People do good because they are human, not because they are religious! 

Do not give God any credit for the good they do, they did it!

 

I hear the heavens calling
Providence, no evidence
There's no confirmation
And only silence remains
Madonna - Queen
 
Essential reasons for denying that religion really comforts those who fare badly in life

Dr Allen Sherman of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences said: "When we took a closer look, we found that patients with stronger spiritual well-being, more benign images of God - such as perceptions of a benevolent rather than an angry or distant God - or stronger beliefs - such as convictions that a personal God can be called upon for assistance - reported better social health. In contrast, those who struggled with their faith fared more poorly."

His argument is probably the main reason why religion gets such respect and influence. It is the reason the governments of the world often give religion special rights and religious people get more respect than non-religious. It is the reason why people who see organised religion as crafty and divisive and bigoted are afraid to challenge believers.

Whatever nature is going to do it is going to do. You can do your best but your best is not always enough to prevent terrible things taking place. With God, it is no different. What God is going to do God is going to do. No sane person thinks they can control a God or tell him what to do. A prayer then that is about trying to change what cannot be changed is an insult to God and yourself for you will be disappointed. The doctor's argument talks about how praying for assistance is good for you but that turns prayer into a delusion and a placebo and not a real connection with God. His argument is an argument for idolatry not God. If people are happy that you are praying for them then it is the good wishes that are implied that benefits them not the praying as such. It is Christian teaching that any joy got without God will turn to sorrow and maladjustment and misery.

If you read his argument closely, it fails to show that generally speaking belief in God is a good thing. It is not generally a good thing if most people tend to think God does not care or is angry with them. If the belief is untrue then people doubting it is understandable. It follows that those who told them that God exists are to blame if it is really the case that doubters do not do well in coping with the agonies of living. They are to blame for society mostly sees such doubt as natural and understandable. There is no mention of people who believe in a caring God and upon enduring terrible things decide that he does not care or is punishing them. Those who allegedly benefit from faith in a nice God could just be about to decide based on evidence and their experience that it is wrong and God is bad.

Belief in a God who does not care or has it in for you is worse than simply thinking the terrible things that happen to you are down to random mechanical nature and not to any supernatural agent. However the person who is happy and believes in a God like that is far more heroic than an atheist!

Some questions – if a person of faith is seriously ill or dying how likely are they to be afraid to say if their faith is not really helping them? Don’t underestimate what people who fear meeting God after death are capable of saying.

They could be mistaking the feeling of support and love from others for support and love from God. These are people going through a lot and confusion would be expected.

The notion that God alone is a comfort is absurd. Nobody wants to spend their lives in isolation with only God for company. The comfort you experience in times of trial comes from a lot of areas. It is very complicated. You could say God is a comfort while meaning that the other things, the love and care from others is the important comfort.

If you have gone through something terrible, any comfort will be seen as a huge thing. You will want to forget the pain and see the good so you are biased. You are not reliable on how effective the comfort has been.

You could say you are comforted by faith and still feel comforted or even more comforted without the faith.

How many will say faith in God makes them feel worse? Some do. But there are a lot more who don't say simply because they are not asked. If you are worried about how your family and friends are coping as you suffer terribly you will want to give the impression that your faith is helping you even if it is not. It is about telling a lie to comfort them.

It is interesting that with superstition, people think they can stop bad things happening when the bad things are not inevitable. But when death looms, it is a different story. Their superstitious faith does not help them then. It does not help with what matters most.

Not all believers will feel that calling on God for assistance is a comfort. It is only a comfort if results start to happen. If there is no God there will be no results for many people. The others didn't get results - they were just lucky. And luck is fragile.

What about very sick or dying people who hope there is no God? They are left out of the picture.

And if your faith helps you, you may never know if another kind of faith could have helped you better.

People should be comforted by, "I am suffering. It may soon be time to go. I am willing to go so that others can enjoy life in my place." That makes sense and gives meaning to suffering. It expresses a willingness to accept what comes and give your life for others. God does not come into it. There is more giving if you think death really is the cessation of existence than there is if you think you are merely going elsewhere.

Believing that your suffering is somehow indispensable for the greater good in some divine plan though there is no way of showing how or even if it is the case might comfort some. But it contradicts the notion of an all-powerful God. If God is that powerless over evil despite being almighty then there is no way to be sure that any human being will fare okay after death. Believers who feel comforted by faith are confusing faith in the greater purpose with faith in God.

