Tricky topic, but I'm honestly curious about what people think.

Quick background for me, I was raised by christian parents. My mother, due to doubts studied theology and become a militant athiest. Dad eventually became agnostic. Religion was never pushed on me at all, and I was allowed to make up my own mind. I have been a very militant athiest the majority of my life, although I'm more mellow now and would consider myself an agnostic athiest, purely because I cannot be intellectually honest and claim I "know" there isn't a God. I cannot. I lack a belief and have alway's been moderately to severely disgusted by religion and what it does to people and what it actually represents.

Anyway I was alway's under the impression, that by default the world would be better off without religion. I was completely sure of myself. I've recently become interested in philosophy and go to all sort of discussion forums(including religious ones).

In a nutshell, as much as I think humans don't NEED religion and are better off without it, I'm starting to think I may be wrong on this notion. I may infact, be behaving rather narcissisticly. IE, everyone is the same as me emotionally, just misguided.

The most common arguments I get from believers is

1. Why would you "care" without a belief in God?
2. Why would you behave morally if there is no objective moral code?
3. Why would you even bother if there is no point?

Now I can sit there and argue with these people all day. But once I took a step back I wondered...is it possible that people really, really cannot live without it?

Is it possible, that I'm not just a person who has been raised to think clearly, but that there is an inherant weakness among humans that is surpassed by only a number of us? Sounds arrogant doesn't it? and none of us want to be arrogant.

But what if that's true?

What if these believers, truly could not care, obey laws, or even respect themselves without faith? As much as I think faith is "taught" that is not entirely the case. People "convert", meaning..they need it.

So, I'm wondering...no matter how strong I think I am, or how weak I think they are, people do and will kill for the sake of their beliefs. If that's the case, are we better off leaving belief alone for the most part, and gently moving humanity along, while the believers play catch up?

Do they need it? Would humanity descend into chaos without it? This is not an attempt to convince people that religion is correct. It's not only a genuine question but a truly humbling one.

I wonder if I give humanity way too much credit, when I say that people can handle athiesm and would be much happier without their faith. I suspect truth, isn't so important to people because it hurts too much.

What do you think?

And before you answer with, HELL YEAH no inquisitions, no suicide bombers etc etc. I want you to REALLY THINK..what will these believers do...if they truly believe there are no rules at all?

Are we kidding ourselves in thinking humanity can deal with mortality and nihlism without a devastating effect on human life?

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Jails are full of xians. So, religion or not, people are going to behave badly. I think it's just human nature. My aunt was kidnapped, molested, and murdered by a religious cop. His religion didn't guarantee he'd have morals.
So...
1. Why would you "care" without a belief in God? (I possibly care more equally without one.)
2. Why would you behave morally if there is no objective moral code? (How does religion define morals?)
3. Why would you even bother if there is no point? (Living life is the point, not imagining what comes after)

Yes, I think the world would be better without religion. We'd still have bad people who murder, rob, etc...but we'd have less people who kill, in the name of their religion, or taunt others who don't share their same beliefs.
Most people think that the world without religion would be like a world without traffic laws. Without the flashing lights and signs, people would just crash into everything. They think that religious law is what creates morality and therefore forms the basis of an orderly society, the way traffic law creates orderly traffic.
It never occurs to them that we have all subscribed to a logical and well-deliniated system of traffic laws for the promotion of public welfare and safety, not because of any revelation from god. We don't stop at traffic signs because of fear of eternal damnation. We stop because of a reasonable fear of tickets and deadly traffic accidents. If you don't have the self-control because of common sense, then the tickets and losing your license and insurance are a powerful added incentive to obey the traffic laws. If the traffic system doesn't work, we fine-tune the laws or increase the pressure from fines and other punishments or hire more enforcement officers. It's all common sense.
Likewise, we strongly discourage murder and robbery and other destructive antisocial behavior by a strong legal system and serious punishments. If you ever have occasion to have a serious conversaton with members of the criminal element in our society, you might inquire as to whether they are more strongly influenced by law enforcement and imprisonment or by the death penalty or by the thought that they would go to hell for stealing or murder. And it never occurs to us that the fact that someone committed murder and therefore has doomed themselves to an eternity in hell to be enough punishment. We throw their butts in jail to rot for many years or the rest of their lives or if they're really a waste of food we eventually get around to eliminating them. We don't really give a tinker's damn for their souls when the bums are being sentenced. That's their own problem, not society's. If the preachers didn't come sniffing around the jails to look good for their parishoners, the legal system sure wouldn't go out and recruit and pay preachers to make jail visits.
In other words, the religionists are all about the fire and brimstone when they're pumping ther parisoners up in church and trying to encourage more tithing. But in real life, they all know a civilized town needs a sheriff and a jail and judges and juries. (sorry, I've recently watched some Gunsmoke reruns). They vote for law and order.
In spite of their treasured ten commandments, nobody's being stoned to death these days for gathering wood on the sabbath, or even adultery. Most of the bible's crazy laws are already in the dustbin of time. Give it another generation or two and we'll have the religionists marginalized enough that they won't be able to get together a picnic, let alone a good bookburning or enough people to even carry a petition around town.
Does something have to be disapproved of in the bible for people to have a moral conviction that it's wrong? I take the modern distaste of overt racist behavior (which has gradually developed acceptance over the last 40 years or so) to be proof that the bible doesn't have to be against something for it to gradually become widely recognized as repugnant.
1. Why would you "care" without a belief in God?

