My experience with religion: Part 2


Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

– Matthew 6:34

I find it to be a very practical psychological advice. Worries and fears can consume our mental energy and even cause physical health issues through stress. But how do I know that “everything will be OK”? The Bible implies that God will take care of everything. But how do I know? For this practical psychological advice to work, it seems to be necessary to believe in God.

In times of uncertainty and trouble, it is a comforting and encouraging thought that someone will take care of me. Normally, people get this emotional support from friends and family. My wife and I are first-generation immigrants in the U.S. We have 3 children. We have absolutely no relatives on this continent. Not even a distant cousin across the country. All relatives are across an ocean. We can’t “leave kids at grandma’s for weekend”, for example. Social life is minimal. There is simply very little time for it. We are so absorbed with daily routines, schools, practices, doctor’s appointments, and other mundane things that it would be very difficult to find anyone with similar interests. People in the same situation as we are would likely have equally little time for fun. It’s hard to form friendships in your fourties. There are friends from school years, but most of them are also 10,000 miles away.

This sculpture of Christ is sitting on top of a chapel next to the cathedral in my home city where my wife and I had a wedding. Carrying the burdens of this world is not easy.

The toll of stress can be high. I have a friend who died in his fourties from cancer, soon after selling his business for a few million dollars. That’s an extreme, and I do not own a business. But I have many friends and coworkers who went through divorce. One friend went through cycles of depression after divorcing his first wife. I can see why these things happen and there is no guarantee that something similar will not happen to me.

A hope or faith that I will get through difficulties despite being apparently inadequate for the challenge is quite essential. Where shall I get it? Go to a psychologist? Spend a few hundred dollars and many hours, get a report with “findings” and recommendations, to put it away in a drawer and not open it ever again? What will the psychologist tell me? Reduce stress, sleep, eat, exercise, and pay attention to my wife and family? My expectation that I would learn something I don’t already know is low. At the end, it would still come down to believing in a solution and doing it. So, practicing some good-old Biblical wisdom is, perhaps, as good as “professional help”.

I like another aspect of religion. With 3 children, life can get chaotic. These little cute creatures create all kinds of mess. Toys all over the house, drawings and boogers on the walls, food all over faces are everyday experiences. They can get sick just in time for family events planned months ahead and create all kinds of other surprises. I have noticed that participating in a Catholic mass has an interesting calming effect on me. Every move is scripted, polished, and performed for 2000 years, without changes. Catholic mass is the same in the U.S., in Ukraine, today, as it was 1000 years ago. It leaves an impression of being a part of eternity.

Many atheists use religious practices for their psychological effects. Meditation started as a religious practice. A friend of mine, an atheist, attended meditation sessions to fight depression at some Indian center. He said, he felt very positive effect. However, after a few practices, they started to introduce the “spiritual side” of meditation which was a total turn-down for my friend. It seems to me, you can’t sever a flower from its root, and enjoy it. If you want to enjoy the flower for a long time, it needs to be attached to the root. Spiritual practices will not solve spiritual problems if they are separated from their spiritual origins – religion.

So, the reasons why I choose to believe in God are purely emotional and psychological.  I am fully aware of these reasons.  I cannot call my faith unreasonable, although the reasons are irrational.   I did not accept faith blindly.   I chose faith not because I’m brainwashed or uneducated.  Actually, after I chose to believe in God, my interest and knowledge of science, philosophy, and history exploded.  I would not have read as much without taking interest in religion.  I’d like to talk about this in one of the future posts.

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55 thoughts on “My experience with religion: Part 2

  1. “Let him clean better, if he can, the window of his soul, that he might see the beauty and prospect of life more clearly.”

    I ran across that quotation many years ago, but at the time, didn’t bother to notice the name of the author. Regardless, if you’ve found something that makes you happy and harms no one else, far be it from me to condemn you.

    • Not really. I grew up as an atheist. Never had a religious education myself and don’t have a family tradition of meal prayers and such. We go to church on Sundays, so they learn something there, but I myself, I’m afraid, am not a religious educator.

      I adhere to certain religious principles, but I’m totally aware that they are not based on anything that could be presented as evidence or proof as I said in the “about” post.

      • But you got to church, so the religious exposure /indoctrination of your children has already begun.
        When I grew up it was mostly optional – except for a few Sunday School lessons and Boy Scout Parade.
        But it was a great many years later before \i realised that Moses and Jesus of Nazareth were nothing but narrative constructs.
        Children, if at all possible – should be kept away from all religious instruction ( other than for purely educational purposes) until they are old enough to make an informed choice. Preferably around 65.

        • Indoctrination begins the moment children open their eyes. “All we know is just another brick in the wall”. Where I grew up, religion was discouraged and frowned upon. It wasn’t good either. Learning a few religious stories won’t hurt my kids.

