Religion and fear; also a side question for atheists.

It’s no secret that millions of people will accuse religion of being primarily based upon fear (fear of the unknown/fear of eternal punishment) and thus played against you as a way to convince you to follow along.

Is this actually a valid claim, to ANY extent?

I guess I’m directing this right at Christianity, since it’s the primary religion I’ve been exposed to.

And a side question for atheists (I’m an agnostic, just for the record): How do you deal with theists/anyone who tells you you’re going to suffer eternal punishment if you don’t change your ways?

Given that religions with a clearly defined afterlife (such as Christianity or Buddhism) tend to mop the floor, convert-wise, with religions that don’t (Judaism, Tian-worship, the Greco-Roman religion) in terms of coverts whereas they have a harder time having lasting appeal when the come to (or even from) an area with a tradition meeting those needs (see: Buddhism in India) it would seem that the fear of death does play a role in the initial adoption of those religions. I think that is a perfectly reasonable stance, since death is, at the end of the day, one of the greatest unknowns and humans have a very long track-record of fearing the unknown. The role that the fear of death plays in an individual’s practice, of course, varies from individual-to-individual but the level of comfort that a well-developed afterlife can give is hard to underestimate.

As for people who tell me I am going to hell, well, it really depends on how the message is delivered. If it is done politely, I politely thank them for their concern and move on. If it is done less politely I am inclined to respond in a less polite manner or ignore it entirely – depending on my mood.

Hate the FSM argument, its old pathetic and has been debunked hundreds of times, yet it still seems to rear its ugily head every now and again. Never mind im sure it will die out soon

Though saying that Ive no love for the christian “your going to hell!” stuff (even if it is a bit more belivable) Im just sick of the FSP its gotten far too much credit for such a moronic Idea, pet hate I guess

Yeah, I have to agree here…Russell’s teapot, etc.

If you mean does the argument that something else besides the decay and rot of our bodies happen to us after death have validity, then no, there is no validity to it. At least it has no more validity than that had by any other argument based upon ignorance. It’s a fallacy to say “I don’t know X therefore I know Y” whatever X and whatever Y.

There is no good reason to believe that anything happens to us after we die including that there will even be an “us” after we die.

I tell 'em that if heaven is a place where good people go when they die, then I’ll go to heaven.

OTOH, if heaven is only a place where gullible people who hold silly beliefs go when they die, then I probably won’t make the cut, but wish them good luck on their getting there just the same.

If you had read what I wrote I said that I think the christian Idea that we are all going to hell is moronic. However it is not on par with the FSM For one, the FSM is self acliamedly made up, people of the christian faith actually belive in their God. Another one is God may be essential for the existence of everything, the universe seems very ordered, and the current scientific idea behind the universe is far from complete. Infact with the birth of quantum theory etc, alot of scientists now think that the idea of a thinking system behind the universe is actually more probable. Steven Hawking being one of them. There is actually quite alot of evidence for Gods existance, its just not conclusive. There is however no evidence for a self acliamed made up creature such as the FSM invisible pink unicorn.

Theres alot of good arguments against the existance of God. FSMis not one of them

Though for an argument against the christian God its more viable, as there seems to be little logical reasoning behind the belife, I still find the FSM vulgar but like I said before its just a pet hate. Mabey its becuase its a replicated argument thats often overused in arguments against God. Nevermind I shouldnt realy care should I.

YOu cannot go from afterlife ideas may soothe peoples fears to concluding that this is the basis of the belief. It might be a motivating factor and it might not. That it works well may be a side effect.


FSM isn’t designed to be an argument against god, it is satire and not terribly subtle satire at that. Which is why it is funny. It is also useful in some situations. A lot of over-eager apologists will rest their arguments on the authority of the Bible to people who don’t recognize the Bible as an authority so the whole enterprise falls short. FSM is an apt foil for that sort of apologetic because it throws an absurd authority out there and demonstrates how, if one does not share the same assumptions, the apologetic being presented is essentially worthless.

That is different from this thread, which is merely trying to assess why people become religious as well as asking those without a religious system how they deal with the fear of death when confronted by a theist who supposedly has all the answers. This is especially important given the premise because if one of the major motivations for becoming religious is the fear of death, then it would follow that the theist’s argument presented here would be an effective apologetic.

