I remember a weird moment that happened after my dad died. My mother had called me in hysterics and told me my dad was dead, had died in his sleep. I went to his house and it was true. He looked like he was sleeping, but his lips were a frosty blue and his face was the color of dusty miller. I remember not feeling anything at first and then having intense waves of grief and fear and sadness break over me, over and over again.

I went outside and shouted, then threw up. My dad had been sick for so long, I stopped being afraid of him dying. I was so used to him being sick it hadn't worried me when he told me a few days before that he was having problems breathing in the mornings. He was dying for over a decade and the decline was so slow that his death was a complete shock.

I remember being outside and for the first time in my life and the last time since, I looked up and I really wanted to feel something. I wanted to feel that god feeling people talked about, and I wanted to feel it right then. I stood there long enough to end up surrounded by my family and I didn't feel a damn thing.

I realized later that I wasn't really expecting god to bestow me with his lovey glow, I just felt really scared about the end of my father's life and I wanted there to be a god because a god meant an afterlife than an afterlife meant my dad wasn't gone forever. Hangin' on clouds in heaven or fact checking the internet in hell, I would see him again, talk to him again, hug him again.

That's pretty much the closest I've ever come in my life to belieiving in god.

Views: 12

Comment by Shine on February 22, 2010 at 12:23pm
Beautifully written, Pinko. Losing someone forever is excrutiating, and the drive to find comfort is only natural. It saddens me how many people--unlike you--do not realize that delusion only offers empty solace.
Comment by Shasta McNasty on February 22, 2010 at 5:28pm
I fortunately haven't experienced the loss of a close loved one, or the pain that it brings, but to me It seems that the presence of death in anyone's life will always lead them to be more open to accepting faith or rejecting it. Whether its looking up and feeling like God is with you or looking up and not feeling a damn thing, in the face of pain and loss, people look up for answers or explanations. While i may not understand the pain of loss, i certainly understand the pain of looking up only find that i'm standing alone.

I have to disagree with you Shine. Delusion doesn't offer only empty solace.
I remember when my mom, who is a devout christian, lost her father. For a few days, it seemed her faith had been shaken. She just seemed...different. She seemed to be struggling with some questions she didn't like asking herself. I saw a side of humanity id rarely seen in her before, uncertainty.
About a week after he died she came in the room i was in and sat next to me. She looked at me and told me that she was sad but glad that it was over. His last year or so was full of pain, and his death ended the pain. She then said that God had let my grandfather live while being so sick for his families sake, and that God had taken him for his own, so the pain would end. After that she calmly smiled and left my room. She found solace through her faith.
It was one of those ultra rare moments where i could actually see the tangibility of comfort from faith and religion.
Comment by Pinko Commie on February 23, 2010 at 7:04am
If someone feels solace from something, the feeling they feel isn't hollow. It's as real as the solace you feel from whatever makes you feel better. You can argue that the person may later change their mind about what makes them feel better and even question why they felt better in the past, but in the moment solace is solace regardless of how you find it.
Comment by Shine on February 23, 2010 at 10:42am
Hmm, I guess maybe what I meant by "empty solace" was more along the lines of unreliable solace. Maybe comfort can be derived from a delusion, but it is unstable and highly susceptible to cracks and flaws. I guess I see it in the same way that someone may find solace in alcohol; true, you feel better in the immediate, but eventually the comfort wears off and the pain comes back tenfold. (Although I don't mean to suggest that delusions deliver a hangover.) In the end, delusions require an amazing amount of mental gymnastics to successfully uphold in the longterm.

