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?

Patrick H
Gormley


I hear the heavens calling
Providence, no evidence
There's no confirmation
And only silence remains
Madonna - Queen
 
Essential reasons for denying that religion really comforts those who fare badly in life

We can feel okay about something we perceive as acting as if it loves us even though we are not sure if it does or even if it is a person.  Thus there is no overriding need for belief in a personal God. It is enough if it acts like it cares.  It is those who are greedy for love who need God to be personal and loving.  They think themselves too wonderful for anything else.

 

Is God's love comforting?

A relationship with God is said to be good for us and helps comfort us in bad times.

But God does not need us nor is he vulnerable. He is said to be all-powerful and all-good and all-perfect. A true relationship is based on mutual need and vulnerability. God does not have a relationship with us. We are having a relationship with a God in our heads even if there is a God. The God in our heads emerges from our need for escapism and transcendence.

God does not literally love. If you love, you want that love to be reciprocated. God and man cannot have a true relationship.

 

GOD HOLDS YOUR HAND?

 

Religion says sometimes the only thing God will do is hold your hand. It says he always holds your soul in the sense that he will help it to stay good and loving despite the evil circumstances. He may even make it more loving. Religion says the thing that ultimately matters is that he has not left you alone but is with you even if that is all he is doing. He is open to helping if it is possible. It may be what matters under the circumstances and what can be done. What is wrong with that? If you really are abandoned then feeling you are not is not going to help. The pain of feeling that you might be abandoned or on your own can be worse than actually knowing. And you fear people thinking they can get away with not being with you enough for you think you have God anyway. There is a problem and even hopeless problems need diagnosis. They are “more” hopeless without the diagnosis. Without reading the problem you cannot read any possible solution or the best solution. There is no dignity then in feeling God is with you if he is not. There is no dignity in others letting you feel that there is.

 

Suffering is changing and lessening which is why there is the illusion of being comforted. There is no such thing. Your suffering was not comforted before the comfort began so there is such a thing as uncomforted suffering. A bit of comfort now hardly matters in the big picture when there was so much torment before. Suffering is the experience of useless and worthless existence so it is God calling you worthless or letting you feel that way so how can you find comfort in him?

Compassion means seeing the person has no supporter or sympathisers on any level, the natural or the supernatural. You are the only one who can hold their hand. Even holding one’s hand in spirit counts when the person is aware. The support is no help to the person being helped if they feel they are not being helped at all. True and deep compassion belongs to the atheist. Believers either do not realise they are in atheist mode or they are just going with the motions. Having the serenity to accept the things you cannot change or that nobody or nothing can change for you requires atheism. If you feel alone no matter what then you have to accept it and you cannot have people rubbing it in telling you that Jesus is carrying you.

 

MORE THOUGHTS

To think that God looks after you or that he will establish a limit on how terrible life can get for you is a risk.  If the thought is wrong then we need to know.  False hope will hurt us more than the truth.  All believers in God and his importance do show that they think that the belief or God will enable them to cope reasonably well no matter what.  It is 100% certain that a person who tells others God will never disappoint has no right to say that.  If you seem to be okay that does not mean somebody else will be.  Belief is a man-made thing so it is dangerous to try to use belief to persuade yourself that things will never be totally bad.  Keep it zipped if you really care.  Promoting God or belief in God is a disgrace.

 

Dr Allen Sherman of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences said: "We found that patients with stronger spiritual well-being, more benign images of God - such as perceptions of a benevolent rather than an angry or distant God - or stronger beliefs - such as convictions that a personal God can be called upon for assistance - reported better social health. In contrast, those who struggled with their faith fared more poorly."

His argument is probably the main reason why religion gets such respect and influence. It is the reason the governments of the world often give religion special rights and religious people get more respect than non-religious. It is the reason why people who see organised religion as crafty and divisive and bigoted are afraid to challenge believers.

Whatever nature is going to do it is going to do. You can do your best but your best is not always enough to prevent terrible things taking place. With God, it is no different. What God is going to do God is going to do. No sane person thinks they can control a God or tell him what to do. A prayer then that is about trying to change what cannot be changed is an insult to God and yourself for you will be disappointed. The doctor's argument talks about how praying for assistance is good for you but that turns prayer into a delusion and a placebo and not a real connection with God. His argument is an argument for idolatry not God. If people are happy that you are praying for them then it is the good wishes that are implied that benefits them not the praying as such. It is Christian teaching that any joy got without God will turn to sorrow and maladjustment and misery.

