Is Religion Necessary for Some People?
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18-02-2014, 01:26 PM
Is Religion Necessary for Some People?
In the course of many debates and discussions with people around the world, I have noticed that some of the people I talked to were one of two very unfortunate things. Either they were emotionally weak and vulnerable, or mentally stunted.

Yes, I am aware that making a judgement like that is both impolitic and insulting. Sadly, my judgments also have the virtue of being true statements based on observable evidence and behavior. Perhaps also sadly, I intend to take it a step further.

Most of the normal intelligent people I have discussed religion with (who are theists) fall into the category of emotional weakness. They understand the arguments and facts, but are emotionally incapable of following the implications of their understanding. God and religion provide them with consolation which is more valuable to them than honesty and evidence. You can hear the fear and desperation in their rhetoric. "I just can't believe that there isn't a purpose to life. What would be the point of anything?" " When you die, there is just nothing?! That is just horrible! I could never believe something so awful."

For me, the truth was always more important than how I felt. I was willing to follow my own thinking no matter what the consequences, and I still am. I have not experienced the kind of fear that these people excrete with every word they say. Even if I had, it would have been the sweet fear of the truth.

Although this is not as common in my experience, I have also encountered several simpletons who were utterly unable to think their way through religion. Since they do not possess the mental prowess to question anything seriously, they remain the constant victims of whatever their religion dictates. When I attempt to explain my reasoning, they often whine and say things like "Why you gotta use such big words college boy? You tryin' to confuse me?" "My granddaddy wadn't no monkey!" I have often noticed how proud these people are of their simplicity and gullibility. "We're simple folk around here. Jesus is enough for us, son." They take pleasure in pride in ignorance and stupidity.

It is sometimes said that knowledge is power, and that books contain knowledge. I understood the truth of this from my earliest years. I was taught to read before I ever entered public school, and was already busily reading everything I could get my tiny hands on. True, I was privileged, but I am also full of passion for books and learning, a claim that none of these simpletons I have met would ever have. In an age of free, instant, online information, I don't see any excuse for ignorance, especially willful ignorance.

I have asked myself the question, is religion necessary for these two categories of people? Wouldn't they be better off if they remained as they are? Could they even grasp life without it, let alone survive the deconversion emotionally? Would they feel pointless and hopeless without their belief?

Honestly, I lean towards, yes. They need it to be happy, although sometimes, I am just not sure. I made it out alright, and I wasn't always the picture of stability and intelligence. What do you think?

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.

-Karl Marx
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18-02-2014, 02:13 PM
RE: Is Religion Necessary for Some People?
I think what you said is right in the context of them being raised in religion. I'm not sure how they'd handle things if they simply weren't raised that way.

Are they "better off" that way, it's kinda hard to say. I know debating people like that can be almost physically painful, so it might be "better" for you to leave them alone. It's sad and it's frustrating, but it is what it is. I'm happy every time I see some bit of the world become more secular, and the more I see that line of thinking removed from actual policy making which affects actual people. It's a slow change, but it does make me happy to see.

Hopefully fundamentalism will become a lunatic fringe, and the two groups of people you talk about simply just cope with things using religion, but stop using it to hate teh gehys or fight evolution.
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18-02-2014, 02:13 PM
RE: Is Religion Necessary for Some People?
I agree with you assessment. I know some people that would be totally unable to grasp life without religion.
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18-02-2014, 02:15 PM
RE: Is Religion Necessary for Some People?
I can't answer that because I don't know what they would be like without religion. But I think those people who would die without religion do exist.
But at least pick a good religion instead of the one with hells and original sins and all that kind of disgusting shit.
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18-02-2014, 02:44 PM
RE: Is Religion Necessary for Some People?
I couldn't agree with you more. There are people who just lack ambition...not because they are lazy per say, but because the process of learning frustrates the hell out of them.

There are a lot of people that cannot handle the emotional vulnerability that comes with simply understanding that there isn't an eternal caregiver. Or that no matter what, there isn't always someone there to love us, which is all we Jesus worshipers really want. To be his children, to be loved by him.

A Christian cousin said to me once, "how can you live without god?" I shrugged and asked her, "how many times she has read the Bible, cover to cover?" She admitted that she hadn't actually read it, cover to cover., which I already knew. I then said, "how you can you base your life on a document that you haven't bothered to read? Don't tell me that you don't have the time to read all 1,400 pages. I've watched you blow through the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy in one weekend."

A little rudeness and disrespect can elevate a meaningless interaction to a battle of wills and add drama to an otherwise dull day - Bill Watterson
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18-02-2014, 02:51 PM
RE: Is Religion Necessary for Some People?
I think religion is as important to some people as delusion is.

Some people are happy with the delusion that, for example, their wife is faithful. Some people just can't handle reality.

If it wasn't religion, it would be something else.

"Behind every great pirate, there is a great butt."
-Guybrush Threepwood-
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18-02-2014, 03:13 PM
RE: Is Religion Necessary for Some People?
DP - Absolutely agree with both your basic premises you make on the two angles behind believing. I was just stewing over starting a nother thread about the mindset of believers that I interact with, but your OP is perfectly written to that effect.

I was going to throw out the not so polite phrase "sickness of the mind" once again even though this implication/label can and will rub folks the wrong way. There is that feeling I see, when talking to strict theists, of them clinging to their mommy's leg like I am a slimely stranger offering them tainted candy or something, as though I intend to abduct them from their safe place. The refusal to give any new knowledge a second thought is so frustrating. I guess ignorance is a safe stance, as is emotional security - so hard to penetrate either without a total shutdown on their part.

To hear people like Mr. Kenny boy Ham say that nothing, absolutely nothing, will change their mind or challenge the Bible. That is a warped mind in my opinion, which cannot be reasoned with without phsycological implications as a result of this "sickness".

