Is Religion Comforting?


Many religious will report studies saying that people with religion are happier than those without. I, actually, don’t doubt that for the most part. Of course, people feel happier when they think their is a perfect entity watching over them, but what about the times when religion negatively effects people. For example, what about schizophrenics who get more delusional when exposed to religion?

I’m probably over exposing myself. The following is NOT why I don’t believe, (I’m less concerned about emotion. I’m concerned about the truth. ) Still, back before I was diagnosed, the more religion I was exposed to the worse the religious based delusions were. It was the bane of my existence for some time. I, simply, wonder what theistic apologetics would say to that. (I came to independent reason to why I don’t believe in God, later.) I, also, am worried about people with a certain amount of anxiety. I have no study to support any generalities, but there are people, who do exist, who are constantly tormented by the possibility of upsetting God to a pathological level.

Nothing I have written about speaks on the existence of God, but it could be damning to the comforting nature religion usually takes on. Just my two cents.

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The Internet and Atheists


Atheists seem to have built up quite the online community, but the internet does horrible things to atheists and theists alike. The internet turns people into trolls. People say things online that they would never dream of saying to someone in the real world. I don’t know why. (I’m not a psychologist.) I think, though, that it might have to do with the internet normalizing adverse behavior.

I do not have a problem with an atheist, for example, tweeting disagreement to the Pope. However, I think people should treat each other with some amount of civility. (If you haven’t read through the discussion on the pope’s twitter account, I suggest. It is filled with antagonistic atheists.) It is one thing to say argument x is silly. It is an entirely different thing to rant and rave about how stupid and even horrible someone is for believing x. I’m not saying it is wrong to be assertive with people, and I’m certainly not saying someone shouldn’t call a dumb argument dumb. However, there is a line between using social media to have a debate and being an outright troll. Unfortunately, a lot of peoples’ experience with atheists are from online atheists, and many of these online atheists aren’t helping with angry atheist stereotype.

I’m not making the argument that people should have to “respect” someone’s beliefs. I’m attempting to make the argument that people should respect the person, and it is important to realize that religious views can be a big part of a person. Of course to some degree, offering a differing viewpoint can be considered insulting. In that case, it really is just too bad.

Still, my main point has nothing to do with casual debate. It more about certain online atheists who give the rest of us a bad name. I find that certain online atheists have apparently taken on Richard Dawkins’s approach of “good humored ridicule,” but they’ve taken it to an extreme where it’s no longer “good humored.” (Some may argue that s has taken it too far too, but that’s a different topic. Also, I’m neither saying I’m for nor against Dawkins.)

I’m not trying to tell people how to debate. I’m simply making observations. Everyone once in awhile, I get too much time on my hands and scroll through social media too much.

Crime, Punishment, and Employment


I’ve often thought of the penal system as a circular loop. Basically, someone gets convicted of a crime, and then a potential employer gets to look at this person’s criminal record going back 7-10 years. Plus, very little is done to rehabilitate the person.

Employment:

There are too many barriers to employment. Employers, in my humble opinion, should only ever be able to look into records that can effect someone’s ability to do the specific job they are applying for. Wal-mart should not be able to look into someone’s credit score, for example, but an employer of financial advisers, probably should. As far as crime goes, I think the same thing. If someone does drugs they shouldn’t be working where safety is important, like in construction, but there are jobs, where this is not an issue. Thus, it is none of the employer’s business, unless they are coming to work stoned out of their mind. Furthermore, no employer should be able to look back 7-10 years in someone’s record. No one is the same at 18 as they are at 25.  I think around 2-3 years is more sensible.

Crime and Punishment:

I’m not against punishment. I actually think punishment can be a necessary part of rehabilitation. (There needs to be consequences for bad behavior. Otherwise, I’m not sure how people could have an incentive to change.) Still, we should be more focused on rehabilitation than we are now. Why keep locking up the same people over and over. What if there’s a chance to fix whatever gives them the tendency towards criminal behavior in the first place? It would be better for society, if we could rehabilitate. It seems to me less criminal activity is usually better, but of course, people need to want to change. Admittedly, getting people to want to change is problematic at best. It seems where I’m at (US) we simply prefer longer and longer sentences, hoping to deter crime, but it isn’t working. Plus, adding the employment barriers from the previous section, a circular loop is formed for many people. Someone commits crime x, and this person can’t get any job. They, then, end up committing crime y or working for an illegitimate job. A stable legitimate job would seem to me to be a big part of a criminal becoming an upstanding member of society.

Evolution in the Classroom


Evolution belongs in the biology classroom of every school. This should include faith schools and home schools. Evolution is the backbone of biology, and children need to know about it. For one, they need to have a grasp of science to be competitive in the real world. Understanding biology will help them understand more advanced topics in college courses. I think refusing to teach evolution is educational neglect.

Furthermore, I think even faith schools should have to teach evolution in biology, and I don’t think creationism should be allowed to be taught within that classroom. If a faith school wants to teach creationism, then they need to teach it in their faith course, which most faith schools have. Creationism is not looked upon as an acceptable scientific alternative by competent scientists , and as such, creationism has no place in a science class. I could say the same for home schools.

