||« Outlook on life
Religion as a Comfort?Author of this text: Bernard Katz
though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil;
For thou art
with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."
Such hand-holding words of
comfort can be found throughout the Bible. They satisfy one of the chief
functions of religion, that of providing individuals with support in this
uncertain and emotionally draining world. It helps people during the major
events of their life cycles: births, marriage, and death with religious rites of
baptism, circumcision, weddings and funerals.
Jews and Christian have a personal God who supposedly gives solace, especially when a terrible event makes
no sense to them. Take a typical case, one where a family of two kids and a husband and wife — all living and worshiping happily together, with hardly a whisper of sin, doing what the local cleric says their God requires of them.
Then, on a ride home from their Sabbath celebration, they are struck by a truck,
which kills the one child and the husband, a most senseless act. „Thank God!" says the dazed wife, „God has saved my child." To which the whole
religious community adds their hosannas.
Do these good people ever switch
their sentiments and curse their God for his Hitler-like behavior? Hardly ever -
though they can find a warrant to do so because biblical texts assign to God the
evil found in the world. Merely refer to Exodus 4.11-12 to see that this is true:
"Then the Lord said to him [Moses], 'Who has made man's mouth? Who makes
him dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?'"
How many evils can a person take
without falling apart, without chucking the God-concept? For not many are like
Job who, we read, had lost everything, but was rewarded manifold over for
undergoing his terrible ordeals. Why, we ask, should God-fearing people all too
often suffer while rascals and religious carpetbaggers live the good life? The
answer is that all will be compensated in heaven and hell. At least this is the
Christian's answer to why good things happen to bad people.
Another puzzle remains. Why do
people who thank God for saving them from terrible happenings, often ignore the
morality that necessarily issues from that same God? Is not the God who „saved"
them entitled to have his moral precepts obeyed? Yet, those who are saved tend
to forget the covenant between them and their spiritual savior. What kind of a God is it who tests Abraham, making him almost sacrifice his child Isaac; who
destroys whole communities in holocausts and Inquisitions; who propels various
prophets to castigate their fellow Jews and who destroys the prophets of the
enemies of his Chosen people; who sprinkles guilt on his children like confetti
on a parade; who straightjackets his followers with harmful sexual dogmas and a myriad of other spiritual boils; who causes his own son to be crucified to atone
for the sins of others; and who threatens damnation to all those who do not
believe that Jesus is the Christ?
Does history support a belief in
God? If by God we mean the traditional intelligent benevolent deity of the Jews,
Christians and Muslims, and not the creative vitality of nature, the answer is a resounding No! Like Darwin's evolution in biology, the evolution of civilization
basically is a natural selection of the fittest individuals and groups where
goodness receives no benefits, misfortunes abound, and the final test is the
ability to survive. Add to the crimes, cruelties and wars of man the earthquakes,
storms, pestilence, tidal waves, and other "acts of God," the total
evidence suggests either a blind or impartial fatality.
to become an atheist. The lack of belief in a God clears the mind, increases the
ability to think straight, and puts the burden of responsibility where it
belongs — on the individual himself. There is no God in this life to pray
to, or to blame when things go wrong. Forget the supposed comfort that religion
supplies — people
are better off when left to their own resources and awards.
in the 2001 September/October issue of the American Rationalist ©.
« Outlook on life (Published: 08-06-2003 Last change: 21-09-2003)
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