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Seelix's avatar

Atheists: Do you ever wish you did believe?

Asked by Seelix (14747 points ) April 5th, 2011

Sometimes I envy people of faith, if only because they can explain away all the bad things in the world as the will of the creator. It’s kind of like the blissful oblivion of childhood, I think. As a little kid, you don’t worry about the economy or wars or any of the other shit in the news.

Do you ever wish you could have faith?

I think this came to mind because I’m listening to Johnny Cash’s When the Man Comes Around. The song gives me chills every time I hear it, though I’m not a believer.

I just wanted to know what the rest of you thought.

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67 Answers

downtide's avatar

I wish I could still believe in magic. I miss that.

YARNLADY's avatar

I used to think surely someone, somewhere had the answers to all my questions, but it turned out to be a pipe dream.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

Nah, I’m good.

tinyfaery's avatar

I see people so soothed and unburdened (for good or bad) by religion that sometimes I think believing would cure my constant existential angst. But, then I remember that religionwas made up by a bunch of men, in an historical
microcosm, and there is no good reason to believe anything any holy book says. Religion is mythology and I can’t tie my wagon to any belief simply made up of stories.

Kardamom's avatar

Only for the fact that it gives you a break. You don’t have to think or worry about why things are the way they are or try to figure out how things work or how to sucessfully make changes for the better. If you think that God does everything for a reason, then it takes humans out of the equation. That would make life a lot easier, to not have to be concerned with how things are going to turn out, because God will handle all of it, no matter what. You can screw up or eff up or not do anything and everything will turn out just the way God planned it. So you really don’t have to make any decisions at all.

PhiNotPi's avatar

Two words: Pascal’s Wager. Look them up.

Blackberry's avatar

I’ve thought about momentarily, but not very seriously. Yes, I would feel comforted, but the overall lack of curiosity is what bothers me. It seems sad to me to go through life accepting so much at face value without questioning. It feels like I wouldn’t be trying to tap my brains potential.

syz's avatar

I wish I could believe in karma, ‘cause I know some people that need the universe to give them a major smack-down.

Mariah's avatar

Agnostic here, but still. Yes, I have wished I believed. I think I would have significantly less anxiety if I could believe that a benevolent god cared about what happened to me, had a plan for me, had a reason for everything I’ve experienced. I think it would allow me to take a much more passive life view. I have a friend who’s extremely Christian and he doesn’t sweat anything – he sits back and trusts God to point him in the right direction, trusts that God will take him where he needs to go. Whereas I feel that everything in life is on my shoulders to find for myself. I very much wish I could believe, sometimes.

jerv's avatar

Only when I want something damned.

lynfromnm's avatar

When my mother died I had a fleeting thought that, were I a believer, I would have felt some comfort in the idea of my mother continuing to exist on another plane.

Talimze's avatar

I used to. It made me mad to think that I had to disbelieve in something, and that it alienated me from others, and it was completely out of my control. I used to be very religious, and my transition from that to atheist was very long. I’m past that, however. It helps that I have other, more interesting traits that are more noticeable to people, like the fact that I’m a raging bull-dyke.

Symbeline's avatar

I often do, but not to explain anything or brush away stuff that I would otherwise pile on the shoulders of the powers that be. Having a god that watches over you, guides you and loves you would be pretty cool, especially in this scary world. I really wish that did exist. Of course if I was shielded from everything in the world, I probably would be a completely different person, assuming this god or whatever would have proven its existence to me.
I guess I just want what a lot of people want, peace and guidance. I guess it coming from a god is a cool idea, but really, I can find that for real, it’s just not as easy as it would be if Jesus turned my water into beer.

ddude1116's avatar

When I started disbelieving my religion, I got really into transcendentalism, which I consider a type of atheism, but it still has some sort of comfort in it. I quit digging god, but the world beyond man holds too much beauty that I can’t just let it go, and as much as life sucks, I look around and just see things that are mindblowingly beautiful, whether it be the timing or what, but it’s comforting.

crisw's avatar

No, not really.

nikipedia's avatar

And give up premarital sex? Fuck no.

bkcunningham's avatar

@Seelix that is a good song.

DominicX's avatar

For me, belief caused me more anxiety that non-belief. It started mainly when I realized I was gay and started thinking that the almighty creator hated me because of what I was and thought that something so basic in my being was wrong and that I would later burn for eternity because of it. That is not the only reason I became agnostic, but it was a large part of it.

josie's avatar

If you give value to faith, blindfold yourself and cross the freeway at rush hour.
If you can’t do that, faith is not for you.
Answer -No.