Faith in a Christian God is a fragile crutch because what happens when one finds out that this God told his son to get murdered and commanded murders in the Old Testament? Gay people and adulterers were stoned to death. Jesus knew this and did not repudiate those murders. He went as far as to say that people who do little harm will end up in Hell forever unless they repent. In fairness, Christianity teaches that you have to live by faith not feelings and Jesus promised a cross in this world not a crown. Do you really want to meet a God who makes viruses to torment babies to death? If you want to meet this bad God, then it is not faith that is supporting you but arrogance. You are very sure he will not punish you or send you to Hell forever. You are very sure he will not send you back to earth as an animal or a child in a famine country. You are very sure he will not take the comfort you so desperately need away from you as a test. All that is arrogance and you think it is up to God to please you instead of you letting him do what he believes is right in the big picture.

People in terrible trouble hope that something magical will happen to rescue them from it. The comfort they get is not worth the disappointment that is risked and that will come. And what if this false hope makes them lazy? If it does not then that is down to luck not design. They might refuse to build bridges with estranged friends and family for they no longer feel that they are dying though they are.

The research that faith in a nice personal God helps vulnerable people is a disgrace for it is too anecdotal and does not take account of how complex each person’s psychology is. It does not regard the fact that the sick person will doubt God one day and hate God the next and love him the day after as worthy of thinking about. If there is any value in the research, it is that the placebo helps some people. If God is a placebo then it is not really God that helps but the placebo. The research is basically exploiting people’s pain to promote religious faith. It plays right into the hands of religious manipulators. Every religion from ISIS to Catholicism or Scientology to Satanism plays the same card. All these faiths cannot be equally beneficial, good, honest and sincere.

The religious person is trained to say that things that happen naturally are down to divine agency. Thus when they say they are comforted by what happens they are talking about what can and should be seen as natural not divine. The religious person then is prone to exaggerate God's role in her or his wellbeing.

It is irresponsible to encourage faith in God for even if it helps some it is going to make others fear God or feel punished by him. It could make things worse in the bigger picture.

Today it is recognised that the problem with religion is that it idolises faith. Faith is a refusal to change your mind when new light and evidence comes up. Faith is the one bad thing that all religions have in common though the content varies. Faith is why religions that are polar opposites exist and even when their doctrines are proven to be contrary to fact the religions still persist. Opposition to truth is a high price to pay for the alleged comfort that comes from pretending you know what you don't know. If anybody gets comfort from such faith, the comfort is fragile for the faith is based on the desire to loosen your grip on reality. It is not a virtue but a vice and vice feels good but brings bad results. Pointing to the people faith supposedly comforts, means nothing if faith causes passenger planes to be flown into skyscrapers or means approving of the murders of homosexuals that God commanded in the Bible. The comfort you get from faith in a loving God amounts for very little if you also have great fear of demons and evil magical forces.

And what about the doubters? Are they suffering for they have tried God and it didn’t work and now they are made to feel bad about it? What about people who struggle to believe? Telling them that faith will help only makes it worse.

What about the heretical and doubting friends and family of a dying person who has no faith? The message that faith comforts vulnerable people makes them feel they are to blame if the person died an unhappy death. They will think they had a bad influence.

If faith is good for you, your influence and example draw people to faith and that could be bad for them.

If faith is so great for comforting the afflicted then your message of faith blames those who say it didn't do much for them. You blame those who suffer without faith for their suffering being made worse. Your insinuation and therefore your faith is a disgrace. Are you getting comforted by faith or your superior hypocritical attitude?

If faith comforts though it is not true that does not make it a good thing. It says the truth should not comfort and does not comfort. It opposes truth. Opposing truth opposes not only truth but people who work for the truth. It undermines our right to get the chance to value the truth. Something being comforting does not make it true. What it does make true is that it shows we have the resources to make ourselves feel the best we can under the circumstances and can therefore do without religious faith. It shows then that there must be many ways to do that and faith in God need not be one of them. Faith in religion is certainly not an option for doing it.

Using a doctor can be a sign of lack of faith. If faith comes first then it must be a sin to go to the doctor then! Real faith means you do things you dread in order to show and live a relationship with God. That is the "best" faith. You might say that doubters still go to the doctor. But what about what the principle says? What about that? You can't just ignore a principle.

Many religious pastors should not be allowed near sick or dying people. They may refuse to bully the sick with their nasty doctrines but they still represent and take responsibility for those doctrines. And many do bully. Christians have been known to terrorize atheists and heretics who are on the deathbed. It is the pastors' beliefs that should disqualify him or her not the actions for human nature is often inconsistent and if you believe bad doctrines there is a definite risk that you will oppress a dying person in the name of faith.

