The stable person can endure a rough patch in life (a weak generalization, I know... my apologies), but that rough patch isn't the first time they'll have questioned God's existence and it won't be the last, either. The stable person is quite capable, even in difficult times, to contemplate the idea of God's non-existence and come out realizing that in the end, it doesn't mean a damn thing. God doesn't "die"... if God existed then, he/she/it will ALWAYS exist. If God didn't exist then, it means he/she/it never did and never will. So there is no actual difference between the during-the-crisis period and back when everything was coming up roses. Life goes on, as they say. An individual's belief, or skepticism, isn't going to change a damn thing in the long run, so why make a big deal out of it?
It is the unstable person who has something bad happen to them, who has a crisis of faith because of it, and then has to find a reason to climb back on the horse (and those reasons are, as you pointed out, almost always BAD). The unstable person finds the non-existence of God to be a horrible, bad concept that means their life is even shittier than they thought previously. Additionally, the unstable person probably feels so horribly about the concept of God not existing because that means God isn't on their side, helping them out, and never was, so they've always been on their own (many religious people translate this "being on your own" into "life has no meaning"). In other words, the unstable person wants to know that God will actually DO something for him or her... they see belief in God as a destination, not a journey, if you will. Once you "arrive", you are showered with gifts, but only after you "endure" the traveling to get there. The stable person isn't quite so egotistical and self-centered... religion for them is a path that one explores on the way to the destination (becoming an enlightened person and/or leading a peaceful existence).
But, yes, you're correct.... the Big Religions (at least it seems from the "small person" point of view) do seem to latch on to these unstable, weak people. Or maybe the weak people latch on to them, and they just take advantage of it. I'm not sure if they (the Church) are doing it from a marketing angle (for lack of a better term) or from the angle of defending the beliefs of their faith and evangelism. In other words, are they doing it on purpose (like Cardinal Glick and his "Catholicism Wow!" campaign in DOGMA) or if it's just a byproduct of their honest, fervent belief? Also, I'm not sure who propagates more the concept of a Godless existence being horrible: the Church or the Believer. I've never encountered a church, honestly, that even explored what existence without God would mean (except, maybe, the circle group at the Unitarian church I used to go to).
- No need to apologize as long as you've made a point somewhere. And you did.
You are correct that is only one category of religion, but at the same time, it does seem to be what makes the Big Religion's pockets that much deeper. Most of the stable religious people skate quite free of many of these doctrinally integral dysfunctional issues and live practical lives that have little or nothing to do with them (all the while paying them lip service). And surely that is evidence of their basic humanity that naturally displaces such dysfunction...if not rationally, then a-rationally (and that's actually a good thing even if their explanation of the disconnect makes no sense). I never presume conspiracy first when incompetence will do. People who are stable in the religion they were born in would probably be equally stable in another religion if they had been born into that (and have much the same a-rational tribalistic attitude towards other religions), or perhaps just as stable if they were born into a society with no religion at all. People are sponges and absorb what they are around, catering it to their needs. The positives of our humanistic nature still prevails just as much as arbitrary religious nurture and people fall both ways across that line. I'm sure many (or even most) Christians do not even "use" hell (for example) as a bumper to keep them in the faith and experience predominantly the positive joys other things about the faith bring them. But the doctrine is still there and it affects the people it does affect and thus has a wider impact than religions that do not have such dysfunctional extortion gimmicks. And it seems at least many of them still use it as an intellectual gimmick even if they are not truly afraid of it as a way to attempt to save intellectual face (like accusing non-believers of being on the foolish end of Pascal's wager). So it has many dysfunctions that don't necessarily have to do with "rock bottom". Surely you would not argue that things like the doctrine of total depravity, religious exclusivism, and eternal hellfire for most of humanity were born out of the best the human heart has to offer the world. Something must keep these things in vogue (or at least afloat) and part of the explanation at least is probably in the category that I've described in my previous comment.