Rarebear's avatar

All the time.

JLeslie's avatar

Yes. Sometimes I wish I drank also. I am not comparing drinking to God. Just saying there are things all around me that the majority seems to partake in that I do not, that at times have a redeeming quality to me.

deni's avatar

Yes. It seems so simple.

cbloom8's avatar

I never have and never will wish that I believe in something, only that that something might be real and fit into my reality of logic and reasoning.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

I could never wish for “faith”. It is a belief not based on proof. I prefer real things.

earthduzt's avatar

No, because I am not into insulting the human intelligence

JLeslie's avatar

I’m wishing for a miracle today. Does that count?

wundayatta's avatar

No. Well, maybe a long time ago, but not since I can remember. Belief seems like a psychological tool that people use to handle reality. I think it used to be necessary, but I don’t think it helps any more. It encourages sloppy thinking. Why would I want to be a sloppy thinker? At least, why would I want to be even more sloppy than I already am?

faye's avatar

No, I feel ill at ease when there is “faith talk”. I was even as a child, just not for me. My youngest daughter is Christian with a capital C, she’s planning a mission in the fall. We just agree to disagree.

kenmc's avatar

No. I’m happy that Yahweh isn’t real. I would be horrified if such a maniacal being had that much power. I mean, that guy did a lot of horrible shit in the books about him.

bolwerk's avatar

I don’t really know what I’m missing, but I think there’s a social dimension to religion that people tend to overlook. In a place like the USA, where so many people are caught bored every night in a suburban house with nothing to do but watch TV, it must be great to get to church on Sunday and actually socialize – unfortunately, it leaves a likely reactionary preacher with a lot of power.

Haleth's avatar

No way. Science has come up with such elegant, logical answers to many of our questions by examining the facts at hand. Science and a sense of wonder go hand-in-hand. Those answers are so much more comforting to me than believing in a capricious god. And like @DominicX said, I couldn’t believe in a god who created someone and then didn’t love them for the way he created them. How could a god like that be both almighty and just? It isn’t possible.

cookieman's avatar

My daughter recently asked me, “Do you believe in heaven?”

I said, “No, but it’s a nice idea.”

I understand what @Haleth is saying, but I’ve never felt the need to take all of religion (Christianity specifically) in a wholesale fashion. Modern-day Christians certainly don’t and we all know the bible is piecemealed together.

So as an Agnostic-Athiest, I have no problem cherry picking the nicer aspects of religion and thinking, “if would but it were.”

JLeslie's avatar

@cprevite We all? Sorry, not all.

crisw's avatar

@JLeslie

The Bible was written by over 40 authors over a period of 1400–1800 years- something even those who claim the Bible is true admit. Most writers were writing many, often hundreds, of years after the events they claimed to be describing happened. It’s one of the main reasons the Bible is full of contradictions.

I think that qualifies as being “piecemealed together.”

JLeslie's avatar

@crisw my argument has always been the bible was written over time and by men and not in English, so anyone who thinks for sure we know the intent of the authors word for word is mistaken, because there is always something lost in translation. Even old English to modern we can lose meaning. Even laws written just 200 years ago in America we can sometimes not be sure of the spirit/intention of the law. The Christians I know who think every word in the bible is the exact word of God, say none of my logic matters, because God would be sure the words and translations were correct.

crisw's avatar

@JLeslie

But none of that contradicts the claim that the Bible is “piecemealed together” in the way that I think @cprevite implied. I think that he meant that the Bible is a collection of many stories, written over many years. This really doesn’t have anything to do with translation or meaning. But hopefully @cprevite can clarify before I put too many words in his mouth :>)

Qingu's avatar

No, I don’t ever wish I believe in false ideas.

I also don’t think I lost any of my “childlike” sense of wonder and inquiry when I realized my parents’ religion was just as nonsensical as ancient Greek mythology at the age of 12.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

” It’s kind of like the blissful oblivion of childhood” – completely agreed. I never actually wish I was a believer, just kind of wish once in a while in the same way I wish I was drunk and didn’t have to face life, you know? I work with very ill cancer patients and the super religious ones deal with it better because ‘it’s how the Lord wants it’ and all that and they pray and they pray and they pray. It’s baffling.

cookieman's avatar

@JLeslie: That is true. Some folks take the bible as the literal word of god.