Most people believe you cannot try to correct the nonsensical or untrue faith of a dying person. Some religions believe in doing just that. Born-again Christians are notorious for it as were some Catholic "saints". But if the dying person has been misled into depending on a faith that is wrong or implausible then there are no words of disgust fitting for those responsible.

We conclude that those who are comforted by faith in God are comforted by countless things many of which they will not be able to put their finger on. Many lie about the religious comfort or exaggerate how important God is. The comfort is not without its risks. And religion cherry-picks the evidence for comfort in God - there is no mention of those whose agony and torment is made worse by belief.
 
Is God's love comforting?

A relationship with God is said to be good for us and helps comfort us in bad times.

But God does not need us nor is he vulnerable. He is said to be all-powerful and all-good and all-perfect. A true relationship is based on mutual need and vulnerability. God does not have a relationship with us. We are having a relationship with a God in our heads even if there is a God. The God in our heads emerges from our need for escapism and transcendence.

God does not literally love. If you love, you want that love to be reciprocated. God and man cannot have a true relationship.

God is regarded as all-loving and all-powerful. Yet the terrible suffering that engulfs the innocent of the earth shows every sign of being random and cruel. The doctrine of God urges us not to go by how it looks. It urges us to feel that despite how it looks, God is taking care of people and the suffering is allowed to happen for a good reason. It urges us to think that it is better to assume there is a divine plan and purpose behind all suffering than to think, "This suffering is totally inexcusable. When it happens, we will try to bring good out of it." It is obvious that the latter alone enables true compassion and healthy acceptance of the inevitability and uselessness of suffering. When you compare the two ideas, you see plainly which one is an insult to the suffering in the world. Those who try to make excuses for God in the face of the inexcusable are thereby silenced.

It is suspicious that God shows no consideration for making his plan look like a plan. A proper plan takes people's reaction into consideration. And if the plan is about our growth in wisdom it must look like a plan. We need to see evidence of a plan before we can be expected to take the huge risks that may be required in order to try and become part of it. And how are we supposed to learn from a majestic and noble plan that we cannot see?

The divine plan does not even look like a plan to us - it is just a guess that there is such a plan. People can call something a belief when it is a guess. The Christians are only guessing.

If there is no plan, and Christians are saying there is, then the plan is only in their heads. It is guessing that there is plan that gives comfort. But comfort got from a guess is weak and insecure and maybe more trouble than it is worth. Why not just guess that the bad things will lead to better things happening and leave it at that? An atheist can accept that. To say there is a plan when it is obvious that there is not is just condoning evil.

Why do religious people try to defend God and why do they want to? No matter how much you suffer, the fact remains that most suffering is not yours. You are one person against the billions who suffered. If you are defending God, it is because you feel he blesses you while others suffer. Even when you suffer you are often better off than most people. You are simply expressing pleasure that God lets other people suffer and be hurt while you are spared. Also, you may be afraid to suspect that the suffering that is allowed to happen is inexcusable but superstitiously you are afraid to say so in case God is offended and starts letting you get your fair share.

If faith in God's love is a crutch, it paradoxically is a malicious one!

The notion that there is an all-powerful all-good God implies that when he makes harmful viruses and bacteria he has a reason for it that justifies it. This is saying that God has a purpose for human suffering. But surely it is normal to doubt the existence of a good God any time you see somebody suffering unjustly and terribly? I am not saying disbelieve - I am talking about doubt. Decency would demand that you doubt. Doubt hurts especially in the face of such pain. It is not true that a believer in God should be happier than an atheist. The worse you suffer or another suffers the more grounds there are for doubt.

Telling yourself that certain things will be okay in the long run does not work at times. It can rub in how awful you feel. The pain will be worse if you think God should be supporting you and seems to have forsaken you. What about when you pray for others that they may get out of bother and strife? Why does telling yourself that God’s plan will help them help you feel better? It probably just does. You know fine well that you should not feel better about it just yet for even faith does not guarantee happiness and peace. A placebo is at work. Your good feelings about how you are praying for them is not down to God but to a placebo.

God alone matters. Jesus said you must love him with all your heart. He said you must love your neighbour as yourself but not with all your heart. If you are not to doubt the love or existence of God, then why not? Is it because it upsets you? Or is it because God does not deserve to be doubted? If God alone matters, then your upset is irrelevant. It is all about him. So believing in God to feel comforted would be a sin.