Because life, the universe, and everything are utterly fascinating, if you bother to pay attention. Why would I care more just because god (or anybody) thinks I should? In any case, we care because our genes make us care. We live because our genes want to make more genes. If you haven't read Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, whatever are you waiting for? Religious people are not immune to these impulses, even if they think they are. Well, most of them, anyway.

2. Why would you behave morally if there is no objective moral code?

Because following The Golden Rule is in my own best interests. Morality is nothing more than a relatively successful and simple (at least for critters with big enough brains to keep score) survival strategy. Not for groups. For individuals.

Society didn't create morality any more than religion did. It doesn't take a whole lotta game theory to figure out that if you help other people, some of them may be in a position to help you out later, and will be more kindly disposed toward you in the event. Maybe enough to want to help you out. It's all a matter of planting seeds and playing the odds. Will everybody that you helped have an opportunity to help you? No. Will everybody that has an opportunity bother to help you? No. But by helping others, you increase your odds in life. That's all any evolutionary advantage is--an increase in survival odds. As adaptations go, morality was a pretty good one. And humans aren't even the only animals that figured it out. Wolves did. Cows did.

But there are always cheaters. We call them sociopaths (or whatever the currently vogue term is). Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or various other insults (see the astonishing case of Phineas Gage) can lead to a brain that just doesn't function socially. Short of that, some people think they can short-circuit the morality game and get more goodies for themselves. Do that enough, and the majority who are playing the morality game in good faith will smack you. Or hire police and courts to smack you. This is also covered in The Selfish Gene in the section on the game Tit For Tat.

Most religious people, just like most all people, also have big brains and intuitively understand enough game theory to appreciate that you go along to get along. Life just works better most of the time if you cooperate with those around you. They would behave morally even without religion to keep them in check, because they instinctively understand that it's in their own best interests.

Remember, humans got along rather well before there was religion. Scandinavians and Japanese get along just great now that they've abandoned religion.

3. Why would you even bother if there is no point?

See #1. Our genes compel us to, and there's always some crazy new thing to gawk at around the next corner. Again, religious people are generally not immune to their own nature.

Religious people are the same species. They're going to function more or less the same way we do, regardless of the fairy tales they tell themselves. If the fairy tales disappeared overnight, they'd function well enough on autopilot until they realized the autopilot was doing the flying all along.
Well thanks for all the responses.

It was pretty much what I expected. General consencus is that people would be fine, and much better off. I don't actually think I agree with this anymore but I wasn't really looking to argue so much as see what others think.

Some interesting points made.

Cheers
Thanks Knaight, but I think this view is not really logical.

Everytime we say people "need to be lead around by the nose" due to upbringing, we forget that we chose to bring people up in this way? Why? it's simple if you look at evolution(the child that obeyed the parent, didn't go into the crocodile infested creek, the parent that disciplined a child, didn't end up with a child..eaten by crocodiles).

What the belief entails(a father God) I can understand. It's a projection of a need for rules that enable survival. God..is a survival instinct. However, You believe people are conditioned to need the "god" in the first place, instead of what should naturally occur and that is a growth out of infantile submission. I don't think religious faith can be explained away easily by conditioning, since a child must eventually grow up and make decisions independantly.

I think it's fundamental to humanity. The question is why?

