Is religious belief healthy?

January 18, 2008 at 6:16 pm 51 comments

DoctorOne of the things that often comes up in my conversation with religious believers (mostly Christians, per circumstance) is that even if there is no God, to dissuade someone from faith is still somehow morally reprehensible. Most often, they run down a laundry list of ways in which the institution of religion—independent of the veracity of its truth claims—makes a positive impact on the world.

A derivative of a common example used is that of an elderly woman on her deathbed. Perhaps she has been a non-believer her entire life, but she finds that as her life comes to a close she is fearful of its end. She decides to suspend her skepticism about religion and posit belief in some God. Wouldn’t it be wrong to convince her otherwise? “No Grandma, there is no God, when you die your mind will cease to function and your body will rot!” I’m no counselor, but this doesn’t seem to be comforting.

What about the social function churches (and other religious institutions) serve in our culture? Churches can provide a sense of belonging, a safety net, and very basically friendship shared over common interest. Furthermore, an exorbitant number of homeless shelters, food pantries, soup kitchens, free medical clinics, rehab programs, etc. are operated by religious institutions around the world.

Religious organizations can also provide a moral foundation. Though I do not subscribe to any sort of ultimate morality, in a very Machiavellian sense religion does act to provide a basis for social contract in society. While I personally would argue that this kind of social contract is constantly in flux and needs to be modified yet, there is an equal and opposite point that religion, for better or worse, does present a starting point for morality and legality.

So religion does have positive affects. On the other hand, I am sure that few who read this essay can deny the existence of negative effects caused by religious belief.

Religious belief can cause emotional distress. Many Christians, for instance, feel pressure to feel and act according to certain behavioral prescriptions. When they fail to meet these standards, which are often times unreasonable, the result is self-loathing. In addition there are systematic theologies that present a very negative view of the individual. For example, hyper-Calvinism postulates a God who has pre-ordained those who will be saved and those who are reprobate. Imagine an individual indoctrinated with this belief. When their prayers are not answered, it is not far-fetched to assume that God has chosen them for damnation and does not care for their petitions.

Religious belief can cause social tension. Apologists are quick to point out that it was evangelical Christians in the north led the abolition movement. Christians have been at the forefront of many social reforms. At the same time; however, they seem to gloss over the fact that southerners used the same Jesus to support their pro-slavery positions. Post-Reconstruction whites used the bible to justify slavery. So lets just go for broke and call it even, yes? I’m not so sure. It is safe to say that an overwhelming majority of non-believers think that to theist-led “protection of traditional marriage” is ridiculous. It is also safe to say that that Christians support Israel primarily for religious reasons, and do not approach Middle East peace objectively. These are only two examples of a countless array of positions held by theists that seem to be in direct contradiction to reasonable courses of action. Thus, religious belief can be detrimental to others. I would use the example of cigarettes. Cigarettes cause damage to the lungs of the individual smoking them, but cause even more damage through second-hand smoke. I think that Christianity (and other religions… I am an equality-loving liberal, after all) cause damage to the individual psyche, but also to those around them.

Religious belief can oppose progress. I consider myself to be an intellectually fair person. I try to objectively read what the opposition publishes and produces. Thus, I was, much to my distaste, reading Ken Ham last year. A friend saw I was reading Ken Ham and excitedly expressed to me, “I think it’s so exciting that God created the stars to look like they are millions of years old, but really they’re only 6,000 years old.” Scary. I recently watched the movie Inherit the Wind about the Scopes Monkey Trial. And while the movie took many dramatic liberties to vilify fundamentalist Christianity, I think the moral stands true that religion does stand in the way of intellectual progress. All religions are an attempt to make metaphysical claims about the universe. Scientific discoveries sometimes overlap these claims, but often challenge them. Thus the religion is forced to either reject science or give up a conservatively held belief. More often than not, I fear, the former happens.

