There's a sublime freedom that comes from adopting an atheist metaphysics. In the Ivory Tower, one often hears intellectual explanations for human belief in God or gods, such as:
- A belief in God provides people with a sense of security and control. A universe without a Puppetmaster, or at the very least, benevolent Observer, is frightening and disturbing to the fragile human psyche.
- Theism not only provides us with a divine (and therefore, unassailable) source to a moral code but also a means of reward and punishment via the afterlife (or karma, if you're into that kind of thing). Without God, there is no objective basis to good and evil and man may as well do as he wishes.
- Religious belief is comforting in times of despair - when one's life seems to be collapsing, and perhaps meaningless, one can turn to God or some manifestation thereof for guidance, comfort, and friendship.
- Belief in the otherworldly soothes the anxiety we feel over our own mortality (see TMT).
While I suspect there's at least some truth behind these reasons for people's belief in God/gods, I'm not so naive as to think they're a complete explanation. More to the point, I've found that my belief in a "universe wild" provides just as much comfort.
Anytime I begin to worry about...
- the number of publications I have out/should have out
- how I made a mistake in lecture yesterday
- the health of myself or family members
- the economic situation of our country
- the prospect of putting an HPU-communications major one fragile heartbeat away from our nation's highest office
- the environmental state of our world
I really don't need to worry about the number of publications I have, or am ever going to have, because one day, we'll all be just dirt in the ground. One day, the sun will burn out. One day, this galaxy won't exist. That level of perspective - of SCALE - really helps me deal with, on a day to day basis, the minor (and sometimes major) annoyances of being human. Everytime I remind myself of that, I find the anxiety and stress begin to lift away - much as I suspect it lifts away in theists who have faith in God's will and protection.
Furthermore, in times of greatest despair, I needn't worry about the philosophical quagmire raised by evil and pain existing in a universe created by an omnipotent & benevolent God. Pain simply happens, because we are alive, and should serve as a reminder that we are equally capable of experiencing joy and ecstasy. I don't derive my morality from a religious system, and so can feel an honest guilt when I behave poorly and an honest pride when I do good by my fellow man. For me, there is a greater sense of Reality and Meaning (to my actions) in a world without heaven and hell.
Sing it, Tom.