Now, I know some of my readers may have some concerns. They might think I’m not going far enough. Some may even want faith schools banned. I’m not saying that faith schools are good things. (I don’t.) Nevertheless, I hold religious freedom as a very high priority. Now some might ask about the children’s freedom. I would concur and note that sending children to faith schools is problematic. However, I do not want the government telling parents how to raise their children, within reason. I’m drawing the line where important information is being left out. Information that is central to any education.

Militant Atheism


It is not in my nature to be very aggressive or assertive. I’m an introvert. Nevertheless, I’m always surprised when theists are surprised by some atheists wanting to deconvert people. Of course, many theists want atheists to convert; because, they want everyone to have the truth, supposedly. (Although, if their beliefs grant an exception to those who’ve never heard of their religion, then I dunno maybe don’t tell me about your religion.)  I don’t really understand what’s so shocking about people wanting other people to agree with them. Especially, if it is an agreement on such an important topic, such as the existence of a deity.

As for me, I plenty happy to just live my life. If someone broaches the subject of atheism/theism, I’m happy to discuss it, but 99% of the time it just doesn’t come up. On the other hand, if someone’s theism is restricting on my rights, then I have a problem. For example, creationism has NO place in biology class. I’m pretty particular about that. I could name other examples, but most the time these issues aren’t something I have to deal with on a regular basis. I’m not, for example, irritated by being wished a merry Christmas instead of a happy holiday. (I’ve never understood why Christians get upset by being wished a happy holiday. The word holiday comes holy day. ) Still, I think writing and talking about atheism is important, and I appreciate when it is done.

The Devout Skeptic


There is some discussion going on about how to properly label an unbeliever. Should we call ourselves agnostics, atheists, anti-theists etc. Personally, I have found this conversation a little bland. Obviously, at least where I’m at, the term atheist has a pretty bad connotation, but at least, lay people know what a person means when he/she uses the term. The term atheist and anti-theist can also be confusing at times. People may think atheists are claiming that there’s 0% chance of there being a god. Then suddenly, a theist shows up claiming you have to prove that God doesn’t exist, but many people who call themselves atheists/anti-theist really mean that they think the existence of a god is so improbable they can ignore it.

So, what am I going to call myself? I think I’m going to steal a term from Kellenberger. “The ideal here is that of the devout sceptic, who rejects or holds back from traditional religion, not because he shallow or immoral, but because on ethical grounds he will not believe where the truth is not clear. (Kellenberger 225) (Full citation: Kellenberger J. “Three Models of Faith” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion vol 12. No. 4 (1981) pp217-233) I think I might like to say something a bit stronger than the term devout skeptic brings. Still, I am fond of it. The reason I don’t try to force myself to believe in God anymore is due to intellectual integrity. (For my believing readers: I’m not calling you stupid.) I simply don’t find the arguments for God’s existence compelling. It would be lying to myself to claim otherwise. It is not out of the realm of possibilities that I could, one day, find a reason to believe in God. Do I think that is likely? Not really, but it could happened given a good reason.

Skepticism: Faith and Authority


Most are not 100% skeptical all of time. For example, I consider myself a skeptic, but I don’t spend my time questioning whether the grass is really green or whether water is composed of H2O. I could, but I am fairly certain my original position that grass is green and water is composed of H2O is the correct one. There are certain people who will blatantly say that is never okay to take things on faith and authority, and when the idea that many people take, say science, on faith they try to weasel their way out.

However, taking things on faith and authority, in a very limited way, can be acceptable in certain situations. I think blind faith is generally a bad idea. Still, we need to consider non-blind faith. In other words, we need to consider faith that has a basis to exist. For example, I’ve studied evolution to some degree and I know some of the major findings supporting it. I don’t know a lot of the more complex studies having to do with evolution, but I generally accept most the mainstream findings of scientists. Why? Because, “faith” in these scientists is not blind. It is based on something factual and objective about this science in the first place. Also with science, I know the method. I trust the method; because, it’s method does weed hoaxes and the like. It is open to change and scrutiny. Is this improper? Given it’s record, I don’t think it is. I know how the scientific method works, and as far as can tell, it is working quite well at the moment. If, for example, I had actual knowledge that every part of Catholicism was true but I just wasn’t sure whether the deity was triune, I might take it on faith that my priest was right about God.

Also, I think it is appropriate to take things on authority sometimes, but it depends on the authority. Is the authority reliable/trustworthy? Does the authority have a good tract record? Does the authority have the knowledge to dispense a particular claim? Does the authority have his/her mental facilities in good working order?  Is the authority unbiased? These are questions that need an affirmative answer. The problem is that a lot of people depend on an authority who does not meet the previous qualifications. I’m not going to ask my tv repair man what’s wrong with my car. Likewise, I’m not going to ask a science question to a cleric.

I think most skeptics would agree with. Although, they might argue with how I’ve treated faith. They might say that what I’m arguing isn’t faith at all, but I’d like to hear an argument on why faith should be redefined. People don’t seem to realize that we greatly depend on faith and authority a good portion of the time. It isn’t always universally wrong to do so, but we should question ourselves from time to time about what ideas we’re accepting and why.