These are just a few ways in which I think religious belief can be unhealthy, both for the individual and for the community at-large. What comes to mind is an analogue of belief in Santa and belief in God. It is perfectly acceptable to belief in Santa Claus during ones years as a child. As one transitions into youth it is natural and healthy to shed belief in Santa. If by adulthood one still believes in Santa, it is most likely a symptom of psychological disorder. In the same way, religious belief served a purpose for humanity thousands of years ago. During the Enlightenment society began to shed some religiously held beliefs. As we enter the next phase of humanity, to not give up the obsolete belief in God seems dangerous. Look no further than 9/11.

- carriedthecross

Entry filed under: CarriedTheCross. Tags: , , , .

Is “bright” a more negative term than “atheist”? Jesus Is The Weigh

51 Comments Add your own

  • 1. artisticmisfit  |  January 18, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    I agree that religion can cause emotional distress and social tension. What is even more interesting is that religion blames those who are emotionally distressed by it as if somehow it was their fault. It does the same thing to those whom it creates social tension for, as if somehow they did something intrinsically wrong. My dad is a secular humanist and my mom is a skeptical or even de-converting Catholic. I am glad you made this post. Of course, I doubt the religious people will listen to you, but its always worth a try.

  • 2. LeoPardus  |  January 18, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Again with the demonizing of one’s former confession. Why is it not enough to simply say, “I don’t believe that anymore.” ? Why MUST that which you formerly might have defended as “the only hope for the world” now become “the worst thing in the world” ?

    It is safe to say that an overwhelming majority of non-believers think that to theist-led “protection of traditional marriage” is ridiculous.

    No, it isn’t safe to say. There are plenty of non-religious who will defend traditional marriage.

    I think the moral stands true that religion does stand in the way of intellectual progress.

    Uh huh. Never mind the numerous religious people who contributed to scientific advancements through the eons.

    I am SICK AND BLOOOY TIRED of this de-con love of demonizing religion in general and Christianity in particular. Those who do it are out of balance. You may have been out of balance and wrong as a fundy, thinking Christianity was the greatest thing, but you don’t get in balance or right by simply flopping clear to the other side.

  • 3. carriedthecross  |  January 18, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Leo,

    I truly do appreciate your perspective, but I honestly do not believe I am (or at least do not intend to) demonize that which I once affirmed. After a vicious lashing out at theism immediately following my de-conversion, I believe I have adopted a relatively conciliatory tone to friends, neighbors and strangers who are theists. I do affirm that religious institutions do positively impact the world (personal comfort, social action, etc.). In fact, I work in a government office that deals with faith-based initiatives, and I have seen first hand some of the wonderful things religious institutions have done for society. That said, in a very utilitarian sense, I am also convinced that the good does not outweigh the bad. Or more accurately, the potential for bad.

    As a clarification, when I reference “traditional marriage,” I specifically meant homosexual marriage. I am no advocate of free love, etc. I’m not sure if you interpreted it as such or not, so just for the record. And I stand by the statement. From everything I have read, the less religious an individual, the less likely they are to oppose same-sex marriage.

    As for science and religion. Sure, many religious scientists through the ages have made incredibly contributions to religions. I don’t think anyone will dispute that fact. There are in fact good practicing scientists today. Hugh Ross and Michael Behe come to mind. Though I disagree with Ross’ conclusions, I think his science is impeccable. Though I think Behe’s Irreducible Complexity is bunk, he has made other valuable contributions. That does not; however, discount the fact that religious fundamentalism has historically and is currently standing in the way of scientific progress.

    “I am SICK AND BLOOOY TIRED of this de-con love of demonizing religion in general and Christianity in particular. ”

    Again, I’d like to point out that I don’t believe I have demonized religion. I am utterly convinced that theism is wrong, that there is no god, and that we have only ourselves to rely on for the sake of humanity. At the same time, I have many theist friends. I have theist professors who are brilliant. There are theists who I have nothing but the utmost respect for. But I still am firmly convinced they are wrong in this area. And I think that because ideas are powerful, it is important to correct or move beyond wrong ideas.

    An example: I am a moderate-to-liberal Democrat. I think conservatives are ‘less right’ on most issues. I have many conservative friends. I believe conservatives contribute good ideas from time to time. I respect many conservatives. But I think they are wrong, and the best direction for the country is to move in a direction different than conservatism, but I don’t intend to demonize them.