“Truth does not demand belief. Scientists do not join hands every Sunday, singing, yes, gravity is real! I will have faith! I will be strong! I believe in my heart that what goes up, up, up, must come down, down, down. Amen! If they did, we would think they were pretty insecure about it.”
— Dan Barker —
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18-02-2014, 03:36 PM
RE: Is Religion Necessary for Some People?
I don't think that there is anyone for whom religion is an absolute necessity.

I view the topic like addiction. There are those who would break if the were taken off their drug of choice cold turkey, but could be slowly weaned off the drug and go on to live a normal, sober, life.

Much like this, there are fundies whose psyche would shatter if they were suddenly presented with undeniable evidence that their religion were false. (this is obviously a hypothetical, as there is no actual evidence which is "undeniable" to a fundie). However, it is possible that they could be enticed down the path of reason and come to the logical conclusion on their own time. This is exactly my story.

People like my former self fall into your "emotionally weak and vulnerable" category. In their present state, they are mostly incapable of actively questioning their faith. To question their faith would undermine their faith, so their brain seeks to reject it. It is the presuppositional trap that I've seen many otherwise intelligent people fall into. Their mind puts up a block against anything that is contradictory to the "knowledge" that God exists. Only once a seed of doubt has taken hold somewhere in their brain can they even begin to ask questions. For me, this seed of doubt was rooted in scientific curiosity. I wanted to understand how "god's creation" worked. At the time, I didn't doubt that God existed. I "knew" that he had created EVERYTHING, including anything that was observable by science. It wasn't until I actually started learning real science that the seed took root.

For these people, there is always hope that something will slip past their walls of ignorance.

The simpletons that you describe certainly are proud of their ignorance. I have heard pretty much every one of those phrases come out of a hillbilly's mouth. This is simply a revealed preference for not thinking critically, not an inability to do so. For these people, the answers they have seem to be sufficient. They see no need to explore the mysteries of the universe. They are happy in their ignorance. These types would never come to an atheist conclusion on their own, they would certainly need outside influence that most likely they will never receive.

Again, I don't think these people would be absolutely immune to deconversion, it would just take some monumental patience to explain things. They also would have to be removed from sources of indoctrination. It's easier to reinforce something in someone's mind that they already believe than to help them unlearn the false things.

I think the answers to your questions are best answered by "It depends on the deconversion". For most, a sudden, undeniable deconversion would either break them or cause them untold pain and suffering. Many would never recover. However, if these same people were slowly deconverted, I don't see any reason why they couldn't function normally without God. After all, we are born with no belief in gods, returning to the default does not seem like it would be out of reach.

Excuse me, I'm making perfect sense. You're just not keeping up.

"Let me give you some advice, bastard: never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you." - Tyrion Lannister
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18-02-2014, 04:31 PM
RE: Is Religion Necessary for Some People?
The case I'm going to describe is about something not general, it is a circumstance in which I to some degree answer your question with "Yes."

undergroundp is right that some people are comfortable in their delusions, and would rather not face reality for what it is, because the truth might hurt them.

My father had a friend while I was between my pre-teens and early teens, who used to come often to visit us and we'd often go to Buffalo to visit them.

I'll never forget he was my pops best friend, he used to buy gifts for me and my sisters and go out of his way to help me with something.

My father, (I'll add he's a Doctor because this plays a huge role later on),was on such good terms with this man, his best friend, that my Dad would occasionally lend him huge sums of money and the man would promptly pay back to the dime.

One day, he asked my Dad for $12,000, and since their trust was so strong my Dad gave it without hesitation, a fools move he'd only too late find out. As weeks turned to months, my Dad began asking to be payed back, and the man would keep brushing him off, and either change the topic or not answer the phone.

My Dad went to Mosque in his religious community and when he told his friends what he'd done they all came up to him and told him they had lent the man money as well and never been payed back. He heard things like, "I loaned him $5000 over 5 years ago, and he still hasn't payed me back."

The man was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2012, and spoke to my father about what to do regularly on the phone. Eventually the man lost the ability to speak or to understand who people were, and he died last November.

Before he died, as he was sick I remember a phone call between me and him. He was crying on the phone and he kept saying, "Pray for me." He told me he was listening to the Koran and it gave him peace.


Looking back now, and as an atheist I am happy his religion was able to give him comfort before he died. Some people cannot face reality, and when the Doctors tell you that you have 6 months to live, and you come from a religious background, you would want to escape reality and further delude yourself into your religious beliefs. Personally for me, if I was about to die, religion and faith would be the last thing I want. I've accepted reality, and every day I wake up and look in the mirror and say, "Another day", with a smile ear to ear.


To each their own however, and with this con-mans circumstance, he used his religion to give him hope. No crime in my opinion, he was dying and whatever he believed I couldn't care less. At that stage of mortality, you just want the person to comfort themselves, however it may be. Because in the end it doesn't matter what you believed, it matters how happy you were in life.

Everyday is judgement day. Use your judgement, use reason.
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18-02-2014, 05:13 PM
RE: Is Religion Necessary for Some People?
I wonder about this myself. There are people who derive real strength and comfort from their religion. This is the case independant of the truth of their beliefs. The placebo effect is well documented and havi g your own big brother figure or a personal cheerleader in God who wants what is best for you may help some people a great deal.

The question then becomes is it good for them to hold onto these false beliefs? Would it be better to remove the crutch and have them learn to rely on themselves as they already do anyway? Is their belief blinding them to other things?

I am a rationalist and I'm an objectivist. I believe that to be happy one must have a rational and consistant viewpoint, and that is incompatible with the cognitive dissonance caused by religious belief. But I'm not about to impose this. I'm not omniscient, and what works for me might not work for someone else. And besides, I could always be wrong.
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