Atheism is bad for your health. How, you say? Well, it forces you to fill up your time and worldview with something other than religion and that is usually something pretty incoherent. Let’s be honest. Religion is imperfect, but it gives a person some structure.
For another, atheism enables the flourishing of anxiety and depression. In a religious tradition you are supposed to put God first, never yourself. So the endless ruminating and dwelling in one’s own mind and about one’s own problems yields unnecessarily self-destructive thoughts.
Then there is the absence of moral guidance. For years I argued with my conservative religious friends about who was more “moral.” I was a liberal and I was wrong. In my travels I learned that without a religion humans are deeply confused about right and wrong. Not the big things. All but the sociopaths get the big things, but we are confused about the smaller ways that we choose good and evil, right and wrong, leaving us vulnerable in the modern world.
I was discussing this concept with a friend recently. She is a Catholic who holds a vast number of views that do not conform with Catholic teaching. I asked her, respectfully, why is it that she thinks she knows better than a church that is 2,000 years old? Then we started talking about something else.
Anyway, my theory is that atheism is a kind of cultural-level depression. It’s a statement of cynicism, a kind of “screw that b.s. I’m doing things my way” attitude. It may not seem like it, but it is an act of putting oneself first. Claiming you and your worldview are THE WORLDVIEW that everyone should have.
You can distract yourself and pretend otherwise, but the need for spiritual connection is so entrenched in the human that it is dangerous to suppress it. It will come out in you raging about your bullshit job or complaining about your life. Unless we nourish that need constantly, we succumb to the dull, earthly pains and occasional pleasures that deny us true happiness.
But have at it. Pretend we are just founts of logic and reason who just need to grasp our shared humanity. And see where that gets you.
Enough to be a good person, at least. I’ve always felt my values were more or less in the right place. I’ve always lived a kind of pseudo-Christian life. But what about the OTHER person? What guides his or her behavior or what limits it, at least?
You never really know until that other person gets a chance to hurt you. When you make yourself vulnerable in marriage, friendship, business, etc. you hope the people you are engaged with are decent, reasonable people. But you never really know. And you’d be surprised how some of your friends and family members might behave when given a little bit of power.
So, a few questions to ask yourself. What guides human behavior? What constrains it in the absence of God or a religion? The answer to the former is typically selfishness, the latter, not much. You may say you’re a “good person” who is governed by “logic and reason,” but what is logical and reasonable to you may not be to the next person. And either way, how do you articulate this to a young person? How do you pass the values of “logic and reason” on to the next generation? WHAT do you pass on to the next generation?
When the proverbial sh#t hits the fan in life, who are you dealing with? Is it a loyal and decent person whose values can be trusted or a selfish, egotistical manipulator like the devil?
You remember the infamous scene from ‘When Harry Met Sally’ when Meg Ryan shows Billy Crystal how easy it is for a woman to fake an orgasm in a crowded restaurant? Well, moments later a nearby patron tells her waitress that she’ll have whatever led to Meg Ryan’s verbal eruption.
It may sound odd, but that’s the way I feel about Catholicism. I have watched it do so much good in so many lives to me it is a no-brainer as to why everyone else should become a part of this beautiful tradition. I’ve watched it motivate people to humbly serve the poor. I’ve watched it transform the lives of the homeless, addicts, alcoholics, and prison inmates. I’ve watched it create large, loving families. I’ve watched it transform so many lives and pass on the values that sustain families and the future.
I’ll have what they’re having.
Sounds like a pretty good idea to me. And one worth sharing with others.