Often times when the subject of religion comes up and someone finds out that I’m an atheist or that atheists even exist you will inevitably hear “well don’t you believe in something?” or when asked why they believe in a certain deity “well it’s better to have someone that I can talk to and share all my problems with and whisk them away!”. So I got to thinking, is it indeed better to have someone to talk to rather than no one?
I had to answer that honestly; yes. Yes it is better to have someone you can talk to about intimate problems and other unsavory things. Life would be pretty cruddy if we were forced to keep it bottled up inside or were ridiculed the moment we put our hopes and fears out into the open. So isn’t that a great case for a belief in god or Jesus or whatever? I mean, if big mean evil atheist Jason K. can admit that it’s good to have someone to talk to, then there must certainly be something to that belief and we can chalk one up for theism, right?
Not so fast. Enter my mother.
Now this is just an example here and you can replace my mother with your best friend, your father, a brother, a good friend, or yes indeed, even a clergyman. My mom is the one person I know for sure that I can tell anything and she’ll listen. She might get mad, disappointed, excited, congratulatory, judgmental, or any other number of good or bad things. But the point is that she is there for me in at least some kind of capacity just like most everyone has someone that can listen to them. So what does all of this have to do with Jesus and religious belief?
Many theists, Christians in particular, enjoy a belief that speaking with some kind of supernatural deity is in itself a good thing and that it provides something that no one else can provide. I would say that this is inherently untrue and self-deceiving; especially when we look at all of the wonderful people we have around us. If “unloading” your problems on someone is beneficial for your personal well-being, why does it have to be a supernatural figure? Why not your cat, or dog, or favorite stuffed plushy animal? Isn’t that the same idea that we have when unloading our woes on an unseen force? Why is giving all of your problems over to Jesus somehow more mystical and superior to me talking with my mom about life’s comings and goings?
It simply isn’t.
If you commit a horrendous crime, say murder, and truly believe in the Christian doctrine, then you should be able to give all those problems over to Jesus and go home at night and get up early for church the next day. I’d probably never find anyone that reads this agreeing with that assessment and they would clamor for the criminal to atone for his “sins”. So if that isn’t a sufficient effort for unloading our problems onto Jesus then what is the point exactly? If speaking with a supernatural being is somehow superior to speaking with flesh and blood beings, then we should see a definite result, correct? If a devout Christian believer still doesn’t consider himself exonerated for his crime by speaking with Jesus then what exactly is the supernatural conversation doing? We get more results from the stuffed animal, do we not, and that is easy to describe: None. Well, we may feel better about ourselves, whether we speak to Teddy or to Jesus, but that doesn’t exactly make our problems go away. Or if they do, neither Teddy nor Jesus has anything to do with it.
However, I can tell you where I get some results. I myself get them from my mom. She’s always there for me and when she isn’t, I’ll always have her memory to live by and respect. She isn’t omnipotent (though she’d tell you otherwise) and I know that when I take her time to talk about my problems, she is giving me that time and that in itself means something. I’m not some trifling one trillionth of the people she has to listen to with unending patience, when I talk to her she is truly listening. I’ll always have other people around me and the relationships that I create to help support me through difficult times. So why exactly is it better to believe in something rather than nothing? We get more satisfaction from talking about our problems to someone in front of us than to some mystical being that may or may not help you. The person that we speak with can offer support, volunteer time, share experiences, and quite literally and physically be there for you. Isn’t it better for me to not “believe” in something supernatural and instead better to believe in the people and the connections I make with them? Isn’t it better to know that I have my mother or my significant other there to help me through tough times? Isn’t it better to know that the connections that I make with other people as we walk through life are more powerful and meaningful than any kind of supernatural flavor-over-the-century? Isn’t it better to know that I can always call my mom?
That is something worth believing in.