It makes you wonder if people benefit by going through a religious stage.
Most of us that do go through that religious stage have done so because of our parents and our backgrounds. Being raised into religion (or having it all around us) we thought this was the way to go. Then most of us studied theism to be a part of it (minister, pastor, etc.) only to find that religion was absurd in the end. We benefited by having all that bible knowledge. This makes us much more different than atheists that became so because "god would not let children suffer," or "my mother died," etc. I've found many atheists that simply did not want to listen to anything about god, so they became atheist. This is sort of like the person who can drive a car but knows nothing else about that car at all. An atheist who came out of theism can usually disprove god and the bible with logic, and can do the same with any other "holy book." When we say there is no evidence, that statement needs to be backed up in some way to make it valid.
This is the big benefit of a religous past.
Or people who did have that sense of community in a religious setting, who have learned some of the good lessons of religion, being charitable and helpful, etc., might be able to carry that into atheist surroundings. Perhaps not though, because religions teach strongly that those benefits come from religion.
I'm non-religious mostly because I wasn't brought up religious. I have experienced a sense of divine presence at times. If I were brought up in religious, likely that would have made me an especially convinced religious person. But I wasn't, and I don't like jumping to conclusions - so I never added onto that sense of divine presence what religions add to it - the belief that it implied the existence of a being with magical powers that might perhaps magically intervene in my life.
A few religious groups (with a broad view of "religion"), such as Ethical Culture, provide community for theists and nontheists alike. I know a third-generation atheist who's comfortable and active in her Unitarian Universalist church. (People have pointed out that UU congregations vary tremendously; YMMV.)
I've shared before on here the website "God Is Imaginary", and its anti-theist author's view that church communities minus the delusion could still be strong and useful. "Love thy neighbor as thyself" -- scroll down to "What about Churches".
"A thriving church community can be an amazing thing. But it is the people who make that happen, not any imaginary being. Once the imaginary being is gone, churches continue to exist as communities of people who enjoy each others' company, who help one another in times of need, and who focus on goodness and good deeds for the benefit of society as a whole. What's not to like about that?"
It looks to me as though among atheists there's a substantial unmet need for community. Maybe that's just here in Seattle, but the Sunday Assembly is expanding all across the English-speaking world.
What would you say, just out of curiosity, to someone who thinks God routinely answers their prayers - like my very Christian friend who thought God was arranging for his support checks to arrive just when he needed them most?
What would I say to people who think God routinely answers their prayers?
I live in a retirement community and know a few such people. I say nothing about their expectations, whether met or unmet. What I say depends upon what we have in common, which is very little. There are many others with whom I talk about politics, science or events in the news. Several nonbelievers and I sometimes rake religion over the coals.
But Tom, last night I prayed and god helped me find my car keys. He did this while children starve and die of cancer all over the world, and multitudes of people are killed and others made homeless, so I think this at least says something! :)
The sorts of answers people get to prayers are exactly the ones they'd get praying to a jug of milk.
Car keys, fine. But did he make your pet team win the Big Game? Did he? So. So how can you ever rely on him again now? And never mind that we may be setting our planet up to become uninhabitable. You forgot to pray about that one! Obviously, if you don't tell him what to do, he can't fix everything.
But did he make your pet team win the Big Game?
I attended a memorial service a few years ago where, three minutes or so into a son's eulogy, his cell phone rang. And he answered it.
We proceeded to hear one side of a conversation about how great it is in heaven: evidently no doctors or hospitals needed, but they have plenty of cute nurses and physical therapists. And when people play soccer there, both teams win.
And never mind that we may be setting our planet up to become uninhabitable.
Maybe he wants us to deal with it ourselves! You know... just as if there were no god!
Grinning Cat says "Maybe he wants us to deal with it ourselves! You know... just as if there were no god!" Always a safe, sensible approach. In fact, the only one. Pray if your tradition requires it, but work as if there is no god.
Good write Michael