Does It Matter?


#1

I am a Catholic who often struggles with atheism. I was thinking about something and I just want to get other people’s opinions:

Hypothetically, if God does not exist, does it even matter?

I know this may seem like a silly question, but think about it for a second. Devout theists live their life in humility and with sincere hope. Often times it’s their faith that gets them through the day. The Catholics I know that are very sincere in their faith are far happier than most people.

So if God didn’t exist, does it even matter? Catholics are (hopefully) better people for following their religion. Not only are they (usually) better people to each other, but they are (usually) happier as well. If we die and that’s it, then so what? We would cease to exist.

If there really is no God, is the time we spend in Church and in prayer wasted?


#2

Blessed Theresa of Calcutta struggled with some of the same things you are going through. Read her newly released letters. Pray for Grace. And just hang in there. As you are going through this “dark night of the soul” God is holding you in the palm of his hand.


#3

Not in an eternal sense, no. If there is no “infinite” (God), then everything we see, do, or know will eventually be gone, including our planet itself. Non-theists must make up some kind of worldview to give meaning to existence, otherwise they’ll wind up at nihilism.

I know this may seem like a silly question, but think about it for a second. Devout theists live their life in humility and with sincere hope. Often times it’s their faith that gets them through the day. The Catholics I know that are very sincere in their faith are far happier than most people.

So if God didn’t exist, does it even matter? Catholics are (hopefully) better people for following their religion. Not only are they (usually) better people to each other, but they are (usually) happier as well. If we die and that’s it, then so what? We would cease to exist.

Notice what you said: “Better people”. What defines “better” if not something beyond the limits of a finite creature like man? As Catholics, better means closer to God. It’s a fairly simple thing to define and understand. But if you refuse to accept that there is a God, that there is nothing beyond what we can verify scientifically, then you’re stuck in materialism and cannot find “meaning” in a true sense, since even the emotions that many atheists use to give themselves a sense of meaning or purpose are nothing but biochemical reactions to stimuli. However, no human being can really live as if there is no God. An atheist may decry theism and wax philisophical about the logic behind his beliefs, but he cannot truly live as though God does not exist (because He does!).

If there really is no God, is the time we spend in Church and in prayer wasted?

Without a doubt. However, since there IS a God and he DID enter into our history in the person of our Lord, Jesus of Nazareth, then the time spent worshiping him and doing his commandments are certainly not wasted.


#4

It’s not possible to evaluate this “hypothetical” because the condition contains a contradiction in terms, namely, since God is the necessary being–Being itself–we cannot posit his non-existence. Basically, “if God does not exist” means “if Being is not-being,” which is not possible.

I know that this doesn’t prove God’s existence or that God is the necessary being, but that’s outside the scope of this post. If we want to address those questions, we can do that.

There’s a great danger, however, in posing questions like this because it presumes that God is not the necessary being. What this means is that we’re treating God as if he were a created thing in the hierarchy of creatures. Not only that, but the second part, “would anything matter,” indicates that the concern is a subjective one. This implies that not only are we treating God as a creature–as something non-essential–but we are treating him as something of lower importance than ourselves.

“Would anything matter?” indicates to us that we’re concerned more with our experience of God than with God himself, it says that God is important because of what he does for us, adds to our lives, etc. This treats God not only as non-essential but merely as “icing on the cake.” God is not icing; he is the baker of the cake!

God’s existence is absolutely fundamental to everything else, we can’t consider anything apart from God. God is not something added onto our lives, which makes our behavior better or worse. God is. Period. Everything else shares in his being, is completely contingent on him.

It’s impossible to evaluate the question because there is no “universe without God” which we can conceive of (Do not confuse this with imagining that we don’t believe God; of course it’s very possible for us not to believe in God, but God must still exist even then).


#5

Does it matter, practically speaking, whether or not God exists? If the Catholic faith were merely a self-help program, a coping mechanism for helping one to live a happier life, if it were simply an ideological system that we attach to our lives to make them easier, then the answer would be “no.” However, while living according to the Catholic faith certainly affords these and many other benefits, this is ultimately not why one follows (or ought to follow) our faith.

