't exactly say. I said it is meaningless if there is no God. Anyway, the reason its not sensible is because the greatest atheist minds that have ever lived have said the same thing. Bertrand Russell the most influential atheist of the 20th century said that we had no choice but to build our lives on "the firm foundation of meaningless despair.' John Paul Satre wrote powerfully about the despair that 'killing God' would bring on. Albert Camus exactly the same.
Let me leave the greats to quote a dward in comparison, Richard Dawkins, who said:
"There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no good, no evil, just pointless indiference"
Kim you need to read your own literature and think deeply about it. The universe is expanding, and running down out of energy. The trajectery is the corpses of dead planets in a cold, pitch black, empty universe. There is no significance, value, meaning or purpose in our existence, nothing. We are here by accident and being here is no different to not being here. Nothing you do or say will ultimately last or matter. There is ultimately no better choices for what you do or don't do, as nothing ultimately matters.
Before you dismiss this, remember this is your best thinkers describing ultimate reality. It was Camus I think who then said we shouldn't just kill ourselves but instead try and create little bubbles of meaning that will protect us from reality.
On the hell issue, if you beleived there was a God then you would want hell to exist, and you would not want to go there! A gracious God who solves the problem of both justice and mercy through self sacrifice offers you a way out. You may accept your sentence but it wont be without regret. I hope for better things for you.
How craftily, Trevor, you weave logic with irrationality. Yes, the universe is winding down as a result of entropy, which in the end, conquers all, but before you get poor Kim all depressed about the utter futility of life, then offer her a glimmer of hope (baited with a hook), that you call god, you might mention just how many billions of years it will be before such an event occurs.
The only advantage she might gain from believing that a supernatural entity can offer her eternal life after the universe ends in another 20 billion years or so, would be that she could die with that delusion, with possibly a little less fear, and never, ever know that her delusion was just that.
Of course, long before the universe ends with a whimper, our sun will much earlier have burned all of its hydrogen, turning it to helium, which will in turn, allow the sun to expand to the point that it will evaporate all of the planets from Mercury to Mars, and blow the gasses off of Saturn and Jupiter. In the process of evaporating Earth, the bones of every Human who has ever lived - that the religious are depending on their god to resurrect - will evaporate as well. But then you're expecting your god to end the world long before this happens, I realize.
Good luck with that.
How uncharitable! I am not that crafty lol! I actually think that theism is the most logical, most rational, and the best inference from science and reason. And atheism to be unreasonable, lacking in coherence, blind and cruel. So I am not trying to be crafty I am stating what I beleive that all true logic and everything else finds its fulfilment, and completion in God.
In terms of the subject, length of time to the death our planet / universe was not the point and makes no difference. What your best thinkers realised is that such an end evacuates all ultimate meaning out of life. It is you who have to deny reality in order to make life worth living. You have to plug yourselves into the matrix because reality is actually so terrible. No one can live without hope, meaning and purpose. It was for this reason Bertrand Russell said that he was inconsistent as he could not live with what he believed. Now that was a clear thinking, honest atheist.
Good luck with that!
RE: "everything else finds its fulfilment, and completion in God." - if everytime you find occasion to use the word, "god," if instead, you used the phrase, "invisible, supernatural entity," I believe that even you would in time realize how silly your god-filled sentences sound.
RE: "meaning...of life" - thus it is that we Humans have to find our own, personal meaning within the life in which we accidentally find ourselves. Some do this by painting, composing music, writing about our experiences, others find it by teaching or helping others in various ways. Still others have chosen to create illusions for themselves by creating gods in their own images, then putting reassuring words, much like a ventriloquist with his dummy, into the mouth of their god, that convince them that everything is OK and a beautiful existence awaits them if they can just make it through life - talk about being plugged into a matrix because "reality is actually so terrible."
1. We ALL know what your arbitrator wanted in regards to women:
Those are Old Testament passages. Let's not forget the New Testament:
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
2. Well, I know THOUSANDS of atheists. I have never heard one claim to have knowledge of god's nonexistence. Never. When an atheist tells you that they don't believe in god, they are not saying that they have some sort of special knowledge that god doesn't exist. They are saying, "I have seen no evidence for an invisible god. I followed the evidence as well as I could, and it all indicated that there is no god."
