Isn't it true that sometimes religion can be the only thing that gives somebody hope?

People always need something to look to for help, whether that be a higher power or belief or even a therapist. So isn’t the prosecution and unnecessary suffering caused by religions what an atheist should be against, not the actual belief itself?

Posted: June 14th 2007

vjack www

It is true that people desire joy, consolation, or hope. It is also true that religion can provide this for some people. Of course, so can alcohol, drugs, bad relationships, and all sorts of other dysfunctional things. I suppose what I am saying is that the fact that religion may provide temporary comfort in no way means that religion is necessarily a good thing. For a detailed explanation of why this is the case, see here.

Religion may be a source of consolation for some people, but it is certainly not the only one. How many modern Christians would choose their ancient superstitions over their families, friends, careers, financial stability, health, and all other potential sources of consolation far too numerous to list?

Of course, even if we grant that religion can sometimes provide comfort to those in need, this does not change the fact that it is false comfort. Lying to a child may make him or her feel better temporarily, but this does not make the lie either true or morally justifiable.

But isn’t the suffering caused by religion what we atheists should oppose rather than the beliefs themselves? We do oppose what religion leads people to do, but we also oppose it because it is irrational.

Posted: June 24th 2007

See all questions answered by vjack

Akusai www

Why can’t an atheist be against both the suffering and the belief?

Yes, atheists abhor the persecution, violence, and intolerance that often accompanies religious belief, but to say that the effects of such belief are the only reason to dislike it ignores the lack of foundation for such belief.

Just because believing X makes you feel good doesn’t mean you should believe X. That’s really a very poor reason for belief, especially in the absence of (or in the face of contradicting) evidence. I can’t speak for all atheists, but most that I know are against belief itself for this very reason: there is no evidence to support the proposition “a god exists.” Thus, while we are against religion for teleological reasons (its effects on the world), we also look at the belief itself, a belief with no reason or evidence behind it, and find that we are against it, as well.

Do not take this to mean that we are against the believers. Some believers, theocrats like Pat Robertson, for example, or violent fanatics like Al-Qaeda, we are against, but by and large we’re fine with people who believe. We simply do not support their irrational leap of faith.

We are against belief because it is irrational, and on another level, because if you only believe out of a sense of hope or happiness, you are in some way lying to yourself. Any belief should be arrived at on the basis of reason and evidence, not wishful thinking. If someone believed that their dead grandmother was still alive simply because it made them feel better, would you support that belief or try to make them come to terms with the truth? This is how atheists look at the issue.

Posted: June 16th 2007

See all questions answered by Akusai

brian thomson www

So isn’t the prosecution and unnecessary suffering caused by religions what an atheist should be against, not the actual belief itself?”

Atheists are definitely against unnecessary suffering, of course, but what is behind the suffering? Atheists are not saying that religion is the ONLY cause of suffering in the world today – this is the subject of other questions – but it is a divisive force, often the only way of dividing “us” from “them.”

To use an analogy: doctors are against suffering too, but they are also against the causes of the the suffering. They can treat the symptoms, but the patient can still die if they don’t treat the underlying condition – the disease or injury.

If religion really is your only hope, what caring human being would come along, pull out the rug from under you, and tell you “your hope is false?” Atheists are people too, you know…

This question stems from a typical misunderstanding about atheism, one typically put forth by preachers when encouraging belief. “Atheists are nihilists; they just take away hope and have nothing positive to say…”

The preachers have it back to front: they paint things in black and white. They say “religion or nothing,” but there are many possible things to take comfort from, religion is only one of them. What about friends and family, science, and nature? We will not live forever, but we can do good work, help people, and create lasting memories for those who stay behind.

Even if religion is unfounded, does that invalidate the fellowship found in a church community and the support offered by your friends there? Of course not; what an atheist might say is that the same sense of community and brotherhood can be found in other places too, without the need for irrational beliefs.

If anything, wondering how you will cope in times of trouble is a strong incentive to ask questions and sort out your personal philosophy now, while things are going well. Strap on your armor before going into battle; don’t wait until you’re lying under a horse with a hole in your head, metaphorically speaking, before asking “what am I doing here?”

Posted: June 15th 2007

See all questions answered by brian thomson


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