Author Topic: Two things that I don't get  (Read 516 times)

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Offline colin040

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Two things that I don't get
« on: October 20, 2012, 08:01:11 AM »
Hey everyone,

First of all, I'm just 18 and I haven't read the bible or Qu'ran or anything...I don't know much about specific things (with the exception of christianity in short) so please forgive if I come up with things that aren't correct. However, there are two things I don't get.

On omegle.com I've spoken to some religious folks. Muslims have told me that life is a test. What kind of sick God would test his own children with diseases and other bad things? How is this God ''love''? I told him about a guy who turned to christianity before he passed away (at the age of 16) and the answer that I got was ''God was testing how he'd react to this. He's either in heaven new, or born as another being. He was punished for sin.'') I was rather shocked.

The second thing I've noticed is that the people I've chat with 9 out of 10 times come up with the ''you could die tomorrow'' comment. I suppose this means that religion is baised on fear? Also, what if say, religions never spoke about hell and what unbelievers would face after their death would be simply unknown...would religion lose lots of believers if it wasn't for hell?

I hope someone could help me out here. Feel free to post your thoughts!


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Re: Two things that I don't get
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2012, 09:03:18 AM »
Life is actually a test. Darwinian selection kills all the failures. Religious people have to acknowledge reality at some level, so they pretend that it's God that does the testing rather than your DNA that was being tested.

Quote
I suppose this means that religion is baised on fear?

Fear of death is a big thing, but religion is also based on a need to feel superior to others, and nag and bitch. Commentary from Jesus seems to be directed at hypocrites, who are only displaying themselves as superior. Religion sits best with people who would naturally nag, bitch and lecture others. Religion spreads best when carried by people who like to dominate and threaten.
Humans, in general, don't waste any opportunity to be unfathomably stupid - Dr Cynical.

Offline Quesi

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Re: Two things that I don't get
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2012, 09:58:39 AM »
Hi Colin-

Those are great questions and insightful observations.  I share your disdain for an imaginary deity who is testing us with disease and suffering, and I cannot imagine embracing a world-view based on fear. 

Welcome to the forums.  I really hope to hear more of your thoughts and look forward to your contributions to the wide range of discussions going on here. 

Offline Lectus

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Re: Two things that I don't get
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2012, 10:30:37 AM »
People make all kinds of rationalizations to support their beliefs even if those beliefs are totally fantasy.

Some people just don't accept that everybody dies, then they create those rationalizations: "I'm being tested with this disease", "There's heaven after death".

I also see a tendency of older people for converting to religions. It seems like when death is coming the fear starts to dominate them.
Religion: The belief that an all powerful God or gods created the entire universe so that we tiny humans can be happy. And we also make war about it.

Offline Graybeard

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Re: Two things that I don't get
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2012, 11:00:26 AM »
There is a problem with what they say.

As Ad Homonym has said, each one of us, and each one of all living things, carry different genes, some better than others, some good, some bad, some will simply never be activated or only activate in certain circumstances.

It is this random set of mutations that allow us to improve. Yes it is bad when people are born with severe handicaps, but why should this involve a god? There is no necessity for a god.

This leaves us with the question of, “What does God actually do?”

As usual the answer is "Nothing". This can be shown because in every explanation involving God, the explanation is always improved by leaving God out:

In, e.g. (i) “My child has a deformed leg because of a defective gene, God is testing him”  Nothing is added to the meaning or explanation by the “God is testing him” 
Or (ii) “The storm was sent by God and has killed grandma.” Is better as “The storm has killed grandma.”

We have:
1 + God = 1,
Therefore God = 0
Nobody says “There are many things that we thought were natural processes, but now know that a god did them.”

Offline Nick

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Re: Two things that I don't get
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2012, 12:12:38 PM »
Simple answer...God is imaginary...don't worry about it.
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Re: Two things that I don't get
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2012, 01:25:31 PM »
Welcome to the forum, Colin.

I'd say you're right: the fear of eternal suffering is a big draw for religion, in those faiths that include it. People understand pain, humiliation and so forth quite well. The stick of eternal punishment and the carrot of release from it make a powerful combo.

It worked damn well on me when I was a Christian; the thought of Hell was terrifying. Letting go of that fear was one of the great rewards of atheism.

Live a good life... If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid.
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Offline colin040

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Re: Two things that I don't get
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2012, 02:07:12 PM »
Thanks for the replies people. I'm sure I'll have a great time here.

So it seems like religious people want there to be a reason for everything? That reminds me of this muslim teacher once that said ''if your child later would be handicapted this is the punishment for the things you've done wrong.'' I find that idea to be terrible.