3. Trevor, try to understand....I am not religious. I don't have to mindlessly follow some philosophy, or some holy book. You say I should read MY literature, but I haven't written any.... Jokes aside, I know what you mean....I should know what every great atheist had/has to say verbatim and design my life around their words, as you do with your holy book and your influential Christians.
Never. Gonna. Happen. I have a brain. I have read Dawkins, Harris, Rand, Russell, and many others. I have also read the Bible, the Koran, the Gita, and the Book of Mormon. I continue to use my own brain and drawn my own conclusions. I'm open to others showing me that I am wrong....that's how I became an atheist over 3 years ago. My mind is mine alone and I do not have to blindly follow any worldview, regardless if they share atheist views with me or not.
Life is meaningless to YOU if there is no god. If there was a god, but no afterlife, life would still hold no meaning to you. So, rather, it is meaningless to YOU if it's finite.
We don't all have to live by your standard, Trevor. This is my life, and I can and will define its meaning.
Camus is not MY thinker. *I* am MY thinker.
ON THE HELL ISSUE: You insult all Christians by stating that they want hell to exist. I was a Christian for 13 years and I certainly DID NOT want hell to exist. I was indoctrinated enough to believe that hell was very real. I feared for 13 years that my mother who had committed suicide was going there to burn for all eternity. I feared for my loved ones. I feared demons and Satan. No, Trevor, I did not want a hell. But, I rationalized that by saying to myself that I lacked god's understanding.
This hell is not a place for child molesters, rapists, tyrants, etc. This hell is simply for people who died not believing in your god. The book says this over and over.
But I don't fear hell anymore. Not for myself or anyone else. Because it doesn't exist. Sorry if that disappoints you. I know how much you wring your hands in glee thinking of all us atheists screaming in agony while lightning hot fires lash through our incorruptible bodies and maggots crawl in and out of our flesh as we literally watch you guys in heaven. Aw, what the hell....go ahead and fantasize about it anyway!
Kim - RE: "Camus is not MY thinker. *I* am MY thinker." - just because YOU said, "Jokes aside," doesn't mean I must concur --
A philosopher goes into a bar and orders a drink. As he finishes it, the bartender asks if he'd like another. The philosopher said, "I think not," and ceased to exist.
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.
@ Trevor - I can completely respect that. I felt that way for many years. For me the deal breaker happened when I decided I could no longer reconcile the concept of a loving deity with intense suffering. I realize that is subjective also. So we are even in that regard.
Yeah I can understand the difficulties you had over intense suffering. Especially if its suffering thats personal. However, it does depend on your worldview as have I found that being a christian gives me a good understanding of why there is suffering. I am very much helped by being a christian when it comes to my own suffering, the suffering of those around me, and man's inhumanity to man. Indulge me for a moment!
My wife is from an asian country that recently had a typhoon were a number of her family were killed. I spent a number of weeks there taking around medicine and food while listening to people's stories about how they watched their children die but couldn't do anything about it. I have been on the receiving end of prolonged violence and also watched my own children suffer. Members of my family have died prematurely with cancer. And some time ago I was with a friend who soon after died having previously watching her daughter and husband die early. One of my old neighours just lost their daughter, which means she has outlived all 3 of her children. I do feel the problem of suffering as well.
I naturally react to suffering, I feel that the world should not be this way. Yet I also have to get a bit honest and say that there are no doubt people who would list my as someone who has caused them suffering. I sometimes hurt the people I love the most. I also should not be this way. I have some cause for regret when i look over my shoulder.
At the same time I massively appreciate nature. Nothing better than standing on the top of a mountain and seeing the view. And i celebrate the great relationships I have and having a wonderful wife and children. Life is also good!
So how does being a christian help me with this? I am grateful for being alive, and grateful for all the good things I see. But who am I grateful too. There is a sense in me of someone that is other than me, outside of what is known felt and seen with the senses. I am naturally grateful to this person. Lets call Him God.
Also because this God is good, he would also be a God of justice which also has implications. The bible says that we sin (we need no convincing of that!), and that we are responsible for our sin. If I hurt someone else I should be held ultimately accountable. Being guilty of sin means that I am naturally separated from God relationally, and so we naturally don't have direct experience of Him. More than that the world is broken and suffers the effects of being dislocated from its maker. All of this is heading for a time were ultimate justice will be done and all the wrongs will be righted.
