Sunday, July 16, 2017

Believing in God for pragmatic reasons

What would you say to people, for example, who say that if there is no life beyond this one, there is really no hope for human existence, and it is vain to continue. In answering this question, it is important to realize that many of us are members of the educated class, and our lives probably have more creature comforts than most people in the world have. Most people cannot afford to be part of the great brave new world of science or philosophy like Dawkins or Dennett. Can you really object to people who say, quite honestly, that they believe in God because it makes them happy? What are you going to give them, some altruistic argument?

I would have to say that I could never do it this way. But I think it is vain to just say that these people are weak. I don't live under their circumstances. That is why I don't think Bertrand Russell's answer works.

“To refuse to face facts merely because they are unpleasant is considered the mark of a weak character, except in the sphere of religion. I do not see how it can be ignoble to yield to the tyranny of fear in all ordinary terrestrial matters, but noble and virtuous to do exactly the same thing when God and the future life are concerned. There is to my mind something pusillanimous and sniveling about this point of view, which makes me scarcely able to consider it with patience.”
― Bertrand Russell, The Value of Free Thought: How to Become a Truth Seeker and Break the Chain of Mental Slavery (1944).

2 comments:

John Moore said...

a) We don't need to hope for human existence, because we already have it. Humans exist! Aren't you happy? What more do you want?

b) It's only "vain" to continue if you have unreasonable expectations. What would you say to a hose spraying water straight down the sewer? He isn't watering any flowers, so why should he continue? Well, because of water pressure, that's why.

c) I don't criticize people for believing what makes them happy, except when that hurts society as a whole. Some people believe their race is superior, because that makes them happy, but it hurts the whole community. Some people believe the Earth is just 6,000 years old, because it makes them happy, but then they vote to screw up our education system. That's the problem.

Victor Reppert said...

The problem is that you are basing what you say on the idea that people ought to behave in such a way that it doesn't hurt society as a whole. Now, contrary to popular opinion, society is not a person. That why I sarcastically asked "What are you going to give them, some altruistic argument?" And the answer is, yes you did. But we can ask of the moral principle you just enunciated exactly the question that is often asked of theists, that is, "Where's your evidence?'