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paperbird

United States

Message to Readers

Ahh I'm kind of nervous publishing this but I hope we can all be respectful and stuff <3

A Bunch of Philosophical Questions About the Concept of Religion

November 17, 2018

FREE WRITING

8
(mostly written from an atheist viewpoint; read footnotes for further explanation)

I. Science is weird.  The Big Bang theory makes little sense--how the universe is shrinking and growing and how we're only one tiny part of it.  Is religion meant to explain that?  Once we disproved bits of religion with science, did that defeat the point?  Is that why there are so many atheists/agnostics now?

II. Is religion a phase of existence that life undergoes?  Is it a phase of intelligence or oblivion, that we see the world intuitively and think of what could be there instead of what's there?

III. I think that religion is a form of expressing one's desires and beliefs, what they fear and what they wish to be; all expressed in the supernatural form, because none of these concepts can truly be recognized.  Would a religious person agree?

IV. People often attend religious services to make excuses to feel good about themselves, regardless of what they do in everyday life (I'm not just saying that; lots of religious people agree with me).  Where is the distinction of using religion to do good and using religion to feel good?  Is it ethical to use religion to feel good about yourself?

V. Many religions (I should mention I"m not really an expert on this stuff) describe scenes of afterlife.  Using Christianity as an example, is it fair to sort people into groups of Good and Bad, Heaven and Hell?

VI. Let's pretend that the entire universe was answered for us and it turned out that there wasn't a God.  Why did we want to believe in one?

VII. Let's pretend that the entire universe was answered for us and it turned out that there was indeed a God.  Why did some of us not want to believe in one?

VIII. If God was real and ordered one of His followers to kill a random person on the street just because (I know God wouldn't do that, but let's pretend), would it be reasonable for the person to do it or not do it?

IX. If there is a God, why do we feel the need to worship Him?  Why do we worship the God element of the universe instead of the sky element or the ground element, for example?  Additionally, on the subject of Christianity, (and I didn't exactly read the Bible, so I don't know if I'm completely right or not), people love Jesus because he sacrificed himself for everyone.  However, there are countless historical examples of people sacrificing themselves for the good of humanity.  Why do we worship Jesus and not them?

X. I think that as long as we have all found true contentment and happiness, it doesn't matter whether we believe in a God or not.  Would a religious person agree?
OKAY, I want to say before everyone starts arguing that I have the utmost respect for all religions and that I meant absolutely no offense.  If anybody feels offended by any of this, please tell me in the comments, and I will immediately unpublish this piece.  I was kind of taking a risk in writing in it and almost didn't publish, but I realized that my confidence in atheism has as much right to be heard as beliefs in various religions here on this site.
That being said, I would love to engage in conversation with you.  This piece is mostly comprised of questions, and we all have our own points of view.  Tell me your thoughts in the comments!  If we could all have an adult and respectful conversation, I'd love that.
Remember that we can love one another just the same regardless of religious viewpoints.
I also realize that if you read all of this and imagine me saying all of this with a really snarky, rude voice, it sounds a lot worse.  I wrote this with an intended tone of, like, thoughtfulness and impartialness.  So that was what was intended.
Oh, btw, I mostly used Christianity as an example because that's the religion I'm most familiar with.  I guess it could apply to all religions though.

I also apologize if I bored anyone with unanswerable philosophy.  Idk I just like thinking about questions like these.

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32 Comments
  • Christy Wisdom

    Yeah, it makes more sense when the emphasis is on that He wouldn't order you to kill a RANDOM person.


    7 months ago
  • nevaredhp

    @Paperbird, thank you for replying! I see what you mean about being fulfilled. I guess it's just a different perspective than what I've been able to experience for myself. Happy Black Friday <3

    As for VIII, I think that IF God's Word was unjust, then it would not be reasonable to follow it.

    And to answer Christy Wisdom, when I read the question, my mind went to the types of killings one would see on a crime show and not what I've read in the Bible. However, I can't think of a time that God told His people to kill others outside of the purpose of war or keeping His nation holy. Killing in war is different because you're at war to defend threats to your nation. As for keeping His nation holy, after Jesus' death on the cross, the sanctification that He provided was what made them holy, not the Law, so killing people to keep the Law would be unnecessary. So I was wrong about God NEVER killing anyone, but from what I understand, He would never ask someone to kill at random, if that makes sense. At least, that's my opinion based off what I've read. I'd love to hear other perspectives on this though!