However, to each his own. I know that the mind will do extraordinary things to avoid pain, and I know some people who cling to delusions in the face of unbearable pain. But for me personally, I find delusions only intensify the pain of tragedy; I would rather face it head-on and deal with the hurt rather than prolong it with fantasy. I guess this is the empty solace that I see, the masking of pain rather than working through it.
Comment by Shasta McNasty on February 23, 2010 at 4:30pm
its all realitive. Just because you see something as delusional, doesnt mean someone cant find comfort from it. Even if that person were to lose all their faith later on in life. The solace and comfort they fell during the most painful experience is not hollow or empty. It simply being there for the person makes it real to them. Like Pinko said "in the moment, solace is solace no matter how you find it"
@Shine: That''s a pretty unfair presumption. Just because a person uses religion to find comfort, doesn't mean they aren't working through the pain. Sure, for you personally delusions may only "intensify the pain of tragedy", but its not like that for everyone. Just because a person doesn't deal with things the way you do, doesnt make what they turned to any less valid or fufilling comfort than you. I bet if you posted your coping mechanisms i could pick out a few delusions myself. Not trying to be a dick.
Comment by Pinko Commie on February 24, 2010 at 5:32am
But realizing that Santa isn't real didn't change the way I felt when I thought he was real. Remembering being excited about Santa isn't any less of a special memory now that I know Santa isn't real.
Comment by Shine on February 24, 2010 at 1:39pm
Shasta, maybe I was not clear. I did say "to each his own" and express that I personally know people who rely upon religious delusions of an afterlife as a coping mechanism for painful realities. My point about these delusions intensifying the pain of tragedy is because the pain is only masked rather than dealt with immediately. Because the pain is only delayed to a later time, this is intensified pain in my opinion.

I tried to move away from the word "empty," or at least better explain my intention, but I guess that I was unsuccessful. I say that delusions offer "empty solace" because it is not real comfort that can reliably hold up in the longterm without great effort to uphold the delusion. In the immediate moment, solace may be derived, and certainly that is not invalid comfort. But eventually cracks manifest in the delusion, and all of that solace is revealed to be based upon falsity. The painful reality is always lingering there beneath the surface; until that painful truth is dealt with, I do not see true, lasting solace being achieved.
Comment by Shasta McNasty on February 24, 2010 at 3:30pm
@Johan: religion offers the same value and purpose as any other way of dealing with tragedy.

@Shine: Ive understood all your posts, so don't be to hard on yourself. I just happen to strongly disagree. I honestly feel your being a bit biased. You're basically saying "religion isn't real therefore any comfort gained isn't real either" but your wrong.
Lets go back to Santa. Just because i know he isn't real, doesn't mean i hate the gifts he gave me when i believed. like Pinko's post, realizing he wasnt real didnt change how i felt when i believed.
You still never addressed why you are so presumptuous toward this issue. So far i've seen many assumptions but not substance. Why is the pain only masked? How do you know they aren't working through it? What makes you think an ex believer will lose all the comfort from a death when they were religious?
Your not giving religious people a fair shake. Your treating them differently because of what they believe. Your saying what they have isn't real because its false, but you have no idea how they feel at all. I'll conceide that way you say may be true some times, but its unfair to assume its the truth.
Comment by Shine on February 26, 2010 at 9:35am
Shasta, I'm not saying that no immediate comfort is derived from a religious delusion, but I am saying that no reliable, permanent comfort is derived unless one is able to successfully uphold the delusion forever.

I do not think that the Santa analogy is a fair comparison because a child's belief in Santa is not in response to an overwhelmingly painful truth. Children do not believe that Santa is the bearer of Christmas gifts because the truth of their parents leaving the presents round the tree is an incredibly painful reality. Rather, children believe in Santa because it is a whimsical story spun for their entertainment. But even the Santa example can illustrate the real point that I am aiming in the impermanence of comfort derived from delusion; while the feelings of excitement and pleasure which were driven by this Christmas fiction are certainly valid, when the child matures and realizes that the story is false these feelings are gone. (Am I suggesting that we abolish fanciful holiday tales for children? Absolutely not; but I feel that a child's developing mental capacity is an exception to rather than an example of the possible benefits of delusion.)

I really cannot see how I am being either presumptuous or assumptive when I say that taking solace in a religious delusion is an avoidance technique for dealing with pain. Back on the original example of coping with a loved one's death, the ultimate painful truth is that we will never see that person again. This is the overwhelmingly painful reality. However, I have said that I know the human mind will do some pretty amazing things in order to avoid pain; avoidance techniques like memory loss or delusions are coping mechanisms.

