This is a comment i left on someone’s blog replying to various aspects of it which I thought worth copying and pasting into a blog. I am reading the believing brain by micheal shermer and thinking a lot about how the mind works which probably influenced this a bit, but I have also thought about what makes myself and others tick for years, so not that much. Anyway, here goes:
A few things occur to me – one is that jesus did not suffer more than anyone ever suffered – crucifixion was an extremely common way to kill people in that time and place, so much so that jesus died next to more than one person who was being executed the same day in the same town, at least according to scripture. To puff it up as this rare singular thing is just theatricality.
As for dying for humanity I have never in my life found any sense in this and have asked countless christians how this could possibly make sense and have never gotten an answer beyond being ignored or condescended to. A father who can’t forgive me for something that happened before I was born that he set into motion and could’ve prevented unless someone else (again before I was born and which I had no hand in) brutally murdered his son. That contradicts ever notion of morality I have ever accepted in my life. Both vicarious guilt and vicarious redemption are evil in my opinion, and any father that would be more inclined to forgive someone after they brutally murdered his son than before would be considered by you, me and most people as being totally insane. Yes if someone died for me it would be profound (even if it didn’t make sense), but the plot of any science fiction story would be profound if it were true, as would the claims of any religion. The problem for me is that nobody has established to begin with that the claims are true.
The idea that x religion or x god or x philosophy can not only make you happy but is the one and only thing that can fulfill you and make you happy is very common across many religions, political beliefs and cults. Scientologists are desperate to ascend the ranks because they’re convinced that it’s not talking out painful memories that is therapeutic, but that getting “audited” and having evil alien souls removed from you is the only way to make you feel better. There is in this exclusive attitude toward happiness an air of desperation. I have experienced my share of pain and sadness in life and nearly ever day I discover new things about myself and about what it means to be a person and a man and what makes me happy or sad or depressed. So I can understand the appeal of thinking that there is one singular thing that can make everything better – and even the placebo effect this belief might have in actually raising one’s spirits. But the people I’ve met who believe this way to me do not seem particularly happy, or any less prone to feeling sad or unloved or unhappy than any atheist I have ever met (which is to say that we all feel unhappy, not that atheists do moreso than anyone else which I do not believe is the case). I am by no means an expert in human happiness or the mind, nor do I make any claims about the soul if such a thing exists, but to me the idea of a “god-shaped hole” in one’s heart that only god can fill is like saying there’s a pizza shaped hole in your stomach that only pizza can fill. Someone who was once hungry, his mouth full of delicious pizza, might easily become convinced of this fallacy. But as far as I know the human mind is more complicated than that, and while we may be able to count the basic emotions we can feel on one hand the things that can evoke them are innumerable. The idea that only one thing can make you happy or content is as absurd as the idea that only one thing can make you afraid. We’re just not built that way. And this kind of “our religion has a monopoly on meaning, morality, truth, happiness, etc” sort of thinking to me is a shackle that enslaves people rather than a truth that enlightens them.
As for communication with god, as I have said we are complicated beings full of conscious and unconscious thoughts and impulses and instincts and motivators and behaviors and someone who is told a god is communicating with them can easily look inside themselves and find something to label “god” and confirm the claim. God sent me my dream last night, when I read the bible and ideas pour into my head that’s god sending them. When I see someone hurting and want to help them that’s god nudging me toward the right path. Whereas someone in the KKK who feels something very different and comes up with different conclusions when they read the scripture believes they are being similarly guided. And an atheist when they read a secular text and are moved by it or feel compelled to do something sees it as their own inner workings, the various aspects of their own psychology. I am sympathetic to the latter view if for no other reason that these inner workings can be shown to exist in other species and can be shown to lead people in many different directions under different circumstances. Is god talking to you but the head of the klu klux clan is mistaken or lying when he says something simliar? What about a christian from your own church who prays about the meaning of a passage and feels god is giving them a different interpretation? Some people are lying when they claim to be in communication with god, con men exist and we all know this. But most people are not lying, they genuinely believe. And most of them hold to a different theology to everyone else based on that belief. So are we communicating with god, or talking to ourselves? I have for a few years now wanted to perform an experiment – take a thousand catholics and a thousand protestants of one sect or another, and ask them all to go home and earnestly pray and ask god if their sect is the true sect, if the other sect is, or if neither sect is. Then have them come back the next day and anonymously write the answer they feel god guided them toward on a piece of paper. If say catholicism was the true religion would they all spontaneously become catholic? And if god is communicating with people why hasn’t something like that happened already? Wouldn’t everyone just be catholic or not be catholic. Are all catholics or all non-catholics lying when they say they feel god’s influence?
I just don’t buy it. This is an internal, subjective reality that does not map out into the objective world.
I could probably continue but I may have already overstayed my welcome. Please know that it is not my intention to offend you or even to steer you toward one belief or another, but I act rather out of a general view that we should question our beliefs, whatever they are, and seek truth, whatever it may be.