Does having a faith make you a better person?
Faith and Atheism - a short essay
As a child I’d hide behind my cupboard door to pick my nose, so that God wouldn’t see! It seemed foolish to do so, since I had been taught that God is everywhere. I just hoped that somehow God wasn’t watching.
I needn’t have worried, though, because at the age of sixteen, I came to the conclusion that God did not exist.
According to the Faith of my family it is expected that every person from the age of thirteen upwards fast for twenty-four hours once a year in repentance for his (read his/her) sins. I found it extremely painful, physically, to go without anything to eat or drink. That was the whole idea, of course, but somehow others seemed to find fasting easier. They didn't land up with a dreadful migraine, as I did.
When I was sixteen years old and Yom Kippur was around the corner, I rebelled. “Why should I punish myself? I haven't committed any sin!” I decided that this obligation was ridiculous and that the whole God issue was, too.
Was I going to burn in Hell? Don’t be absurd! There is no Hell! If there were a loving God, why should he want to torture me, or anyone, forever?
This brings me to the crux of the reason for my belief that there is no higher power or being who cares for mankind, and I refer specifically to the horrendous suffering to which millions of people have been subjected during the course of history and are subjected to at this present moment.
There is fighting, killing and maiming on a daily basis in the Middle East in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya.
In many parts of the world there is slavery and hostage-taking. There is forced child labour and forced child prostitution. People are being tortured, murdered, raped and abused.
At this very moment about 800 million individuals are in need of food.
How can an all-loving God allow this to happen? I do not believe that there is any justification for such affliction.
To me, religion is man-made. Usually we are born into a religion, the religion of our family. It is natural to follow the family religion. Religion is also beneficial for those who like to feel that there is a higher power. They want to feel that there is a higher power because that they need to feel that there is a higher power. People have different reasons for this need, and I list some of them below:
–It makes them feel safer to "know" that they are being cared for.
–It gives them guidelines by which to live. (People are in fact attracted to faith
because it brings order into their lives.)
–It might provide a goal for someone seeking direction in life.
–One's religious life can give a person a sense of belonging to a community.
There is nothing wrong with any of the above points.
Nevertheless, I have some arguments against religion:
Religion uses the prospect of future punishment by God as a means to keep people in line. Such punishment is also used as a means of control by a parent who threatens his child with the words, "If you do not do as I say, God will punish you!" It is as if Faith has been twisted into a nasty, punitive power.
Religions often prey on the faithful to depart with money. A religious institution needs money just as any organisation does. But are all of the takings being well-used, or squandered?
This beings me to an issue I have with discretionary money being held by rabbis, pastors and other religious representatives to whom money is entrusted. There are many instances of misuse of these funds and there are case studies which prove this.
This following anecdote illustrates what to me is a despicable form of discrimination within a religious community:
My father was a man steeped in religion. He would have to loved to be called up to the sacred place where the Torahs (hand-written scrolls of the first five books of the bible, regarded as very holy) were kept. But he never was. Why? Because he couldn't afford to make as big a donation as those who were called up. He realised that everybody is not regarded as equally pious in the eyes of his religious congregation and that the wealthy are elevated simply because they can contribute more money.
My father died a very disillusioned man.
Hypocrisy is found in other forms too: A person of Faith may well be the same person who purposely misguides, mistreats, tell lies, steals, or voices racism. And so might an atheist or an agnostic purposely misguide, mistreat, tell lies, steal or be a racist.
The fact is that there are good people and bad people in the whole human race.
Having Faith does not necessarily make one a better person in the same way as being irreligious does not make one a worse person.
When good things happen to you, you are fortunate; it is not because you are being rewarded by God. (When I do a good deed, it is not in expectation of a reward. Similarly, I should hate to think that someone is being kind to me only in the hope of being rewarded!)
When your child dies, it is tragic, and it is not because you are being punished by God. Neither is it because God wants the child's precious soul. A tragedy such as this is not planned by a higher power such as a caring God. That is a horrible thought!
We have no option but to accept that bad things might happen and there is little we can do about it. Faith will not help except, perhaps, as a crutch to hang on to.
There is so much suffering on this planet, that I wonder how people can believe that a caring God is looking after us all.
There is an expression, "There but for grace of God go I." These words might be uttered or thought by a person who witnesses, say, a homeless person. The words mean something to this effect: "That could be me lying on that cardboard, cold, hungry and dirty and perhaps ill. But God has been merciful to me (and here I am sitting comfortably in my home at the dining-room table, using my computer). The man on the cardboard has not necessarily done anything wrong to be in such an unfortunate situation. By the same token, 'you' haven't necessarily done anything that merits a comfortable life.
What I take away from the above example is that you (and I) have been lucky in life, whereas the man lying on the cardboard has met with bad luck.
Luck, rather than religiosity, is what determines our fate.
As an atheist I have been fortunate to have a good life. I married a kind and hard-working man and we had two healthy children. We saved enough money to give them a university education, and they now stand on their own feet, independent of us. Throw into the mixture some cute grandchildren, and who could be luckier?
In terms of morals, whether one leads a life of Faith matters not. What is important is how kind you are to others during your life and whether your integrity is intact. Those who practise religion are no better and no worse than those who do not.
Good people are found in all communities . Bad people are are also to be found in all communities. Being religious or having “FAITH” by no means prevents one from doing bad things, in the same way is being irreligious and not having Faith does not prevent a person from doing good.
A Faith will impose certain disciplines on its followers. An atheist is similarly obliged to be self-disciplined. Each one of us needs to to have only one credo: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Would that not make the world a better place?
Having a Faith is a choice, rather than a necessity.
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