    7 months ago
  • Christy Wisdom

    nevaredhp, you said that God wouldn't kill anyone, right? I'm curious as to what you think about the times in the Old Testament when God told His people to kill others.


    7 months ago
  • Christy Wisdom

    nevaredhp, you said that God wouldn't kill anyone, right? I'm curious as to what you think about the times in the Old Testament when God told His people to kill others.


    7 months ago
  • paperbird

    @nevaredhp Thank you for answering my questions!

    VIII. Good point. I guess the question was really asking, would it be reasonable to abide by God's word, even if it was unjust?
    X. Almost everyone here in the comments has told me that to live a completely fulfilled life, I need to be Christian or believe in some kind of God. The truth is that I'm happy the way I am. I've actually tried following God before and I don't think it's the right path for me. I feel like I can't trust that God is real the same way I can trust science and things like that. I think that I can remain a fulfilled person by believing in the things that God preaches--love and kindness--but not believing in the actual God.

    Anyway, thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving!


    7 months ago
  • nevaredhp

    Hi Paperbird! Your thoughts are very interesting, and even though I don't have all the answers, I'd like to offer my perspective on a few of these and have conversation about it.

    VI & VII - For me personally, if I found out that God didn't exist, I would feel totally lost. I've been raised charismatic Christian, I'm currently reformed Christian, and involving God as a necessary part of life has been all I've ever known. That being said, I don't just believe in God because He's been my life. I believe because there are many things I can't explain without Him. Some of those are big things, like peace when it seems like things are falling apart. Others are little things, like how the perfect song to comfort me in my pain will start playing on the radio without me even knowing I need to hear it. I think that some of us don't want to believe in God because we're scared of realizing we're not in control of our own lives. Praying and surrendering to a Lord we can't "see" is terrifying at times. But what's ironic is that when we think we're in control of our own destinies, it puts so much pressure and anxiety on us to make something of ourselves.

    VIII - It's not that God wouldn't order you to kill someone, it's that He can't order you to kill someone. He said in His Word that murder is sin. God sent Jesus to die so that your sins would be washed away. For Him to tell you to sin is contradictory to who He is fundamentally. God cannot be divided against Himself. If someone thinks that God is telling them to kill someone, it is not reasonable for them to do so, because they are completely misunderstanding what God says about the value of life.

    IX - We feel the need to worship God because we were created to worship something. If it's not God, then it's ourselves, or our boyfriend, or money, etc. You can worship anything you please. Christians worship God because we believe He created us and redeemed us, and we want to live our lives in gratitude for that. Speaking of redemption, we worship Jesus' sacrifice because He sacrificed Himself for us. We are sinners. We commit more sins than we can count every day. If it weren't for Jesus, we'd be separated from God forever. I don't think anyone else's sacrifice holds as much weight as the sins of the entire world.

    X - I disagree, because without God, you can't have true contentment. There will always be something within you that longs for God's mercy and love whether you recognize it or not. As for happiness, it doesn't matter whether you believe in God because you will never be happy 100% of the time.

    If you're looking to read some of the Bible, Matthew is a good book for learning about Jesus' life, and Ephesians is really good at explaining all that Jesus did on the cross. I wrestle with my beliefs a lot, but I hope that you and I can hold a discussion about all this, because I think it could be beneficial for both of us <3


    7 months ago
  • paperbird

    @Made4Love Thank you so much! I will read once you publish.


    7 months ago
  • Made4Love

    Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I'm glad you published your questions, and I'd also like to explain what I know. Right now, I'm working on a piece that will address your questions in this piece, as well as the resulting comments and other pieces published in response. But it might take a little time because I want to be as thorough as possible. When I finish, I will give you the link to the piece.
    Again, I want to thank you for putting this out there and starting this valuable discussion in a mature way.
    I hope you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving!


    7 months ago
  • Christy Wisdom

    I think that religion and science don't have to be opposing. I mean, yes, there are some popular views that may not hold up with Christianity. The nebula theory (you can look it up) and the Big Bang theory, while by themselves I would not say that that is how the world was created, could be related to Creation. I think that while God did create the universe (creationism), I think that the creation process could've maybe looked like the Big Bang. Let there be light, and then an explosion of light, maybe (Like the Big Bang). None of us really know what it looked like when that happened, but the nebula theory too could be how it looked when God created the planets or something. I think that science could be a way of us exploring God's creation.