  • 4. The de-Convert  |  January 18, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    Leo,

    There are stages of de-conversion. Everyone has to walk through their journey. We all have had different experiences and will take a different path. There’s no “right” path. I had to fully explore and deal with my questions in order to take the next step. It was not “demonizing”, it was honest inquiry and working through MY experiences in a way that would benefit ME.

    This community is there as a support base for others who are scattered across a wide spectrum of being skeptical. I believe we should have an open mind to where each individual is and communicate accordingly.

    I recently read a comment by HeIsSailing and thought, wow, good for him, he’s in such a great place. However, he didn’t get there overnight. He walked through his own process and I’m glad we had the opportunity to participate, benefit from, and hopefully contribute to his journey.

    Paul

  • 5. Ardegas  |  January 18, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    I agree with LeoPardus. This kind of anti-theist rhetoric gets tiresome with time.

    Atheistic ideologies can also cause emotional distress, social tension and oppose progress and science.

    Comparing God with Santa is a false analogy.

  • 6. The de-Convert  |  January 18, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    Ardegas,

    Yes, from where you sit. However, believe it or not, there are those who are reading this level of freethinking thought for the first time and wonder why they never thought through these issues before. Not every post will apply to everyone. That’s why a large community is helpful.

    Paul

  • 7. asymptosis  |  January 19, 2008 at 12:01 am

    I honestly do not believe I am (or at least do not intend to) demonize that which I once affirmed

    Hi Carriedthecross,

    When you compare an institution to “second-hand smoke”, it seems fair to allege that you have demonised that institution. Just saying.

    I think religion deserves a very nuanced approach. All the good aspects as well as all the bad aspects of religion are in dispute and require subtlety.

  • 8. Jersey  |  January 19, 2008 at 12:25 am

    Going to church more than once a week lessens chance of getting depression.

    I also heard of atheists getting together for their own version of sunday school, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1686828,00.html, which serves as much of the same functions as sunday school.

    I go for the social convenience, never the worship.

  • 9. artisticmisfit  |  January 19, 2008 at 12:25 am

    Ardegas, I agree, comparing God with Santa Claus is extremely offensive and demeaning and demoralizing to theists. Have some respect. I may be skeptical of Christianity, but I am not going to revert to being an atheist.

  • 10. The de-Convert  |  January 19, 2008 at 12:31 am

    I preach respect. In fact, the statement on this blog states that we respectfully address religion. However, I fail to see how the examples you all are listing are offensive, demeaning, and demoralizing. I must be missing something here about this post but I just don’t get this line of discussion.

  • 11. artisticmisfit  |  January 19, 2008 at 12:53 am

    You went from you all to my adjectives of offensive, demeaning and demoralizing which indicates to me that you are making a blanket statement, which is illogical. I suggest you read a book on critical thinking before blogging again, forgive me. I want you to write again, but I am seriously making that suggestion, and I anticipate being reported for giving such advice. I am not being mean.

  • 12. Quester  |  January 19, 2008 at 3:21 am

    People can choose to be offended by almost anything, if they wish to. As far as I can tell, Carried the Cross used second-hand smoke as an illustration of how a choice one person makes can harm those around that one, and thus becomes a larger issue than individual rights. Then Carried used Santa to show how theism is a worldview that has its place in humanity’s history, but perhaps we are reaching a time where that place should be limited to humanity’s history, not brought into the present as something to be taken seriously.

    Carried also made both of these points after very carefully listing positive aspects of religion and theism.

    I find it sad that Carried the Cross’ titular question, “Is religious belief healthy?” is being dismissed as offensive and demonizing instead of seriously considered. Have we forgotten the purpose of this site?

    Onto the subject of the post: Carried the Cross, it used to amuse me when I read Psychology textbooks and realized some of the personality disorders described me and my Christian beliefs. To me, it cast doubts on the usefulness of psychology. Now, I am not so amused. I’ve spent much of my professional ministry fighting against theologies much more dangerous than second-hand smoke. Many of my parishioners learned their theology from radio preachers with divisive teachings of loathing the self and fear of others.