People who suffer may pray and think they have experienced the hand of God helping them. But their perception tells them that so it is more important for their comfort than God even if God did help. Your perception of God and what has happened is not God. It is what does the comforting. And how can you know if God helps? Religion says that God is going to do the right and best thing all the time so if you pray for something and get it you were going to get it anyway. Even if there is a God, answers to prayer are impossible. It would be arrogant idolatry to judge if God has done this or that. Only he can know what he has done. The comfort from answered prayer is really devotion to what God has done and not God himself. It is reification - confusing the abstract with God.

Even if it is true that some believers do not believe in God and religion in the absence of evidence, but because they are considering the evidence and really think it is all true, the fact remains that most believers have little or no regard for evidence. They want to be detached from reality. There can be no real comfort in such an attitude. If you take doctrine seriously and don't care about evidence then you simply don't care about truth. If that comforts you, it won't for long. There will be a savage wake-up call. And how could you trust people in your church if you think they are doing the same thing as you? And if there are believers in God who care about evidence, if they care, they will be open to evidence against God and that will take away their faith in God. They will then have to find faith in themselves.

Nature has built in the tendency to think and feel that terrible things happen to other people not me. We get a lot of comfort from that. People thank God for this stupid and awful and more or less callous attitude. That makes the alarm bells ring. When people thank God for how he protected them during the day, it is the tendency to think they are too special to be hurt badly and others are not, that is at work.

The tendency does have its advantages but the reality is that bad things can happen to anyone. We will cope terribly if we think we are somehow immune and when something happens. It is safer then to realise that life events are random and no magical power and no magician in Heaven is going to save you from accidents and misfortune. You are as vulnerable as the people whose lives are hell.

The tendency is based on magical thinking. We think some magic is protecting us and not others. Even atheists have the tendency. The rub is how to reduce it. It needs to be discouraged and reduced as much as possible because it is insulting to think that magic should save some and not others. It is not the kind of thing you should merely think - you need evidence. Religion makes it worse. Belief in God makes it worse. It is more evil to feel that others should suffer not you when you believe in an all-good God than it is if you are simply superstitious and think that magic randomly has its favourites for protecting from evil. Belief in God favouring you implies that others are dirt. At least with the magic you could be favoured for no reason - its random.

Another thing that encourages the tendency is being part of a religious group. If you feel the group is the one true Church you will get a sense not only that you are protected but you are protected as a part of the religion God protects and guards.

Suppose two loving parents lose their child in a horrible agonising death. They comfort themselves in thinking their child went to God. But does it make sense to be happy that you child has gone to a God who let her suffer and die so terribly? They must think that God had no choice. But then does it make sense to be happy that your child is in the arms of a God who like us has to do things against his will? Belief in God only gives superficial relief. The underlying problem is still there. The clergy and the nuns delude themselves and get a warm glow from giving non-help. And the notion that the child was taken for God had no choice is judgemental. It implies that God may have had to do this to the child for he sensed that the child would grow up to be a ruthless drug-pusher or something. It might be a may but it is still judgemental.

Belief in a creator God is not comforting. A God who tells something to come out of nothing is not creating or causing it to come into existence. Something coming from nothing means it was uncaused. It is another way of saying uncaused. To say that something cannot come from nothing means it cannot happen for there is nothing there for it to come from. Religion agrees but says God can do it. But that is to say God can do the impossible. Nothing by definition means that nothing at all can make it turn into something. The notion of a creator God is contradictory.

The notion of a creator God is a vicious circle. "Nothing comes from nothing. We are here so God must have made something come from nothing." It is assuming what you pretend to show as true.

Our talk and belief in the laws of nature does not imply these are laws in the sense that some intelligence set them up. Any kind of universe has to have some predictability. We see that it is probable that the sun will rise tomorrow. That if you have no immunity to antibiotics they should help. We cannot live without predicting and without believing that certain things have certain effects. We cannot prove it but we assume it on the basis of probability. So we assume that nature will not change and there will be no miracles. Nobody will die and rise again in a week. Religious people pounce on the fact that we are talking about probability. They argue, "If you say it is probable that dead people cannot rise, then you admit that they might". It is true that we do. But they say this argument entitles us to argue that miracles have happened and to believe in them. It does not. The point of the argument is not that miracles might happen but that we are justified in assuming they do not and that nature is predictable. This is not the same as dogmatically refusing to admit that miracles happen. Yet you will be accused of that by the believers who do not have the honesty to tell us, "We twist things therefore do not trust us when we give you evidence for miracles." Belief in miracles is about the desire to feel protected. There is less bias in assuming miracles haven't happened in a believable way than assuming that they have. You have to assume something so why not that nature is regular? You need that belief. You do not need to believe that Mary appeared at Lourdes the way you need to believe the sun will rise tomorrow. There is more bias in saying event x or y or z is a miracle than there is in saying miracles happen but you don't know what event is a miracle or isn't. Believers do not really want to believe in miracles - they want to believe that certain events are miracles. That is the rub.

