Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

 


THOUGHTS ON EXISTENTIALISM

Existentialism is the doctrine that it is random forces that put us here so we have to impose a purpose on our lives. The Christians claim that doing that can be depressing and lead to something called existential angst. In fact existential angst, a form of depression or anxiety based on feeling that life is not worth having because there is no ultimate purpose or divine purpose, may only happen to people who are suffering from conditioning which tells them life is good for nothing unless there is a loving God who lives in your heart. Even God is no solution.

Existentialism argues that truth is of absolute importance and gives meaning but the reason this does not happen is that we cannot know we have the truth if we have it.  Existentialism is about knowing you cannot really know things that well so you try and have a relationship with truth as best you can. It insists upon truth having top and ultimate importance.
 
In Affirmations: Joyful And Creative Exuberance, Paul Kurtz writes:

"The meaning of life is not to be found in a secret formula discovered by ancient prophets or modern gurus, who withdraw from living to seek quiet contemplation and release. Life has no meaning per se; it does, however, present us with innumerable opportunities, which we can either squander and retreat from in fear or seize with exuberance."

Existence is not perfect and God or not this is the case. It is because of what existence is that there is a problem. It is the core problem.  It not God or love or morality or anything spiritual or material that matters.  That matters. It is the prime concern.   And because it is part of existing we have to learn to accept that existence is not perfect and nothing necessarily will make us see it differently.  Nothing is entitled to give us meaning and if we have it we are very lucky.  Even God cannot promise you meaning if imperfection is an essential for existing!

Even if there is a God there does not need to be a reason why we are here. An artist might create a painting because he can and have no real purpose. It is nonsense that God will only make if he has a reason. And God by definition alone matters so he cannot make us matter for that discriminates against himself. So if God means we have a reason for living it is about him and not us at all. It is a sin for us to feel our lives are important for us.

If we have to find the purposes ourselves and there is no ultimate or divine purpose, then itís a form of extremism and idolatry to say that the purpose you make yourself is God's!  That amounts to making a God and its very extreme to imagine you can create the infinite maker and sustainer of the universe!!  Existentialism and respect for God-belief are incompatible.
 
God might make a meaningless worthless universe hoping that we might create meaning. A good person will live up to the purpose for which they were made. A better person will live up to the purpose they make themselves in a meaningless universe. If there is no meaning or if it cannot be known if there is, the person will bestow meaning.

People talk about the meaning of life.  By that phrase you would expect to mean being fully alive and feeling fully alive. As reason is a part of you and of life then reason has a role to play in allowing you to have meaning and giving you meaning.  Without reason even a God is no good!  If we were more rational and careful our lives would grow.  If reason and so on says there is no God then we will get meaning by denying him.  By caring about and following reason and evidence and thus ourselves we go on a path that might lead to God being abandoned as a superstition and a crutch.  They are fundamentally non-religious tools.

The argument that God alone is the antidote to despair is strange.  It blames sufferers and to cling to a God based on such blame is selfish and cruel.  It is not working but something is working in spite of it.  And believers may lie that God helps them deal with their despair.  It is a good way as well of falsely claiming to be a victim of life and when that victimhood does not show you say manipulatively: "It is the grace of God looking after me."  If you can create your faith in God as an antidote to despair then another antidote would serve just as well.  It is you helping yourself and its not down to God.

It is not true that atheism leads to hellish despair and makes life worthless. Atheism and crippling pessimism are not the same thing. One need not cause the other. One need not accompany the other. The despairing person may see life as useless and then adopt atheism but it does not follow that atheism is to blame or is responsible.
 
Perhaps seeing and feeling that life is meaningless need not be protective but realist?
 
Telling yourself that and feeling that life is meaningless is a form of protective behaviour. You fear that life might be meaningless so you think it is better for you to tell yourself that it is meaningless. You feel prepared for the worst. By blaming the universe, you protect yourself from the emotional risks that come from blaming yourself. The fact that you use protective behaviour in the face of the possibility that life is valueless shows you have the power to give yourself meaning. By protecting yourself you are saying your life is valuable. So you should simply see life as valuable. You should not need to tell yourself lies or use props such as religion. Even when you declare life useless you declare that you can see it as useful for you must have done this enough in the past to stay alive.
 
You might accept that life is useless because it is and not because you are trying to protect yourself. However, this need not be the same as being depressed. We can get by seeing life as useless and feeling that it is not all it is cracked up to be. It is only if the feeling reaches a point where it stops you functioning reasonably well in life then you are depressed. Suppose you are depressed. One thing that will help you a lot is if people put great faith in you that you will endure the low feelings and that when you get the chance you will deal with them and help yourself improve. But it has to be seen as entirely up to you. To bring God into it does not help at all. If God helps and the depressed person refuses that help then the person is to blame for their own problems. That is no message to be giving out. The person needs you to trust them that they can feel somewhat better and become happy again. You cannot do that if you think that faith in God is needed or even beneficial. Depressed people feel that if they try to help themselves they will only make it worse. It is vital mainly through companionship - not logic or evidence though these have their place too - to help them feel that this may not be true or is not true. Depressed people tend to perceive what they feel and not so much what they can do. Telling the depressed person that God has always been there for them only adds fuel to the fire. They are given new reasons to hate themselves and to be angry at themselves. If God comes first then it follows that it is more important to worry about his not wanting the person to be depressed than about the person being depressed. The depressed person should be more worried about God than herself too. Again that message is just vicious. Therapists have to abandon the faith but not necessarily faith.
 