If you read his argument closely, it fails to show that generally speaking belief in God is a good thing. It is not generally a good thing if most people tend to think God does not care or is angry with them. If the belief is untrue then people doubting it is understandable. It follows that those who told them that God exists are to blame if it is really the case that doubters do not do well in coping with the agonies of living. They are to blame for society mostly sees such doubt as natural and understandable. There is no mention of people who believe in a caring God and upon enduring terrible things decide that he does not care or is punishing them. Those who allegedly benefit from faith in a nice God could just be about to decide based on evidence and their experience that it is wrong and God is bad.

Belief in a God who does not care or has it in for you is worse than simply thinking the terrible things that happen to you are down to random mechanical nature and not to any supernatural agent. However the person who is happy and believes in a God like that is far more heroic than an atheist!

Some questions – if a person of faith is seriously ill or dying how likely are they to be afraid to say if their faith is not really helping them? Don’t underestimate what people who fear meeting God after death are capable of saying.

They could be mistaking the feeling of support and love from others for support and love from God. These are people going through a lot and confusion would be expected.

The notion that God alone is a comfort is absurd. Nobody wants to spend their lives in isolation with only God for company. The comfort you experience in times of trial comes from a lot of areas. It is very complicated. You could say God is a comfort while meaning that the other things, the love and care from others is the important comfort.

If you have gone through something terrible, any comfort will be seen as a huge thing. You will want to forget the pain and see the good so you are biased. You are not reliable on how effective the comfort has been.

You could say you are comforted by faith and still feel comforted or even more comforted without the faith.

How many will say faith in God makes them feel worse? Some do. But there are a lot more who don't say simply because they are not asked. If you are worried about how your family and friends are coping as you suffer terribly you will want to give the impression that your faith is helping you even if it is not. It is about telling a lie to comfort them.

It is interesting that with superstition, people think they can stop bad things happening when the bad things are not inevitable. But when death looms, it is a different story. Their superstitious faith does not help them then. It does not help with what matters most.

Not all believers will feel that calling on God for assistance is a comfort. It is only a comfort if results start to happen. If there is no God there will be no results for many people. The others didn't get results - they were just lucky. And luck is fragile.

What about very sick or dying people who hope there is no God? They are left out of the picture.

And if your faith helps you, you may never know if another kind of faith could have helped you better.

People should be comforted by, "I am suffering. It may soon be time to go. I am willing to go so that others can enjoy life in my place." That makes sense and gives meaning to suffering. It expresses a willingness to accept what comes and give your life for others. God does not come into it. There is more giving if you think death really is the cessation of existence than there is if you think you are merely going elsewhere.

Believing that your suffering is somehow indispensable for the greater good in some divine plan though there is no way of showing how or even if it is the case might comfort some. But it contradicts the notion of an all-powerful God. If God is that powerless over evil despite being almighty then there is no way to be sure that any human being will fare okay after death. Believers who feel comforted by faith are confusing faith in the greater purpose with faith in God.

Faith in a Christian God is a fragile crutch because what happens when one finds out that this God told his son to get murdered and commanded murders in the Old Testament? Gay people and adulterers were stoned to death. Jesus knew this and did not repudiate those murders. He went as far as to say that people who do little harm will end up in Hell forever unless they repent. In fairness, Christianity teaches that you have to live by faith not feelings and Jesus promised a cross in this world not a crown. Do you really want to meet a God who makes viruses to torment babies to death? If you want to meet this bad God, then it is not faith that is supporting you but arrogance. You are very sure he will not punish you or send you to Hell forever. You are very sure he will not send you back to earth as an animal or a child in a famine country. You are very sure he will not take the comfort you so desperately need away from you as a test. All that is arrogance and you think it is up to God to please you instead of you letting him do what he believes is right in the big picture.

People in terrible trouble hope that something magical will happen to rescue them from it. The comfort they get is not worth the disappointment that is risked and that will come. And what if this false hope makes them lazy? If it does not then that is down to luck not design. They might refuse to build bridges with estranged friends and family for they no longer feel that they are dying though they are.

The research that faith in a nice personal God helps vulnerable people is a disgrace for it is too anecdotal and does not take account of how complex each person’s psychology is. It does not regard the fact that the sick person will doubt God one day and hate God the next and love him the day after as worthy of thinking about. If there is any value in the research, it is that the placebo helps some people. If God is a placebo then it is not really God that helps but the placebo. The research is basically exploiting people’s pain to promote religious faith. It plays right into the hands of religious manipulators. Every religion from ISIS to Catholicism or Scientology to Satanism plays the same card. All these faiths cannot be equally beneficial, good, honest and sincere.