    7 months ago
  • Anha

    @Paperbird
    Heck if I know


    7 months ago
  • paperbird

    @Anha Thanks for answering my questions! I liked your answers, particularly VI--you see, the idea that we need reassurance was what caused me to disbelieve in God's existence. I also agree with X: we need happiness in our lives. I was wondering about I, though. God lit the fuse, but what role did He play in the rest of the universe, and how does that tie into actual science?


    7 months ago
  • Christy Wisdom

    @Anha, the reason why I said that I would kill someone if God (and only if I knew it was God, because you know, demons could try to tell me to do that too) told me to is because He literally cannot sin. He's asked others to kill people before (In the Bible, you can find examples in the Old Testament around Moses' time and past). But thank you for clarifying that you are not criticizing.
    Paperbird, if you don't mind, I'll try to answer your question a.


    7 months ago
  • Anha

    this is way overdue but here we go
    i. rather than explaining how life is here, i think religion for some people explains why. i, as a raised christian, have a simpler theory – god lit the fuse.

    ii. idk, but that’s a cool ass theory.

    iii. as religion is a pre-existing concept, i think that people can apply their hopes and dreams to it, and warp it to fit their desires and what they think their deity is capable of. e.g. how christy wisdom thinks that her god is a deity that would order her to kill someone, and she would do it (not criticising, just noting)

    iv. religion to do good is taking opportunities to help others with good intentions and selflessness, through things that are brought up in church or religious communities, like missions to spread peace or provide aid. using religion to feel good is thinking that other people will help them in their place, and just giving a gold coin donation at church and believing that’s all it takes to stop the starvation in africa. unfortunately, it is ethical to use religion to feel good, which is how so many rich bishops are corrupt. there’s probably a better example but i’m tired and don’t know.

    v. nope, and i’m going to rely on @kahasai’s answers here because they’re so much more detailed than i want to go into here. even though i was brought up christian, i like to believe in rebirth, an interest that i might have gotten from my buddhist grandparents, but i can’t say i believe in it. definitively, heaven and hell need a grey area, and i’m not going to judge as harshly as the good place makes it look.

    vi. this one’s easy, but i can’t find the words to explain. it’s reassurance that we matter to someone. that someone more powerful than us needs us for something, i guess.

    vii. in every family, there’s always going to be a stage of rebellion when we have it too good. atheists and agnostics are becoming more common because in their worlds, there’s no need to look to a higher power any more. the church doesn’t have nearly as much power in europe as it used to have, and in the workplace, being religious is kind of discouraged. believing took time that we didn’t want to give up.

    viii. i think the religions of old, where the gods are jealous and spiteful and all-powerful, have kind of died out by this stage. most modern religions believe in a loving, forgiving god, so it would stand that god wouldn’t do it (like you said), and i’d like to believe that most people have enough of a moral compass to say they wouldn’t kill. but as sam clear said, there are conditions. people are going to make their decisions based on the person, rather than the instruction. going to use christy wisdom as an example again to show that we can’t be certain of the public’s moral compass.

    ix. answered this already

    x. though stripedfly loves to disagree, YOU NEED HAPPINESS. believing in a higher power is an end to a means, a way to enrich your life and give the good things that happen significant meaning. in the end, happiness is still the main goal. as a christian, i’m not going to lie on my deathbed and consider whether i’ve served god to my best ability in my lifespan. i’m going to think about the memories i’ve made, the things i’ve acheieved, the family and friends that i’ve found along the way. if i meet god after that, so be it. but in the end, i care about me. (god I just realised how self-centred that sounds)
    this sounds like i'm bagging a lot of other people out, but i'm just not bothered to go into as much depth when people have already given their opinions and i can bounce off them


    7 months ago
  • paperbird

    @AbigailSauble thank you for answering!! It's interesting--I didn't realize something had to be supernatural to be worshipped.
    I guess I'm still wondering--
    a) I'm aware that the Bible explains the Earth's beginning, but since it was written a lot of scientific stuff came out about how the universe works. Do you believe in that? (Side note: you might like the movie "Inherit the Wind." It's about two Christians arguing about science vs. Bible)
    b) In VI you mention a "one true God." Does that mean that all other religions are wrong? I've always liked to think (when I still kind of believed in God) that the other religions were just different ways of expressing the same thing--respect for the universe, respect for each other.