The primary reason for being Catholic is that Catholicism represents the truth as communicated to humanity by the one true God. Indeed, there are times when following the Catholic faith makes life far more difficult, far less convenient, even far less happy, than other possible belief systems, including atheism (Jn. 16:33). What does the faithful Catholic do then? Do we abandon the faith for one that seems to better meet our personal expectations and desires? Certainly not, since the purpose of truth is not to conform to our expectations, desires, and comforts. Rather, it’s our job to conform ourselves to the truth, whether it makes us “comfortable” or not (Jn. 6:66-69).

So, then, why should one be a Catholic? Simply this: Because it’s true. And, in light of this, it seems crucial indeed that God exists, and that he has made a way for us to know and serve him. For this is the very meaning of life itself (Jn. 17:3).

Blessings,

Don
+T+


#6

I think, as a very broad statement, that truly religious people have a better quality of life than others.

One interesting statistic I ran across a few years ago is that non-religious people commit suicide four times as often as religious people. That right there speaks of the hope that religious people have that others often do not.

We know that many people “find God” at the end of their lives. How many reject God at the end of their lives? Not nearly as many, I feel very confident in saying. People generally don’t look back on a life lived within a religious framework and think “What a waste! I could have screwed around, stolen, lied, hurt people, and had lots more stuff!”


#7

Here is a good article about Pascal’s wager (half way down the page next to his picture) which in a nut shell says, if you have no proof for or against God you have to bet that he does exist.

catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0185.html


#8

You beat me to it! I was going to say the same thing. I’ve even got this quote as my PC desktop:

Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is.
Let us estimate these two chances.
If you gain, you gain all;
If you lose, you lose nothing.
Wager, then without hesitation, that He is.

'thann


#9

VociMike;
In a thread a couple months back you made a similar assertion. I said then, and I say it now: such a conclusion is flawed for the following reasons:

The presented fact that non-believers commit suicide at a higher rate than believers, if correct (and I have no reason to doubt it), has more to do, I think, with organized religion’s strong prohibitions against suicide, than with any higher levels of despair in non-believers.

A non-believer who faces a lengthy, agonizing and ultimately unwinnable fight against a terminal illness will likely consider suicide as a legitimate option. This may have less to do with despair and more to do with pain avoidance, discomfort, and possibly even financial considerations.

Certainly despair may play a role, but sick people (both believers and nonbelievers) often fall into despair not as a result of their beliefs or lack of beliefs, but because they are sick.

Conversely, a believer facing the same illness will have a reluctance to consider suicide due to her religious convictions. Because her illness is terminal, she will likely die as well, but only after enduring the depression, pain, anger, and fear of a slowly approaching death (to say nothing of financial considerations).

This is not to say that healthy people don’t commit suicide, but I think it’s a false dichotomy (perhaps “strawman” is a better term) to suggest that atheists commit suicide solely out of despair, while believers don’t because they have hope.


#10

I find it amusing that you seem to think only non-believers screw around, steal, lie, hurt people, and are greedy. Have you never studied the history of the Church?


#11

The obvious question, then, is, “Which God, out of the hundreds of thousands worshipped throughout history, shall we devote ourselves to?”

The sheer number of possible Gods to worship tends to flatten the odds a bit.

Mirdath said it best: “Pascal’s Wager is the plastic cocktail saber of apologetics.”


#12

Yes it matters

You are struggling with the same issues as others. The flaw as I see it in this proposal is “Does that make you your own God?” I think it does. So if you are your own God “Do you have to live like those humble Catholics?”

Of course you could try this “Does that make you your own God?” Answer “NO” ; “So if there is no God (even you) are you free to start lying, stealing, cheating, etc., etc., ?”

The bottom line is you want to be around those good humble religious people, your real question is “Who is the fool you or them?” You do not wish to be the fool, so they must be. But if we are the fool what do you want to use us (oh, wait: if you use us your back to immoral atheist thing) for? Is it because the atheist have problems?


#13

I think the odds change considerably when you take into consideration how many are left standing now. There is probably a good reason the others dissappeared.


#14

This seems unlikely; it seems more likely that the Catholic teachings actually improve the life of even the suffering person. This could easily explain the lower rate. It would seem the terminally ill would be only a small percent of suicides, so why is that your base of reason?

My question is what stops them from such behavior, most atheist say it is the religious based morals. Then they say morals cannot be religious based, because. Then they get mad, because in the absence of God only this atheist can define morals, which means they are free to screw around, steal, lie, hurt people, and be greedy

They are all the same

Mirdath said it best: “Pascal’s Wager is the plastic cocktail saber of apologetics.”

