Saturday, January 22, 2005

Should I do it if it feels good?

Whom would you rather talk to – the devout Christian who has faced doubt and still believes in God or someone who has never really considered the issues and simply acts out the beliefs their parents passed onto them? For me the answer is straightforward – I’d go with the thinking Christian every time. In a way I think that I have a lot more in common with the thinking Christian.

Dave Allen is a British atheist comedian whose best years were the late sixties and early seventies. I remember him once saying that he doesn’t trust atheists who were brought up atheist and far prefers those who were brought up in a religious context and then had to break away from it. There is truth in his sidelong observation. It is important to face up to the issue of God’s existence. It is also, of course, important to get the answer right.

This similarity between thinking theists and thinking atheists reminds me of another thing. In October 2003 New Scientist ran an article in which it listed several things – social status, etc – that appear to be statistically correlated with happiness. Being religious was one of them, which seemed to bear out the perennial theist claim that religion helps them live their lives. Once one looked in detail, however, at the claims being made, it turned out that it wasn’t religion so much as a clear, definite framework of views on religious issues that helped. As such, atheists obtained exactly the same benefits from their beliefs as the theists – only the agnostics and those who are effectively agnostic suffered in this category. It seemed that the problem was feeling unsure about the afterlife and other such things rather than not believing in them. All in all, the question of what exactly is happening would make a fascinating topic for research.

So, even if this will not stop theists from claiming that finding God helped them live their lives, an atheist can always retort – Killing him helped me live mine.

Dave Allen, in his usual, clear-eyed and witty way, has said that he wants the following text on his tombstone:
Don't mourn for me now
Don't mourn for me never
I'm going to do nothing
For ever and ever.


At 23/1/05 1:45 am, Blogger Doug said...

Yeah, thinking people should always be preferred over the ones who don't... and the distinction between those who don't and those who can't is also a necessity. Unfortunately, religion which is enforced from the time of birth renders many people incapable of thinking on religious matters... it is just there, and they participate, 'cause they know no other way, and any other way is impossible. They are relegated to the ranks of those that can't think (on this particular subject; they may be perfectly normal or above-normal in other ways) and their happiness is dependent on them maintaining their world-view.
Thanx for being here!



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