Home > Religion > Who needs a god?

Who needs a god?

There are really three key things that piss me off about religion. The first is when people revel in the irrationality of faith. I have no problem tolerating disagreement with my conclusions about religion. I get irritated, however, when people forsake their everyday thought processes in one area for no apparent reason and then brag about it. It’s like when people brag about being ignorant in some area of knowledge. Except, instead of being anti-intellectual they’re being anti one of the most amazing parts of being human. It’s bewildering.

The second is when people claim life is meaningless without God. I can’t say I’ve ever truly been a member of any religion. I tried to be Christian when I was a kid to fit in, but as I’ve said before, it felt like I was praying to the ceiling. I don’t presume to tell the religious how satisfying their life is or should be with religion. I simply don’t know, though I suspect a lot of it is confusing the effects of intimate social interaction with the effects of religious belief. I do wish some would extend the same courtesy to the non-religious. For myself, I can’t imagine life with religion being any more meaningful than mine is now. The sense of wonder and amazement I get from the natural world is purely a function of my understanding of how it came to be. The mountains in Glacier National Park are amazing because such breathtaking features were carved over spans of time I can’t fathom by sheets of ice of a size I can’t fathom and collisions with other pieces of the earth on a scale I can’t fathom. The idea that a supernatural being put them there like that or instigated such a process cheapens the experience for me. It’s just special effects at that point. The same goes for things like music. Colby said one of the reasons he believes God exists is music. I don’t get it. To have all these things put here for us to enjoy seems less than satisfying. There wasn’t any effort involved. I get far more satisfaction from music that I have to put in some work to like. That I can listen to multiple times and get different things out of it. It’s far more rewarding. Maybe that’s a strange analogy, but there wasn’t any work involved if God was involved. It took billions of years to get us to this amazing point, and it wasn’t even the point. Like I said before, it’s just special effects. Life is meaningful to me because of a myriad of different things: human interaction (I’m hardly very social, but this still can be enjoyable to me), using my mind to solve problems and learn about the world, and on and on. It seems that’s what most people enjoy in life. God is at best superfluous and at worst a detriment to my enjoyment. Who needs one?

The third is that you can’t be moral without direction from on high. This is an even dimmer view of human beings than I take when I get pissed off about stupid people in the world. That I need a reward to act morally and that reward and punishment based motivation is really morality is absurd. You may as well call a dog moral because you’ve trained it not to do certain things by punishment and praise. Selflessness is supposedly praiseworthy, but heaven and hell give us selfish motivations. The higher form of morality is doing the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do. Those who say we need God to be moral betray their own immorality in doing so. If you’re only helping out others because you have a gun to your head, you’re not moral, you’re looking out for number one. I think the other justification for morality with a god seems to be to glorify him, whatever that means. Trying to curry favor with a powerful being is hardly moral either. If you’re not trying to do that, why do you need a god? Why not be good because that’s the right thing to do?

Categories: Religion
  1. Colby N.
    October 19, 2006 at 11:08 pm

    The first is when people revel in the irrationality of faith.

    What makes you think it is the irrationality that they are reveling in? Isn’t that just your take on what they are actually proud of?

    The second is when people claim life is meaningless without God.

    Do you mean people who claim their own life would be meaningless with god, or people who claim that without god, no one’s life can be meaningful? I don’t see too many of the latter, but when I do, I agree with you that their arrogance is quite annoying. As for someone who says they need it; is there anything wrong with that?

    The third is that you can’t be moral without direction from on high.

    Again, I must ask; do you mean when people say none of can be moral without this, or only when people say they get their own morals from ‘on high’? If I have someone arguing that we can only get morals from ‘god’, then I also get very upset with them, however; if that person just admits taht we all have morals and theirs coems from God, whats the beef? We all have morals that came from someplace. Although, I would think that morality is the hardest point for athiests to argue. Why do we feel guilty about things we know we aren’t going to get caught for?

    I feel bad that I came back to pick on your religious posts again, as I tend to agree with you, but I can’t get over this “religion sucks because” thing, when really everything that bugs you is pretty much people being stupid, not necessarily religiously stupid. That is, it doesn’t seem like it is really the religious part that is bugging you, but the arrogant, self-centered, thoughtless part of it that bugs you.

  2. October 20, 2006 at 2:00 am

    I know this is a lovefest between you two and all, but since these comments are still open to the public I figured I’d say something:

    I agree with Colby, in a way. I can’t help but notice that you, Jeff, point out we should do something “just because its the right thing to do”, after saying that a religious person is wrong for taking their morals from a God based on a punishment/reward system.

    The only reason we do “right” in this world is because it’s what is “good” for society. For example, maybe I feel it’s right to murder someone just because. I’m a free-thinking individual- I can do what I want, right? But society says, “No, that’s very bad” and has for as long as common law has existed. Thus, nobody feels it’s “right”. My point is, we take orders from the idea of society. So what’s wrong with people getting moral values from the idea of God, if it’s just as much a creation of man’s thoughts as society is?

    I think that also explains why atheists still feel guilty about things they know they’re not going to get caught for. Though I have to say, it doesn’t feel quite as bad when you don’t expect to spend eternity wallowing in fire and doom while surrounded by big mean ol’ demons… Because you jacked a candy bar.