I agree and do not care for it either. If your hedging bets you’re in the wrong place!

Hope that helps


#15

Welcome to my world. Although, I would say that I struggle more with agnosticism than atheism, meaning I’m more inclined to say that I don’t know if God exists than I am to say God does not exist (a seemingly small but important distinction).

I was once a devout, daily Mass Catholic who, over the last few years, gradually started to wonder if God was real or not. I started by wondering why God was hiding (as John Paul II put it). From there, it was a long, gradual process to where I really wonder if God exists or not.

For some time now I’ve been describing myself as agnostic, but that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. I often find myself wondering still and even missing the feeling of being a good, devout believer.

Hypothetically, if God does not exist, does it even matter?

That’s interesting because I’ve sometimes thought about this question the other way around: “if God does exist, does it still matter?” If God does exist, he seems somewhat uninterested in making himself known to us. Some people refer to as apathetic agnosticism (“I don’t know if God exists, and what does it matter anyways?”). If God exists, does he care if we worship him or not? If he did, wouldn’t he reveal himself more clearly?

Your question is still interesting though. It’s almost the flip side of Pascal’s wager (and I do love Mirdath’s description of that).

Not only are they (usually) better people to each other,

On the other hand, I’ve never seen people treat each other so poorly as I have on this forum out of all the forums I’ve ever been on, most of which were not religious at all.

If there really is no God, is the time we spend in Church and in prayer wasted?

For the most part, I would think so. On the other hand, if prayer makes you feel good, then there is definitely benefit in it, even if the purpose of the prayer is a delusion.

In the end, I’m not sure if the answer to the question, “does God exist?” is even knowable with any certainty. That leaves me wondering what to do. Should I act like there is a God and try to “fake it” the best I can when I have doubts? Or should I act like God’s existence or non-existence doesn’t really matter and just try to be the best person I can.


#16

Try this:

If you were to die and thats it, then its not going to matter what you did.

And since you are dead you are not going to be aware it mattered if God was there.

It simply doesnt matter about wasted time.


If you were to die and thats not it, then it will matter what you did.

And even more importantly since you are not “thats it”, you will be totally aware and not even miss the fact, that God is there.

At that point, ask yourself if the time you spent in church and prayer was wasted?

:slight_smile:


#17

Well, it appears that, lacking further data, we are both engaging in mere conjecture based upon our preconceptions and biases. Either assertion is equally possible. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

It would seem the terminally ill would be only a small percent of suicides, so why is that your base of reason?

That was merely an example, not the sole basis of my argument. The paragraph immediately preceding that is more indicative of my reasoning.

My question is what stops them from such behavior, most atheist say it is the religious based morals. Then they say morals cannot be religious based, because. Then they get mad, because in the absence of God only this atheist can define morals, which means they are free to screw around, steal, lie, hurt people, and be greedy

I’m not exactly clear on what you are getting at here, but my initial point had to do with VociMike’s implied assertion that only non-believers engage in immoral activities. The cold fact is that no one can say with certainty what anyone’s last thoughts are. It seemed disingenuous to assert that religious people do not regret missing out on being bad - such an assertion implied that non-religious have no such thoughts because they are already bad. If VociMike can offer evidence that his assertion is true, he would have my apologies. But then again, if he could offer such evidence then he would be God and I would be proven wrong on an even larger matter.


#18

That seems a bit much in regards to implications. Let me list a link for you adherents.com/misc/religion_suicide.html I care little about the issue you seem to have with VociMike. But for some time I have been reading Atheist writings about morals. It is all fluffy and no substance. Some atheists have turned to using ethics in place of morals, and I think that is wise. Yet these atheists cannot cross the hurdle. Who (or what) decides right from wrong in an atheist society? The answer is always the individual which again means the individual can choose any action, any action.


#19

From the article you linked (bold mine):

“It is important to keep in mind that atheism and agnosticism have no inherent proscription against suicide, so higher rates of suicide among agnostics and atheists should in no way be considered a failure of these belief systems. Indeed, compassionate tolerance for suicide and euthenasia are widely regarded as hallmarks of many secular societies.”

This is essentially the point I have been trying to make (however poorly). I do not dispute the numbers, I simply disagree with the implication that non-believers are more prone to despair and depression than believers. It is simply not true, from my perspective.

Shifting this narrow discussion into a larger indictment on the perceived moral failings of atheist societies is of little interest to me.


#20

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