If you don’t believe in God, it’s hard to understand the logic of those who do believe. Here’s a good example. Thanks to Stephanie for sending the link.
A respectable, well-loved Anglican priest was murdered by a stranger. Family and friends of the victim repeated this weary mantra: “God’s plans are perfect. Even this one.”
Stephanie raised the question many of us ask: “How can average everyday folks believe in that way?”
It doesn’t make sense to claim that God is good, yet his “plans” include premeditated murder, pain and suffering. Good guys don’t make bad things happen. They don’t orchestrate some of the most heinous acts known to man. They don’t decide which men will suffer and kill themselves and which nations will war, dragging innocent men, women and children into their mortal combat. If God plans evil acts, whether passively or actively, then there is no moral source of good upon which religion rests.
Houston, we have a problem. (This is nothing new to us, right?)
So why does religion persist?
For one, it’s a mutually-symbiotic cultural meme that has survived by wrapping itself around the individual’s ego. The ego is fragile: It wants to live forever. It’s easily frightened. It fears the loss of itself. Religion is an institution that pacifies believers, reassuring them that life will continue in some other space and time. When a theist fears for her own death, when she cannot sleep, prayer, like meditation, is a lullaby that will soothe her into sleep with the hope that God will fix all problems, that heaven awaits. In a sense, believers have not attained the emotional independence of adulthood. God acts as a father figure upon which theists lay their problems to be solved.
Religion is also a coping mechanism. Grief, such as the murder of a loved one, is so emotionally devastating that projecting one’s pain onto God helps the sufferer avoid dealing with the intensity of the sorrow. There is pain not only for the loss of loved ones, but also for the part of ourselves that dies with the person who likewise loved us. Through belief in God, there is loss, but it’s only temporary. Family and friends and even pets will be reunited in heaven. (Of course, who would want to spend an eternity with Uncle Joe and your friend who won’t shut the hell up?)
Those of us who don’t believe can certainly understand the need for relief from tragedies and the fear of our mortality. Yet still, we wonder how seemingly intelligent people believe in these illogical concepts?
A few centuries ago, science attempted to prove the existence of God. But as humans began unraveling some of life’s mysteries, God could not be found. Religion, too, has been evolving; it mutates and changes, growing less mystical as science has pushed God and the heavens further out into the universe.
Science deals with facts; religion deals with feelings. There are those of us who refuse to let our feelings get in the way of understanding the world and our insignificant place in it, and those whose egos will not allow them to embrace their common sense. On some level, they must surely know that God falls into the same realm as Thor, Santa Claus and leprechauns. They refuse to be intellectually and emotionally honest about the reasons why they remain committed: God brings hope, comfort and relief.
IMO, it’s more honest to admit that belief doesn’t make sense, that it’s like love: it makes theists feel good, but it’s not logical. And oftentimes, the relationship is like an abusive marriage: when bad things happen, believers make excuses for God; they stick around just hoping life will get better because they’re too afraid to leave.
People believe not because it makes sense, but in spite of it.
That’s what I see from where I’m standing. What about you?