There is a school of thought which says that atheism offers no comfort to those who hurt, who mourn the unfairness of life, the proverbial “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and cling to religion on the chance that the next life will be a marked improvement on this one.  I submit that this is a mistaken concept, that there can be comfort in the absence of a deity and indeed, a demonstrably better existence in the one life we have.  The four points listed below give some expression to just where this comfort can be found.

One – No Judgment: If you’ve been a bad boy (or girl) or even if you’ve been a good one, but simply not a believer, you’ve nothing to fear from an angry Yahweh who would send you to everlasting torment in hell.  Being able to live your life day to day without worrying about the celestial judgment of an unseen god can certainly lighten one’s load.

Two – No Interference: With no deity there’s no interference, no meddling supernatural being who can frustrate your actions with a single careless move.  Your actions are your own, though this is no defense against Murphy’s Law or the well-worn maxim: shit happens.

Three – No Favoritism: It’s pretty clear from the bible that god plays favorites, even though he dumped on the Hebrews as much as he helped.  Still, without a god taking sides, there’s no chance that either the Sunnis or the Shia will have an unfair advantage in the Middle East, or the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland (though that conflict is largely resolved), or Jews and Muslims in the vicinity of Israel.

Four – No Fate But What We Make: The fictional character Sarah Connor of the Terminator series of films made that proposal, and it’s an important one.  There’s no divine plan, no hidden long game for humankind to uncover and conform to.  Our lives, our planet, indeed, our reality is in OUR HANDS.  We can take it and improve on it or screw it up beyond all recognition or take a third, fourth of fifth path, but we are the actors.  We are the choosers of those paths and the authors of any plans.

Granted that there may be a problem with accepting the above propositions of comfort: they are all predicated on a person WANTING to own themselves and their lives, taking pride in their contributions to the world at large and not wanting to defer or shift their responsibilities onto someone else.  This is obviously the one stumbling point, because there are plenty of people out there who want their god to take the reins, to either guide or direct their behavior and be either the copilot or pilot of their lives.  For such people, the weight of having to accept culpability is too much for them.  They want unearned forgiveness or a scapegoat, if not bluntly someone to blame for their mistakes.  It seems as though such slackers have been a part of the world’s populace since Homo sapiens first emerged, and what can be done about them remains an unanswered question.

For myself and most if not all of us, I’m glad things are laid out as they are.  Certainly, cause-and-effect is muddled with a hundred-thousand external variables which can skew the results we want and frustrate goals and desires.  At least in the real world, as opposed to that of the bible, failure is not always immutably coupled to a death penalty or an afterlife which we cannot prove, foresee or control.  We can try again, change our minds or our approach, innovate a new strategy and with that perhaps find success.  We neither need nor want a god as a buffer or an excuse when things go south, any more than we require such a being to kiss-ass on when success is ours.

We own our failures.  We own our successes. We own our lives … and that is what counts.

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Comment by Grinning Cat on May 29, 2016 at 7:10pm

<grin>

And I appreciate the subtext I read into the footnote, too: despite what some of the more vocal religious people insist on, "suitably plumbed" can mean different things to different people, and that's fine!

Comment by Bertold Brautigan on May 28, 2016 at 4:10pm

>(And :-) to the footnote!)

Yes - I won't ask if it was an invitation.

Comment by Grinning Cat on May 28, 2016 at 4:08pm

Tom, well said about not being a doormat! "I have only two cheeks..."

(And :-) to the footnote!)

Comment by Michael Penn on May 28, 2016 at 9:06am

That's true, Loren. Exploiting things reminds me of idiots on Fox Noise that dismiss climate changes with words like "he's still up there." What comfort do I find in that?

The world needs to understand that nobody is praying for you. There's nothing to pray to. If anybody is truly praying for anything they are praying for more of your money. Preying then becomes the reality.

Comment by tom sarbeck on May 28, 2016 at 9:02am

Michael, your first paragraph describes well some people I meet.

What can be done about them?

I have only two cheeks so I don't endlessly turn them.*

Similarly, my supply of empathy is limited.

I've told a few "I hope your beliefs keeps you out of jail." I leave most of them be.

* Four cheeks for suitably-plumbed people I really like.

Comment by Loren Miller on May 28, 2016 at 8:53am

Michael, there are people out there – perhaps the woman you cite is one such – who are simply FRIGHTENED.  They're scared of what might happen, of what they do not know, or of irrational consequences to simple actions, or perhaps something else altogether.  Their fear may stem from a lack of self-confidence, the religious indoctrination which they cannot shake, or perhaps that true recognition that the world cares about nothing and no one, not even itself and certainly no human being.  That is probably a lot to face for a subset of humanity, and those in that group can't face it.  I can fully understand that and even have empathy for them.

However ... when others who depend on such fear and exploit it for their own purposes attempt to promote that point of view to others as a necessary attitude, there's going to be a problem.

Comment by Michael Penn on May 28, 2016 at 8:21am

Granted that there may be a problem with accepting the above propositions of comfort: they are all predicated on a person WANTING to own themselves and their lives, taking pride in their contributions to the world at large and not wanting to defer or shift their responsibilities onto someone else. This is obviously the one stumbling point, because there are plenty of people out there who want their god to take the reins, to either guide or direct their behavior and be either the copilot or pilot of their lives. For such people, the weight of having to accept culpability is too much for them. They want unearned forgiveness or a scapegoat, if not bluntly someone to blame for their mistakes. It seems as though such slackers have been a part of the world’s populace since Homo sapiens first emerged, and what can be done about them remains an unanswered question.

Loren, I'm also pretty sure that what you have written is how it is. I was once a believer because the adults guided me and I was sure that my parents and all those who had went to college to "study about god" would not lie to me. Boy, was I wrong. For proof of how they would lie just read some quotes of Martin Luther.

Listing part of your blog from point Four above, I have to point out that people want to believe this nonsense and it's a part of what the religious world tells them. Every good novel, TV show, or movie has a plot in which the main characters know something that the others do not. It is deemed desirable to have that knowledge about our "divine destiny" and know how things are going to be and how everything will play out. Believers think it makes you smarter than anyone else. So many of them have world events in one hand and god in the other. Then they try to put them together.

We had a certain young woman here in this site that always blogged on how wonderful it would be if all the promises of the godmyth were true. She came back briefly not so long ago and told me personally that she cannot be on this site because she is a Christian again. She is soon to marry this wonderful believer which explains her re-conversion. She has rejoined the fairytale world that she always longed for anyway.

What can be done about this sort of person? Only one thing -- EDUCATION.

Comment by Loren Miller on May 28, 2016 at 6:46am

I'm glad you liked it, Ruth, because that's how I feel about it, and I'm pretty sure that's how it IS.  The problem now, of course, is getting that concept acknowledged by those who would rather it weren't the case, and that remains one very tall order.

Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on May 26, 2016 at 4:33pm

I especially like your last point, "Our lives, our planet, indeed, our reality is in OUR HANDS." Despite the fact that we're making a terrible mess of our planet, "We are the actors."

Comment by Loren Miller on May 13, 2016 at 6:06am

Joan, if I write with confidence, it's because this is how I see things, and there is no god to be seen among those things.  I see the necessity of arguing and acting for oneself because it may be that no one else will.  There's the need to fight for justice, because reality is indifferent, even to itself, and fairness and equity are ideas invented by US.  One way or another, WE MAKE THE WORLD into whatever it is going to be.  We need to acknowledge that and take responsibility for it.  All religion does is create excuses and scapegoats which try to absolve us of that and fail miserably.

It's our ball and bat and our game, including the umpire.  How we play is up to us.

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