Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Being Religious is Easier

Gentle reader,

I was raised (loosely) as a Roman Catholic. I went to a Catholic comprehensive school in London on the weekdays and church on Sundays. Well, most Sundays. One time I snuck away with my brother and we bought comic books with the collection money. That was fun! But over time I have become an atheist. As I grow older and spend more time thinking about life, I cannot not bring myself to stay religious. The more I think about it, the less I am able to buy into believing something without evidence. I am a scientist at heart. Moreover, there are some aspects of the bible and religion that I believe are harmful. For example, threatening people with hell to make them behave in a certain way. There are many other things.

I walked away from religion. However, I can see how absolutely necessary it must be for some people to have religion in their lives. Having given up on religion myself, I strongly believe that life is easier if you are religious than if you are an atheist. Here are some of the reasons:
  1. If there is no God then what is the purpose and meaning of life? Anyone who ponders this question and has no religion is left with a huge, empty chasm. I personally spend some time every day wondering about this. If you are religious, this question is answered.
  2. If there is no God, what happens to me when I die? It is daunting and unpleasant to think about this question, and imagine oneself underground, or being burnt in a furnace, with NOTHING afterwards. You will never get to see your loved ones again. How much nicer it is to believe that they will all be waiting for you in heaven. Or that you will have a bevy of virgins, or attain Nirvana.
  3. If you are religious you have an instant social network through your Church. Without church you may have to work harder to find friends.
  4. If you don't have a religion, you are completely responsible for your own life. There is no such thing as "leaving it up to God". If something bad happens (e.g. you lose your job), there is no-one to turn to but yourself. That can be a lot to handle. How much easier it is to trust God to do the driving.
  5. You are responsible for your moral choices and you must live with your conscience forever afterwards. There is no such thing as going to confession and being completely forgiven. I would love to have all my sins forgiven. But it's just not an option for me.
Despite all of these disadvantages, I have no choice but to be an atheist. I simply don't believe in any God, or Gods. But I do understand why many others are religious and I do not hold it against them. It is more difficult for me now that I know (I am pretty sure, let's say) I am "alone" in the universe, than before when I was a believer. Which brings us to today's quote:

"Whatever gets you through the night...is alright...is alright".
-John Lennon

Until the next time gentle reader, I remain,

Your friend,

Buford Twain


Pat said...

If there is no God then what is the purpose and meaning of life? Anyone who ponders this question and has no religion is left with a huge, empty chasm. I personally spend some time every day wondering about this. If you are religious, this question is answered.

As an atheist I have problem knowing the purpose and meaning for my life. In no small part because I chose it. On the other hand the religious have a confusing array of biblical interpretation, dogma and opinion to try and make sense of. I like my way better.

Summer Squirrel said...

I feel sorry for those who need a "crutch" to face each day, but it does seem to give comfort to many people. Since I've embraced my atheism my life has become much better and more exciting! Being responsible and taking responsibility has been such a freeing experience; gratifying and rewarding. More people should try it!

Sorry to see you go. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Are you serious? Please, tell me you’re joking.

1. You assume there is some empty chasm in my life. Again, are you joking? Have you ever looked at the stars? Gasped in wonder at the pictures from the HST? Have you never spent even an hour alone in a forest? Never heard the sweet laughter of a child? You must have god? How sad for you, that you can overlook the wonder that nature provides for you EVERY DAY of your life, for the “joy” of huddling on your knees in some dank stone and brick edifice mumbling pieties while all the wonder passes you by.
2. Here’s a question for you: remember before you were born? How daunting was it waiting and waiting to become a zygote? What swill. Why is it so “daunting” to return from whence you came? Trust me, you won’t miss this life – even it you missed it while on your knees.
3. I am surrounded by friends! I am sometimes in awe of all the friends and acquaintances I have, let alone family. And such rewarding relationships they are as well, each one different, each one rich and fulfilling in different ways…and not a single one of them met through, or maintained through church. Of course there’s a social benefit to churches, just as there are social benefits to sports clubs, arts societies, even country clubs. Churches don’t have any special dibbs on social interactions. And please disabuse yourself that churches are somehow immune to the evil vagueries of human society; I have seen horrible, horrible hurts committed by “true believers” in every flavor you can name.
4. If with a belief in a deity, you are the only person responsible for your actions, and thus, the consequences of your actions. It is OK to rely on others for support and assistance – that the greatness and the burden of being human – but in the ultimate, one must be prepared to continue and to grow, not retreat into some fantasy where if you just believe, everything will be fine.
5. There is only one moral law. Only one. It is endemic in the spirit of each human: treat all around you as you yourself would like to be treated. That’s it. From this hangs all the law and the prophets. It is the ultimate self preservation mechanism, which is why it has rung so soundly throughout many, many millennia. If we violate this law, we have no one to blame but ourselves. The devil didn’t make us do it. Most times, laziness is the cause. There is no such thing as sin. Sin is a construct of the organized religions, which are little more than giant corporations seeking control and financial gain – not that they can take it with them (see No. 2).
These are hardly disadvantages. They can only be disadvantages if you decided they are so. Religions, especially religions instilled in children, are powerful in their pull. A wise friend of mine, a theologian, in fact, once remarked that people rarely give up the religion they learned as a child – they merely substitute something else. How very true. I have seen Catholics spurn the church and then turn to Buddhism, as if Buddhism weren’t a religion, or turn from rosaries to magic crystals, as if that was not a substitute symbol.