          • Learning religious stories is fine, providing story is emphasized. It would help if children are exposed to other religions along the way and it is made perfectly clear that biblical characters such as Adam and Eve and Moses are works of narrative fiction as was the supposedly divine character, Jesus of Nazareth.

          • That anything we know can be said to be a story. I admit, there is a little bit of sophistry in this statement and it smells with solipsism, but I do think that beliefs in mythology, religious or secular – about national heroes and ideals, for example, – is important for human culture.

          • Oh, on this note I agree. Nothing like a bit of Jason and the Argonauts, or Helen of Troy. Or even more modern versions of heroes. Armstrong, Mandela etc.
            But when you include Moses and Jesus among this lot and attribute divinity and superior morality and crediting them with being unimpeachable historical characters then one had better have the evidence to back this up.
            As it turns out, for these two biblical constructs there is no verifiable evidence whatsoever.

          • It’s OK to believe in ideals. Everyone does. Ideals do not exist and cannot have evidence of existence, so the evidence has nothing to do with it. Where people get their ideals is a different story and why they believe in them is a different question.

          • When such religious ”ideals” are pushed as irrefutable truth then we have a serious problem.
            As Dawkins rightfully asserts, children need to be protected from all forms of religious indoctrination.

          • When such religious ”ideals” are pushed as irrefutable truth then we have a serious problem.

            I agree on that. I myself do not like when people force their ideals onto others.

            As Dawkins rightfully asserts, children need to be protected from all forms of religious indoctrination.

            Isn’t Dawkins hereby forcing his ideals onto others?

          • Don’t you think that any moral instruction of children by their parents or school can be called “indoctrination”? Don’t you think that certain things should be instilled in the young minds?

            Proverbs 22:6King James Version (KJV)

            6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

            E.g. in all public elementary schools that I’ve seen in Oregon, starting with the kindergarten, the teachers repeat with the children the mantra of being “safe, respectful, responsible”. This three-word cliche is inscribed on the walls in every classroom. Do you approve of such practice or do you think the school violates the right of the children to form their own character, free of indoctrination from society?

            Now, from my experience, this is exactly what they do in church Sunday schools and camps — they indoctrinate children in “being good neighbors”, “serve the Lord” by serving others, share what they have with those in need, tell the truth, etc. It’s embellished by a few biblical myths — something public schools don’t do. Unlike the public schools where the focus is the academic performance and a set of skills to become a good slave to the government and corporations (I’m being facetious), such moral instruction is the primary focus of the religious education, at least, as far as I have seen. Where do you see the harm to the children and violation of their rights here?

          • The school example is obviously to safeguard the children. To suggest this is negative is trite.
            As you and I both learned out times tables by rote and they are now indelibly etched on our subconscious. I doubt we could ”forget ” then if we tried, right?

            To teach as fact anything that has a presuppositional religious basis; ie ”god” is immoral and unethical and should be considered a form of child abuse.

            If you cannot understand that your belief in the veracity of your god is no different than how a Jew, Muslim, Hindu or worshiper of Thor feels about their god then this is the perfect reason why children should be protected from such.

            By trying to offer a somewhat barbed dig at schools that offer no religious instruction merely demonstrates the point further.

            A child’s rights are violated because you are claiming veracity for the god you worship, and imposing its values on the child.
            Religion and gods have no exclusive mandate on morality and ethics.
            Furthermore, belief in your god, hinges on admission one is born in sin and failure to acknowledge the character Jesus of Nazareth as divine results in being sent to Hell.

            This also is child abuse.

          • I also think that the concept of hell is harmful not only to child, but also to adult psyche. But not all churches emphasize it in their religious instruction. Some focus on the positive sides. All in all, it’s not the education itself, but how it is done that can be a problem. Even the multiplication table can be taught in a way that the child would be mentally scarred for life.

          • But not all churches emphasize it in their religious instruction.

            You mean it is no longer part of the doctrine of certain Christians sects or they simply try to hand wave it so’s not to scare the kiddies?
            Which is it?

          • The notion of hell is in the bible. So, perhaps, the churches cannot simply dismiss it. Just like the requirement to kill homosexuals, witches, and adulterers – it’s there. These issues are just not being emphasized in some churches. At least, I have not heard from my kids any concerns that they will go to hell after the classes in church.

            I have noticed that some passages from the Bible are being read in church over and over while others — never. I have not heard any priests commenting on Ezekiel 23:20.

          • That isn’t really answering my question.
            If it’s there ( and I would dispute this) why is it not taught?
            And if it remains part of you belief system then why are children being duped into accepting that it is of ”no consequence”.

            Do you believe in the hell as described by the christian church?
            If not, why not?

