[UPDATE: 12 noon 22/10/2019: Wow, what a coincidence! Richard Dawkins was on the Joe Rogan podcast a few hours ago!]
No, I’m not trying to evangelise or convert anyone to religion. But in this post, I’d like to describe a really simple, practical reason for believing in God.
Believing in God (or a Higher Power) makes it easier to deal with life. And dealing with life is often not easy, so we should take whatever help we can get!Bollinger, R. (2019)
When I was a teenager, I was an Evangelical Christian for a few years. There were several benefits which I experienced first-hand.
I loved the sense of community and one-ness, especially when we sang together. It’s also a lovely feeling to know that your Creator loves you and cares for you, no matter what.
But, as I grew older, I became troubled by the apparent conflicts between science and religion. There seemed to be little or no scientific evidence that God exists.
At the time, I felt that science was the ultimate arbiter of truth… if science said a certain belief was probably wrong, then it made sense to go where the science led.
So, for most of my adult life, I described myself as an atheist. But I still wished that I believed in God. Christians often seemed to have a warm glow, a sense of peace and happiness, that eluded non-believers.
According to several studies, religious people are happier, have fewer health problems and tend to live longer than the non-religious. These are not trivial benefits!
Since my Spiritual Awakening in mid-August, I’ve questioned many aspects of reality and re-assessed my belief systems.
I remember chatting with my good friend Tim Brownson about an idea I was toying with. I asked him, “Is it worth believing in something, even if objectively we suspect it might not be true?”
Tim replied that he felt in his gut that it probably was worth this self-delusion, even though this flew in the face of so much of his scientific learning.
My gut feeling agreed with Tim’s. So I decided to start testing this idea out…
What would my life look like if I started choosing to believe in ideas purely because the act of believing in them seems to confer certain benefits, even if modern science casts doubt on their ultimate truthfulness?
When you start thinking of beliefs in terms of their usefulness, they make a lot more sense…
- I believe in God, because it helps me to feel loved and cared for.
- When bad things happen, I tell myself it’s all part of God’s plan, because it helps to reduce the despair and suffering I’d otherwise experience.
- I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, because it means that I am worth saving. No matter how pathetic and low I might feel, God will always love me enough to sacrifice His only Son for me. When I value myself, I become more productive.
Atheists such as Richard Dawkins have scoffed at these beliefs, calling them little more than infantile “comfort blankets”.
But let’s get real for a second…
Life can be fucking hard.
Just look at the global suicide statistics (source: WHO)
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally.
- Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds.
- There are indications that for each adult who died by suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide.
And this sobering stat about depression:
- Depression affects 20-25% of Americans ages 18+ in a given year. (source: CDC)
It’s clear to me that many of us need as much help as possible getting through life.
“Life is suffering, tainted by malevolence.”Dr. Jordan Peterson
Humans need hope in order to survive. We need to find meaning in our lives. We need a reason to get out of bed in the morning. We need to feel wanted and loved.
For many people, religious and spiritual beliefs give them the strength to carry on living. Their “comfort blanket” literally keeps them alive.
As someone with lifelong depression who has been close to suicide several times in his life, I’d tell Richard Dawkins to fuck off with his “comfort blanket” comment.
Even if you’ve never had depression or been suicidal, your religious or spiritual beliefs can reduce the amount of suffering you might experience. Why would you not want a reduction in anxiety, depression, stress or fear?
Look at the opioid crisis in the US. Which do we think is better: getting people addicted to powerful drugs so they can (temporarily) cope with life, or allowing people to have relatively harmless beliefs which enable them to live meaningful and productive lives?
Look, I’m not saying that there aren’t problems with religion. It’s blindingly obvious that there are problems caused by religion.
But let’s not throw the baby away with the bathwater.
What if we can pick and choose the elements of religion and spirituality which we find personally beneficial, and ignore the rest?
My argument is that we can do this, and we should.
When you’re hopeless and lying in the gutter, you don’t slap away a helping hand. You’ll take all the help you can to get back on your feet.
“Do I believe in God? Well, I act as though He exists.”Dr. Jordan Peterson