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Archive for December 30th, 2008

Found a great reflection by orDover on reconciling the idea of death and what happens after death (e.g. heaven, hell, life after death) from a religious and atheistic perspective.

An excerpt from his post:

Heaven is a romantic fantasy indeed. But I have to wonder, why does Wolstenholme stop there? Wouldn’t it be equally as comforting to tell children that their dead loved ones aren’t dead at all, but that they just went on a vacation and will be back some day? Or we could tell them that their dead loved ones turned into magical fairies who constantly sit at their shoulder, offering guidance and protection. There is no end to the silly yet incredibly comforting myths we could think up to help children deal with death, and yet, I believe that if I seriously suggested my fairy model that people, even religious people, would decry the purposeful delusion. This is because heaven has what my ghost faries lack: a large population of believers. It doesn’t seem so bad for an atheist parent to hypocritically teach something that they believe to be a lie to their children if the majority of the world actually believes said lie. Regardless of the argument ad populi, I do not believe teaching children a supernatural lie, even a comforting one, is a good way to help them cope with the reality of death.

The central issue I glean from the article is the use of myth or story as a comfort for the sensibilities (in the case of the article: to comfort children about death). For me it raises an important question about truth-seeking–is it preferable to acknowledge a comfortable lie than to see the truth?

orDover’s article drew a lot of comments, and one of them was interesting:

That was very well written! It is so sad that the main theme of almost every religion is fear. Fear is the main underlying method used to control the mind. Fear that if you doubt you will be punished.

We have discussed here before how religion is borne out of fear or simply a psychological tool to cope with reality. To this, orDover’s critique is succinct:

I think that before anyone decides to lie to their children in order to give them comfort or protect them from the harshness of reality, they should question whether such lies actually give comfort, or if their comfort is as mythical as that which they espouse.

Of course, whether to prioritize comfort over truth–is an individual decision.

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