Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Question of God is One of Hope Not Belief

I liked this from an article by Paula Kirby in the last issue (Dec. 2007/Jan. 2008) of Free Inquiry magazine. I've observed that most theists are really practical atheists. Their belief is nominal, not serious, and for the most part they live as if there is no God. But they scream like babies if you try and tell the truth and take their candy hope away by presenting reality and debunking religious fantasies.

More and more, I'm beginning to think that, for many people, the question of God is one of hope rather than belief. Without that hope, they would find life an intolerable burden. There's no evidence to support that hope? So what? That's not the issue. They believe in God for the same reason they buy a lottery ticket. Do they really, deep down, believe they're going to win the jackpot this weekend? No, of course they don't. Nevertheless, just knowing that they might is often enough to keep them going through a week that may otherwise be very grim. Are they remotely put off by statisticians pointing out that their chances of winning are so infinitesimal as to be virtually zero? No, of course not. That lottery ticket in their pocket gives them a glimmer of hope, something to daydream about, something that offers escape from whatever it is in their lives that grinds them down.

We see the same process at work in religion. Observing the endless stream of attacks on The God Delusion, it is clear that the response isn't a calm exposition of why the claims of religion might be true. Instead it boils down to how much harder life would be without belief to cling to. The truth (or otherwise) of the religious belief is almost irrelevant.

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