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Old 29 Apr 2012, 07:36 PM   #359882 / #1
phands
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Default The Reason Religion Persists: Fear of Death

http://www.atheistrev.com/2012/04/re...-of-death.html

I like the cartoon....and I really agree with the text....

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Paul Waldman hits the nail on the head in a recent article in The American Prospect when he provides this answer to the question of why religion has persisted even as science and reason have made it less necessary:

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Why? Death, of course. Which helps explain why religion has such staying power.
Drawing on data from a recent survey of 30 countries conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago, Waldman notes that religious belief is declining across much of the world at a very slow rate. You have undoubtedly heard many atheists talk about the cohort effect, which shows that younger generations are less religious than older generations. This gives many of us hope because it suggests that we are gradually outgrowing religion. However, Waldman also points out that aging appears to affect the data such that individuals tend to become somewhat more religious as they age.

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As in so many other areas, we are more likely to believe that the thing we would like to be true is in fact true. As you age you see more and more of your family and friends die, and the thought that they are living in paradise and you'll see them again one day is enormously comforting… Even more powerful is the thought of your own mortality, which becomes harder and harder to ignore with each passing year.
So for those asking how people can continue to cling to religious belief in our modern age, the answer would appear to be the reality of death and religion's promise of immortality.
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Old 29 Apr 2012, 09:21 PM   #359904 / #2
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I agree. It think it is also tied to Hope. We Hope to live forever. Evolution requires hope to continue to operate and at the highest level this hope is avoidance of death by living on after death. It follows almost certainly from self-awareness. Death is unacceptable emotionally to a self-aware being no matter how much our logic and science say it is so.

A bit like trying to grasp/understand Infinity or forever.
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Old 29 Apr 2012, 09:27 PM   #359906 / #3
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I agree as well. Death isn't a big deal imo. Seen people die....know that I will inevitably die as well at some point....it is what it is. There will be life to replace the dead in some fashion.
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Old 29 Apr 2012, 10:58 PM   #359955 / #4
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As in so many other areas, we are more likely to believe that the thing we would like to be true is in fact true. As you age you see more and more of your family and friends die, and the thought that they are living in paradise and you'll see them again one day is enormously comforting… Even more powerful is the thought of your own mortality, which becomes harder and harder to ignore with each passing year.
However it is also true that the older you are the more likely you are to have have an upbringing with a heavy religious component, those people may be reverting to what they know; it's not that they become religious, they never denied the idea in the first place - I can't imagine that too many kids who grow up with atheist parents today and go to a secularish school would convert in their 60's after a life-time of rational thought.
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Old 29 Apr 2012, 11:10 PM   #359958 / #5
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I think humans, at least most of us, want to know where we came from, how it all started, etc. Some of us want order, rules and structure. We seem to have a need to search for answers. Religion gives simple answers and explanations for these things while science is much more complicated and new in comparison. It's much more complicated than fear of death. It's about community, ritual, hope, charity, ingrouping, shared values, and all sorts of things that humans value. Fear is just one element and not all religions use fear to manipulate, nor do they all promise eternal life.
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Old 29 Apr 2012, 11:34 PM   #359961 / #6
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Religion gives simple answers and explanations for these things while science is much more complicated and new in comparison.
Religion does not give answers.....it just stops thinking. It obfuscates and confuses, but it doesn't give answers.
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Old 29 Apr 2012, 11:57 PM   #359965 / #7
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Speaking as an oldie in poor health, I know that the thought of death is sometimes welcome. Life can become very trying. Among my family and acquaintance I've not known anyone who has got religion as s/he approached death. But there are apathetic believers who may get a bit keener on their childhood religion as the end comes near.
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Old 30 Apr 2012, 12:27 AM   #359971 / #8
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I basically agree with sohy. You need a lot more argumentation than "look, religion isn't declining, therefore fear of death is causing its persistence". Why has religious belief declined precipitously in Scandinavia, under this view? Have people mysteriously stopped dying in Denmark and Norway? Nah, fear of death is only a piece of the puzzle, it's not "the" reason for religion's survival.
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Old 30 Apr 2012, 12:39 AM   #359973 / #9
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I'm extremely suspicious of the "people get more religious as they get older" argument. I'd like to see some real data showing that people really did reply to pointed questions that yes, they have more faith or belief now than they did when younger. I'm suspicious that it really is the "cohort effect" that shows more religiosity in older folks, and not genuine changes of heart as people age.
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Old 30 Apr 2012, 01:53 AM   #359993 / #10
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I'll rise to affirm that people who have been nominally religious but have never been actively so (e.g. attended church, that sort of thing) do become noticeably more active as the end of life approaches. It was so common that we in the ministry even had an expression for it; we called it "studying for finals." I don't recall ever meeting anyone who FIRST became religious at the end of his or her life, though.