Since I'm an athiest, I accept that "reigion" didn't exist in the first place. So I do not hold the view, if it didnt' exist in the first place we'd be fine, because WE created it...iin the first place. It's a circular argument. We'd be fine without religion, if it was never created, but we created it.but would be fine without it. hmmm...

The question is why? We can make some educated guesses(We had a need to understand our world, so created hypothesis that we then claimed as true for comfort and security), but this doesn't change the fact that when faced with the unknowns, we greatly struggle. We struggle so much with the unknowns that we invent entire religious systems to deal with it.

Removing religion from the world, will not fix the problems when religion was "invented" by man to fix a problem.(the unknowns).

We have no way of fixing it.As athiests. Because the best we can offer is. We do not know. All we can do is help people along their path and help them to think clearly WHEN they choose too.

Many people are not thinking clearly and to presume it's JUST conditioning is incorrect imo. It's far more fundamental(and dangerous) that a simple "conditioning" concept.

Cheers
I think conditioning is a huge part of the problem, as you say, Michael. It is certainly the case that those raised in the faith are far more likely to remain deluded throughout their lives. On the other hand, I see this, at least for myself, and probably for many, many future atheists, as a "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" sort of conditioning that is subject to sudden and complete collapse far more often than it is subject to violent reaction.

In other words, yes, religion instills fear in people to keep them from looking behind the curtain, and even to use forceful or coercive means to keep themselves and others from looking behind the curtain. But when you actually do look behind the curtain and see it's just an old humbug pulling the levers, the most common reaction is that the whole fear-based house of cards comes tumbling down, liberating the new atheist. That's basically what happened to me, though I have to admit that the tumbling-down actually took about a decade. Or maybe it took that long to really work up the nerve for a good, long look behind the curtain.

Basically, when you allow yourself to think that maybe it's all hogwash and then nothing bad happens to you, you can conclude that all the fear-mongering was BS. When you see atheists living prosperous and happy lives, you can easily jettison the notion that you have to be miserable without God.

I think it's critically important that atheists come out of their closet. The more people living openly atheist, fulfilling lives, the easier it is for theists to see that God doesn't smite them. This should accelerate deconversion over time. I think we're moving toward a tipping point in the US that Europe and Japan have already happily gone well beyond. The numbers seem to be finally moving, and in the right direction. Nones account for 10 to 15% of the US population, but fellow-travelers (those to whom religion is simply irrelevant, though they might continue to count themselves as "culturally religious") account for far more. The percentage of Americans who actually seem to give a damn about religion is between 50 and 70% and dropping fast as religion ages out of the population. Of those, the hard-core believers only add up to about 25% of the US. Enough to be a problem, and of course they're all armed and keep a basement full of canned food, but I think the majority of Americans are willing to fight against religious tyranny, if for no other reason than that they wouldn't like somebody else telling them how to worship.

I'm not saying that theocracy can't happen here, or that a violent counterreaction to creeping atheism can't happen. I'm just relatively confident that the US tradition of live-and-let-live runs deeper than is often feared. In any case, the simplest and most expedient thing we can do to hasten the demise of religion is to live well and openly without it. If things get rough, that won't be our fault, and we'll be able to oppose religious reactionaries with clear consciences. In the meantime, we can inspire others to follow our examples, and oh yeah, lead decent and productive lives.
1. Those who reject religion out of rebellion or indifference sometimes act badly - and then convert back or to the dominant community religion to clean up their act. The dominant themes here are rebellion, authoritarianism and conventiality.
2. Those who reject religion after thoughtful consideration do not generally descend into immorality. The dominant themes here are independent thinking and self responsibility.
3. The higher the proportion of non-believers in a nation the less the incidence of crime and social dysfunction in that nation. Nations like Sweden, Japan and France do much better in this respect than the outlying USA which is highly religioius and highly dysfunctional.

Ergo your believing friends are sprouting a lot of wishful thinking from pastors steeped in ignorance of the world outside the perceptions of Fox Noise.
I think this is very, very close to where I sit.

#1 is my issue.

There are many that reject religion out of rebellion or indifference. If you've met these people, it seems to me, that a "belief" in something else that turns them around. Regardless of wether religion is right, these people are kept in line by it.

If they could think rationally, or with empathy for fellow man they would have done so. But they chose not to.

It took a "faith" in God, to get them behaving.

So...the question still remains. Is the world better off believing than not? How many people of this nature(governed by only their own desires) exist?

And what would happen to these people, if there was no religion to "teach" them that some-thing, other than their own will must govern them?

Athiests realize this by default.

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