Author Topic: Religion is for Cowards?  (Read 2473 times)

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Offline Agamemnon

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Religion is for Cowards?
« on: February 21, 2012, 03:10:39 PM »
I've been thinking about this lately. Note that I'm talking about the people that really believe, here, not the people who pretend to believe for whatever reason.

There seem to be a lot of "God fearing" theists-- people who seem to believe primarily out of fear that their God(s) will treat them badly if they don't believe in said God(s). That they will suffer the "wrath" of their favorite deity.

Then we have those theists who don't believe in eternal torture or vengeful God(s), but they believe because the alternative is simply too scary-- they are afraid that there is no sweet afterlife that's all comfy/cozy for all eternity. Or that there is no invisible power that will save them from real pain and suffering at any point in their life. They are afraid to face the fact that reality has no divine safety net.

So, from where I sit, it seems to me that theists believe what they believe largely out of cowardice, with a bit of egocentrism mixed in. And that it takes guts to take reality head-on, knowing that there is no net.

I'm sure there are some who pretend to believe so that they will fit in to their culture better, but, if it grows into actual belief then it seems to become fear-based. And there seems to be a strong relationship between the level of religious fervor and fear within a given religious sect.

I'm thinking there are probably some who believe because it enables them to say and do things that would otherwise be rejected by society, (like elevating bigotry to a virtue) but I suspect even those tend to be rooted in fear.

Am I being too harsh in my assessment? I am curious to see what others think on the subject.

PS: I'm sure to get some Darwin action for this post! lol
« Last Edit: February 21, 2012, 03:12:13 PM by Agamemnon »
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Offline velkyn

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2012, 03:23:42 PM »
not too harsh at all.  it's why we see Pascal's Wager being dragged out repeatedly.   adn the people who pretend to believe are still afraid.
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Offline Aaron123

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2012, 03:32:02 PM »
Some are like that.  Some others are just indoctrined so deeply, that they can't imagine anyone not professing a religious belief of sorts.
Being a Christian, I've made my decision. That decision offers no compromise; therefore, I'm closed to anything else.

Offline Agamemnon

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2012, 03:43:02 PM »
Some are like that.  Some others are just indoctrined so deeply, that they can't imagine anyone not professing a religious belief of sorts.

Yes, but why did they allow themselves to become so deeply indoctrinated? I think it still boils down to fear. If nothing else, fear of being punished by their friends and family...
So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.  --Bertrand Russell

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2012, 03:53:59 PM »
Yes, but why did they allow themselves to become so deeply indoctrinated? I think it still boils down to fear. If nothing else, fear of being punished by their friends and family...

Or fear of being ostracized from the group, which, one could argue, is a trait that evovled in humans as easily as morality.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2012, 03:58:09 PM by Dante »
Actually it doesn't. One could conceivably be all-powerful but not exceptionally intelligent.

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2012, 03:55:02 PM »
I don't know if we can generalize accurately. I certainly know very depressed/scared/worried theists who claim they love jc but are still afraid of hell, but I also know very gentle and sweet theists who walk the walk and talk the talk without coping attitudes or sounding scared. And pollsters can't very well ask questions like "Are you a christian because god scares the sh*t out of you?" Nonetheless I assume people have looked at this question and reached conclusions I don't agree with.

Also, it may not be fear itself that scares christians, but rather that they are afraid that it isn't making an difference.

One of the hard parts of being a believer must be where you accept jc and are told he loves you and the same crap keeps happening to you. You still get flat tires, your aunt's keep dying, the company you worked for for twenty years ships manufacturing to China and lays you off, etc.

We know why. They don't. I know I couldn't handle thinking I was doing everything right and life still sucking. 

Atheist: Life sucks and then you die.
Believer: Jesus loves me but life still sucks and then you die.

The difference is not subtle.

Not everyone is entitled to their opinion. They're all entitled to mine though.

Online jaimehlers

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2012, 04:28:02 PM »
Cowardice?  No.  You have to remember that to the kind of people who really believe in an angry god, being afraid of God's wrath is just as logical as being afraid of falling, or being hit by lightning, or anything else of that nature.  We don't generally consider people cowards because they take actions to avoid being hit by lightning, nor do we consider people cowards because they take precautions to keep from falling.  So, too, taking precautions to avoid God's wrath (if one believes it to be real) is not cowardice.

As to the other kind, the ones who are afraid of death meaning oblivion, I also don't consider this cowardice.  The concept of death, that one will someday no longer exist, is arguably the most terrifying thing for anyone to consider.  The concept of heaven may well be a coping mechanism to deal with this otherwise crippling terror.  Cowardice is not being afraid of something, cowardice is running away from the fear.  Trying to deal with something that's scary, even if it's in a way that's nonsensical, is not the act of a coward.

