Without answers, why religion?

I was looking at this revived thread by @JohnT, Is it possible to lie to oneselves so much that you can get sent to Hell for it?. It’s true that the theoretical question was poorly formed, but accepting the theoretical, dozens of posters gave answers. It’s a bit oversimplified to say that no two answers agreed with one another, but that’s close.

I’m well aware of the history of Christianity and the multiple splits, schisms, and reformations involved, often over matters of seemingly utmost triviality. And the end result for individuals has normally been cherrypicking of a set of beliefs that constitute a sect.

Nevertheless, wouldn’t any outsider come to such a thread with wonder? If you ask a religious question about the consequences of acts that no two believers can give the same answer to, how do you not come to the conclusion that the answers are merely made up and have no true existence anywhere outside peoples’ heads?

Follow up. Isn’t this a major reason why so many people are turning away from formal religious teaching and either becoming atheists or looking at various spiritualist philosophies that offer similar consolations without the bureaucratic apparatus of faith and acts, sin and salvation, heaven and hell, punishments and rewards?

They don’t, always. If you are willing to listen to one person and one person only, you will get the answers. Plenty of people do this.

Humans are what they are. In no way do I believe that complete tolerance and pluralism has an easy path going forward. People are instinctively going to balkanize and seek other directions. This is probably healthy for humanity overall. 100% of the people making the same decision is too risky, may as well have some other people go another way in case the majority is wrong.

Rome was a pluralistic society like ours. Eventually, the Roman society broke down and disintegrated. The church at the time actually served a function in maintaining tradition and structure in a chaotic world.

Everything is here for a reason. People sought order in the past, they will seek it again.

There are many different ways to get answers…but how do you get the correct answers?

The problem with correct answers is sometimes it’s, “We don’t know.” There maybe an implied yet on that or and we may never know.

There are people to whom that is not an acceptable answer and they’d rather have an answer – any answer – than “We don’t know.” religion fills the bill for them.

You’re absolutely right. I read through a thread like that and get frustrated at people giving answers if if they were somehow based in fact. It’s all opinion and belief based. That’s all religion is. The answer I give to the question off the top of my head is just as valid as anyone else’s because my answer is an opinion/belief.
Like I tell my son, if someone want’s to talk to you about their religion and prefaces their statements with “I believe, I think, I imagine” then hear them out. But when they start to make declarative statements about the truth, the answers, who their deity is, certain characteristics of their deity, what they want, who they’ve communicated their rules to on earth, then turn and run away.

You are taking the question, perhaps, too literally. Surely someone can psychologically send themselves to hell without religion even coming into it, just as they can when religious faith is involved. There should be something to discuss, even theologically, but not every random stranger on a board is going to be an erudite religious philosopher.

This is the age old question if a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound. Does our perception of reality define it? Does anything really exist if it is not in the consciousness of someone? What I see in religions is a refining of universal truths mixed in with culture. People can disagree , cultures change, but the universal truth it still findable even with the ‘noise’.

Religion is good up to a point, but it is not spirituality or is not a relationship with the divine entity we generally call God. It’s a practice of the relationship for when a person seeks, they can get the general idea of some of the concepts, and also see why religion is not the way.

My take on the current increasing numbers of those who are leaving organized religion is because of freedom and power. In the past it was vary hard to defy a religion due to various shunning practices. If you have questions one must accept the answer from the religious authorities or suffer. The ‘or suffer’ part is getting removed and allows people to question religious practices without fear.

Yes, for example there are 10 major Christian sects:

  • Roman Catholic
  • Eastern Orthodox
  • Oriental Orthodox (Miaphysite)
  • Church of the East (Nestorian)
  • Anglican
  • Lutheran
  • Reformed
  • Anabaptist
  • Evangelical
  • Nontrinitarian

What we know about Christianity is based on hope.
(What we know about e.g. Gravity is based on evidence.)

But we often see that two people can’t agree on even things that have far more external evidence than a religious claim.

Example in case (not to make this political): Suppose you ask different people why the Union and Confederacy went to war with each other, or why women behave this way, or why Hispanics have this or that attitude, or why ____ or ____ - they can come up with wildly different conclusions.

Ultimately, some religions are totally made up. With Christianity, some people make claims of this or that supernatural thing they have experienced (I’ve known two such instances to be true, but don’t want to derail the thread) and ultimately Christianity is vague enough that there’s almost no way anything can be proven to most people’s satisfaction.

What you’d probably get would be conflicting certainties, with each side saying the other was mistaken or deluded at best and influenced by the devil at worst.
In secular areas we do further research or experiments to resolve things like this, but this is rejected by religion with arguments around the need for faith.

It’s all about the questions, man. Don’t focus so much on the answers. Check out the journey that gets you to them.

I tend to agree with you. But seemingly the vast majority of people not merely announce the answers but insist that everybody else lives by them. And that is true of most people in most religions. The various divisions of Christianity are legion. Orthodox and Reform Judaism are virtually two separate religions. Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims are deadly enemies. All major religions have secular governments bow to them even though they can look out at the world and see others in thrall to religious leaders they would vehemently disagree with.

It will be interesting to see how large the spirituality movement will grow. It appears to me that they lean toward the journey more than answers. Will that influence governments to lessen their fealty to religions? If so, that’s a major and profound social change.

Given the tone of the OP is that belief is in and of itself stupid, I’m not sure there is an answer you will accept.

But when you are dealing with issues of origin and eternity, obviously there is a lot of supposition and guesswork. Does it mean that such things don’t exist? Or does it mean that we are trying to see a path we have no objective experience on? The same can be said of atheist ideas of these things as well.

Number of people on earth that know what happens after you die. Zero. Number of them that will eventually find out. All of them.
So the question becomes how much time do you want to spend while your are alive searching for an answer that is unknowable by any living person. And how much credence do you give someone who claims they do know.

I’m not surprised you read my OP in that fashion. Any statement that a particular religion is less than perfect is always treated that way, even though practitioners of that sect never have the slightest difficulty in disparaging other peoples’ religions.

Nor am I surprised that my plain words were misread. I wrote about answers rather than beliefs. They are not synonymous, no matter how much any particular practitioner wishes to believe that’s true.

If I find out, I’m going to be pretty surprised. I’m not expecting to be there to find out.


This sounds suspiciously like “There wasn’t enough reverence in your question and you wouldn’t accept the answer anyway, so…”, which is an easy way to duck out of giving an answer while preemptively accusing the questioner of not acting in good faith.

What is the difference between “universal truth” and “things I personally believe”?

There is no atheist position on these things. The most common position of atheists would be we don’t know, but scientists are trying to find out. And not by supposition and guesswork either.

That’s because atheists don’t claim to be in contact - or have books by people who have been in contact - with entities who know this stuff. Which entities seem to get everything wrong.