I'm an atheist because, to quote HItchens, it is the 'only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance' . But, as I view myself as both rational and pragmatic, I sometimes ponder what if any advantages atheism brings me as compared to the religious. What are the benefits, personal and/or social, and what are the drawbacks?
Rather than expound on my own thoughts at this point, I'd like to hear what others have to say. Please give me your thoughts, musings, discoveries, etc. And thank you in advance.
As a practical matter, I think this question is irrelevant. If a cost-benefit analysis somehow indicated that the benefits of being a believer strongly outweighed being an atheist, would you suddenly be able to adopt a sincere religious belief? I certainly wouldn't.
In a theoretical sense, though, I know what you're asking, and while I'm not versed in the literature very well, I get the sense that there are no benefits to health/longevity/well being associated with believing per se. Several studies have claimed to show religiosity correlating with longer life, greater fufillment etc. but other findings suggest that these effects might depend on other variables which are not strictly confined to religion; a strong social structure, for example, which is more easily maintained if you're part of a religious community, or a strong sense of purpose and place, which is also easily obtained from religious practice. Neither of these things, however, is the exclusive domain of believers, and I know many people who get either or both from completely secular sources.
I suppose the one benefit that's really not available to the non-believer is the assurance that you'll live forever, if that's what your religion teaches. It means never having to try to reconcile the knowledge of death with the feeling of and desire for permanence that we all have, which we atheists probably never accomplish fully anyways.
Brian, I've read your post several times. You state your ideas very clearly.
Your doubting that the question is relevant reminds me of the time years ago when I realized the importance of evaluating every relationship from time to time, asking if it's satisfying my needs. Catholicism had put a lot of effort into convincing me that my relationship with it was beyond evaluation.
Cost-benefit analyses can range from complete to incomplete, and I'm wondering if your not being persuaded by one would indicate that you think it incomplete.
Is living forever really a benefit? A retired American jurist once replied metaphorically to a friend's asking "How are you?" with "I'm fine, but the house I'm living in is coming apart a little more each year."
Sleep in on Sundays and seek truth the way it is meant to be sought.