    Also, on the point of irrationality in faith: Almost every single devout Christian I know says something to the effect of they “get great joy from having faith in God”. Faith is belief without proof, rationality is belief based on reason. If I believed there is a horde of chupacabras surrounding MSU right now, that would be irrational because I can’t prove it (Chupacabras leave almost no physical trace and would run if I went out there with a flashlight) and therefore, I have no reason to believe such a thing. Now, would you not find me completely absurd for taking pride in believing that?

    Anyways, those are my thoughts. My apologies in advance for muddling the ongoing battle.

  3. October 20, 2006 at 8:24 pm

    What makes you think it is the irrationality that they are reveling in? Isn’t that just your take on what they are actually proud of?

    I’m talking about the Kierkegaardian idea that faith is belief in the absurd almost because it’s so absurd. I’m talking about people who when you say that faith is absurd, they enthusiastically agree. It doesn’t mean people who are proud to be Christian, necessarily. It’s being completely unashamed by the knowledge that they believe the absurd.

    Do you mean people who claim their own life would be meaningless with god, or people who claim that without god, no one’s life can be meaningful? I don’t see too many of the latter, but when I do, I agree with you that their arrogance is quite annoying. As for someone who says they need it; is there anything wrong with that?

    I mean the latter. I think you spend too much time in liberal Christian circles. Traditional Christian apologetics and theology is rife with that claim. It’s a common argument for God or Christianity. As for someone believing they need God, I would say that they’re misleading themselves. But like you said in our previous discussion, shouldn’t they have some experience in the area they’re talking about? Unless they’ve actually not believed in God and found their life to be meaningless, I’m not exactly convinced by their claims (and that’s thinking their life meaningless at the time, not projecting their current mindset backwards).

    Again, I must ask; do you mean when people say none of can be moral without this, or only when people say they get their own morals from ‘on high’? If I have someone arguing that we can only get morals from ‘god’, then I also get very upset with them, however; if that person just admits taht we all have morals and theirs coems from God, whats the beef? We all have morals that came from someplace. Although, I would think that morality is the hardest point for athiests to argue. Why do we feel guilty about things we know we aren’t going to get caught for?

    Again, it’s the latter. It’s also the more common claim, as far as I can tell. There’s really not another reason for atheists to be as distrusted by the public as they are.

    Why we are moral is not hard for atheists to explain, as biologists have already done most of the work for us. I would suggest reading about reciprocal altruism and Robert Trivers. We have to live together and rules of interaction make that easier. It’s easier to convince others to help you out when they know you won’t cheat. It’s much more convincing to actually believe in those rules than just to say you do, hence the moral compass of sorts that we have. Religion can also be partially explained as another way of convincing people you’ll stick to those rules, through the costly actions many religions require (animal sacrifice is a good example).

    Determining what’s right and wrong, however, is hard for atheists to argue about. Then again, it’s hard for everyone.

    I feel bad that I came back to pick on your religious posts again, as I tend to agree with you, but I can’t get over this “religion sucks because” thing, when really everything that bugs you is pretty much people being stupid, not necessarily religiously stupid. That is, it doesn’t seem like it is really the religious part that is bugging you, but the arrogant, self-centered, thoughtless part of it that bugs you.

    That’s mostly true, but religion is easily the most extreme case of such things. There’s such certainty about things we really aren’t even close to knowing. The nature of religion also leads to justification of horrible things that really can’t be justified any other way. So I think I’m very justified in singling out religion.

    Chris – See my comment to Colby about evolution and morality. You’re claim that we get our morals from society is implausible for the simple fact that if that were true, you wouldn’t see people push us forward. Condemnations of slavery, killing of civilians, etc wouldn’t have occured, as society thought those were fine. It took individuals making powerful arguments that appeal to innate feelings to change such things. Society certainly does play a role, but I think society is more an expression of our innate moral beliefs and the extent to which we still have desires that conflict with them. You’re also misunderstanding my point. Doing something because society says something is wrong isn’t much different than doing it because a god thinks so, you are correct. But I wasn’t making a claim about why people are moral, but why they should be moral. They shouldn’t do something because society thinks it’s wrong, but because it is wrong.

  4. Neto
    November 8, 2006 at 3:44 pm

    Hey Soilworker,

    Unfortunetly, society’s ideas of what is moral comes from religion, and religion created God. Is there a book of life that says killing is wrong? No. Sure religion says killing is wrong, but then they change that rule and make it more flexible. After examining a group of monkeys, scientists noticed their behaviorrs were the same as humans’. They belong in a society where they dont want rape or murder. Each society has its own leader that tries to control everything. Whoever murders is no more wanted in the society.

    ill wait for your response on this to prove you wrong.

    p.s. I noticed you said atheists will feel guilty for things they wont get caught for? Please elaborate because i have no clue what you are talking about. If you are going to make a statement, have some evidence or data that will back up your lousy comments.

  5. November 8, 2006 at 7:24 pm

    I doubt he’ll see this. In any case, your first point seems completely irrelevant to what anyone in this thread has said. It’s also rather poorly cited for someone who demands evidence and data for comments made by others.

    This statement is pretty silly:

    p.s. I noticed you said atheists will feel guilty for things they wont get caught for? Please elaborate because i have no clue what you are talking about. If you are going to make a statement, have some evidence or data that will back up your lousy comments.

    Actually, the burden of proof is on you. Guilt is universal human emotion (of course, maybe you dispute that statement, too). Atheists are human beings. If you don’t think atheists feel what is a normal human emotion, it’s up to you to provide evidence.

  1. October 23, 2006 at 4:00 pm

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