"Death gives meaning to life” is an age-old adage, but in our view death does exactly the opposite. It is a great robber of relationships, knowledg,e wisdom and skill, all the things that make life worth living.
But he’s wrong. Death is what allows evolution to occur, and therefore what undergirds all progress. Think about the idea of “technology natives” versus “technology immigrants.” Kids who grew up with cellphones and computers are much more fluent in their use than those who had to learn after their brains got hard and brittle. Every generation refreshes the world, to put a marketing slogan to better use.]]>
Religion promotes health and happiness.
Religious People Are Generally Healthier
National Institute of Health (various studies support link between religion and health and happiness)
Churchgoers Live Longer
Religious People Live Longer than Nonbelievers
Is God an Anti-Depressant? Studies Show That Religious People Are Happier
Church-going Kids Have Better GPAs
Transcendent Meditation Has Positive Effect on Blood Pressure
Religion Promotes Happiness
More Young People Who Think Spirituality is Important are Happy
More Frequent Daily Spiritual Experience Correlates With Less Psychopathology, More Close Friendships, and Better Self-rated Health
Benefits can be achieved without theism.
Study: Optimists Live Longer
When We Do Good, We Feel Good
Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy As Good As Meditation
Music is a Viable Treatment for Depression, Insomnia, and Alzheimer’s Disease
Thought Patterns Can Lead to Mood Improvement
Social Ties Lead to Longer Lives
Uniquely theistic practices are not beneficial.
Prayer Does Not Help Heart Bypass Patients
Religious Belief Does Not Correlate With Positive Mental Health Outcomes But Religious Practice Does
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Drumbeats called the faithful to a Sunday Mass praising God amid a scene resembling the Apocalypse - a collapsed cathedral in a city cloaked with the smell of death, where aid is slow to reach survivors and rescue crews battle to pry an ever-smaller number of the living from the ruins.
Sunlight streamed through what little was left of blown-out stained windows as the Rev. Eric Toussaint preached to a small crowd of survivors. A rotting body lay in its main entrance.
"Why give thanks to God? Because we are here," Toussaint said. "We say 'Thank you God.' What happened is the will of God. We are in the hands of God now."
In a huge disaster in an area densely packed with people, it is extremely likely that some people will be in the areas that happen to remain structurally sound. They aren't blessed, they aren't lucky: someone had to be there, and it happened to be them. The lucky ones who happen to be under a support that survives the tumble will be amazed at their incredible good fortune.
But when you are the one who experiences this “luck” it is overwhelmingly difficult separate one's subjective experience of the world from this objective analysis. When a terribly tragedy befalls us, our instinct is to call foul believe an injustice has occurred. Similarly, when we are fortunate beyond our wildest dreams, we must be “blessed.” My grandfather survived the holocaust by the barest of threads, and never understood that God need not have favored him in order for him to have experienced good fortune. Many died and many survived -- some just barely. His story happened to be one of the latter.
200,000 people may have died in Haiti. But the capital, Port-au-Prince, where population was most dense in the earthquake's affected area, had a population over 700,000. That means, yes, you were lucky if were among the survivors. But you would be in the company of at least half a million other people.
If God had control over the entire situation, why would he callously exterminate the equivalent of a small city full of his children? What father, however angry, could stomach such tragedy in his own family, let alone cause it?
People who belong to a religious faith often attend a worship service where they meet like minded individuals and have the opportunity to make friends. They often feel as though they belong to a community that they can trust, and therefore they have a high level of social capital (the potential energy of social relationships). That is, they have people they can count on for advice on health, employment, relationships, and life events.
These feelings of community are partially generated by participants’ perceptions of shared beliefs and norms. Members of a congregation know that they share moral values and have a sense of right and wrong. Membership and belonging is often perpetuated by the religious leader, and reinforced through actions of the congregation.
However where there is inclusion and relationship building there is also a risk of exclusion and naming those who are different as the “other.” To a religious person, the “other” is someone who does not share their morals. The “other” is someone who they cannot trust. What do these perceptions of the unworthy “other” reveal about the social relationship benefits that religion brings to its participants? Must there always be a boundary between those who are included in a community and excluded? Is it possible to maximize the benefits of social relationships without generating exclusive boundaries?
When results are tabulated by political ideology, liberals are more likely to say they would vote for an atheist (67% say they would) compared to moderates (48%) and conservatives (29%).
Tabulating by educational level reveals that 52% of those who have attended some college would be willing to vote for an atheist, whereas only 32% who have not attended college would be willing to do so.
Would you vote for an atheist for president? Why or why not?]]>
Disclaimer: the following scenario contains generalizations. You’ll probably be able to easily recognize them. I don’t mean to suggest that there are not exceptions, they are made merely to show a point.
Say some random person asks you about your religious beliefs and you tell them that you are a Christian, chances are you will not get any dirty looks as a result of your response. People are not surprised by that answer, and most will react with dismissive approval. Saying you are Christian indicates that you are “normal”. However, if you answer that you are an atheist, there is a good chance that you will be met with something other than total approval. People will be surprised that you are willing to admit it in the first place, and then whether or not they then proceed to openly confront you about it, many will think you are a bit abnormal.
According to dictionary.com, an atheist is, “a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings”. That sounds a lot like the direct opposite of “a person who believes the existence of a supreme being”. There’s nothing else suggested by the definition of the word - certainly not that an atheist is abnormal, amoral, untrustworthy, unpatriotic, un-American, or malcontented. Why then are such negative connotations attached to the word? Probably because the opposite of an atheist, a person who does believe in the existence of a supreme being, will generally be thought to be normal, moral, trustworthy, patriotic, and content unless you specifically know otherwise. This is of course patently unfair in both cases – theists (can we start calling them that?) are not always wonderful people and neither are atheists usually bad people. The perceptions of the words being what they are though, I suspect there have got to be plenty of closet atheists out there who are just not comfortable with professing as much. Even the word agnostic leaves social wiggle room – you haven’t gone to the dark side, you are just not sure. I have been an atheist for a long time now, but it was only recently that I became comfortable to call myself that – I was claiming agnosticism to avoid social awkwardness.]]>
"You shall not pollute the land in which you live.... You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell; for I the LORD dwell among the Israelites." (Numbers 35:33-34)
But there are also religionists who have personally told me things like “We don’t need to worry about pollution because the rapture is coming.” These people may or may not be in the minority, but the fact is that some sects and adherents believe that caretakership of the Earth is essential to being a good Christian (or Muslim or Jew, etc.) Some believe that it really doesn’t matter because God will provide in the end.
So deistic religion is not our scapegoat. It’s a just a lame duck – it’s ineffectual at motivating followers because there is another alternative, namely salvation by faith, and/or God’s magical cleanup power. The religious need not worry too much because no matter how much we pollute here on Terra Firma, heaven will always be clean. If you believe you can get into the Big Club in the Sky without cleaning up Earth-side, why bother?