          • Hell is described in Christian churches in many ways. If you specify which description of hell you mean, I can answer if I believe on it or not.

            I don’t believe in fiery furnaces and huge pots where sinners are deep fried in oil. I suppose, hell is a figurative place of eternal suffering. The suffering is “spiritual” (emotional), not physical. It’s not as much a punishment for sin as it is a consequence of sin. By sin I understand a failure to do what one considers right or good. It usually brings feelings of guilt, fear, anxiety, anger at oneself and others. I think, hell is continuously living under the weight of these feelings and being tormented by them.

            But that’s, perhaps, not exactly how most Christian churches describe hell.

          • Hell is described in Christian churches in many ways.

            A great many Christians believe in a Dante’s inferno type of eternal punishment and teach this as fact to kids. Not nice. Not nice at all. This is simply child abuse, plan and simple.

            And this is where the problems arise, do they not?
            The biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth never taught it and that is all that should be of concern, surely?

            Original Sin is another. A crock of shit if ever there was.
            In fact the more you honestly examine christian doctrine you can see its foundational tenets are all nonsense.
            But ignorance of the history of your religion is what has kept most adherents under the metaphorical thumb.

          • But it demands of you to admit you are a unworthy, a sinner, a nonsensical term outside of religious context, and a doctrine/religion built entirely on a false premise.

          • I don’t have a problem with that. We are all lacking something and fail in many respects. It doesn’t mean that I’m unworthy, but admitting it does make me kinder and less judgmental.

          • You still seem to be skirting the central issue of why you feel the need to be a Christian?
            I presume you believe in the divinity of the character Jesus of Nazareth?

          • Yes. I think, his attitude towards people and the way he behaved himself, according to the story, are divine. In a sense of a “perfect example”. I understand “divine” as “perfect” or “ideal”. I can hold anything “divine”, but the bible teaches to have only one god.

          • In monotheism there is only one god. So the question does not make sense. Somebody said that only two numbers are self-sufficient – zero and one. Everything else requires an explanation. If I claimed that there are two gods, it would beg a question why not three or four. And we could ask “which God”. But with one God, this does not make sense.

          • Yes, but christians believe in the Triune – yet another Church construct.

            So you believe Yahweh is also the character Jesus of Nazareth?

          • Yahweh and Jesus (Yeshua) are names or symbols. Yahweh is translated “I AM”. To me, it seems to denote “self” or “being”. The name Jesus (Yeshua) also has several meanings. I have no problem using different symbols or concepts to denote the same idea.

            Our brain does not operate with physical objects. It deals with ideas. Some ideas represent physical objects, some don’t. Ideas are expressed using symbols, names, characters, words, etc. There can be infinite connections, associations and relations between ideas, symbols, and physical things. The meanings is in these connections. What makes sense to me may not make sense to you or be completely useless to you. Different people may use the same symbol to represent different ideas or may use different symbols to represent the same idea. It does not bother me. This is all trivial nonsense, I know. That’s the point — why does it matter what name people use for God? It’s more interesting to understand what stands behind those names for those people.

          • What I am trying to understand is why you became a Christian, bearing in mind that the bible is practically historical fiction from beginning to end and the character, Jesus of Nazareth is simply a narrative construct.
            Now, is it that difficult for you to offer a simple straightforward answer?

          • In a nutshell, the benefit of religion for me is in the mindset that brings me in peace with myself, the people around me, and the circumstances of my life. Evidence or whether characters are fictitious have nothing to do with it. It’s possible to do it without religion, but religion offers a lot of useful tools for that.

          • You still seem to be skirting the central issue of why you feel the need to be a Christian?

            Why people feel the need to do anything (other than satisfying the basic biological needs) is irrational and cannot be explained. Say, you want to buy a 1963 Corvette. I could ask “why Corvette? – there are plenty of other beautiful cars and many people don’t own a car at all” or “why 1963? It’s old, parts and service are expensive”, etc. But it may turn out that your dad owned one when you were a child or you may have some other irrational sentimental reason to do what you do.

            I thought, I explained it.

          • In this blog, I would like to discuss beliefs — not to convince anyone, but to understand. What do we believe? Why? How do we know what we know? What about evidence and reason? What about falsifiability and other attributes of science? Feel free to agree or disagree and thanks for reading

            Yes, I read it a while back.

            You were an atheist and n ow you aren’t.
            And you still haven’t answered why.
            an you possibly offer up a straightforward answer without the dance?

          • And you still haven’t answered why. Can you possibly offer up a straightforward answer without the dance?

            What do you expect me to say? In your opinion, in order to believe, one needs some material evidence. I don’t think so. Do I need a reason for everything I believe or do? That would be boring. I would end up not believing anything and not doing anything. What do you want from me? None of the reasons to be a Christian would be satisfactory for you. Why bother asking?

