Saturday, June 04, 2005

Pity the Poor Atheist

Dear Internet Diary,

I was conversing with an individual on a message board. He's not a Christian--I don't knwo what he is. I think he sort of calls himself a "Buddhist," but I'm skeptical.

He came to the defense of a Muslim who claimed that the satisfaction one receives from religious belief is the only real satisfaction one can find. Material satisfaction is fake, it's "only a paper moon."

A poster responded that he gets more satisfaction from a good bowel movement than anything he could ever get from Allah. The "Buddhist" was incensed. He responds:
The emotional or psychological rewards of religious belief--peace, joy, contentment, awe, love, and many more--are not to be mocked or degraded. They are real and good, and you miss a great deal in not being able to experience them. ..

He claimed to feel sorry for the poster:
It is like never having had good sex, or really good wine, or been to the Grand Canyon or never having seen a Rembrandt or never having been deep in a jungle or high on a mountain, or never really hearing a Mozart concerto, or never having played a musical instrument or never having had children or never having understood an important logical theorem. Those who lack such things in their lives are sad. They survive but they miss out.

My response:
There is no reward that comes from belief in fake things that cannot come from elsewhere. In fact, if they come from holding a falsity as true, these "rewards" are only limp copies. They are as fake as the joy, peace, contentment, awe and love that can come through various psychotropic drugs. Yes, these feelings are real--but nobody seems to be afraid or bullied out of mocking them....

You don't feel compassion. You feel moral superiority. You can't know the depth of anyone's passion if you claim that only belief can give you these feelings. These feelings have already been replicated. Like I said before, drugs can give the same kind of feeling. Yes, you get a nice high temporarily from the love-bombing of a cult, or the emotional rush that happens when you experience temporal lobe seizure, but do you pity people who have never felt the amazing joy that can come from the drug ecstasy? Or the soaring feeling of euphoria that comes with certain neurological events that can leave people crippled mentally?

Mental rushes are great, but don't pretend they are what they are not. They come from certain releases of specific chemicals in the body for specific events. A high form of love, the kind that comes with contentment and attachment to a partner you may want to spend your life with is released, in women, after certain clitoral orgasms. Romantic love has other sorts of chemical release. Emotion is physical. Spirituality and the feeling of significance is not only physical but can be pinpointed in the brain.

No, these great feelings don't belong to you. Don't pretend you hold something others don't have. It's quite presumptuous.

I have to add to anyone reading this: don't let anyone bully you away from criticizing irrational beliefs. Irrationality, as we know from history, is destructive. Yes, religion must be brought to task, or else we might as well give up our values, our moral autonomy. Our independence. Let emotionalism and large numbers decide everything for us: our government, our laws, our love lives, who lives, who dies, how we sell and buy. If we do that, we might as well throw out everything we know about the world. Throw away science, let the priests decide how the universe works, how to cure cancer? why? Because it makes people feel good.

Sorry for the rant, but I'm sick of it. I want to stand up for reason, for speech, for freedom. For my rights. Make no mistake: I do not demand the "right" to not be criticized. Anyone who does just doesn't get it.

Thanks for listening, diary.


breakerslion said...

A wise druggie, back in the days of experimentation, in that long-ago time of the 1970's, once said about LSD, "Once you get the message, hang up the phone." Those that took this advice, either intuitively or actually, live with enough brain cells to tell the tale. One of the myriad problems with the religious world is that people keep going back for more, like an opium or heroin addiction.

For my part, the "spiritual communion" thing did not give me anything like the experience of a good wine. I was emotionally manipulated. I got the same feeling that a young person might experience upon being molested; it feels good, but this is wrong!

I think your "Buddhist" needs a lesson in discriminating tolerance from acceptance, and also a lesson in the form of denial known as "oppositional thinking". You know, real is fake, down is up, fake is real because that's what I believe, so what you believe must be fake.

I wonder if I can become a Muslim long enough to sell off my 72 virtual virgins on e-bay?

vjack said...

I once had a co-worker who I previously respected very much inform me that he was unable to trust another co-worker ever since learning that this co-worker was not Christian. "I'm sorry, but if he's not Christian, I have no reason to believe that he's a moral person." After nearly throwing up, I had to inform him that I couldn't be trusted either.

Hellbound Alleee said...

What gets me is that he clearly acknowledges the joy of the material world, yet still pities those who do not hold a spiritual belief. Not everyone has climbed a mountain, yet their lives are full. There are plenty of people who live full lives who are disabled in some way, yet live rich lives. Pity them and you might get smacked in the face. What does he want, we should all have sad lives if we do not experience EVERYTHING? Oh, wow, if I just look at this ONE Rembrandt painting, and I won't liv a sad life anymore.

Slow, sloppy, lazy thinking.

Rev. Barky said...

Thank you Alleee for again exposing the pitfalls of "the bliss that comes from living a fantasy"


Don't forget to stop praying long enough to pay the electric bill.

Francois Tremblay said...

My opinion is that killing your mind for a little religious bliss is not worth it any more than getting your brain fried on drugs, or living your life in a hypothetical "Pleasure Machine" where you will never experience reality again.

Pleasure is fine, but if you have to drastically reduce your experiential richness for it, you're being emotionalist. You're free to follow your brain secretions and stay in a bloody, theocratic religion because it makes you feel good, but that makes you evil and irresponsible.

Aaron Kinney said...

One fun thing to do is simply switch the accusation around at them. Say:

"Noooo, you got it wrong. The FAKE good feelings come from religious emotion, and the REAL good feelings come from material gain! Like orgasms, bowel movements, and a warm breeze on a sunny day. Your spiritual happiness from lurching around on the floor licking a Bible is totally psychosematic and totally bogus."

How can the spiritual defender support his assertion? I think the materialist would have an easier time supporting the matierial-feelgood-superiority than the spiritualist would supporing their immaterial-feelgood-superiority.