I have been told many times by atheists that “God is a human construct”. Most recently, here:
GOD is just a myth, like every OTHER construct of man.
Well, not all “constructs of man” are myths. Men (and women, to be politically correct) come up with many ideas, not just myths. And I readily agree that God is one of such ideas.
People do not believe in things. People believe in ideas. And yes, ideas are immaterial, cannot be touched, seen, smelled, felt in any way. Well, people can read an idea, but what they see are signs or images. When people say they heard an idea, they actually heard sounds. They could be words, music, or white noise.
So, it does not bother me at all that “God is a human construct”. So is everything else for which we can find a word.
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.
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.
Thanks, SelfAwarePatterns, for posting this.
Why am I reblogging this? Because I agree with it. And why do I agree with it? Because I find it reasonable. And why do I find it reasonable? Because I agree with it. OK. Time to stop… The whole rationale comes down to “because I like it” (an emotional statement).
A lot of people believe these days that we need a reason to believe something. But I don’t understand the reason for such belief. For example, Steven Pinker in this video, tries to demonstrate how unreasonable was human sacrifice in ancient societies by providing possible reasons for such practices, which, he believes, are wrong reasons. But he cannot say that this behavior was “unreasonable” because he himself has just provided reasons for it. He believes human sacrifice was unreasonable, likely, because, human sacrifices cause negative emotions in people and not because human sacrifice lacked any reasons behind it.
One of the criteria for truth is coherence — lack of self-contradiction. A good way to check for coherence in logic and hypocrisy in morality is to apply the statement to itself. I find this Hume’s idea coherent. It does not lead to self-contradiction, unlike the belief that all beliefs need reason which contradicts itself. Hume’s thesis is also coherent with my fundamental belief that fundamental beliefs do not need reason or evidence.
And I like it because it’s a liberating thought. I can believe whatever I like to believe! (Within reasonable limits, of course).
Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them. David Hume
Reason, logic, is a tool. It is a means to an end. It is never an end unto itself, never the goal. It is the journey, not the destination. When we use reason, we use it in pursuit of some goal. That goal may be truth, it may be self aggrandizement, or it may be rationalizing an intuitively held opinion.
Our goals come from our instincts, our intuitions, our emotions, from the base programming that evolution has given us. First you feel the motivation, then (maybe) you deploy reason in pursuit of the motivated goal. Reason may have informed your instincts. It might have played a role in the formation of the urge, but it didn’t itself create it.