I'd also, of course, point out that this argument does not apply to Jews, by and large. Death for us remains a journey into the dark. It is my guess that most Jews believe that there is something after death, but few indeed will even speculate about what that "something" might be; and very many religious and observant Jews believe that there is nothing at all, that death is the end of one's existence, period. In any case, we claim no promises and have no formal teachings on the subject.
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Old 30 Apr 2012, 03:10 AM   #360006 / #11
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So as more and more young people are "never religious", fewer and fewer of them will begin studying for finals at the other end, too. Works for me!
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Old 30 Apr 2012, 07:07 AM   #360022 / #12
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How can fear of death spur on "religion", when not all religions have anything approaching a comforting afterlife? Mictlan is no pleasure cruise. Buddhism offers you an near infinite number of horrible deaths, sometimes as retribution for the one before, one after another for eternity instead of just once. Christianity and Islam offer some hope, but also offer a great amount of invented fear in the most popular versions of both. Only Protestantism makes any promises to believers, and the fear of Hell is not absent even from those congregations. Even if religion has an undefined quality of comfort in death, how is atheism any more different than the others, considering it has its own perspective on why death isn't scary? This notion has been kicked about in Euro-American literature since Freud, and well, I'm not exactly convinced. It seems more like the sort of thing an ex-Fundy atheist would think religion was motivated by, since so many of them de-convert over issues of fear and hellfire and so forth. I don't see that any particular philosophy has an advantage over another when it comes to the question of death; being afraid of death, and finding coping mechanisms, is a human universal, and though each faith (including the "great non-faith") offers its own vocabulary and philosophy to help its members through, I think it is likely a secondary function of religion at best, available to all faith communities equally.
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Old 30 Apr 2012, 10:19 AM   #360046 / #13
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It seems more like the sort of thing an ex-Fundy atheist would think religion was motivated by, since so many of them de-convert over issues of fear and hellfire and so forth.
That makes even less sense than the OP; why would you deconvert because religion made death even more frightening, and then conclude from that that the whole purpose of religion is to assuage the fear of death?


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I think it is likely a secondary function of religion at best, available to all faith communities equally.
No, that's way overstated. The brass ring in the New Testament is "eternal life", that's what Jesus purports to offer his followers. There are clearly some religions where the promise of defeating death is extremely prominent. This is a much better explanation for why some people get the idea that religion is all about the fear of death: because they are exposed repeatedly to explicit religious teachings portraying an eternity of happiness as the ultimate goal (regardless of whether they unintentionally make the idea of death even more disturbing with their other teachings).
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Old 30 Apr 2012, 01:29 PM   #360086 / #14
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Religion gives simple answers and explanations for these things while science is much more complicated and new in comparison.
Religion does not give answers.....it just stops thinking. It obfuscates and confuses, but it doesn't give answers.
It may not look that way to us, but to many religious folks, religion does give answers and in their minds these answers equate with truth. In my job, I care for lots of old people, many of them are very religious. They seem to find security in the answers that their religions have provided them. They may not be the correct answers but they live happily with the belief that they have found the truth.

It's often difficult for atheists to realize how comforting religion is to many people. Having been a believer in my early life and having lived among believers all of my adult life, I have come to terms with the fact that the religious, no matter how deluded they appear to us, do believe their religions have answered life's hard questions. Without an open mind, none of them will be convinced otherwise.

I've not really noticed that old people become more religious as they age, although they may look to their religion more for support during old age. Many religious groups will accept the old, the sick, and the weird, while the rest of society abandons them. I sometimes swear that my one JW client would never be happy if she didn't have her religion. The JWs are probably the only group that would accept someone as strange as this poor woman. She is just one of the very odd people that has quite a lot of difficulty relating to others. The people in her religion have totally accepted her and provide her with a supportive community that she would never have otherwise.
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Old 30 Apr 2012, 04:27 PM   #360113 / #15
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That makes even less sense than the OP; why would you deconvert because religion made death even more frightening, and then conclude from that that the whole purpose of religion is to assuage the fear of death?
Because they see that fear as the weapon that kept them in line, til they bravely admitted the Truth. It follows that everyone else who hasn't deconverted is motivated by the same fear. It is a tendency of all converted people to see members of their old sect as copies of themselves before their conversion.
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Old 30 Apr 2012, 04:34 PM   #360116 / #16
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I disagree entirely. I think fear of death is a very minor contributory to religious belief.

