Faith, religion, and the afterlife: A form of denial

I’m not talking about denial with reality, per se. What I mean is, it’s a coping method plenty of people fall back on, if they have faith, to deal with life issues big and small.

We’ve all seen cloyingly glurgy sentiments across Facebook, or framed as plaques in peoples homes and so on.

Everybody has ways to cope, find encouragement or inspiration in times of need, but I see this as something, that if it were any other delusion, would be considered unhealthy to indulge, let alone encourage or enable the individual. Especially to the point of prayer or even waiting passively for divine intervention on issues that should require direct and immediate attention.

I know what this sounds like to a believer’s ear, as I used to be one. I can hear the entirety of the church rolling around in the pews at the mere mention God is a delusion. And that’s nothing new here, however, I just wanted to bat this thought around for a while here in GD if anyone else would like to weigh in.

There’s a talk on TED on the subject.

Nothing jarringly revealing but well presented.

As an atheist I see tragedies as things that may just happen. Someone gets sick, someone is in the wrong place at the wrong time and get killed in an accident, a tidal wave kills tens of thousands. No one can do anything about it. If I miss out on experiencing these things, it is out of luck, not virtue.

But if you believe in a personal god then all these tragedies can be averted. I know the common excuse is it is god’s will and it is all for the best and we don’t know god’s plan. In other words, the best of all possible worlds scenario, which is obviously wrong. One innocent baby killed and it is disproved.

Maybe not so innocent after all.

People can’t accept the existential crisis so in old age they resort to delusions of an afterlife.

Sadly, I’ll probably be one of them, as will you.

I’m thrown by this argument.

Bold mind, you are making a assumption. perhaps this is where you should look and reevaluate, perhaps it is healthy in other aspects of life as well as opposed to your assumption that it is unhealthy.

In what other aspects of life is it healthy to harbour illusions or beliefs contrary to what evidence suggests?

Yup, every single baby killed by the tsunami would have grown up to be a machete murderer.
Your response is an example of the best of all possible worlds argument. Can you really not imagine a world better than ours?

There are situations when one needs to be tactful to spare’s somebody’s feelings, to save a suicidal person’s life, his own job, etc. But even if this religious delusion were a singleton, how would this be relevant?

That’s called “lying”, and there is definitely utility, time and place for something like that.

It wouldn’t. That’s why I asked a completely different question.

I’m sorry… I guess I just don’t understand what you’re getting at.

I have a Tree in my backyard that I talk to often. I ask it to grant me wishes, sometimes it does, sometimes not. I believe this Tree has the power to do this because I was brought up that way. I have no proof it does, I just know it. My Tree listens to me, loves me, and sometimes asks for money. Am I delusional?

without a doubt.

Replace the word Tree in my earlier post with the word God. Still delusional?


We agree then. :smiley:

Speaking just for myself, with the understanding that I’m in the minority of believers on this, I don’t believe that tragedies can be averted. I don’t believe the prayer will change anything. That’s obviously true if there is no God or if he is Deistic, but I think it even holds true if one subscribes to a “divine plan”. That is, if it is a divine plan, and it’s ultimate purpose is beyond my understanding and it will all work out in the end, then it wouldn’t even make sense for me to want to change it. So, really, as far as I see it it doesn’t matter which of those is true, so it makes no sense to pray and ask for change and, in general I don’t. I do still it sometimes, but I do so realizing it is akin to yelling at the TV while watching a sporting event, with does offer a sense of catharsis when facing a hopeless or difficult situation.

I do still pray about these sorts of things though, perhaps not as much as I should, but my approach is different. Instead, I pray for understanding, in either why it is the way it is or in how I can and should play my part in it, and in peace with the matter as it is and moving forward. My prayers are no longer “I want X” and either being happy I got it, or disappointed it wasn’t in God’s plan, but by changing how I perceive it, I find I FAR more often get that understanding and peace.

And, frankly, I think praying to God to just ask for what I want isn’t even the purpose of prayer. I’m past that point in my relationship with God, akin to a child walking through the toy store with their parent and asking for that toy they want, maybe they get it, maybe they don’t, and then forgetting about all the other things their parent does for them, not just the basic necessities of feeding and clothing, but providing for plenty of other wants we forget we really want, and importantly raising the child to be a good person and an upstanding member of society. Personally, I want to have the sort of relationship with God wherein I am in a state of thankfulness for all he provides us, and I see it counsel and guidance in my life when I am troubled rather than just asking him to fix the problem.

We are not purely rational beings. We have biases, differing perspectives, all matter of things. People pray to God and ask for things, in general, because it DOES work from their perspective. It’s confirmation bias. Yes, as a theist myself, I believe that sort of prayer is largely confirmation bias, but it’s also a part of the human condition as a whole, though more often to lesser degrees. I don’t see what’s unhealthy about it in this case, at all. It helps someone cope with a situation they have no control over. When one is helpless, it often helps one cope to feel like one has more control than one does.

It’s a Miracle!

Don’t get me wrong. I can appreciate the fact that many people derive some sort of benefit from faith and prayer. I’m not one of them but I do understand the principles involved, particularly in the face of our own mortality.

But upthread,** kanicbird** stated that there are other situations in life in which self-deception was beneficial. I simply wondered what he/she considered those to be. But I suppose your post makes sense given the context. The fact that prayer makes some people feel better is reason enough and is a result in itself.

Ah, the dear old invisible pink unicorn argument. “Let me make up something ridiculous and speak as though I believe in it (though we both know I do not). Let us then suppose that it is the belief that is ridiculous, and not the ridiculous thing I made up. Therefore belief is ridiculous.” Couldn’t be more water-tight.