    7 months ago
  • AbigailSauble

    Ever read the Bible? It explains the earth's beginning. :P
    Christianity, to me, since I'm empty without Jesus' spirit inside me, He fills me up, and gives me meaning. So it's not just a desire and way to express what I believe. Though, I do believe in Christianity. ;)
    Religion isn't meant to make you feel good about yourself. On the contrary, it's supposed to help you improve yourself. Being a Christian means that you're saved by the grace of God. 'Not by works, lest anyone should boast.' (Ephesians 2:9)
    It isn't about being good or bad. Everyone has a chance to accept God's FREE gift of salvation. But does everyone choose it? No. And this makes God sound tyrannical, correct? :) But if everyone could go to heaven in the end, what kind of god would God be? It'd be like a judge letting a criminal go free just because the judge decided to be 'nice'. Does that make sense?
    To answer VI - We all have a void inside us. Christians call it 'a God-sized hole'. Something to worship and "pray to" (if you will) is the only thing that can fill it. Unfortunately, what happens is that when people don't want to worship the one true God, then they try to put other things in that position. And it doesn't work out all that well for them. They're trying to worship gods made by hands. Which can't do anything for them or anyone else.
    For Question VII - Because some of us don't want to answer to an omnipotent being. Some people would rather just ignore a supernatural presence altogether.
    Bottom line for your next question is this: God wouldn't ask someone to kill another person. It's not an option. Period. :)
    We worship Jesus (those who are Christians, I mean) because He is God. We don't worship Muhammed (for example) because he was a person. Not God. Some might say that the Nazis in Germany "worshiped" Hitler. How well did that work out for them? :) (True, Hitler was a race annihilator). Either way...there's no human (alive or dead) who can 'sustain' us.

    And no, I'm not offended. ;)


    7 months ago
  • Christy Wisdom

    Thank you for reading, Paperbird! I answered your next questions as best I could.


    7 months ago
  • Kahasai

    @Lee Fudge, that's a good point. As humans, we tend to worship the first person to do something.


    7 months ago
  • Lee Fudge

    I feel like we worship Jesus's sacrifice is because he was among the first to do such a thing.


    7 months ago
  • paperbird

    Thank you, I will read <3


    7 months ago
  • Christy Wisdom

    https://writetheworld.com/groups/1/shared/90821/version/171857 This is the link to my POV. It is from a Christian perspective (not Catholic Christian).


    7 months ago
  • Christy Wisdom

    Okay, I'm going to take a page out of Kahasai's book and just post this in another piece. I'll link it when I'm done.


    7 months ago
  • Quille

    Please check out answersingenisis.org :D
    God is real, relevant, and necessary.
    No offense meant, I respect your right to form your own beliefs, but please check out some of the stuff at the above mentioned site :D


    7 months ago
  • Ruthh

    OOOO first of all this is so calm and nice to read?? It’s so serene and I love how intelligently and thoughtfully you’ve worded it!! I’m just gonna contribute a small musing because I’m an atheist, though I was raised religiously due to CofE schools. I have orthodox Christian friends and we often have conversations about how Christianity may improve life and they try to get us to come to church and all that but I’ve realised I genuinely don’t need a God?? It’s hard to explain but I’m kinda just chill with not believing in anything and even if there was more solid evidence for God, I still wouldn’t adhere to the conventional structure of Christian organisations because I just don’t see the need! Though it is very interesting! I study it at school and we do both Islam and Christianity and it is fascinating (though a lot of the classroom discussion is just debates!!)
    Thanks for the thought provoking post!!


    7 months ago
  • paperbird

    Haha thank you! Thanks for the opinions guys


    7 months ago
  • Kahasai

    And, because I can't seem able to stop talking tonight, I applaud this piece, Paperbird. This is brave and beautifully calm (in my mind). I did read it as if you were saying it slowly, calmly, and thoughtfully.