What I gained from abandoning godswargling entirely was a sense of freedom, a sense of release, and a sense of relief. I still had the moral grounding given me by my parents, but the mantras against the dark that comforted the child in me have been outgrown. Now I have everything I had from religion, less the guilt and the fear. Life, love, friendship, nature are all the more precious to me now, now that I know that it is all the life I will have. I must pass on to the next generation as much as I can of what makes me “me,” so that I can go smiling on to that from which I came.

Buford Twain said...

Sorry to see me go where? I ain't leaving!

I think most of us use "crutches" to get through life. Religion is a particularly solid, reliable and comfortable crutch, but there are others (alcohol and drugs come to mind). I think religion and OCD have something in common. They both involve rituals that you *have* to do, that make you feel better after you do them.

Buford Twain said...

anonymous, thanks for posting that long comment, I think it is longer than my original post.

I am not joking. What I am saying (trying to say but perhaps not clearly enough) is that despite my own personal ability to live a god-free life I understand why other people turn to religion.

Also a love of nature does not tell me why I am here or how it all began. Life does beg those questions, no matter how much star-gazing or forest-standing one does (at least in my case). The religious have a nice, pre-packaged answer. I certainly don't and I must admit that I envy them that.

I am glad you have plenty of friends, I can assure you that loneliness is a major problem for many people.

godswargling? I like that term.

Are you sure you are smiling? You sound a bit miffed to me!

RightOnPeachtree said...

Sounds to me like you have that "God-shaped hole" that people sometimes talk about. Some people have it. Some people don't. You don't sound settled with your decision. I hope you continue your journey. Either way, I wish you well.

From what I've heard of the Catholic church, I can imagine that you've gotten a warped view of what God is and isn't. I'm a Baptist. I wasn't threatened with Hell or offered religion as a crutch. I wasn't saddled with superfluous dogma. I wasn't told that I had to submit to an intermediary in the church. Still, I've been through the times of doubt and I've struggled at times, but I keep coming back. I can't stay away.

Your questions are all very valid ones. What is our purpose? What does happen after you die (BTW, I fully believe in ghosts and spirits as well -- I've known too many people who've had "encounters")? There are plenty of things that science cannot explain (I took four years of science classes in undergrad). Look at how many people -- BRILLIANT people -- around the world and throughout history are people of faith. Are they all rubes? Are they all ignorant? Do you think they didn't all ask themselves these same questions? And yet they chose to believe -- or were led to believe -- or couldn't stop believing.

Are there some real boneheads and cheats and hypocrites who are religious? Yes, absolutely. However, we're all human and subject to...well...being human. If you put your faith in man, you'll always -- ALWAYS -- be disappointed. That's why you don't put your faith in mankind.

So you say that you don't believe in God. I say that I can't NOT believe in God. Are we wired that way? Who knows. If we are, though, the bigger question may be, "Who did the wiring?" As for me, I just believe that things do have a purpose and an order -- and I don't believe that everything just "happened". That takes a much bigger leap of faith for me.

Me said...

I woke up at 1:00 a.m. this morning after falling asleep on the couch hours earlier after work thinking life is easier for people who believe in God 'cause it gives some kind of a comfort to life. I just can't believe it though and don't even know what I believe! Then I found your blog doing a search for "life is easier if you believe in god". Thanks for your post.

Buford Twain's Profile said...

@Me: Thanks for reading and leaving a post. It is good to hear from others who are pondering these same questions. It has been about a year since I wrote the original post and I still feel the same way - I don't believe in God but I am fine with others who do, as long as they let me have my own beliefs and don't compromise my rights.

Anonymous said...

That is a pretty big lie you believe. Spend a week living exactly as God would have you live and tell me if that is easier than living a week of exactly how you want to live. But never mind what is easier or harder - If you try your hardest living as God would have you live - you will begin to taste a happiness that is deeper than anything you have experienced. I say begin, because it really is a life-long and beyond pursuit. I see how atheism can boost your ego and pride, but these are fleeting - a philosophy of atheism has no eternal advantages over religion - ZERO.

With all of this said - there is no such thing as an atheist in the truest sense. Atheists have ignored many truths, but it is impossible to ignore them all - the toughest being the fact that they are more than just a lump of mass - nobody can ever fully believe they are just a lump of mass.

With all that said - even if I was a self-professed atheist - I would still practice our Lord's gospel - why? because EVERY SINGLE TIME that I do I become happier - it has never failed me, not anybody I have ever talked to, NEVER. In spite of all the pain and suffering in the world - there are no exceptions. If you come up with an exception - then you don't get it.

Buford Twain's Profile said...

@anonymous: Thanks for reading and for leaving a comment.

You say "If you try your hardest living as God would have you live" - which God are you talking about? If I am reading you correctly you seem to have made an assumption that there is one particular God (the Christian God?) who is the "right" one to follow. That strikes me as a big assumption. What if you are following the rules of the wrong God? What if there are many Gods?

I don't get your point about atheism boosting ego and pride. Atheists are positively reviled in the US. Being an atheist is not that great for my pride or my ego.

The fact that you are happier when following the rules of your chosen religion implies that to some extent being religious is easier for you - because it makes you happier. If you said that you followed God and were miserable but did it anyway, that would have been a good counterpoint to my post.

Thanks again for posting and I hope you continue to find happiness - with religion or without.