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2012, 04:29:46 PM »
jaimehlers, a coward isn't someone who fears something. Fear is natural. A coward is someone who doesn't face their fears.
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Offline Agamemnon

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2012, 05:04:17 PM »
I certainly know very depressed/scared/worried theists who claim they love jc but are still afraid of hell, but I also know very gentle and sweet theists who walk the walk and talk the talk without coping attitudes or sounding scared.

I think the latter would fall under the "fear that there's no safety net" group. My mom would probably fall into the that category: She doesn't sound scared, she doesn't believe in hell or God's wrath, but when I push her to face a reality of no god, no heaven, etc. the fear comes out. She agrees with everything I say until I reach the point of where I'm starting to really expose her beliefs as nonsense and it's like I've backed her into a corner and she lashes out to protect her myths. She doesn't believe in the wrathful God, but she has a vision of the afterlife and she's afraid I'm going to take that away from her. I've been picking away at her beliefs over the past year or so and have brought her a long way from Christianity. But still the fear is there and she refuses to accept any argument that will rob her of her vision of the afterlife. This is her cowardice-- she refuses to face a reality with no heaven.

Also, it may not be fear itself that scares christians, but rather that they are afraid that it isn't making an difference.

...And, either way, they are still afraid of something...

The reason I posted this today is because I had two women, (evangelical Christians, I presume) come to my door spreading the "good news" of Armageddon. Literally, they introduced themselves and then started to tell me how I should fear God's wrath. I slammed the door in their faces, but that's when I started thinking about the fear again-- how they wanted me to have the same fear that they have.
So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.  --Bertrand Russell

Offline atheola

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2012, 05:13:43 PM »
If you read Crime and Punishment it talks of a benevolent god taking pity on wretched drunks and others so far down the ladder there's nowhere else to go but death, but it makes almost no mentions of piety, tithing and sucking up to father perfect.. The characters in the book seem to accept their lot in life and even though I haven't finished reading it all I've read little of nothing about the whoremongers running the Russian orthodox gangsters. They didn't seem to fear god so much as see god as a benefactor after dying a miserable death.
I suspect many on far off lands living on $2 a week view god very much the same as a benefactor after dyimg from a miserable existence.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2012, 05:20:33 PM by atheola »
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Offline Agamemnon

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2012, 05:18:42 PM »
They didn't seem to fear god so much as see god as a benefactor after dying a miserable death.

I would wonder if they feared dying a miserable death and having no benefactor? Just miserable reality.
So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.  --Bertrand Russell

Online jaimehlers

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2012, 05:21:20 PM »
jaimehlers, a coward isn't someone who fears something. Fear is natural. A coward is someone who doesn't face their fears.
Yep, as I said.  Trying to cope with fear is not the act of a coward either.  The fact that their coping mechanism doesn't make a lot of sense doesn't make them into cowards.

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2012, 05:23:13 PM »
Yep, as I said.  Trying to cope with fear is not the act of a coward either.  The fact that their coping mechanism doesn't make a lot of sense doesn't make them into cowards.

Their beliefs cause the fear. Their cowardice prevents them from standing up to an evil being, even if it doesn't actually exist.
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
Why settle for normal, when you can be so much more? Why settle for something, when you can have everything?
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Offline Agamemnon

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2012, 05:27:53 PM »
jaimehlers, a coward isn't someone who fears something. Fear is natural. A coward is someone who doesn't face their fears.
Yep, as I said.  Trying to cope with fear is not the act of a coward either.  The fact that their coping mechanism doesn't make a lot of sense doesn't make them into cowards.

That's the problem-- they won't face their fear because they've created a coping mechanism that allows them to avoid facing it.
So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.  --Bertrand Russell

Offline Truth OT

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #14 on: February 21, 2012, 05:35:53 PM »
The fear I believe is an overstated charactoristic of the religious. Religion is not so much about fear as it is the conviction that the individual and the group that individual is a part of is somehow special. Religion in its simplest form seeks to specify and define what the value of the individual is. It caters to the human ego in that it says, "you are important AND HERE'S WHY." Ultimately, religion serves to deify mankind by making man victorious over the power of death by declaring that somehow, someway, a man will never be wiped from existence.

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #15 on: February 21, 2012, 05:48:59 PM »
The reason I posted this today is because I had two women, (evangelical Christians, I presume) come to my door spreading the "good news" of Armageddon. Literally, they introduced themselves and then started to tell me how I should fear God's wrath. I slammed the door in their faces, but that's when I started thinking about the fear again-- how they wanted me to have the same fear that they have.