    My entire 2006 Christmas Eve sermon was trying to distinguish between God and Santa Claus, as many theists and non-theists have a very difficult time distinguishing the two in any practical manner. (Which one is it that sees you when you’re sleeping, knows when you’re awake, and knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake?)

    It’s an uphill battle to say that the theory of evolution is not necessarily evil, that community dances on Sundays don’t have to tear apart the community, and that the man who wanted his coffin buried on a south-facing slope is not damned to hell because the Sun (Son) rises in the East. Et cetera, et cetera.

    One of the main things driving me toward deconversion is the feeling that I’ve been spending most of my time in bible study and preaching trying to convince myself that God never meant the destructive teachings a literal and surface level reading of God’s Word provides. It’s not so much that I’m not as convincing as I’d like to be so much as how often a need for such convincing seems to come up in a standard preaching cycle.

    I don’t know if I could ever become an atheist evangelist, trying to encourage others to deconvert. I’ve never been skilled or even very comfortable in my attempts of being a Christian evangelist, a practice I think I’ll be staying away from for a while, as well.

    But whether or not religious belief is unhealthy, there are a lot of unhealthy religious beliefs being held by wonderful people, who are finding their lives, their families, and sometimes their communities torn apart by these unhealthy religious beliefs. To say so might offend some, but sweeping it under the rug doesn’t make it go away.

  • 13. James  |  January 19, 2008 at 4:21 am

    I think it’s like with everything in life, it can be used for the good and for the bad.

    Religious belief can help a lot of people to cope with difficult situations or simply by giving their life meaning. But this often leads to fanaticism which of course is to be avoided.

    It would be better if people wouldn’t need religious belief to be able to cope with life …

  • 14. The de-Convert  |  January 19, 2008 at 5:14 am

    artisticmisfit,

    I didn’t write the initial post. I’m just commenting just like you :) Didn’t mean to offend you. Your post was immediately above mine so I used your adjectives.

    BTW, it’s ok to give constructive criticism – that is not being mean. My inquiry was along the lines as to trying to understand the offense since I was not seeing it. I am truly honestly confused. I was in no way implying that we should not give the original author of the post critique. That’s the great thing about blogsphere. We are free to express our opinions.

    Paul

  • 15. The de-Convert  |  January 19, 2008 at 5:18 am

    James,

    I agree. I’ve written posts talking about the positives of religion and also the negatives. I’m sure carriedthecross will write a post one day about the positives. This one just happened to be focused on the question “Is religion healthy?”

    It would be better if people wouldn’t need religious belief to be able to cope with life …

    True. However, the reality is, many do need it and there was a time in my life when I was among the ones who did.

    Paul

  • 16. orDover  |  January 19, 2008 at 6:02 am

    The only issue I have with this post it that it seems like no one has considered what would have happened to human psychology and history if religion would have never been thought up.

    If you think of religion as a meme, then it occupies a certain niche. If it would have never come about, I fully believe that something else would have filled this niche. If all churches suddenly disappeared do you think that no one else would open up a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen?

    This brings me to a point of moral foundation. Looking at the behavior of animals is a clear indication of the way that human ethics developed. Ethics dictates that murder is wrong, stealing is wrong, and hurting others is wrong. Nature alone teaches that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Thus all you need is nature and ethics to realize that starving people need food. No religion required.

    Ethics provides a universal social contract, and it is augmented by written laws. It’s a bold lie to say that the founders of the United States based our Constitution on Biblical values, so please don’t even go there. They based them on Ancient Roman laws and notions of humanism, if anything. I’m sure I don’t have to mention that the Roman culture’s religious views varied greatly from Christians'; I would wager that it is difficult to find parallels that fall anywhere outside of common ethics.

    Anyway, the point of my comment is that all of the good things mentioned would have come about with or without religion.

  • 17. fontor  |  January 19, 2008 at 7:42 am

    If you base your actions on imaginary people, you get real problems.

    Everyone’s got a way of deciding what to do when a choice presents itself. If I, an atheist, make a decision and it doesn’t work, I can say, “Well, that didn’t work. I’d better not do that again.”