            The benefit of believing something is in practice that follows from that belief. And this benefit creates the reason for the belief. It’s circular. Without belief, there is no benefit and no reason to believe.

          • No, of course you don’t need a reason. I was just curious why anyone would willingly submit themselves to such levels of banal degradation based on a fictitious character?

          • You can call it degradation only if you believe that atheism is superior to theism which is pride and there is a number of reasons why I think pride is destructive. I have no problem with atheists who do not claim that atheism is somehow superior to theism.

          • Atheism is superior to all forms of superstitious nonsense.

            That’s an epitome of pride. Superiority implies a purpose. You can say “a hammer is superior to a screwdriver for driving nails”. But you can’t claim that a hammer is superior to screwdriver in general and in all respects. In some contexts (e.g. natural science), excluding god from consideration makes sense because if you want to explain a natural phenomenon, you need to exclude the unexplainable (miracles). In other contexts (e.g. considering the source of one’s suffering or anger and what to do with it), religion helps better than atheism.

            Can praying to your god regenerate a limb of an amputee?

            Atheism does not do that either. Medicine may be able to do that, but not yet. Of course, faith alone won’t regenerate any limbs. But in order to do anything, you need faith that it can be done, even if it has never been done before.

          • I said all forms of superstition. Please bear in mind I live in Africa where superstition often runs riot: women die because they are accused of witchcraft, children are raped because some people think that sex with a child virgin is a cure for AIDS and human body parts are harvested to be used in traditional medicine to ward off evil spirits. Yes, it really does happen, even in this day and age.
            Praying over a wafer and believing it to be the body of Christ is just as insane only non-violent.
            Faith is believing in something you know ain’t true ( Mark Twain)
            I have ”faith” (trust) my car will start tomorrow because I know the battery is charged and the tank is full of petrol.
            I also have ”faith” in gravity which is why won’t jump out of a five storey window.
            Praying to a narrative construct will not cure cancer.
            Superstition can be dangerous and should be guarded against.
            So yes, atheism is superior to all forms of superstition.
            If you disagree perhaps you would to offer a form of superstition that backs your claim?

          • So yes, atheism is superior to all forms of superstition.
            If you disagree perhaps you would to offer a form of superstition that backs your claim?

            You seem to imply that religion is “superstitious nonsense”. What you describe does sound like superstitious nonsense.

            You may call praying over a wafer “superstitious nonsense” — it’s up to you. I view it as a symbolic ritual. Rituals do have important place in human culture and can have practical effects confirmed by scientific research.

            http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/07/17/0956797613478949.abstract

            http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10413200903403216#.Vb_LRTKPthE

            http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10413200490437903#.Vb_LmzKPthE

            http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10413200500471343#.Vb_LqTKPthE

            One can use human sacrifice or rape as a ritual, but, apparently, such practices are not considered civilized. But rituals can have practical benefits. One needs to believe in them to be effective, of course.

          • You are missing the point and dancing once more.
            Praying over a wafer is nonsense because Catholics believe it is the actual body of Christ, and that is utter bullshit.
            You are trying to do a snow job here to avoid directly answering questions.
            I dont believe I want to waste my time any longer on someone who is trying to be clever rather than honest.
            Enjoy the delusion.
            Peace.

          • You seem to be disappointed that you don’t get the answers you expect. What is your direct question? Do I believe in hell as in a physical place where sinners are tortured? No. Do I believe that the Eucharist is the actual physical body of Christ? No. It’s a piece of bread. I’m aware of that. If that’s what you want to hear. What the ritual means is a different question. These words are just pixels on your screen, aren’t they?

            What is the point that I’m missing? That religious rituals and beliefs are nonsense? Yes, if you take them literally. I get that. Religious people use elaborate symbolic language and rituals which sound or look like nonsense to an outsider or to someone who tries to find literal meaning of the language or the actions. It’s like watching two people performing a “secret handshake”. It can look pretty weird​. When Wally says that “you are a son of Satan”, he does not mean that your physical father is Satan. He means that the spirit (use “tone” or “attitude” if you don’t like “spirit”) in your comments on his forum is the one of contempt, doubt, and discontent, that you tend to provoke people.

          • Not disappointed at all. I am quite used to the ”theological Two ” step”.
            I initially asked why you are a christian.
            You have yet to offer a straightforward answer. No problem. This is not a trial so if you don’t want to answer, so be it.

            Wally is not that clever to think of such an in-depth answer. philosophical answer.
            He ”preaches” from a perspective of gross ignorance. My only issue with him is he has access to children with his nonsense. Otherwise he is an adult and can believe whatever he wishes. I have no problem with that at all.

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