Yes, I guess that is the sort of fear that is the most common in the christian world. And the next time I get a door knocker, I think I will simply say "There is no way for you to scare me enough to make me a christian."

That should work unless they're armed.

Not everyone is entitled to their opinion. They're all entitled to mine though.

Online jaimehlers

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #16 on: February 21, 2012, 06:47:16 PM »
That's the problem-- they won't face their fear because they've created a coping mechanism that allows them to avoid facing it.
What are coping mechanisms but ways to make dealing with fear easier?  I was terrified of getting shots when I was younger, and one of my coping mechanisms was to distract myself from the fact that I was about to get a shot to lessen the fear that I felt.  That allowed me to actually get the shot, even though I wasn't literally "facing" up to it directly.

I'd agree that many Christians do spread their message through fear.  But the reason it's effective is because they also offer a way to cope with that fear, that has the added side benefit of making the recipient feel special and safe.

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #17 on: February 21, 2012, 07:09:02 PM »
I don't disagree, jaimehlers, but you're not taking one thing into consideration. I too was afraid of shots when I was a kid, but I grew up and got over it. The little bit of pain I endure is vastly preferred over dying of lockjaw or smallpox.

Religious people grow up too, but they don't outgrow whatever fears cause them to stick with the belief thingy.

Maturity doesn't do a bit of good if we don't use it.
Not everyone is entitled to their opinion. They're all entitled to mine though.

Online jaimehlers

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #18 on: February 21, 2012, 07:11:44 PM »
When the coping mechanism is too good, you don't have to "get over it".  Thus the problem.

Offline Agamemnon

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #19 on: February 21, 2012, 07:17:08 PM »
The fear I believe is an overstated charactoristic of the religious.

I don't. I think it is at the heart of religion.

Religion is not so much about fear as it is the conviction that the individual and the group that individual is a part of is somehow special.

Right, so then we have the fear of alienation. I'm saying that when you peel away all these added layers for belief what you are left with is some kind of fear.

Religion in its simplest form seeks to specify and define what the value of the individual is.

I think that religion, in its' simplest form, is a way of coping with the fear of mortality by pretending it doesn't exist. It gives the believer a false courage through self-deception. The believer thinks that there's nothing to worry about because after death they get to go to the big party in the sky.

It caters to the human ego in that it says, "you are important AND HERE'S WHY." Ultimately, religion serves to deify mankind by making man victorious over the power of death by declaring that somehow, someway, a man will never be wiped from existence.

Yes, you're getting there. While there is an ego component to it, the bottom line is fear of death.

So the thing I'm getting at with all of this is that it takes COURAGE for someone to really take a hard look at their beliefs with the kind of close scrutiny it takes to become an atheist. You have to be willing to face the reality that the big party in the sky might not be there for you after all. You have to be willing to face the fear of mortality... And the wrath of God. And alienation from a community.

I don't think these fears can be overstated. An atheist has to be willing to confront them directly. And that takes guts.
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Offline Agamemnon

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #20 on: February 21, 2012, 07:20:16 PM »
What are coping mechanisms but ways to make dealing with fear easier?  I was terrified of getting shots when I was younger, and one of my coping mechanisms was to distract myself from the fact that I was about to get a shot to lessen the fear that I felt.  That allowed me to actually get the shot, even though I wasn't literally "facing" up to it directly.

From what I can tell, you've basically said that there is no such thing as a coward. Anyone I would call a coward you would say is just "coping with fear."

What do you think makes a person cowardly?
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Offline Aaron123

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #21 on: February 22, 2012, 12:43:54 AM »
Yes, but why did they allow themselves to become so deeply indoctrinated? I think it still boils down to fear. If nothing else, fear of being punished by their friends and family...

I had childhood indoctrination in mind.  In which case, it's more about gullibility/naivety.

If we're talking about those indoctrined as an adult... I'd say it would be about fear or emotionial ruse.
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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #22 on: February 22, 2012, 01:18:25 AM »
Well, Agamemnon, I would say someone who refuses to deal at all with something they fear is a coward.  My feeling is that having a coping mechanism usually represents an attempt to manage the fear so that it can be handled.

Offline Agamemnon

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #23 on: February 22, 2012, 01:23:40 AM »
Yes, but why did they allow themselves to become so deeply indoctrinated? I think it still boils down to fear. If nothing else, fear of being punished by their friends and family...

I had childhood indoctrination in mind.  In which case, it's more about gullibility/naivety.

