One of the Many Reasons I Don’t Get the Appeal of Religion

I’m sitting on my balcony right now getting ready to watch some fireworks (Happy Canada Day!) and I’m in awe of the beautiful moon. It’s shining more brightly than any of the street lights down below.

If you just think about this for a minute. 150 million kilometres away there’s a giant ball of gas that is burning so hot and radiating so much light that during the day today it burned my skin, and now it’s illuminating our night because it’s being reflected off of an orbiting ball of rock.

Incredible.

As I stare at the moon I can’t help but think that believing a god blinked it into existence diminishes its magnificence. I think it’s way cooler and it makes me feel way luckier to be here when I consider that, as the evidence shows, our existence here is simply the result of random chance.

What do you think?

NMoon

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6 Responses to “One of the Many Reasons I Don’t Get the Appeal of Religion”


  1. 1 poppies July 1, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    Do you believe in free will, or do you think that our choices are fully determined by our genes and environmental interactions? I ask because that’s a big part of why random chance existence strikes many theists as nihilistic instead of lucky.

  2. 2 linzeebinzee July 2, 2009 at 12:27 am

    That’s a tough question. I believe that I make my own choices, but I’m restricted by what my genes have given me to work with. For example I couldn’t choose to flap my wings and fly, but I could decide to go for a swim. I think that every decision I make is based on a mixture of my genes and the environment in which I was raised, but that doesn’t make them any less a product of my will. Oi I hope I’m making sense, it’s late!

    Sometimes when I think about my existence I can become nihilistic, but those are often moments that pass very quickly because I feel lucky that there are no expectations for my life in the grand scheme of things. The meaning of my life is what I want it to be, and although every step I take might be a product of nature and nurture, I sure feel like I have control over the paths I take, and isn’t that all that matters? I would feel cheated if my life were just the result of a god’s desire to have worshipers and if I had to choose between doing his will and going to hell.

  3. 3 poppies July 2, 2009 at 12:53 am

    Thanks for your very open and thoughtful answer!

    I’m a little confused as to how you understand yourself to have control over your choices if your choices are all a result of nature and nurture. Do you see free will as somehow emerging from deterministic causes? If so, what’s the mechanism for that?

  4. 4 linzeebinzee July 2, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Maybe I don’t have any control over my choices, but I feel like I do. I don’t really think about the problem of free will because I don’t see the point. I have free will in that there isn’t any external intelligent being making my choices for me. I don’t see any way that I could make decisions that don’t coincide with who I am: my biology and my upbringing. I don’t have a problem with that, because I feel free. When I make a bad decision I don’t think “damn my upbringing made me do it!” because I feel like the choices are my own, and I think that’s all that matters. I guess I’m just not a philosophical person.

    How do you define free will? If it’s freedom from all supernatural, biological and environmental factors in decision-making then I don’t see how it can exist. Wouldn’t that mean having no basis for decision-making? So wouldn’t everything you do be random?

  5. 5 Global Villager July 2, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    This is a difficult question that I have grappled with of late. I lean towards a belief that there is “free will”. By this I mean that I think that there is a “me” that is independent of the genetic and chemical processes that arfe a part of human biology.

    That being said, my belief may stem more from my desire for this to be true and not from actual evidence or scientific logic (which is the case for most intelligent religious adherents I am sure)

    I understand the power of hormones and other chemical processes. I have suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety (outside of the normal ups and downs of life) that were very frustrating because I knew that, logically, there was no reason for these negative emotions. They were likely a chemical inbalance in my serotonin levels (this seems to be the opinion of my doctor after tests etc). This is a problem that runs in my family. Certainly, we are affected greatly but our genetic code, the hormones and chemicals inside us, our experiences etc. However, in normal circumstances, am I not in control of the production of many of the hormones that make me feel a certain way? Am I not ultimately the pilot?

    When I feel sad about something, my body produces the hormones that bring about the characteristic physical and behavioural response. However, I could decide that the “sad” event does not bother me, and my body would not produce those hormones. Therefore, I have made that decision. Certainly, there are some things that are hard wired into us, for example, the desire to procreate and the urges that go along with that! Yet I believe that there is a “me” that governs my actions and emotions and can control most of the chemical processes that bring about the physiological responses.

    I am not really qualified to make bold statements on such questions, all I know is what I feel and the research I have read which is no doubt less than others. I find it hard to believe (and depressing) that I am simply being molded by my surroundings and by my biochemistry. I certainly have a sense of self that in fact battles with these things when they malfunction or do not feel “right” to me (in the case of anxiety and depression).

    Does that mean I believe in a soul? I don’t know, how do you define that really? I do not think it is unreasonable to feel as if there is a “pilot” behind all of the natural processes that make us tick.

    Another interesting question for you guys: How do we determine what is beautiful? What is ugly? What values are good and bad? Is this hardwired into us, or do we develop this through learning from others or on our own? Why do certain things make us feel happy etc? I understand this is a question of evolutionary biology, I hope to do some reading on it!

  6. 6 poppies July 2, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    I subscribe to the “libertarian free will” definition: that regardless of biological pressures or divine influences or environmental experiences, one could have done other than what one did. A further refinement in this definition is that free will involves non-random choices, that is, choices follow a distinct pattern which can’t be explained exhaustively by empirical means, and which is often described as “personality”, “soul”, “self”, etc.

    I think this is what we see in our interactions with ourselves and other people, and I’ve always found it very mysterious, because it does seem to point to the existence of some sort of immateriality which affects the material world. I’m not sure where this “something” comes from, though; it could be an emergent property of extremely complex physical systems such as our brains. To my knowledge, no falsifiable mechanism has been described as to how such an emergence would work. It’s typically just taken on faith by those who presuppose materialism.

    I guess I find this subject interesting because the implications of free will/personality are quite at odds with the strictly causal world we see all around us.


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