But why do some atheists feel compelled to come up with catch-all reason why religious people believe what they do, as if it is some kind of mental illness? Why not just accept that some people have a different opinion?
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Old 30 Apr 2012, 04:42 PM   #360121 / #17
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Why not just accept that some people have a different opinion?
Because there is strong evidence to suggest that it's not an "opinion" so much as it is the result of cult indoctrination? Because there is strong evidence to suggest that such "opinions" are detrimental to society? Because in many cases such "opinions" are being imposed upon others, often without their consent or knowledge, particularly in a political context?
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Old 30 Apr 2012, 04:45 PM   #360122 / #18
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Why not just accept that some people have a different opinion?
Because there is strong evidence to suggest that it's not an "opinion" so much as it is the result of cult indoctrination? Because there is strong evidence to suggest that such "opinions" are detrimental to society? Because in many cases such "opinions" are being imposed upon others, often without their consent or knowledge, particularly in a political context?
I am sure many people would say the same about atheism.
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Old 30 Apr 2012, 05:28 PM   #360134 / #19
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Why not just accept that some people have a different opinion?
Because there is strong evidence to suggest that it's not an "opinion" so much as it is the result of cult indoctrination? Because there is strong evidence to suggest that such "opinions" are detrimental to society? Because in many cases such "opinions" are being imposed upon others, often without their consent or knowledge, particularly in a political context?
I am sure many people would say the same about atheism.
Indeed. The question would then become one of evidence.
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Old 30 Apr 2012, 05:32 PM   #360135 / #20
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Why not just accept that some people have a different opinion?
Because there is strong evidence to suggest that it's not an "opinion" so much as it is the result of cult indoctrination? Because there is strong evidence to suggest that such "opinions" are detrimental to society? Because in many cases such "opinions" are being imposed upon others, often without their consent or knowledge, particularly in a political context?
I am sure many people would say the same about atheism.
Indeed. The question would then become one of evidence.
Of which you have none, or at best circumstantial and/or apocryphal.
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Old 30 Apr 2012, 05:39 PM   #360141 / #21
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Why not just accept that some people have a different opinion?
Because there is strong evidence to suggest that it's not an "opinion" so much as it is the result of cult indoctrination? Because there is strong evidence to suggest that such "opinions" are detrimental to society? Because in many cases such "opinions" are being imposed upon others, often without their consent or knowledge, particularly in a political context?
I am sure many people would say the same about atheism.
Indeed. The question would then become one of evidence.
Of which you have none, or at best circumstantial and/or apocryphal.


There's plenty of evidence for all three and little to no evidence for your counter.
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Old 30 Apr 2012, 05:45 PM   #360143 / #22
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Piffle. The "result of cult indoctrination" is simply a sensationalist/alarmist way of saying our beliefs are influenced by the culture we live in. Big fucking revelation there then. What is, or is not, detrimental to society is an entirely subjective judgement, so again not contributory to objective evidence. Finally, varying opinions of all kinds are very often imposed on others, in many contexts - it is just what being part of society entails.

Or, in other words, your objections are the usual waffley rubbish that people come out with to oppose the viewpoints they disagree with or don't like.
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Old 30 Apr 2012, 06:30 PM   #360154 / #23
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The "result of cult indoctrination" is simply a sensationalist/alarmist way of saying our beliefs are influenced by the culture we live in.
No, it's actually a factual way of saying that religious beliefs are programmed, most often from a very young age and not merely "influenced by the culture we live in." That would be a far more passive form of influence, but still contributory of course.

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What is, or is not, detrimental to society is an entirely subjective judgement
All judgements are subjective.

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Finally, varying opinions of all kinds are very often imposed on others, in many contexts - it is just what being part of society entails.
And irrelevant to the method by which the majority of religious "opinions" are being imposed, or the question of how detrimental that imposition.

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Or, in other words
You have no legitimate counter argument?

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Old 30 Apr 2012, 11:29 PM   #360261 / #24
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That makes even less sense than the OP; why would you deconvert because religion made death even more frightening, and then conclude from that that the whole purpose of religion is to assuage the fear of death?
Because they see that fear as the weapon that kept them in line, til they bravely admitted the Truth. It follows that everyone else who hasn't deconverted is motivated by the same fear. It is a tendency of all converted people to see members of their old sect as copies of themselves before their conversion.
That's a convenient way of pigeonholing atheists and all, but it doesn't support your position here. If they see everyone as being like them, and they were more afraid of death because of religion rather than less, then they wouldn't see comfort regarding death as the motivation of religion; quite the opposite.

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Old 30 Apr 2012, 11:41 PM   #360270 / #25
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Didn't say or mean that this applied to all atheists, so the pigeon-holing accusation is concerned I can only apologize if it seemed such anyway. I'm well aware that not all atheists are former conservative/orthodox Christians. But I doubt the "common sense" argument of the article would strike home as neatly for someone who wasn't.
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