If we're talking about those indoctrined as an adult... I'd say it would be about fear or emotionial ruse.

Oh, I don't know about that. Maybe sometimes, but I understand that children are commonly indoctrinated using fear. I think back to my first exposure to Christianity-- it was from another child who told me stories about Armageddon, told to him by his parents. Scared the shit outta me.
So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.  --Bertrand Russell

Offline Agamemnon

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #24 on: February 22, 2012, 01:36:10 AM »
Well, Agamemnon, I would say someone who refuses to deal at all with something they fear is a coward.

In that case you can just say that refusing to deal with fear at all is another coping mechanism, not cowardice. So I'm thinking you've just replaced the word "cowardice" with "coping mechanism."

You've left me unable to use the word "coward," because I can't distinguish "cowardice" from "coping mechanisms." There is no distinguishing feature that I can discern.
So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.  --Bertrand Russell

Offline Agamemnon

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #25 on: February 22, 2012, 01:49:42 AM »
Here's a possibility I thought of today: Apathy.

I think it is likely that some theists aren't actually afraid of their god or death, but they just don't care enough to put any thought into it. So they go along with what everyone else is doing.

I was thinking back to whether I felt fear when I had god belief and it dawned on me that I just didn't give a damn, but it was easier to just go with the flow. My belief was very casual, so I wasn't going to church or praying or any of that. I couldn't stand that stuff, actually. So in those rare cases where I had a chance to think about it I usually just didn't put any effort into it. I was pretty much invincible then, so mortality wasn't a concern.

But I think its safe to say that religions aren't built on apathy. Religions need their people to think long and hard... About how awful it will be to die and go to hell.
So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.  --Bertrand Russell

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #26 on: February 22, 2012, 09:32:21 AM »

The reason I posted this today is because I had two women...

When I read that line I thought this thread was about to take a very unexpected (but not unwelcome) turn ;). Wishful thinkin', I guess.
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Offline Aaron123

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #27 on: February 22, 2012, 10:56:43 AM »
Oh, I don't know about that. Maybe sometimes, but I understand that children are commonly indoctrinated using fear. I think back to my first exposure to Christianity-- it was from another child who told me stories about Armageddon, told to him by his parents. Scared the shit outta me.

Hmm, I have heard of that, but it's not the sort of experience I had.  My indoctrination was more of the warm, fuzzy "Jesus luvs you" type.  I didn't know that armageddon was a large part of the lore until well into my teen years.


Quote
I think it is likely that some theists aren't actually afraid of their god or death, but they just don't care enough to put any thought into it. So they go along with what everyone else is doing.

I was thinking back to whether I felt fear when I had god belief and it dawned on me that I just didn't give a damn, but it was easier to just go with the flow. My belief was very casual, so I wasn't going to church or praying or any of that. I couldn't stand that stuff, actually. So in those rare cases where I had a chance to think about it I usually just didn't put any effort into it.

Now this, I do agree with.  Pretty much describe my case.  Though there were times I thought about getting more into church and prayer, but they never stuck.
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Offline Agamemnon

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Re: Religion is for Cowards?
« Reply #28 on: February 22, 2012, 08:54:27 PM »
Oh, I don't know about that. Maybe sometimes, but I understand that children are commonly indoctrinated using fear. I think back to my first exposure to Christianity-- it was from another child who told me stories about Armageddon, told to him by his parents. Scared the s**t outta me.

Hmm, I have heard of that, but it's not the sort of experience I had.  My indoctrination was more of the warm, fuzzy "Jesus luvs you" type.  I didn't know that armageddon was a large part of the lore until well into my teen years.
[/quote]

Right, but the problem is that the warm-and-fuzzy stuff is replaced by the not so warm-and-fuzzy stuff. Because you can't build a proper religion off of the sort of casual, apathetic kind of belief that I held in my younger years. I've never tithed and I certainly didn't care about what the Christian leadership had to say about anything. I wasn't going door-to-door handing out bibles and doing things to grow a church congregation. I wasn't even a member of a church, although I did visit some (against my will). So I was pretty much useless to religion. And look where I ended up: turning completely away from religion altogether. So apathetic and warm and fuzzy types don't make good religious people.

In order to be a powerful religion that can compete and grow you gotta have motivated people. And there's only two things I can think of that would motivate people like that: fear and money. You can't give out money to your followers to keep them motivated (you need the money coming IN not going out) so you have to work the fear angle.

So, I still think that fear is the core of religion and that it is essential to the success of religion to have cowardly followers. If they aren't scared of something then there's nothing that the religion can offer to "protect" them.
So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.  --Bertrand Russell