You cannot know what caused a person to rise again after being dead for days. You cannot then have evidence that it was supernatural. Maybe some unknown natural law was behind it. Miracle believers are really only miracle guessers.

Religion is abuse. It is grotesque how religion encourages people to feel that God protects them from the bad things he lets happen to others to get their devotion and money. Religion grows in power as a result. The tendency to feel that terrible things visit others and not you is increased by belief in God. It nurtures it. It can lead to complete arrogance and coldness in the face of the suffering of others. It may lead to religious people doing lots of good works too. They do the good and venture out into dangerous territory because they feel invulnerable to do it. But it is not right to encourage this patronising love and goodness. It exposes the religious people to grave danger. If you want to be heroic and risk your life for others, then it is only fair that you do it while being aware of the risks. Those who let you think there is no risk because God is with you are simply using you as a means to get good done. They dehumanise you and treat you as a way to get things done and treat you as unimportant as a person.

The really good person goes out realising that anything can happen to them just as much as it can those who are in need of help.

Suppose Satan needed medicine to live. If Jesus cares about his wellbeing and not his sins or how dangerous he is he will give him the medicine. If Jesus is afraid to help him for he will recover and do terrible harm to others he might refrain for their sake. That would mean that anybody loving you and hating your sins is not necessarily going to help you or work for your wellbeing. So it is odd why people take consolation from the love the sinner and hate the sin doctrine. The love is not about the other person's wellbeing at all but about them.

Deism teaches that God loves us but does not do magic for us. It is not religion for it is based on freethinking.

Some claim that loving this God and believing in his love may not make life easier but harder but at least whatever happens we will know he loves us. That in a nutshell is what their spirituality ultimately offers. Those who believe that God does do miracles but will be doing none for them have a similar spirituality. This describes most Christians.

Deism says that the existence of an all-powerful and all-good God does not mean you will necessarily be okay ever again. If God cannot help for some reason despite being all-powerful, then the Deists tell you God loves you. But that though should make you feel worse because you need to be upset that God suffers for you. He wants to help but cannot. Is God’s love for you really much help if he cannot help you? When you suffer enough it is relief you will want not his love.

Believers in religion and God deny that evil, no matter how great, shows that God’s existence is improbable or unlikely. If nothing refutes the love of God then clearly you are assuming he loves. You are not believing. You are saying you will not process any evidence that shows that your "belief" should be scrapped. That is enough to show that you cannot be trusted if you claim to believe. Assuming is not going to help much. You are simply defying the evidence.  It is too serious of a matter to simply assume that evil is somehow justified as God is love.  If you cannot love God unless you love people it follows you should be as willing to condone what people do or seem to do.

Someone we love dies. Our grief is not about how much we value the person as a person but how we responded to them and caused ourselves to feel about them. It is caused by human factors rather than spiritual. Nobody suffers on the basis that God made and valued the person.

The atheist and the Christian (you can substitute any religion of your choice here) have to face one question in life and that is the only question that matters. It is, "There is nothing I can do to guarantee that I will not suffer or die. In that sense, I have to succumb to despair. I am not saying, I have no hope. I am saying I hope for the best in all things except the one thing. So how do I be as happy as possible in the face of the suffering and death that can happen to me? I can try - others have managed it. Others have succeeded."

It is as important to know what the answer is not as it is to know what the answer is. It is prejudiced and unfair and silly to say that God's love is the antidote to sin and evil and the sense that life is useless and not want to hear any other answers.

Christians hold that those who die estranged from God will be barred from Heavenly Happiness forever and will suffer in Hell for all eternity. If somebody dies without having made any sign of sorrow to God for living in sin, the Church will tell the relatives and friends, “Don’t underestimate the grace and power of Almighty God. God may have reached him and found this lost sheep.” In other words, God is going to make a special effort to convert the sinner in danger of death! How could that console people who don’t see much reason to be confident about God working to stop paedophile priests sinning? And the Church does not really believe its own answer for it says that we should never underestimate the power of the human heart to disparage the ways of God and says that hearts are good at deceiving and blinding their owners. Jesus said the Jews were confident in their hearts that they were holy but they were not (Luke 16).

We conclude that the comfort people report from faith in God comes not from God but from the way they distort their own perception and it comes from their ignorance. It is a placebo and a placebo by definition should be short-term.  Religious people need their faith challenged gently and kindly. Do not argue that it helps them therefore you must protect their faith by saying nothing that undermines it.