Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Religion may make you happy, but that does not make it true

Religion makes some people happy, but their feelings do not mean that their religion is true.

Richard Dawkins:

I wish it were not necessary to add that such beneficial effects in no way boost the truth value of religion’s claims. In George Bernard Shaw’s words, ‘The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.’

A common strategy is for the religion to make the followers feel worthless or broken and then to give them back their sense of worth and wholeness.

Alan Watts:

...if one wants to feel exhilaratingly light-footed, it is always possible to go around for some time with lead in one's shoes — and then take them off. The sense of relief will certainly be proportional to the length of time such shoes have been worn, and to the weight of the lead. This is equivalent to the old trick of religious revivalists who give their followers a tremendous emotional uplift by first implanting an acute sense of sin, and then relieving it through faith in Jesus. But such 'uplifts' do not last...

When we are dissatisfied with life, what we need is not necessarily a religion to fix us, but simply to change our attitude and be grateful for what we do have.

Fenton Johnson:

Dissatisfaction...is the first principle of Buddhism, and thus the foundation on which the whole philosophy is built; if it weren't universally applicable, it would be a pretty weak basis. As a reasonably prosperous, reasonable healthy American I can't really be said to be 'suffering,' at least not in the context of much of the world's population; but we all suffer from dissatisfaction, always and everywhere. And what is the antidote to dissatisfaction? Gratitude.

Perhaps the question we need to ask is not whether God can put up with us until we come to him, fix us in a particular way, and approve of our perfected nature, but whether we can accept ourselves as we are, as works in progress.

Gary Bowen:

I doubt that anyone can achieve religious faith until they start tolerating human frailties.


Richard Dawkins. The God Delusion. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. p. 167.
Alan Watts. The Way of Zen. Originally 1957. Vintage Spiritual Classics Edition 1999. p 170.
Fenton Johnson in “Keeping Faith,” interviewed by Bo Young. White Crane Journal, Fall 2004, Issue #62, p 7.
Gary Bowen, in Raven Kaldera. Hermaphrodeities: The Transgender Spirituality Workbook. XLibris Press, 2001. p 189.

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