God and Positive Thinking

I’ve just come across an article on positive thinking: The Science of Positive Thinking: How Positive Thoughts Build Your Skills, Boost Your Health, and Improve Your Work. It gives some information on Barbara Fredrickson’s findings. “Fredrickson is a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, and she published a landmark paper that provides surprising insights about positive thinking and its impact on your skills. Her work is among the most referenced and cited in her field, and it is surprisingly useful in everyday life.” Fredrickson’s conclusions are that people who go through positive emotions (love, contentment, etc.) have better chances to envision opportunities and open their minds up to options. Which got me thinking. Since people should encourage anything that sparks the aforementioned feelings, doesn’t belief in god(s) qualify as the ultimate source of positive thinking?

Odd that you would take religion as a source for love, contentment etc.

I have to say…maybe. It depends on the religion.

Belief in gods, per se, is neither upbeat nor downbeat. There’s Bacchus and there’s Kali.

I do agree that a cheerful, optimistic attitude rewards itself, and happiness begets happiness. A hopeful frame of mind has been shown to be beneficial in the healing process, increasing one’s chances of surviving cancer, etc. Meanwhile, depression shortens lives (all too often by the catastrophe of suicide) and reduces the quality of life of the person suffering.

So, sure, given one’s druthers, be happy! If religion assists you in that, go to it. But religion isn’t the only path, or even the best. Some of the happiest people I know are atheists, and (alas) some of the most unpleasant people in the world are religious fanatics.

I think many people are born optimists or pessimists. I’m an optimist, and I don’t have any need of god to be positive.
Heck, I’d rather credit myself for the good and the bad, not some eternal plan.

I think that even among those born to be optimistic there are a lot of people who find it hard to maintain their confidence and enthusiasm in the face of reality and may instinctively resort to belief in the divine so that they will be able to fuel their positive thinking and cope with life thrivingly.

It would be simplistic of us, I think, to believe that believers nurture their happiness by merely turning a blind eye to the rough aspects of reality. Belief may equip them with a sense of control and certainty that enables them to keep their enthusiasm and joie de vivre. The worship of Kali acknowledges the existence of the dark aspects of life and confers believers a relative feeling of safety.

The U.S.A. has the largest prison population in the world. American prisons teem with some of the most violent criminals the world has seen. I doubt their religiosity.

I do not think you are looking at the cold hard facts. If you view god as the creator then he is responsible for cancer, famine, hurricanes, greed, animosity… all of it. Saying that he is the creator and ignoring all of that gives a false sense of security, a pretend mental comfort. They may be more “comfortable” than the stereotypical bitter atheist, but, lets not pretend their is any real comfort here, only pretending.

Oddly enough, prison is Christians.

I, therefor, doubt the value of religion to change or regulate people’s baser instincts.

But if you read the article I’ve mentioned, you will notice that positive thinking stems exactly from focusing on comforting emotional input and obstructing discomforting stimuli. Religious belief comes with a personal version of reality which stands for fact in the believer’s mind. This is the reason why no matter what negative aspects you may point out as evidence of a less-than-perfect creation the believer will always claim that you fail to see the big picture, which of course is one of harmony and perfection.

I’ve seen the data. The fact is the overwhelming majority of the inmates declare that they are religious people. But one must be really naive to believe that, indeed, 99.99% of the jail population is genuinely religious. Prisons make a way more tribal society than the world outside them and everyone does his best to avoid becoming a target. Now, if you are looking for a person whose belief is nothing but pretense, the jail would be probably the best place to search.

But the point is not to find out which of the two, religiosity or atheism, is more likely to lead to violence and extremism because neither of them does. Human aggression stems from the very nature of human beings and their actions are often characterized by violence regardless of people’s belief or lack of belief.

God(s) or religion should be regarded as a tool - a psychological tool rather than a physical one. The question is whether the existence and use of this tool is more detrimental to the individual and society as a whole than it is beneficial, and it seems to me that based on the theory of positive thinking the latter is the case.

And negative thinking?

The way I learned it, belief in a god or gods can work like the placebo effect to improve a patient’s condition – or it can wreak psychosomatic havoc if you truly believe you’ve transgressed against the mighty smiter who smites, because you’re now expecting the symptoms of hysterical conversion syndrome and lo they doth appear.

Belief in a benevolent almighty who personally intervenes to make sure a given individual has a meaningful life, makes sure the world as a whole is run according to a grand plan, and perhaps even provides for a comfortable afterlife, is very positive thinking, in my opinion.

Makes the salt of daily wounds–personal or vicariously felt–perpetrated on us by this world much more palatable.

And negative thinking too, of course. But it would be unrealistic to criminalize a tool because its use has both positive and negative effects. The rational solution is to control and channel its use so that negative effects will be limited as much as possible.

Are you proposing some kind of sincerity test?

Only if you promise to be sincere. :slight_smile:

Look. Data are one thing, interpreting them is another.

Plus, as I have already mentioned, the cause of human aggression is not belief in god(s) but human nature itself. Violence may or may be manifest in religious acts just as it can be found in many other instances that have nothing to do with religion.

It seems to me that, philosophically speaking, sincerity has limited relevance. For me being sincere means believing in your version of truth. My own version of truth includes contradictory data which makes it difficult for myself to believe in it. Does that make me insincere?

No, but your observation that convicts aren’t “genuinely” religious quickly loses any possible authority.

Let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that my observation that convicts aren’t genuinely religious loses “any” possible authority.

Then could you please answer the following?

  1. Do you believe that 99.99% of the jail population is religious?

  2. Is belief in god(s) the ultimate source of positive thinking or not? Explain.

Think of it this way. You’ve finally gotten a reservation to dine at the finest restaurant ever imagined. You’ve dressed appropriately, made the necessary arrangements, arrived on time only to find that you have to wait a few minutes in the cold before you can be let in. You willing suffer the wait in anticipation of the dining awaiting you. A few minutes of suffering (relatively speaking) in preparation for an eternity of bliss is part of the Christian doctrine.

What, no Muslims or Jewish people there? Where do they go when they misbehave?

Perhaps you’d like to share the data you’ve seen with respect to this. Otherwise it seems more like a guess than a fact. Or as they say 'round these parts…cite.

I know. Only to dispute the reliability of the source once the cite has been provided. This is the reason why I would be very much obliged if you would please let me know what sources you regard as reliable.

There is a difference between optimism and “positive thinking”. An optimistic person thinks things are going to work out because of rational reasons X, Y, and Z. As in, “I’ve studied hard for this test, so of course I will do well.” Or “I’ve got a team of the world’s best doctors treating me. So of course my cancer prognosis is good.”

Positive thinking is not necessarily based on rationality. “I’m one of God’s favored few! Of course I will do well.”

I think an optimistic outlook certainly has its place. But positive thinking? No, I don’t think it should be encouraged. I don’t think an optimistic person will necessarily ignore warning signs. If an optimistic student fails a test, they will take that as a sign they need to study harder or in a different way. But if a positive thinking student fails a test, they’re just going to do whatever it is their faith commands them to do when they face adversity. Which is probably not anything that will improve the situation in a measurable way. In other words, not all positivity is constructive.

And neither is all “negativity” destructive. As much as depression sucks, mildly depressed individuals tend to judge themselves more accurately than the non-depressed. This probably isn’t a good thing all the time, because it likely makes “faking it till you make it” a lot harder to do. But knowing what your weaknesses isn’t a bad thing. A person who thinks that diligence is all they need to overcome their weaknesses is probably going to end up hurting themselves, or at least wasting their time.

and what if you get cancer (wait in line) and then you die and don’t get to go to the restaurant (heaven is not real).