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The Living Room Religion Why Does Religion Exist? Why do we debate God's existence?
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Why do we debate God's existence?
Here's the thing. Everybody asks whether or not God exists. Why is there religion? Why do people believe in God? Does God even exist?

Maybe we should be asking a different question. Why are we asking the question to begin with?

Atheists will always be able to disprove God's existence. Believers will always be able to prove God's existence, or at the very least, skillfully dodge the attacks.

There can never be an answer to whether or not God exists. You cannot prove it, nor can you disprove it -- so the question is futile. There is no answer. That's what faith is all about -- believing in something without any evidence of its existence.

So why do we ask the question? Well, that seems pretty obvious to me... it makes us feel better.

Believers ask "Does God exist"? No one can prove he doesn't, so the believers are happy with the answer "Yes". Atheists ask "Does God exist"? No one can prove he does, so the Atheists are happy with the answer "No".

When believers and atheists argue, no answer can be found, and both sides leave the argument feeling satiated, satisfied, and superior.

No matter what you believe, it's an argument you can always win. That's why it's so hotly debated. Everyone gets to be correct if there is no correct answer to the question.

So, I submit for your analysis/dissection/mutilation this theory: We only ask a question like "Does God exist?" because we know there is no answer. We're always in the right when we ask it. And who doesn't love to be right?



Postscript (April 14, 2010 at 2:30 PM):
I'd like to add this point:

I'm not saying we shouldn't ask ourselves whether or not God exists. That's essential to being a human being. I think Jefferson said it best:

"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."

...rather, I'm debating why we ask others if God exists, when there's no way anyone can even have a good answer to the question.
Oh, but there is a way anyone can have a good answer to the question. Or as Gertrude Stein supposedly said to Alice on Gertrude's own deathbed "What is the answer?" Then she fell back asleep, but shortly aroused again, and remembering her last question asked finally "What is the question?" and died.

Jefferson's bet, that 'if there be one (god)' he would more likely approve of reasoning human attention than blind fearful adoration, is quite like the much more celebrated pari (bet) of Pascal that one believes in god because if he does exist and you are seen to believe, he might save you. If he doesn't exist or you don't believe in him and he does exist, you will not be saved. In Pascal's bet there is a glimmer of the real, constitutional reason that many(if not truly all) of 'us' believe or want to believe (regardless of the gaming odds): to be saved.

To explain, I must digress to the "constitutional" part of my assertion. Disbelief in our absolute mortality (dust to dust) is built into us. It is, in my opinion, an epiphenomenon of our neurological apparatus. How we experience consciousness (self awareness, awareness of others, theory of mind, empathy projection, time passage, future planning and altruism, to name some specifics)  is still unknown, but not only we humans but also our close relatives in the Family Hominidae (Genera Gorilla, Homo, Pan, Pongo) experience consciousness and increasingly Canidae (our dogs) are seen to have many of the same attributes. There may be a hierarchy among these species, and we may indeed be at the top of the ranking, but we are not alone in any sense of the word in having consciousness.

Just as an institution, once formed, adopts a new unstated first imperative - to continue to exist - and just as all species seem to have the primary imperative to propagate, we individuals are constitutionally unable to imagine, conceive, or accept our own ending. We project ourselves into the unknown, in spiritual form, and suspect that we are so special that something special must have deliberately created us. Teens sometimes fantasize that they were secretly adopted and are the biological spawn of an aristocratic European or African family. Likewise this imagining of our species arises out of two phenomena: our consciousness and our metaphorical mind.

Our consciouness arises somehow out of our mental apparatus, and is present in almost all of us, with varying characteristics. It is not only ours, but exists in recognizable homologues in our near evolutionary relatives and perhaps to some lesser extent in the pets we have bred to be our companions. That our close relatives are conscious and the fact that we have selected individual dogs with some sliver of these attributes and by breeding them selectively over 40 thousand years created in them consciousness means that there is(are) hereditary (genetical, physical) determinant(s).

Our mental apparatus also functions on very profound levels by perceiving or even inventing symbols/metaphors. Enter GOD. We make him in our image, not the other way around.

Finally, Gotama Buddha specifically said that the path (sanskrit=dharmah, paali=dhamma) he preached to escape suffering did not require thinking above our own heads, nor looking inventing or finding higher beings. Satyan nasti paro dharmah (there is no religion/path higher than truth). But even Buddha's admonition to look not above our heads for the truth is based on our constitutional (almost automatic, mechanistic) omnipresent constant suspicion that we are more than our dust. I think the most buddhists(or atheists) can aspire to is to avoid thinking about the impossibility of our actually dying (dust to dust).

In response to Renzo
Renzo (alias)
Despite my discomfort with aliases, "Renzo", I very much apprciate what you've written and agree with it. I think that you explained the human condition very well.
 Thank you for speaking for me as well as for your persona as "Renzo". 

In response to Renzo
The most anyone can do is (particularly Buddhists or atheists) is to avoid thinking about the impossibility of our actually dying (dust to dust).  Hmm...interesting.

Avoid thinking about the impossibility of dying.
Think about the possibility of dying.

Avoid thinking about the impossibility of living.
Think about the possibility of living.

Avoid thinking about the possibility of dying or living.
Think about the impossibility of dying or living.
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