    7 months ago
  • Kahasai

    @Anha, I love your choice of analogy . :)

    Here's my response to you, Papbird, and stripedfly1001: https://writetheworld.com/groups/1/shared/90765/version/171736

    Also, Anha, they say that because they believe strong, opposing beliefs will erupt into fire and anger (which is, unfortunately, true). I do believe that people should instead learn to organize their thoughts into a logical, calm argument so that a proper discussion may proceed, and may the arguers learn that sometimes acceptance and tolerance is the only way.


    7 months ago
  • Kahasai

    You know what? I'm going to delete my comments and copy them into a new piece.


    7 months ago
  • Christy Wisdom

    I would love to talk about this as well, although 1 it's really late for me so maybe tomorrow, 2 being as young as I am a Christian pastor would be a much better resource for actual information, these are my opinions.


    7 months ago
  • Anha

    short answer for ix tho: people love jesus cos he died AND CAME BACK. it's like in antman (whoa nerd alert) how when scott lang came back from going subatomic, hank pym realised that there was a chance that his wife was still alive. using marvel to explain the message of eternal life, wow i've gone some weird places.
    not even sure if this makes complete sense, but this is what works for me rn, as a lutheran born catholic school attending atheist.


    7 months ago
  • Anha

    that being said, these are fascinating points that i'll take some more time later to look at


    7 months ago
  • Anha

    they say, do not bring up two things in a conversation, religion or politics...


    7 months ago
  • stripedfly

    Hey, I totally respect your views and I understand them, HOWEVER, I respectfully and strongly disagree. You said you would love for someone to engage in conversation with you, and I can't pass up a good argument, so... here goes :) (I'm sorry in advance) Keep in mind these answers are written by an orthodox Roman Catholic and do not represent every viewpoint of every religious person.

    I. Some of science makes sense; some of it doesn't. The Church does not deny or condemn scientific theories and is open to them so long as the individual acknowledges that God created the universe and the first man.

    II. One thing that virtually every civilization to ever exist has in common is worship of a divine being. So no, that is not just a "phase".

    III. Nope. Religion (a well-organized one) is not formed by one's own beliefs of what they "think" the universe is, but what they believe it to be as it was deemed by a supernatural being. I'm not talking about Christianity, but about all religions. Religion is not something you can change to fit your personal beliefs; you either take it or leave it.

    IV. This part I entirely disagree with. Catholics and several other religious peoples attend religious services in order to give the proper homage that it due to God because He in every way deserves it. To go to "make yourself feel better" is wrong and is a poor representation of religious peoples.

    V. Yes, it is. Is it fair to put criminals in jail because they murdered someone? Is it fair that a person who practiced virtue all their life isn't rewarded? Should everyone go to heaven? I think not--Hitler? Stalin? Napoleon? And what about "good people" like Washington and Lincon? Should they get no reward?

    VI. I'm sorry, but I don't understand what you were trying to say here.

    VII. I don't understand this one, either, but about some people not believing in God: Because God gave man free will, as this was just.

    VIII. In the Bible, there have been parts when God justly commanded one of His people to kill another (look at Judith and Holfernes.) HOWEVER, you are right--it is very unlikely for God to command one person to kill another without VERY good reason.

    IX. Okay, you point out two things here, so I'm going to answer (a) and (b)
    (a): Because God created us and without Him we are nothing. Suppose you created a person who hates you, refuses to obey you, and puts in danger the other people whom you have created. Is it not just for this person to obey you because you gave it life, and so you can take it away just as easily?
    (b): People love Jesus because he sacrified himself for them, yes. However, there is a large difference between Jesus' sacrifice and those of any ordinary man (Gandhi, etc) The difference is this: Jesus is the Son of God, the Third Person of the blessed Trinity, and is God Himself, therefore deserving of as much honor and glory as God. He also took on the sins of every person who ever lived and suffered for them though He was blameless. Did the "ordinary people" do this? No, they did not. Don't take me wrong, though--there are "ordinary people" who did a lot for humanity, and we do owe them thanks, but not nearly as much as we owe Jesus.

    X. AHEM but the purpose of life is NOT content and happiness, party because that is impossible to achieve it without the aid of the supernatural. This is also foolish--does that mean that working hard is wrong because it doesn't make me content and happy? Should everyone do everything as I wish it so that I'm content and happy? The answer is no.

    Okay, these are my point and arguments to go against yours. I don't mean to offend you or anyone else. These are solely my opinions and do not represent those of every religious person. Feel free to argue off of them :)


    7 months ago