To me, that touches on what Moreno wrote. I do think that is has shown itself to be a very effective means in getting people to join one’s religion. However, it only works when the individuals in question are already a part of a religion that doesn’t offer a satisfactory answer in that respect (and it is clearly less than 100% effective even then). Modern atheism is different from that situation because by-and-large atheists were involved in a tradition at some point (tradition being the main reason why most people get started in their particular religion) and became disenchanted. That means that they’ve found the premises that would allow for an afterlife wanting so the argument in this case fails to be persuasive. So while I do feel that it is not only intuitively appealing but also supported by historical trends that a well developed afterlife is a major vehicle for the spread of religions, I do not think that this historical trend can be used in the modern context. However, that does not mean that I don’t think that many people are religious at least partly due to their own fear of death/knowledge of their mortality.

All behavior is based on fear.

Heaven and Hell only exist on Earth - as descriptions of the Human Experience - “Heaven on Earth” and “Hell on Earth”
(I think)

Yes, but its not nearly the full picture or even as big a part of the picture as everyone and even I thought about it. Fear is part of an existential anxiety people do fear death which creates some stress and so theres a incentive to deal with the problem, but it is only on top of many many many many other mental factors and some big ones include: Folk biology, Fpsychology and Fphysics on top of that human detecting agency (goals/goal seeking behavior) system is trip-wired as to economical deal with the environment.

Theres not much point debating the insanely-religious, what I try to do is raise awareness that teaching children about hell is nonsense child abuse.

Jews don’t attract converts because they actively discourage it. I don’t know how many people I’ve seen be turned away again and again when they approach a Rabbi about conversion.

Just thought someone might like to know. I know it doesn’t add much but I like learning as much as I can so I figure others must also.

Koifer, have you heard of Spinoza? The same thing went down with him: fifteen steps ahead of the idiots in the church…so they exiled him.

Check him out. You might like him.

I’m already in love. Thanks for the tip. I practically have a cherem set upon myself. People more or less know I’m a heretic, but I’m just not influential or open enough (yet) to be “exiled” about it.

Well, first off most religions are cultural and orthopraxic rather than orthodox. That is important with respect to something like modern Judaism, where converts isn’t actually something the religion wants – it is imposing an entirely alien teleology! That said, Judaism wasn’t always that way, we have clear evidence that Judaism at one point did see itself as something other than a religio-cultural institution. The Khazars as well as Askhenazi (any Jew that isn’t semitic, actually) are evidence of this.

I was also more talking about people being converted within those populations as opposed to seeking converts elsewhere.

Actually that is a perfect example: drugs. Let’s take anti-histamines: they pretty much relax every single person who takes them. On the other hand the primary reason people take them is not to relax. You cannot assume that because something has certain effects - a belief - that is the reason it exists and that is why people use it.

This I can accept. There are clearly a lot of motivations for a having religious beliefs and I agree this is a factor.

I think if the people in this thread were discussing a belief they agreed with they would see that to assume motives from (potential) effects is not a good approach. This kind of argument happens all the time in political debates. In the Civil Rights Movement days southern conservatives saw northern support for southern blacks as motivated by urges to restrict southern white men’s freedom, as coming from guilt, as part of their love of big government rather than concern over the lives of black people in the South. Certainly federal troops did go down into the south at times to enforce regulations. So did the FBI. To some southern whites this was seen as the real reason: fascism and northern control of the south.

Sometimes what are claimed to be side effects are the real motivation. Sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are a factor not shared by everyone and often to varying degrees.

You cannot simply point to an effect and say that is the reason why someone does something.

In this specific case there are a sizable number of believers who, because they have sinned, think they are going to hell, for example. Me personally, I would prefer not exist than suffer torture for all eternity. And yet they go on believing.

Also once you open the door to having the potential effects labeled the cause then you are also open to this analysis. You are not basing your beliefs on your experience, reason, etc. You have them because of this or that effect. Which is what many theists base their arguments on.

For example I know of one athiest whose daughter lived with a very painful, incurable disease for many years. He brings this up in every discussion of God. (essentially the point is How could a loving God have done this?) It is not his only reason for being an athiest. It would be wrong of me to assume that THE reason he does not believe in God is because he would be so angry at this God he could not bear it. He has basically said as much to me. Now he focuses his anger on believers who he does not hold accountable for his daughter’s suffering. I have to respect the fact that his belief, or lack of belief is based on his experiences and reason and intuition and so on.

How would you like it if your beliefs were psycholanalyzed in terms of their effects?

(I am not a monotheists by the way)

With that fear, accompanies hope.This is the basis of this universal neurosis of humankind.This is the mere feeling that a supermind lies behind and behond Existence who cares for us,giving us meaning. [-X
Reality blesses me! I have hope and meaning. Forever would not give me more meaning!
This is a challenge to theists! =D>