There's a kind of faith that some atheists have: that one is better off knowing the truth, that people can handle the truth of the human condition (which is pretty devastating).
Richard Dawkins for example thinks it condescending to religious believers to think that they need their faith.
I don't know about the condescension, because religious believers are always telling us how helpful God is to them. But RD does feel that people can do fine without religion.
I sort of have this faith. I'm VERY wary of deception and self-deception. They cause so much harm. Faith in truth sets a very high standard: that people can tolerate life without denial, regardless of what's dished out to them. Somehow living in illusion seems to deny higher human possibilities.
This faith isn't necessary to atheism. An atheist could easily think that they personally have it easy enough so they don't need faith, and others don't necessarily; or that they might be happier if they were religious, but they just don't believe.
After all pretending and deception play a HUGE part in human affairs, and there are reasons for that.
I'm not sure if I understand your analogy about faith but I did relate to one comment:
or that they might be happier if they were religious, but they just don't believe.
I do think that while there is awe and beauty to be seen in the miracle of existence, that life is also absurd and depressing. I have had chronic depression problems throughout my life. And so I have often envied certain religious people (even though they make me crazy) because they are saved from that kind of depressing thinking. They just live in their stupid happy oblivion of knowing that God has a plan for them and they are saved. But I can't make myself believe in that stuff just because it might make me feel better.
Faith in truth sets a very high standard: that people can tolerate life without denial, regardless of what's dished out to them.
I don't think all people are capable of living without that self-deception. They aren't strong enough to face existential questions without their security blanket. But I hate it when they use that argument as proof of why there has to be a god. They always ask, "Isn't your life bleak and depressing without God?" Well it can be, but it isn't always. But that doesn't prove god exists. So if I cling to faith in god to protect me from feeling empty or without purpose, I still know it's a fantasy that makes me feel better.
It seems to me that religious faith is a seductive escape for people who were abused as children.
I was very emotionally tormented, LOTS of anxiety, I would go on crying jags often thinking why not kill myself, an ongoing somewhat hallucinatory aspect to my vision, especially when I was emotionally stressed. I thought this was all from being abused as a child.
Then when I was 43 I came down quite physically sick with what seems to have been celiac disease - I'd been mysteriously sick often since I was 20, but I got a lot sicker then. I had a lot of delayed food allergies, probably related to the celiac disease, and when I stopped eating those foods, my anxiety and tension got MUCH better, and my vision became just vision, not an expression of my feelings. I still had suicidal crying episodes of despair, but a couple years later I found more delayed food allergies and stopped eating those foods too (I eat a lot of exotic foods since I don't have reactions to them), and then I stopped having the awful despairing crying jags.
My anxiety and suicidal feelings back then, seemed like an authentic response to my childhood experiences and my situation in life. But now, my situation is really bad - but even so, I'm fundamentally pretty cheerful, I smile easily, I socialize much more easily. I feel like, well, my childhood happened, but it's in the past, and it stays back there and doesn't haunt me too much.
About meaning and purpose: I see us as living in spacetime, not in a parcel of space moving in time. What matters is what happens in our place in spacetime, some ultimate end of our progress in Time is not the important part.
I don't think all people are capable of living without that self-deception. They aren't strong enough to face existential questions without their security blanket.
It's hard to tell, maybe they would do fine if they dropped the security blanket. Humans have suffered and still do suffer an incredible amount. It makes me feel less tormented by my own particular hell, to know that I'm not alone in it, hells and worse hells are all around ...
I personally feel that knowing this is all there is (and it's AWESOME that we get to experience life at all), makes me more aware that I need to work on appreciating each and every day, heck, each and every minute for what it is. This is it! I read somewhere a woman said just the fact that she got to know her children made life worth it to her. This is SO true for me. I feel like I won the lottery every time I get to hug my kids. And I do it every chance I get, because I know we won't meet again in 'heaven.' ~Melinda
It's true that all humans are driven towards emotional satisfaction, we only differ in our strategies to get there. So, atheists and Christians are both hedonists (for want of a better word). Atheists seek emotional satisfaction through reliable beliefs. Christians seek emotional rewards in a relationship with an imaginary god, and anticipation of a joyous afterlife.
So, if some people seem better off in denial, better off with illusions than reality, is it right to try and shatter those illusions and possibly destroy their peace of mind? Can ordinary folk survive and flourish without those illusions? Tough questions.
In the long term I think atheists can thrive without any illusions, but whether it's right to shatter someone's world by calling their religion 'barking mad' as Dawkins does, who can say?
I think the only answer to this question is for atheists to build a thriving movement/community that is so engaging and emotionally satisfying that religious people will look on in envy, and find themselves naturally drawn into, leaving their religion behind.
if some people seem better off in denial, better off with illusions than reality, is it right to try and shatter those illusions and possibly destroy their peace of mind? Can ordinary folk survive and flourish without those illusions?
People seem quite able to hang onto their illusions, so I wouldn't worry too much about the morality of debunking them :)
yes, it brings up the question, what is the legitimate role of illusion? My belief against illusion comes a lot from coming from an abusive family, where I was lied to so much by abusive people, and it showed me the destructive power of lies.
I've thought, since there's a good deal of pretending in many people's belief anyway - like singing in a musical play, and not coming back to reality afterwards - how is it, for those people, any worse than going to see a musical?
Any worldview would tend to be associated with a belief that people are better off with that worldview, because of the tendency to justify one's worldview.
I guess religious believers pretty generally think the everyone would be better off if they had that belief. Except perhaps the version of satanism known as Murphy's Law :) :)
So atheism or agnosticism is perhaps rather unique in that we don't necessarily think it's better not to believe.
And what about people like Sophie Scholl of the White Rose, one of the very rare people in Nazi Germany who took a stand against Hitler, and was quickly beheaded for it? Her religious faith seems to have been enabled her to do what she did. Perhaps she threw away her life, since Nazism was ended by military power, not by any protest. But it's also crucial and inspiring that people sometimes act that way. So would atheists do this kind of thing, much less often?
How about going to war, are atheist nations more peaceful?