- Yeah, I agree. Sometimes it seems to be a system of 1) This is what I've believed since I was little, 2) I must defend what I believe otherwise I'll be wrong, 3) You believe differently from me, therefore you must be wrong; otherwise, I am wrong and that just won't do, 4) Ultimately, I'm afraid of being wrong because it will have meant I wasted a lot of time, since I spent most of my spiritual "career" kissing God's ass instead of getting some kind of spiritual and/or philosophical growth out of it, or, even worse, it means that I don't have some kind of omnipotent parental figure watching over me, 5) Instead of getting into a deep and philosophically interesting yet dangerous and/or difficult and/or laborious conversation with you, I'm going to use the works of my faith as a short cut because I assume they mean the same thing to you as they do to me (after all, there can't be two correct interpretations of a work of faith, could there, and mine might end up being the incorrect interpretation, so we'll pretend mine is the only interpretation out there) and I will be very, very confused when you continue our conversation with the premise of a translation that is different from my own, and, ultimately, 6) When you disagree with me, I will simply end the conversation with "I will pray that someday you find God/see God's love/embrace God/enter inspiration knock-off here"
Those who don't follow this "system" probably would have been just as stable, or as good of a person, had they been a member of a different faith or no faith at all. That doesn't mean that the particular faith they were born into or chose doesn't give them some kind of benefit. One could just as easily explain what a rose looks like by showing a picture of it, but sometimes a poem about a rose is so much more profound. For some people, the metaphor has more meaning than the thing itself.
- It is a shame that anyone who is serious about what they believe regardless of what it is, is swamped by a majority of people who are not as serious and yet have disproportionately strong opinions about it anyway. And there's no easy way to cut through that crap without just making it a lot worse.
I was never really able to get off the ground as a religious person (and was almost as you describe above), but now, in unbelief, the ability to accept and shape powerful metaphors for my own path to becoming a better me is refreshing. This is especially so since it will never be wrapped up and bogged down with having to defend and believe controversial evidential claims ever again. I look back and think...gee whiz, this is so much easier. The freedom to grow naturally and sensibly without fear of the ridiculous passive aggressive extremes of a cosmic tyrant who won't give you any definitive feedback until the very end when it's way too late and the consequences are infinite. I could go back and forth all day on positively mind raping questions that had no answers. I wasn't about to accept the arbitrary spins that people would put on things just because that would be convenient. I could come up with just about any arbitrary criteria to justify anything and if God's ways are so much higher than our ways, that's a very ubiquitous vacuum to try to follow. Yet somehow wild card extremes are clearly in the grab bag of Christian doctrine with no place to roost, so to speak, and so that damage gets done anyhow. Little personal growth is possible on those terms. Given the persistence of the a-rational factors contributing to my faith and the unresolvable extremes in the mix, the best I could do was to try to avoid them and it never really worked (not surprisingly). It's not really hard to do better than that, but I couldn't under the pretenses of taking Christianity seriously. I'm sure other spiritual traditions wouldn't necessarily have the same effect, but incidentally those weren't the ones I was born into. If the US was full of liberal Christians (and other pleasant religious traditions) who were remarkably sensible in public policy, there really wouldn't be a "war on error" to be fought. It would be quite unjustified. And yet too many of the ugly things of Big Religion are sitting right out there in the public square. *shrug* Wouldn't it be nice if major social issues were only about personal growth (or growth as a society) and not ridiculously contentious petty issues that should have been dead eons ago? That's the world I wish I had been born into. Oh well...
- And this is why I wish Xanga would let you recommend comments :)
I completely agree, except for one point:
"If the US was full of liberal Christians (and other pleasant religious traditions) who were remarkably sensible in public policy, there really wouldn't be a 'war on error' to be fought."
I'm way too much of a cynic to believe that. If we all agreed on religion (or at least agreed to disagree) we'd find something else to argue about... most likely politics. We'd all get vitriolic about something else that we believe in wholeheartedly yet don't really ultimately understand and a lot of misinformation is spread anyways (PC vs. Mac... Fox vs. Warner Brothers regarding the possible delayed release of Watchmen [grrrrrrr]... War on Drugs vs. legalization of pot... I could go on for a really, really long time).
- I see why you disagree, and I could have put that better. You're right. I meant it in the subjective sense from my current perspective, since most of the errors I confront here are Christian errors. Error correction would become more ubiquitous in the event our Big Religions decided to be, as I said, "remarkably sensible in public policy," but it would still be needed.
I can't believe there is that legal battle over Watchmen...that's just so sad to see how petty they are being.
I only took out a few minor tangents to this tangent and corrected a spelling mistake or two.