Belief in God has social utility

From Religions Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Building on a comment by Thomas Nagel:

"It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that."

Apologists argue that belief is justified because of the social utility of the belief:

"Nothing that any of us could say here tonight could convince anybody that they knew that God existed. What we are discussing is a matter of opinion. And a matter of opinion, Mr. President, is a matter of choice. And the real question is why we choose what we choose. [...] Why would you want to live in a purposeless chaos, in which none of your actions had any significance? In which there was no hope of justice? In which the lives of all those you love ended abruptly at death and had no further significance? Why would you want, desire, actively wish to live in a universe as disgusting as that? You would have to have a very good reason. And I think [atheists] have a very good reason and its what they never wish to discuss. They don't want justice. They do want the dead to be dead. They do want the universe to be purposeless. They do not want their individual actions to have any other significance than their immediate effect. You have to discuss why they are so keen on that proposition.[... Atheists] know perfectly well that if everybody didn't believe in God, the comfortable lives they live, in extremely agreeable suburbs, where they can trust people will not cheat them and rob them and mug them and rape them, could come to an end."

Peter Hitchens[1]

This suggests that theistic belief is better because it has better social consequences. This is a variant of the argument from pragmatism.

Counter arguments[edit]

Atheists can quite easily believe in justice, fairness, purpose and morality separately from belief in God. Theism does not have exclusive claim to this principles.

"There is no need for a belief in God. Tens of millions of people on this planet live happy lives, productive lives, moral lives, purposeful lives, lives of hope and meaning without deluding [themselves] that there are these invisible personalities populating some supernatural realm. We are quite happy without that belief."

Dan Barker[2]

It also commits the fallacies of:

It also makes the counter-factual claim that atheists are immoral. Plenty of countries are majority atheist/non-religious without undergoing societal collapse. There is counter evidence in some of the most theistic countries are among the least productive, just, happy places on Earth.

"This analysis joins all the others – the least religious countries are more democratic, more peaceful, have less corruption, more telephones, do better at science, have less inequality and other problems, and are generally just less dysfunctional. [3]"


"Now Peter Hitchens has suggested that it is a matter of choice. I beg to differ. Most of us wish to form our beliefs on the basis of the evidence, for our beliefs to be true. I once struggled enormously with this question, desperately hoping that I would find reasons to believe in God. Sadly in the end I had to give it up, not because I wanted to but because that is where the evidence pointed. [4]"

See also[edit]