Theists have the initial advantage in that if their belief is true they have a blissful place to live after death (assuming they deserved it in life)
Atheists probably get oblivion (which we comfort ourselves by reminding ourselves that if we are no more, there is no ‘we’ to suffer it)
But I believe that without God to explain everything, we Atheists have the joy of being able to work everything out for ourselves. We get to spend our whole lives on finding out why we exist, why we are intelligent, why the universe exists, whether ‘why’ is an appropriate question (maybe some things don’t need a reason. Maybe they just happened).
Putting all bias aside, and for the sake of argument asuming that theists and atheist can be equally right and wrong, which side has the advantage in your opinion?
It depends on whether I have a choice on what kind of theism. If I was forced to choose between the Jack Chick theological vision or oblivion, I’d happily choose oblivion. However, if it were Universalism I’d choose that.
I think it depends on the degree of emotional investment either way. It’s not healthy or pleasant to be a zealot about anything.
I guess I would say that atheism allows for less cognitive dissonance in some ways, at least as compared to beliefs which are challenged by reality (e.g. creationism), but not all religious belief is irrational.
On the other hand, religious faith does have compensators in that it offers a way to deal with things like grief and depression.
On blance, I think it’s probably a wash as long you’re not talking about tipping over into fanatacism in either direction.
Not all people who believe in a higher intelligence believe in the afterlife.
Many people who believe in a higher intelligence do that too.
I believe that there’s a being greater than us out there, but that doesn’t mean that I’m the same as some kind of Bible-belt creationist who spends their Sundays at a revival meeting. “Theist” is a really broad category; all it means is that you believe there’s a system of intelligence higher than human beings. This could mean the Christian God, or it could mean aliens, or it could mean the compiled energy of the universe. It doesn’t mean you believe in the afterlife (personally, I think that whatever this higher intelligence is, it has more important things to worry about than where a bunch of hairless apes go when they die). Not all theists attach importance to dogma. Many theists hate organized religion as much as atheists do. Actually, in many ways atheism is almost like a religion, in that it purports to single out “true unbelievers” and applies a litmus test to people and ridicules them if they believe there’s anything more to life than science.* Isn’t saying that atheists alone are allowed the freedom to explore life’s mysteries a little off, anyway? I mean, what if it can be scientifically proven that there’s a higher level of intelligence in the universe? Wouldn’t that kind of counter your whole philosophy?
*P.S. I’m not saying anyone in this thread was doing that, just that some atheists I know do that.
You’re really comparing dogmatic theism to (what I assume is) enlightened atheism. Is that really a fair comparison? (Brutus’s comment about Jack Chick is quite pertinent.)
Here’s something new to ponder. IF a sense of the Afterlife and a direct perception of the Divine are fundamentally built into human cognition (as I believe they are), then an atheist’s top-level thoughts of “I don’t believe” are not going to make that much of a difference in how happy s/he is. My perception is that people are naturally happy, and it takes a disease like depression or criminality or illness or some other great misfortune to change that.
Also there are different kinds of atheists out there. I think the crusaders tend to have fun with it, but there are plenty of people who are of the “God is dead and don’t bug me about it” variety. I think you’ll find the latter type to be, on average, less happy than the average non-fundie theist.
All that said, I think we New Agers get the best of both worlds. We are not driven by any dogma but get to keep our beliefs in the Afterlife and Spirit and the Divine yet still believe in and explore Science in all its glory. You oughta try it some time.
There is no such sense or perception built into my cognition and my “top level” thoughts are the same as my “bottom level” thoughts.
I run into this attitude in theists from time to time and I find it slightly annoying. It’s like some theists just can’t believe that someone else really doesn’t believe in God. I really don’t believe in it, man. It isn’t there anywhere in my “cognition.” I’m not suppressing or denying anything. I am sincere in my nonbelief. Trust me.
Yes, I know the smugness you’re talking about. I’m talking about something similar but not quite the same. Keep in mind that I too don’t believe in a monotheistic “God.”
All I’m saying is that if human nature does, as an entirely normal process of life, include the Afterlife and a level of the person that simply cannot die (the Spirit), then it might also be true that these parts of our nature are comforting at a very deep level of the pysche. This would have nothing to do with the words one uses in the head to describe how the world works, i.e., belief.
And not all people who believe in an afterlife believe in a higher intelligence, and least in the Judeo-Christian sense. Look at some forms of Buddhism. And some Buddhists are pure atheists, and don’t even believe in an afterlife.
I couldn’t tell you, to be honest. It would depend on the individual. If I was still a theist, for example, I would be very unhappy with the idea of hell. As an atheist, I don’t get the idea of heaven, but then again, I also realize that wishing something to be true doesn’t make it true.
The same thing happens in reverse, btw. Atheists will sometimes say that theists don’t really believe, or that deep down they know it’s all bullshit. It’s supercillious either way. A lot of people, probably most people have a feeling- a sense- of something but they don’t know what to call it and they know it doesn’t really conform to convential religious conceptions or imagery. I think this feeling- this central, core perception- is sincere and is not a delusion.
I think cognitive dissonance actually is a lot easier for some people who have certain genetic profiles - I’m talking about the controversial “God spot” in the brain. That’s the only way I can understand how anyone could look around at the suffering in the world, inflicted on innocent people, children etc and not come to the obvious conclusion that there is no omnipotent, merciful, kind God worth worshipping. I know not all theists believe that, but I think if you can tally up, say, the Holocaust with the existence of a God then you must have some serious blindspot that just kicks in and overrides reason when you hear about the nastier stuff in the world. And God, I envy such people. I wish I didn’t have to stare nothingness in the face every time I watch the news. I say the theists are definately better off.
No, as your footnote implies, some atheists may do those things, but others don’t, and you can’t really say that “atheism” singles out “true unbelievers”, applies litmus tests, etc. Atheism is not a church or an institution, or even a body of beliefs or dogmas (although it may be espoused by some institutions, or be included in some belief systems).