The religious person is trained to say that things that happen naturally are down to divine agency. Thus when they say they are comforted by what happens they are talking about what can and should be seen as natural not divine. The religious person then is prone to exaggerate God's role in her or his wellbeing.

It is irresponsible to encourage faith in God for even if it helps some it is going to make others fear God or feel punished by him. It could make things worse in the bigger picture.

Today it is recognised that the problem with religion is that it idolises faith. Faith is a refusal to change your mind when new light and evidence comes up. Faith is the one bad thing that all religions have in common though the content varies. Faith is why religions that are polar opposites exist and even when their doctrines are proven to be contrary to fact the religions still persist. Opposition to truth is a high price to pay for the alleged comfort that comes from pretending you know what you don't know. If anybody gets comfort from such faith, the comfort is fragile for the faith is based on the desire to loosen your grip on reality. It is not a virtue but a vice and vice feels good but brings bad results. Pointing to the people faith supposedly comforts, means nothing if faith causes passenger planes to be flown into skyscrapers or means approving of the murders of homosexuals that God commanded in the Bible. The comfort you get from faith in a loving God amounts for very little if you also have great fear of demons and evil magical forces.

And what about the doubters? Are they suffering for they have tried God and it didn’t work and now they are made to feel bad about it? What about people who struggle to believe? Telling them that faith will help only makes it worse.

What about the heretical and doubting friends and family of a dying person who has no faith? The message that faith comforts vulnerable people makes them feel they are to blame if the person died an unhappy death. They will think they had a bad influence.

If faith is good for you, your influence and example draw people to faith and that could be bad for them.

If faith is so great for comforting the afflicted then your message of faith blames those who say it didn't do much for them. You blame those who suffer without faith for their suffering being made worse. Your insinuation and therefore your faith is a disgrace. Are you getting comforted by faith or your superior hypocritical attitude?

If faith comforts though it is not true that does not make it a good thing. It says the truth should not comfort and does not comfort. It opposes truth. Opposing truth opposes not only truth but people who work for the truth. It undermines our right to get the chance to value the truth. Something being comforting does not make it true. What it does make true is that it shows we have the resources to make ourselves feel the best we can under the circumstances and can therefore do without religious faith. It shows then that there must be many ways to do that and faith in God need not be one of them. Faith in religion is certainly not an option for doing it.

Using a doctor can be a sign of lack of faith. If faith comes first then it must be a sin to go to the doctor then! Real faith means you do things you dread in order to show and live a relationship with God. That is the "best" faith. You might say that doubters still go to the doctor. But what about what the principle says? What about that? You can't just ignore a principle.

Many religious pastors should not be allowed near sick or dying people. They may refuse to bully the sick with their nasty doctrines but they still represent and take responsibility for those doctrines. And many do bully. Christians have been known to terrorize atheists and heretics who are on the deathbed. It is the pastors' beliefs that should disqualify him or her not the actions for human nature is often inconsistent and if you believe bad doctrines there is a definite risk that you will oppress a dying person in the name of faith.

Most people believe you cannot try to correct the nonsensical or untrue faith of a dying person. Some religions believe in doing just that. Born-again Christians are notorious for it as were some Catholic "saints". But if the dying person has been misled into depending on a faith that is wrong or implausible then there are no words of disgust fitting for those responsible.

 

People want to believe that we have extra-sensory powers and abilities and spiritual abilities for they think it rescues us from the belief that we are simply passive which means we are controlled and treated like a thing by everything else. Some say that unless you see you are not a mere passive entity you are doomed to miss the meaning of life. People think there is a difference between somebody claiming powers and somebody who is given the gift of letting God have all the power and going along with his will. There is not. The person is claiming the biggest power of all – the inner spiritual knowledge that one should empower oneself by giving all power to God. That is not passive at all.  It is doing more to get rid of the feeling of not being in control than casting forty spells a day all your life.  There is no risk of it backfiring when you tell yourself that all evil is only temporary and not so bad in the big picture.

We conclude that those who are comforted by faith in God are comforted by countless things many of which they will not be able to put their finger on. Many lie about the religious comfort or exaggerate how important God is. The comfort is not without its risks. And religion cherry-picks the evidence for comfort in God - there is no mention of those whose agony and torment is made worse by belief.  The reality is that we can end up in very bad straits.  You don't need God or religion to try and hope for others if not yourself.   Good things happen to others and will happen when we are gone. Hope and work for a better world will go on even if you never pray again or anybody does!   You see the reality, things change for the better here and there.  And you don't need hope for that. To the religionist that disagrees, "You seem to want not faith so much as a placebo."  His or her hope is artificial - they want one hope too many for they are not content with the hope they have got.