Offline Graybeard

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Re: Two things that I don't get
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2012, 02:10:54 PM »
That reminds me of this muslim teacher once that said ''if your child later would be handicapped this is the punishment for the things you've done wrong.'' I find that idea to be terrible.
Not just terrible, more, 'unbelievably stupid.' That teacher would have difficulty chewing gum and farting.
Nobody says “There are many things that we thought were natural processes, but now know that a god did them.”

Offline shnozzola

Re: Two things that I don't get
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2012, 02:35:18 PM »
Hi Colin,
   There are a lot of religions, and a lot of views on each religion.  Your own views may change throughout life.  While it is most important for you to be true to yourself while questioning everything, do not judge too harshly those that have come to different conclusions  than you have.  If you find anyone absolutely convinced that they are correct, you should watch those folks the most, especially their deeds.

   We have no idea what happens after death - no one does, but I suspect nothing happens - it is the end of our simple 16 or 80 years (if we are lucky).  We really should embrace each day as if it is our last, preparing for the future but totally into each second of today, treating each person we meet with the very best of ourselves .  If you treat those kindly that have been unkind to you, they may view you as a fool, but  you will always have the strength of knowing the truth.  Generally, mean angry people have a lot behind their "hatred," and if you have treated them with the respect that they even may not deserve, it will not be you that added to their anger.
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Re: Two things that I don't get
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2012, 06:43:40 PM »
Hi Colin, welcome.

I'm going to pass on the first thing you mention, I can't quite wrap my head around that one.

As to religion being based on fear, I would agree that it's origins were based on fear. And fear is still a well-wielded tool in service to a belief system. But I think in it's rather broadly defined contemporary state, there's lots of other interesting stuff going on beneath the surface.

Bear with me, I've been thinking about this for a while, but haven't tried to articulate it yet. I expect to be speaking in a very general sense about "people" as opposed to "individuals", and from a western bias. I'm also speaking of the sort of vanilla christian - they "believe", but not in an examined or deeply involved way. The range of "Christmas and Easter Only (CEO)" Christians, to "we go for the kids" to those who may or may not attend but don't really think about it much.

They may not be all that aware of what the RCC is up to these days. They may be too busy with spouses, families, work, and the day-to-day of life that they don't have much left for anything that doesn't touch their lives pretty closely. They might be quite well read in some areas, but not others, so all kinds of things might be completely off their radar. I read a lot and from many sources (TFSM for the internet), I can't fairly gauge how much the average American reads, sees, or knows about current events. And I have biases of my own.

People often say they find comfort in their religion, and although I don't share that experience, I believe that they are speaking the truth, and even think I understand what they mean.

I believe that there are lots of intelligent, reasonable people who, if pushed to really examine their beliefs, and to critically conclude whether or not those beliefs made any sense, would find it very uncomfortable to do so. One of the first things you would have to face is the implications of no god.

It doesn't take long for a reasonable, intelligent mind to make a (subconscious?) link to the conclusion that in a godless world you are fully and inescapably responsible for yourself. The "believing" brain more or less flinches away from the edge of the idea and goes off in a different direction. I think the idea is so flat out terrifying the first time your mind sees  it that it twitches in self defense. I'm not saying this well… in a vast universe that we ARE aware of on some level, the idea of being alone, for really-real alone, can be pretty overwhelming.

I don't mean to say that believers are irresponsible, or not self-reliant, or weak; I think they are often encouraged, subtly, to see themselves as such. Like Pavlov's dog. It's not entirely within their control.

Strength, even from imaginary source; solace in times of pain; oversight when you feel weak or afraid; these are all really appealing things. A believer loses those things if they stop believing. True self-reliance is a big concept. They already are self reliant, I know, but belief combined with conditioning is powerful. There's god, telling them that they are not alone. The other side is too big.

And I think it's at least partially related to the comfort concept. If there's a god that takes an active interest in you and your well-being, then you can "lean on him" and "gather strength" and whatever other phrases you like. While I don't pretend to understand how it works, I can't deny that people do, in fact, seem comforted by the whole idea. If there's a god, then all the bad stuff, big, little and in-between, happened for a reason, but you'll be rewarded in the afterlife. And for all the stuff we feel guilty about, again in multiple sizes, we also find comfort in knowing that we'll be adequately punished for it (yes we do - we really don't like guilt); and those who have done badly by us will be punished as well, and probably more because they're way worse than us. It's a way to feel less bad about yourself when you don't have power. It's a way to explain why crap happens that you don't deserve. And it really only holds up if it remains mostly unexamined, and just passed on as Truth. Most christians are not well-versed in the bible, and many may not be all that clear on their own beliefs. But the idea of "there is no point, not in the way you mean" is pretty damn painful for a lot of people.  I don't think it's about any sort of self-righteousness for most people, it’s about a desire for meaning and balance and fairness that we all want.

