Is theistic religion a consolation?
Some writers have argued that religion originated as an invented consolation from the difficulties and uncertainties of life.
"[religious beliefs] must exorcise the terrors of nature, they must reconcile men to the cruelty of Fate, particularly as it is shown in death, and they must compensate them for the sufferings and privations which a civilized life in common has imposed on them"
"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."
- "As the philosopher Susanne K. Langer has put it, man "cannot deal with Chaos"; supernatural beliefs solve the problem of this chaos by providing meaning."
"With the unknown, one is confronted with danger, discomfort, and care; the first instinct is to abolish these painful states. First principle: any explanation is better than none. Because it is fundamentally just our desire to be rid of an unpleasant uncertainty, we are not very particular about how we get rid of it"
One argument for the existence of God is the thought of a meaningless universe as unacceptable.
"it only raises the question of why a mind would evolve to find comfort in beliefs it can plainly see are false. A freezing person finds no comfort in believing he is warm; a person face-to-face with a lion is not put at ease by the conviction that it is a rabbit"
- — Steven Pinker
Negative effect on others
- Main Article: Religion is harmful to society
It has often had a negative throughout history with many deaths and much sadness caused. Whilst people may find comfort in their beliefs, it should be noted that this comfort is from delusion. They are believing in superstition and the supernatural for purely emotional reasons, without the backing of empirical evidence.
It may be argued from a utilitarian standpoint that as long as there is a benefit on some level, then the belief is justified. To keep true to this utilitarian assessment though, the negatives of a belief should be assessed as well. It can easily be argued that any acceptance of concepts which contradict empirical information weaken those holding the belief. Consider that "ignorance is bliss", for example the ignorance of the soon-to-be victim of a serial killer, might better be described as "ignorance is vulnerability". Certainly the victim's belief in god would not have been more valuable then the knowledge of who was sneaking up behind them.
When considering a religions benefit (theistic or otherwise), one should also consider its effect on others, and has been. For example; Christianity has obvious consolatory benefits for someone, but the negatives have included oppression, depression, racism, misogyny and homophobia.
- Why can't everyone just have their own beliefs?
- Religious belief is beneficial to society
- Religious belief has psychological benefits
- Religion is the social bond in society
- Religious belief is an evolutionary accident
- John Shook, Religion is Not Really About Hope, March 3, 2011