    But if someone believes their belief system is perfect and divine, that they need to exercie faith to make it work, and that changing it is somehow disloyal to god — and if these things are false — the belief system will cause the person to make bad decisions sometimes (like everyone does), but they will not be able to learn from the mistake. They will strive to interpret what happened as God’s will, or — worse — blame themselves for imperfect adherence to god’s plan. At all costs, they must save the belief.

    Religious systems may accidentally teach some good principles; no one’s going to get everything wrong. But when religious systems get it wrong, they do a number on the believers’ heads, and they retard learning in the people most devoted to them.

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  • 19. LeoPardus  |  January 19, 2008 at 10:05 am

    carriedthecross:

    OK. I accept your description of your position. I’m perhaps a bit sensitive to the topic. I think that the anti-Christian stance is every bit as harmful as anything it tries to criticize.

    The de-Convert:

    I re-read the article. Like I just said above, perhaps I’m a bit sensitive on the topic. Hence my reaction may have been overly strong.

    Quester:

    Sounds to me like you are really working to find that balanced perspective somewhere between rabid Christianity and rabid atheism. May we all seek such a point.

  • 20. Atheist Revolution  |  January 19, 2008 at 11:47 am

    “But Isn’t Religion Good for People?”

    If you’ve been an atheist for more than 10 minutes, you’ve probably heard this one. I seem to hear this one after a successful argument about the lack of evidence to support any claims of supernatural entities…

  • 21. artisticmisfit  |  January 19, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    I never said the original question was offensive. I said comparing God to Santa Claus was offensive, and I stand by my statement. And I also say that calling God an imaginary being is offensive. For EO, the understanding is the devil enters the mind through the imagination. Of course for you God and the devil are imaginary beings. Try to understand metaphorically. I am here to critique Christianity, not God. I am here to criticize religion, not its subject.

  • 22. carriedthecross  |  January 19, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Artisticmisfit:

    “I never said the original question was offensive. I said comparing God to Santa Claus was offensive, and I stand by my statement. And I also say that calling God an imaginary being is offensive.”

    Allow me to clarify. From my perspective, either there is a transcendent deity or there is not. Perhaps we cannot be certain one way or the other, but that does not change the fact that a so-called god is or is not real. As an atheist (though in a purely philosophical sense I would consider myself an agnostic) I believe there is no God. Thus, I would consider a belief in God to be imagined. A belief in God is a social construct attempting to explain the universe in which we live. That is not intended to assault the value of individual theists, just the belief system itself.

    As for the Santa example, I used it in lieu of a better one. Perhaps I did not clearly state my intention in using it, either. My point is that religious belief is not and has not always been “bad.” Religious people, through the ages and even today, have been inspired to do a great amount of good. But I believe that there will come a time (and perhaps that time is now) at which that religious belief will no longer serve as a positive force in society. In short, I think we no longer need religious belief, and at some point it will become unhealthy for social welfare to hold to it indefinitely.

    Leo:

    I think we actually agree to a large extent. I would very much like to discuss this issue with you. Certainly since my de-conversion, there has been a temptation to react in hostility to theistic belief, and there was a time that I did just that. But I think I have found a more balanced path. I do firmly believe that over time humanity must give up its attachment to religious belief, but I in no way intend to vilify religious persons nor do I intend to invalidate the good that they still serve in society.

  • 23. Ardegas  |  January 19, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    The de-Convert:

    I think the important question is: Does religion do more harm than good? And… What are the alternatives?

    I understand your concern with different rates of rational development in this community. I’m a freethinker for more than seven years, and I lost much of the anger I initially had against Christianity, but from the beginning it amazed how much hostility against religion is found in the internet atheist community, I’ve never assimilated that.

    This is a personal observation, and I understand most atheists don’t see it that way.

  • 24. artisticmisfit  |  January 19, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    carriedthecross, Why should it matter to you whether people believe in religion or not, especially if they keep it to themselves? And, if you no longer have any need for religion, then why do you refer to yourself as one who carried the Cross?

  • 25. Thinking Ape  |  January 19, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    artisticmisfit questions,

    carriedthecross, Why should it matter to you whether people believe in religion or not, especially if they keep it to themselves?