There's comfort in having answers ready made for you. There's comfort in being part of the crowd. There's comfort in not having to look too hard so you can just keep taking care of the rest of your life, which probably demand more of your immediate attention anyway.

I don't think many believers think they are bound for hell. It's always the other people who are going to hell. I'm not sure if the "loss" of hell would result if adherents falling away - if it did, I'd be really interested in determining if it was because people were no longer worried about themselves, or if they were pissed that everyone else was off the hook.

I know there's a lot of loose ends flailing around in this post - as I said, I'm still working my way through this one. Apologies for the broad strokes and sweeping generalizations.

There is, of course, far more going on around these little pieces; these are just the ones I find intriguing at the moment. I find myself a little better able to be decent to people when I  remember that not everyone is able to let it go, and that de-conversion tends to be a process, not a light switch flipping on.
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Offline Astreja

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Re: Two things that I don't get
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2012, 03:40:19 AM »
Hei, Colin!  Welcome to the forum.

I feel that religion evolved as a reaction to human psychology.  In particular, it appears that lots of people experience stress when put in ambiguous situations, and that this stress is relieved by yes/no answers (even if the answers are dead wrong).

This, in turn, naturally led to a polarizing of culture towards more extreme versions of yes and no, the conceptualization of "good" and "evil" to explain events in moral terms, and ultimately an overlay of fear which made religion into a tool to exploit and control its subjects.
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Offline Chronos

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Re: Two things that I don't get
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2012, 06:41:52 AM »
I suppose this means that religion is baised on fear?

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Re: Two things that I don't get
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2012, 08:58:49 AM »
Jag, +1 for a well written reply.  My takeaway from your reply is that humans may unwittingly use religion as a survival mechanism.  I could be wrong, but it seems entirely plausible that god belief and church attendance are vestiges of ancient survival coping mechanisms.  I mean, humans still have flight or fight responses, and we still see patterns in our environments that are irrational (like why are there suddenly lots of red VW Beetles right after you buy one?)

In the case of buying a car, and then it "suddenly" starts showing up all around you, is that it makes sense that the new car is now far more important to your own brain because it gets you to and from your job.  It's a survival mechanism.  It is now very important, and your brain is on notice about this very important thing.

When I talk to Christian friends, I sometimes wonder how they cope with people like me, who openly state that no god is necessary to be a good, contributing citizen.  Maybe they think I am a closet believer?  Weird.

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Re: Two things that I don't get
« Reply #14 on: October 22, 2012, 04:21:56 PM »
^^^somewhat. I think I'm working my way though making sense of conditioning, and the brain's ability to cope when confronted with ideas it isn't well equipped to deal with.

Eternity is a good example. I was raised Catholic, and even as a child, I found the idea of "eternity with God" to be a very troubling concept. Many years later, I realized that my discomfort was based on my limited ability to grasp the concept of eternal, forever. always. I've never been good at seeing the world in absolutes.

It STILL bends my brain a bit to look at the stars on a clear night and try to wrap my head around the idea that I'm looking at light from stars that may not even still exist. The space-fascinated part of me is intrigued, but a different part of my brain simply cannot get a firm hold of that kind of time.

J Anderson Thompson spoke of the origins of religion, and the science behind it at the regional atheist conference in MN recently. It was a great talk, and I've been kicking around his ideas ever since. As a method of explaining a world that was often threatening, this makes sense. As time passed and people became science literate, the explanation makes much less sense, but has become ingrained in society as a habit. The lack of thought about the habit bothers me the most - when pushed, people CAN be made to see the flaws, but I think they see it in terms of what they give up, rather than what they stand to gain.

Familiar is comfortable, and unknown is not.
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Re: Two things that I don't get
« Reply #15 on: October 22, 2012, 04:47:10 PM »
Keep in mind that death is more useful to some if it can be made scarier. If they can get you fearful enough, they can get you to believe anything.

The level of fear the religious want me have regarding death is irrational. As is their religion. This is not a coincidence.

I'm not excited about dying. I assume I'll have butterflies when I realize it is happening. But I'm pretty sure that playing their game doesn't make it any better. And I don't expect it to be any better.
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