When Religion Probably Doesn’t Help

Question“A Rational Woman” is trying something a little different today for the blog. Here are two questions (that I made up to get us started).

Dear Rational Woman:

Q:  I read a study some time back that young people who are religious wear seat belts more often than the non-religious, smoke and drink less, eat better, and don’t commit as many crimes.  The conclusion of the study was that these kids are trying to figure out their purpose in the world, and they turn to religion. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

A:  Shortcuts are seductive. Young people (and those of all ages going through transitional periods in their lives) often shortchange their own complex and typically cyclical development.  Rather than doing the hard work of thinking things through, learning about themselves, and growing in a conscious way, they instead cling to a love interest or a rigid set of beliefs.

A teenager’s longing for affiliation is particularly intense. Those who believe they’re worthless unless someone loves them become vulnerable to a would-be rescuer, perhaps a supernatural entity, who will save them from the painful search for self.  It doesn’t mean they’re better people.  Perhaps, rather, they’re incompletely evolved.

Dear Rational Woman:

Q: Everyone I know is getting older and more apt to become ill. It often happens that someone asks for my prayers. As an atheist, how should I respond?

A: I’ll assume it’s usually Judeo-Christian-style prayers your acquaintances want from you (I’m American, after all). I wonder if your feelings would be identical if you were asked to perform a Buddhist or Hindu rite on behalf of someone who was ill or who was mourning. (Or Wiccan or Muslim, for that matter.) Just something to consider.

Your response, in general, will probably depend on your closeness to the person asking. The less close, the less reason to do anything but say, “Of course, I do wish him well.” Or “I’m so sorry for your loss,” or whatever. Or say, “I’ll be thinking of him.” (There’s no need to add, “And a fat lot of good that will do.”)

When people I care about are suffering, it makes me ill to even try to imagine their anguish. Certainly, when people are down is not the time to push their most sensitive buttons. But it doesn’t mean you lie or go against your own deeply held beliefs. Do what makes sense to you as a rational person, perhaps taking that energy borne of sympathy to write a letter to a congressperson or a newspaper or sign a petition, at the very least.

  • Readers, do you agree? Do you have any questions of your own you’d like to put out there for my and others’ responses?

Note: In KYLIE’S HEEL, my new novel, you’ll find more Q&As of this type. It’s available for pre-order now at HumanistPress.com, or wait a couple months for the e-book.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Susan K. Perry

Follow me on Twitter @bunnyape

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