    Speaking for myself as well as anyone who thinks logically about this question: if you keep your religion to yourself, as the majority of eastern religionists do, then there really is no problem. The fact is, however, that American religion is extremely political and entrenches itself in every aspect of our lives. So sure, you can believe whatever you want, but what is the pragmatic use of a religion is you can not even act on it. Is this not the entire reason that the United States has become such a bipolar nation?

    As for your second question, carriedthecross is a great name to express one’s past Christian life. Obviously “carried” is past tense and “cross” refers to everything that born-again Christianity “is” as well as “is not.” For those of us, myself included, who grew up ingrained and indoctrinated with born-again evangelical Christianity, we will probably never really escape that past. That history makes up who we are, for better or for worst. This is why describing oneself as an “agnostic” or an “atheist” does very little justice to the development of disbelief. It says nothing of our “post-Christian” stance in a post-Christian world.

  • 26. carriedthecross  |  January 19, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Artistmisfit:

    “carriedthecross, Why should it matter to you whether people believe in religion or not, especially if they keep it to themselves?”

    Why should it matter? Because I believe that ideas are profoundly important. Our ideas shape how we view and interact with the world. Ideas are the basis for the way we relate to other people. Ideas about religion have extremely acute implications for an individuals paradigm of the world.

    I by no means intend to demean religious belief or invalidate the sincerity of many religious people. But I believe they are wrong. Of note in my post is that I went to careful lengths to show that there are positives to religious belief. But I think humanity is capable of something better. In the west, polytheism gave way to monotheism, and I believe that one day monotheism should give way to atheism.

    “And, if you no longer have any need for religion, then why do you refer to yourself as one who carried the Cross?”

    The name itself is a play off a time in which I was an amateur student of apologetics. During that time, I often participated in a discussion board regarding Christianity. I debated and discussed religion with evangelicals, liberal Christians, non-Christian theists, agnostics and atheists. I found that time of my life to be very rewarding. When I de-converted from Christianity, I quickly found a psychological desire to be able to converse with people about the process and about religion. It seemed natural to change my old screen name from “CarryingTheCross” to “CarriedTheCross.”

    In addition, despite my radical transformation away from Christianity and to atheism, I still highly value much of the personal formation I received from my time as a Christian. I don’t think every piece of dogma coming out of Christianity is harmful or wrong, just the overall package. My time “carrying the cross of Christ” substantially changed me into the person I am today.

  • 27. Quester  |  January 19, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Why should it matter to you whether people believe in religion or not, especially if they keep it to themselves?

    Our beliefs affect our actions. Our actions affect other people. It’s as simple as that.

  • 28. ned  |  January 19, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    orDover: Confucianism is a humanist/secular philosophy developed before Buddhism and Christian were introduced to China. Many of what the West called functions of religion, were provided by Confucianism in ancient China. Even today, ethical values in Chinese societies are still very commonly expressed by the sayings of Confucius, not by quotations from the bible or buddhist sutras. I think this is an example illustrating that the meme of religion sometimes took on a much smaller niche, and it is perfectly natural for non-religious memes to provide a system of morality and social norms.

  • 29. samanthamj  |  January 19, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Is Religious Belief Healthy?

    I guess… to some it is… and to others (like me) it’s not. Since I’m in the “not” category – I tend to lean towards it generally NOT being healthy. As you also pointed out – I think it is far too often full of too much threats, fear, guilt… and, leads to too much judegmental finger pointing.

    However, I know it DOES help many many people. Soo… I guess, I would say that like most things…. it’s healthy… if taken in moderation. But, like most things… if you get too deep into it? watch out. And, unfortunately, I think religion – if you really believe – tends to sort of force one into getting in “too deep”.

    That’s my very simple deduction and opinion…. for what it’s worth.
    ~smj

  • 30. artisticmisfit  |  January 19, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Yes, but how can you presume to know when people are acting on their religious beliefs or not?

  • 31. artisticmisfit  |  January 19, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    It seems that you all think yourselves superior to Christians.

  • 32. Quester  |  January 19, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    It seems that you all think yourselves superior to Christians.

    You assume I’m not Christian. While I am currently challenged in my faith and investigating alternatives, I have not actually left Christianity, yet.