That being said, I’m pretty much on the same page as @crisw‘s interpretation of how the bible came to be. And I’d bet dollars to donuts the majority of people see it that way. But you’re right, not “all”.

And @crisw; there was still room to place more words in my mouth as it is rather large. ;^)

JLeslie's avatar

@crisw Right, I am agreeing with you. I wanted to demonstrate that I have always thought along similar lines as you, but that the fundamentalist Christian doesn’t care about our facts and logic. Hell, a bunch of them probably think the bible was written in English. Most of them probably don’t speak two languages. I know many many Christians who are very educated, I am not saying Christians are all stupid and uneducated, but to think every word is literally the word of God, it is difficult for me to think that person is very bright. Hate to say.

crisw's avatar

@JLeslie

‘to think every word is literally the word of God, it is difficult for me to think that person is very bright.”

What’s even worse are all the apolgetics writers who are obviously intelligent but who contort themselves into logical pretzels trying to explain away all of the inconsistencies, abominations, etc. in the Bible.

Seelix's avatar

Hi, peeps. We’re not talking about the bible, ‘kay? I want to know whether other atheists sometimes feel the way I do. I know we’re in Social, but I’d really prefer the bible talk taken to its own thread. :)

Seelix's avatar

No worries, I know how these things can happen. It seems like the discussion may have died, though, so maybe you and @crisw should continue!

JLeslie's avatar

@Seelix Did the answers surprise you? Most people felt like you.

Seelix's avatar

Actually, the answers kind of did surprise me. I had thought that more atheists would be militant about their (lack of) belief. And I guess we are, in a way – I’m not open to the possibility of there being a god out there unless I have concrete proof. But sometimes, like I said, I feel like it would be nice to believe that there’s a nice old man up there who’s watching out for me. Maybe I should make my Gramps my god, haha ;)

It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in feeling this way, though, and that most people don’t see it as a weird way to feel sometimes.

@JLeslie and @crisw – I’m sorry for being a little snippy up there. I shouldn’t have been so quick to jump on you ladies – please, continue your conversation here if you’d like to.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I always wonder why atheism and feminism and Islam are the ones getting the label ‘militant’ most often – could they be the biggest threats (supposedly) to white christian men?

Qingu's avatar

@Seelix, I think the reason why atheists might take a different view from you is because the gods that are put on the table by most major religions are not “nice old men watching out for us.” Yahweh, for example, is a malevolent psychopath who wants to torture you forever, “taking delight in your ruin and destruction” (Dt. 28), unless you completely submit to him.

Of course, this isn’t how religious folk often think about their god. (Jesus loves us!) But part of the reason I feel comfortable in my atheism is because this kind of characterization strikes me as similar to how battered wives think their husbands really love them.

Seelix's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – I think you’re very right about that.

@Qingu – I absolutely see where you’re coming from. I agree that most gods are not loving and reassuring – Jesus a little moreso than his dad, from what I know – but I get what you’re saying. And, for the most part, I am comfortable with my atheism. But once in a while that sentimental part of me creeps in a little, that’s all.

JLeslie's avatar

@Seelix No need to apologyze. Interesting that the answers surprised you. Good question. I love when I am surprised by answers.

bkcunningham's avatar

@Seelix I’m just curious what your Gramps would think about your question or about God? I have no preconceived notion of the answer. I’m just curious if you’ve ever asked him. I love learning things from our elders.

Seelix's avatar

@bkcunningham – He died 11 years ago, but wasn’t a religious guy. I guess if I could ask him, he’d be able to tell me whether we’ve been wrong all this time.

bkcunningham's avatar

Yeah, I suppose he could answer that. Being religious doesn’t matter though. He could tell us if we’ve been right as well. I hope you have good memories of him @Seelix. Gramps and Grannies (that is me now) need to know their granddaughters have good memories of being with them. I hope he knew that and I hope you have that too. : )

Mariah's avatar

I hope this isn’t annoying, because it’s slightly off topic… let me know if I should start a separate Q instead.