When I then became a Christian through beleiving that God was not untouched by our suffering but sent Jesus to die on a cross to pay for my sin, the separation between me and God was over. For the first time I came into an ongoing experience of God and His love. And the Bible tells me that this new experience of His love that I live with is actually a foretaste of the age to come where there will be no suffering. In the mean time loving God now also means loving people and seeking to help and releive suffering whenever its in my power to do so.
A good God can and does allow suffering becuase we live in a world where the majority of suffering comes from us. C.S Lewis once wrote that "Man enjoys the horrible freedom he has demanded and is forever enslaved." But also I beleive God is in no way indifferent to our suffering but allows the human race the consequences of its choices. When the jewish leaders said to Pilatte before Jesus was crucified "We will not have this man to rule over us", they were speaking for all of us. And we chant the same thing. That carries the consequence of being left to our selves.
In other words I have a meta narrative, an overarching way of understanding why the world is the way it is. On an evolutionary world view there isn't really a justification for being outraged at suffering. There is no reason why we or anyone else shouldn't suffer. In fact its what you would expect given the blind indifference of evolution. To me thats wholly unsatisfying and doesn't square with what I and the rest of humanity feel about suffering.
Thanks for indulging me. I just wanted to show why suffering confirms my faith instead of having the effect it had on you.
Mabel let me add one more very contentious but necessary thing about my world view.
I beleive that God is just and that He will punish sin in a place called hell. Christians are split on whether that is eternal or if its for a period of time comensurate with the extent of our personal sin. But either way it will be horific. And I think if we agreed for a moment that there is a God we could also agree that we want hell to exist, and that its right. For example if your daughter was raped and murdered and the man was never caught and he died and stood before God, what would you want God to do with that person? I am generally quite forgiving, but I would want God to punish him appropriately.
The problem is that God has a greater sense of justice than me and sees mine and your sin as serious too. What I am getting to is whether there is any purpose in suffering. I think there is. Let me put it like this. Suffering is like hell casting a shadow on the earth. It warn us of coming judgment and justice in the same way that when you touch a hot iron it hurts and that pain is telling you "Your in danger do something about it quickly."
I don't pretend to understand all things in the realm of suffering, but I understand enough to see that given human beings being as we are, then the world could not be different, and God although not unmoved by our pain, is right in his actions as described above. If I have made that sound dispassionate or harsh then thats my error and not intended.
RE: "Suffering is like hell casting a shadow on the earth. It warn us of coming judgment and justice in the same way that when you touch a hot iron it hurts and that pain is telling you 'Your(e) in danger do something about it quickly.'"
Let me see if I can translate that - if my child becomes stricken with cancer, that's your god's way of warning that child of coming judgment, and that he should straighten his act? I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want to fall to their knees and worship a god like that. I think your god has confused fear with respect. A confused god tends to lose all credibility with me.
Thats a good question and a valid point, my fault for not being clearer. Sorry you find it absurd, I find it quite coherent and satisfying especially in atheism not having anything of value on the subject, to my mind. Let me have a go at trying to be clearer.
God treats humanity as a whole. Example might be the 2nd world war. When Winston Churchhill made the decision that we in the UK were not at war with Germany, he spoke for everyone in the nation, men, women, and children. The bombs fell on everyone. Humanity as a whole has said "get lost God, we don't want you in our lives or to rule over us." As God is a king and has a kingdom then at the least this is treason followed by many acts of wrong doing and causing pain to others etc.
Humanity as a whole then is naturally separated from God. Another way of saying it in terms of suffering is that you cannot live in a pickling jar and not get pickled. Suffering touches everyone. Its always the nature of man to blame others and God, but we should say "how terrible a world we have made for ourselves where even our children suffer, God help us'.
God is not confused, we are. Being human and finitie and judging God is very confused.
Its always the nature of man to blame others and God, but we should say "how terrible a world we have made for ourselves where even our children suffer, God help us'.
@ Trevor - According to Christians, their god created this world. In my mind, that would make him a sadistic bastard. I assume you don't see your god this way. I can only guess this is because you consider horse torture being ordered by an all-powerful being as acceptable because you think in order to get into heaven, you have to accept it, and not because whether it was "moral" or not.