    I do not have to be superior to Christians, or even outside of the faith, to recognize that some religious beliefs are unhealthy. I just have to visit one teenage boy in the hospital who tried to rip out his eye because he couldn’t stop his lust-filled thoughts about his female classmates and was trying the advice Jesus taught to keep him from going to Hell. Am I superior to that teenager? Not at all. Even while I can find ways to argue, within Christianity, that he is wrong, I still fear he has a better grip on the Truth than I do, and that I and all I teach are going to Hell. I have believed most of my life that I deserve Hell, and most relate to Paul when he calls himself the chief of all sinners. I don’t think this is healthy, but I fear it is truthful.

    These are examples of what I experience, not a proofs I am right; but should I be at peace because he keeps his beliefs to himself, for the most part?

  • 33. samanthamj  |  January 19, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    Does not believing what someone else believes mean that you think you are superior to them? I don’t think so. However, maybe sometimes it does. I’ve had plenty of self-rightous Christians acting very much like they think they are “better” than me or any non-believer. It works both ways.

    Just as Christians say they can “love the sinner, not the sin”… can’t others “love the believer, but not the belief”…??

    ~smj

  • 34. artisticmisfit  |  January 19, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Quester, forgive me for making a blanket statement. Apparently I have the flu, I have been sick all week, and am going to have to miss Vigil tonight, and it is cutting down on my ability to think logically. I apologize.

  • 35. Quester  |  January 19, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    I accept your apology, Misfit. I’ve written posts when I was not at my top form, as well.

    Just as Christians say they can “love the sinner, not the sin”… can’t others “love the believer, but not the belief”…??

    That’s- a really interesting take, Smj. I’m going to have to think about it more, but it seems to make a lot of sense.

  • 36. avid_mass  |  January 20, 2008 at 9:31 am

    I think that too often the case is one is indoctrinated to a particular flavor of religion from early childhood. This is child abuse, whether they believe in the lies they are told, or not. I look down upon parents who indoctrinate their children before they are emotionally developed enough to even make an adult decision like belief in ghosts, faeries, gods, devis etc.. They’re sickos. It’s unhealthy.

  • 37. lostgirlfound  |  January 20, 2008 at 10:01 am

    I loved Paul’s comment about the “process” of de-conversion. I also think that — like life — the journey is the key, and the desitination a second thought (or should be). A lot of it is also “degrees,” you know? I find my rampant anger against organized religion subsiding quiet a bit, but then something happens, and I get frustrated all over again. Although, I do think I’m becoming much more patient with “religious” people. So I’m moving along the scale, I think.

    However, like a victim of abuse, there are still times that the pain rears its ugly head (yes, I know that path, too). Those times, you just curl up in the presense of people you love and trust, and know that that, too, will pass.

    Good post, CTC.

  • 38. artisticmisfit  |  January 20, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Well my child was really upset she could not go to church today due to the flu. I stay in the church for her sake. It would be really traumatic to remove her because I am having problems with hypervigilance. Also she has friends there. And people love me there too. So for me, it would be child abuse to not take her because of my own mental illness.

  • 39. avid_mass  |  January 20, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Brainwash away..

    We also find that victims of kidnapping will often bond with their captors, and show real emotional trauma when they are returned to their parents.

    Any structure like that, including cults, become places where people feel safe and cozy, they have friends, they socialize, etc.. I feel sorry for kids with parents who indoctrinate them at an early age. Disgusted, actually.

  • 40. artisticmisfit  |  January 20, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    You assume much. I don’t indoctrinate her with anything. She has friends there and likes to socialize there.

  • 41. LeoPardus  |  January 20, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    avid_mass:

    What about people who indoctrinate bigotry, narrow-miindedness, and hatred like yours? Do you think it’s sick and unhealthy to brainwash with that?

  • 42. Jim Jordan  |  January 20, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    It seems like the solution to this question was in the post itself. If by religious belief you mean positive, helpful institutions, that should be supported. If you mean negative energy like fundamentalists who are quick to condemn and slow to help if they help at all, oppose that.