That is exactly what something like a belief in an afterlife is: an avoidance technique. Instead of confronting and working through the painful reality, the painful reality is entirely avoided by the substitution of this false reality. The comfort is derived from the false reality. Does this make the comfort invalid? Not necessarily, but the false reality certainly does not deliver any sort of reliable, stable comfort. Inevitably, the false reality will be strained over time as the delusion fails to measure up to actual reality. In the event that the false reality and its corresponding delusion is shattered completely, the hurt of that painful reality which was initially avoided is still fresh in its entirety. This would be especially true with loss, where the permanence of separation resulting from death was obliterated by clinging to delusions of a reunion in the afterlife. Once you remove this delusion of an afterlife, the painful reality of that separation is completely restored.

I know that some people successfully keep their delusions intact throughout their lives, and may never face the painful reality in its truth. Also, I will concede that perhaps some people are able to use delusion as a way of working through the pain by perhaps only letting in a little bit at a time. Nonetheless, I still feel that it does not disprove my tenet that comfort derived from delusion is unreliable at best and empty at worst.

Your not giving religious people a fair shake. Your treating them differently because of what they believe.

You are completely right; I am treating religious people differently because of what they believe. That is my central point: religious beliefs are usually an avoidance technique to dealing with reality. If this were only true in cases of extreme grief, perhaps I would be less condemning of the practice. However, as this reliance upon delusion and belief becomes symptomatic of a completely irrational worldview that seeks to oppress and condemn others, I will not give any instance of the substitution of delusion for reality a free pass. This would be like giving religious moderates a free pass whilst condemning violent fundamentalists; the acceptance of the innocuous former only allows for the latter to go unchallenged.

Treating delusions of the afterlife as a valid mechanism of dealing with death is the same as treating Islamic delusions of Jihad as a valid mechanism of dealing with international relations. The only difference between the two is that the former makes a much stronger emotional appeal.
Comment by Shasta McNasty on February 26, 2010 at 3:22pm
Your still assuming.
The cornerstone of your argument is that the only coping mechanism religious people have is the belief in an afterlife. You have no actual idea of what they do to deal with a loss, you just see their beliefs and make the assumption. You also seem to think that once someone losses faith, it will always have some affect in how they fell or felt about a loss, another assumption.

Has it occured to you that maybe religious people use the same coping mechanisms as you? Sure, you dont believe in an afterlife, but i highly doubt the first thing you think after a loved one dies is "guess ill never see them again". Its ridiculous to think that every religious person always uses their delusion to cope in such a linear manner. Its unfair to say that the specific belief in an afterlife is the way religious people cope. I was a christian when my grandfather died, sure the belief that i would see him again helped, but it wasn't how i delt with the pain. I also didn't have to work through that pain again when i deconverted. Why? Because you are gonna deal with all of it when you deconvert anyway. Dealing with it again is part of the whole process, but it doesnt mean the pain will comeback 10 fold or be just as bad as when the death occured. It also doesn't mean that deconversion is even painful to everyone. It wasnt at all for me.
Your paragraphs contain biased opinions based on what you THINK happens with religious people, not what you know. Even if you've formed your opinion from personal experience, your still assuming too much for your arguments to hold any validity.
"You are completely right; I am treating religious people differently because of what they believe. That is my central point: religious beliefs are usually an avoidance technique to dealing with reality. If this were only true in cases of extreme grief, perhaps I would be less condemning of the practice. However, as this reliance upon delusion and belief becomes symptomatic of a completely irrational worldview that seeks to oppress and condemn others, I will not give any instance of the substitution of delusion for reality a free pass. This would be like giving religious moderates a free pass whilst condemning violent fundamentalists; the acceptance of the innocuous former only allows for the latter to go unchallenged."
This paragraph that you wrote shows nothing but bias, and in the scientific community it would negate every previous word you wrote before it. All you have is this bias and a limited perspective on how people might deal with loss, nothing else. Not trying to be a douche, but i think your way off base with your opinion.

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