Depression needs to be treated by cognitive therapy. If a person reacts badly to some event, cognitive therapy addresses the message that person read into the event. It looks at what the event meant for the person. For example, if a person is told he is a sinner and God hates him and he goes into depression, one reason the depression appeared is because being told that made him think that he has no right to have his fundamental needs met. Indeed, needs are not really needs if there is a God. For example, you cannot say you need shelter when there is a God to protect you from the elements or who should do it. And guilt is irrational and if planted in childhood can wreak lifelong destruction. So the only answer is to get rid of belief in God and sin. This will free the person.
 
People may think it can be known that life is meaningless. They fear finding that is a fact and so they assume that life has no meaning. It is easier to just assume for assuming it does not make it true. Knowing for sure would be devastating. So they assume to avoid knowing it. They don't want to know life has no meaning but they prefer to guess it for it makes them feel deep down there is still hope they are wrong. They paradoxically get a sufficient sense of the value of life from that. Some assume that life is meaningless for they want to protect themselves against the risks of getting out there and living. They do think that life has meaning after all because they would not be trying to protect themselves otherwise. Religion ignores the fact that having a sense of the greatness of life is intrinsic to our nature. It does not want people to see this because it cons them by offering to help them get a sense of the meaning of life.
 
Atheists generally argue that life has meaning because we give meaning to life. Believers in God think there is nothing precious or special or worthy of respect in us if we are the products of blind forces rather than a loving God. This is very harsh. And as they are merely believers and not knowers, it follows that like everybody who believes something, it is just more believed than disbelieved or unbelieved. In so far as they are not sure or don't believe, then they are saying we are rubbish! If they do not even partly think or feel that, then it follows that unbelief in God does not stop you considering life and persons to have value and meaning.
 
The notion that you need God or religion in order to have a sense that your life has value, is based on the notion that if our existence is pure chance then this is scary. But chance is not all bad. When we realise that we don't want everything controlled by God or to control everything we see that chance is to be celebrated. If your life is a random accident, you can rejoice in its randomness. We forget that we value our sense of freedom even if we will mess it up most of the time. In fact, if we have free will, we have it because of God and still cannot go against him. It is he who empowers it all the time. It implies a form of predestination where we make ourselves bad by sinning but God is indirectly responsible for our sins and his role is justified because of his alleged plan. We cannot feel very free in such a scheme - if we do then we don't understand what the notion of God holding all things in existence means and how God by definition is the 100% reason anything exists. In other words, we have a god not God if we feel free. Improve your sense of freedom - it doesn't matter if you really have free will or not - what matters is feeling free. Do that and your sense that life is good or reasonably good will improve.
 
Islamists and Christians regard it as central that the ultimate reason for suffering is the glory of God.  God then has glory anyway so all he is worried about is we think of him so he creates a plan to impress us and get glory that way.  A divine plan that is just about impressing us and making us recognise a glory that does not need recognising  At the minimum we all value not dying so what is so impressive Why is Gdo bringing us close to him with suffering when he does nto need our obdience

 

When religion attempts to justify God letting terrible things happen to the innocent, do not lose sight of the backdrop - the backdrop is the notion that we are all part of a divine plan. Why do many people want to believe in and follow a plan laid out by God through which they get a purpose in life? Why don't they make their own plan and get a sense of purpose from that? If the plan matters, then it doesn't matter who devises or authorises the plan! The plan matters not God even if God makes the plan. The stress on God implies that they want to draw others into their own plan that they attribute to God in order to hide its true origin. It is about controlling them in the name of God. The attempt to justify human suffering for the sake of an unnecessary interpretation of the plan and the wish to say it is a divine plan is pure selfishness of the worst kind. It is robbing people of their need to see that their own plan will do. Robbing them of that is undermining their right to independence and self-empowerment.
 
Making your own plan is the core teaching of existentialism.

INTENTION

Intention is not essential for meaning. Religion presumes that you need a God to intend your life to be valuable for it to be valuable! But life has to be valuable for intending cannot make it valuable. You cannot make a pebble you pick up on the beach as important as the Hope Diamond.  To want God to intend you to be precious is making it about you not him.  Existentialism tells you to intend your life to have meaning regardless of what a God intends.  Ironically both God believers and existentialists are doing the same thing: they are trying to make life have meaning by giving it meaning.  So believers are really existentialists who wish to use God or the God idea like a placebo.  Again they are just being manipulative.  To treat God like that is like atheism in the sense that God is not taken seriously.