    Your shaky conclusion begs the question, what replaces all those Christian and other religious charities? Once you take away the positive aspects of religion, what fills the void? For that matter, why don’t we have far more secular charities stepping in to replace the religious charites – where’s the evolution if it exists? Have we really outgrown religion?

  • 43. avid_mass  |  January 20, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    LeoPardus: How is allowing a child mature on their own into adulthood without making or influencing their “faith” choices indoctrinating bigotry?

    There’s nothing narrow minded about my view of your doctrine. I’ve been a part of it, read both testaments throughout growing up. It’s disgusting. It’s all about fear, but as long as you play along like good little boys and girls you won’t burn forever in eternity. That is such a putrid lie you tell your children. It’s indeed sick.

  • 44. avid_mass  |  January 20, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    the same thing i’m telling everyone is echoed well enough here:

    bright kid, glad he’s doing for himself.

  • 45. artisticmisfit  |  January 20, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    avid_mass, I don’t tell my child that lie. I don’t use the words like play along or burn forever in eternity. That’s Catholic or Evangelical talk. Yuck.

  • 46. LeoPardus  |  January 21, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    avid_mass:

    How is allowing a child mature on their own into adulthood without making or influencing their “faith” choices indoctrinating bigotry?

    That alone wouldn’t be. (Though it’s impossible not to ‘influence’ their choices.) However, you would not be doing that. A child raised with the attitude you’re showing would be indoctrinated with your hatred and bigotry toward faith. In other words you would be essaying to indoctrinate them against religion.

    In your view that would probably be a good thing. But in the view of a parents who believe their faith a wonderful thing, your way would be evil, sick, monsterous, etc.

    There’s nothing narrow minded about my view of your doctrine.
    First, I never came up with any Christian doctrines. Second, I’m not Christian. Third, your view is entirely narrow-minded. You’ve condemned raising children in one’s faith as evil, and you don’t appear to make any allowances that your view of Christianity or raising children in it could be at all wrong. You also don’t appear to find any possible good in raising children in a faith. There’s no way to make that out as “broad minded”.

    Reading your posts, it seems that you were brought up in a particular sector of Christianity that is quite at odds with what I experienced. I’ve seen plenty of the “fear, and threats, and damnation” brand of Christianity and could never quite grasp why people wanted it.

    At any rate there’s much more to Christianity, and to religion in general, than what you experienced. Of course it’s all based on a foundational lie (i.e. that there’s a God), but it’s not all based on fear and threats.

  • 47. fontor  |  January 22, 2008 at 4:05 am

    Not good enough. It has to be true.

  • 48. thinkdeep  |  January 22, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Good essay until you brought in 9/11. To blame religion for evil is to fall into the same trap that the rest of America has fallen into including the Evangelicals.
    Arabs have a culture and a religion that is different. So we blame the religion? Men will kill. And will use what ever excuse is necessary or convenient to gain power or territory. Or to get it back.
    Reasons for War:
    Terror, Union, Freedom, Manifest Destiny, All the world England, God, Democracy, Master Race, Us vs. Them – take your pick

  • 49. GoDamn  |  January 23, 2008 at 4:40 am

    Religon is responsible for a lot of war and destruction. It often provides the best excuse. People say Hitler wasnt a xian and he just used religon, but even if thats true, the germans comitting atrocities were xian, werent they? How could they do that? Religon. Or for that matter, look at the conflicts around the world today. Furthermore, I dont look at religous charities as being charity. They do it because they think they will be rewarded for it. Incidentally, I always wondered how jesus’s death was a sacrifice. Being god, death is meaningless to him. What did god loose, to call it a sacrifice? There has to be a loss for a sacrifice, but jesus is sitting up there with daddy just like old times,right? As for morals, I cant help but wonder, if religon were proved false tomorrow, would people become killers and cannibals etc.? The problem with religon is that it abhors learning and free inquiry, promotes intolerance of outsiders and has a grotesque obsession with sin and the personal (especially sexual) lives of its followers. Religon is the biggest problem we face. It must go.

  • 50. Bunc  |  February 3, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    I like the Buddhas take on the whole thing – basically -think for yourself !

  • 51. Lavonn  |  June 22, 2011 at 7:46 am

    Your article perfectly shows what I needed to know, tahnks!

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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