This question got me thinking, do I hold any beliefs for the sake of comfort despite a lack of rationale behind them? Embarrassingly enough, the answer is yes, sort of. I guess I don’t really believe this so much as I use it as a defense and coping mechanism, but I do find myself unconsciously believing that there must be some sort of “cap” on the amount of suffering that life can inflict upon any one person. I know it’s not really true, because sometimes you hear about people in unthinkably terrible situations that just don’t let up, but even so, when I’m worried that something awful is going to happen to me, my brain goes into this numb state of “no, that couldn’t possibly happen, it’s just too terrible to conceive.” There’s no rational reason to think this way since I don’t believe there’s any kind of intelligence out there regulating what happens to anybody. Even so, I sometimes find myself trusting that life could never possibly get that bad. I guess that can be a nice crutch to lean on, even if it’s utterly naive and irrational. Anyone else feel this way ever? Maybe in the past, but you grew out of it?

JLeslie's avatar

@Mariah I don’t feel that way at all. I might hope its true, like bad things happen in threes, so a fourth thing can’t possibly go wrong right now, but I don’t believe it at all. If a child can die from cancer after suffering in an extreme way, which is unthinkable, but here I live next to St. Jude’s Medical center where perfect young children die all of the time, and so many other examples in the world, it is impossible for me to think things can’t get very bad.

silverlining's avatar

I don’t wish I believed. In fact, I feel so much better now that I don’t believe. I don’t think it’s a better way to live just because you can say “Well, it’s God’s plan.” I want it to be my plan. Life happens and shit goes wrong, but I’d rather attribute that to chance than a supposedly benevolent God. If I had a string of terrible things happen to me, no way in hell would I be able to think “this must be for a good higher purpose.” I don’t believe that is ever the case and I don’t think it’s much comfort—you don’t know the purpose, so what good is it to anyone?

flutherother's avatar

Believing absolutely can’t be right as the evidence isn’t there, one way or the other. Everyone must have doubts at some time, even atheists.

Qingu's avatar

@flutherother, do you ever have doubts that Thor is imaginary, or that your chair will remain solid when you sit on it?

Mariah's avatar

@Qingu I’m going to argue that those are very different questions. Matter doesn’t change states spontaneously; the relationships between temperature, pressure, and state of matter are well understood. However, there is no scientific way to disprove the existence of anything.

Qingu's avatar

@Mariah, actually, according to science (quantum mechanics) there is a chance that you will fall through your chair. The fundamental particles that make up the chair and your body, the ones that usually cause a force of repulsion, are inherently probabalistic in nature. The chance might orders of magnitude more infinitesmal than anything you can imagine, but there is a chance. So you can’t “prove” you won’t fall through your chair.

Do you doubt that your chair will remain solid?

As for not being able to “disprove” the existence of anything, that doesn’t mean we should doubt that imaginary things are imaginary. The burden of proof is on the person asserting their existence. For example, let’s say I told you there is a tiny teapot orbiting the star Alpha Centauri. You can’t disprove the existence of the teapot. Nevertheless, why would you ever doubt that the teapot is a figment of my imagination? The burden of proof is on me, not you.

Here’s a more down-to-earth example. Let’s say I claimed that you murdered someone last year. I have absolutely no evidence to support my case, but you can’t prove that you didn’t murder someone last year. Should anyone doubt that you are not a murderer, simply because I’ve asserted otherwise?

Mariah's avatar

@Qingu I will PM you later, don’t want to hijack this thread completely. :)

flutherother's avatar

@Qingu To answer your question, yes, I have doubts about almost everything as there are no cast iron guarantees for anything. Even those who believe in God need faith.

Qingu's avatar

Do you actually act as though you have doubts that Thor or Zeus are imaginary? Do you ever leave hecatombs dedicated to Zeus around, “just in case” they actually exist?

Do you ever feel your chair with your hand to make sure it’s solid, before you sit down in it?

flutherother's avatar

I have sat on a chair that has collapsed, so you never know but I have faith in most chairs.

Qingu's avatar

Did your body fall through the matter in your chair? That’s what I’m talking about. It’s possible, according to quantum mechanics.

If not, is that something you ever actually worry about? Something that even remotely causes you to change your behavior? Because it sure doesn’t sound like you have “doubts” that your chair will remain physically solid.

sliceswiththings's avatar

Damn I was away from the internet for a month and it seems like I missed some great questions!

Ron_C's avatar

Only when I think that it would be nice if Bush and OBL would burn in hell for eternity or when I have a difficult problem where it would be nice if someone would provide and answer.

Fortunately the feeling passes. I am much more comforted knowing that man has the capacity to solve all of his problems. It is up the the rest of us to provide the will.

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