People created religions to help them get through the difficulties of life - How to answer a friend?


#1

This is what a non-Christian friend of mine really believes. He has been through some hard times himself and that’s when he started thinking more about life’s deeper questions. However, his conclusion seems to send him farther away from God.

I would appreciate good answers that will help to build faith in my friend.

Some of my own answers are:

  • Life finds it’s meaning in God. It’s not about getting through difficulties.
  • People of faith took on more difficulties on themselves than they would otherwise have. Still they found it meaningful. Saints for example.
  • Faith is ultimately a gift. Humility helps.

However, I feel some of you may have been in this situation before and could have much better answers than these. Thanks in advance for your time.


#2

Humans did not invent religion as a means of coping with the difficulties of life. If your friend does not believe in God, tell him that there are many ways we can know that God is real and not merely invented by humans.

  • We know that God exists because of the prophets and, most importantly, because of Jesus. We literally have records (the Gospels) of GOD on Earth! There is also some non-biblical evidence that Jesus indeed existed.

  • We know that God exists because the Church is Christ’s bride on Earth. The sacraments (especially the Eucharist) lead us closer to God. When one becomes a Catholic and embraces the teachings of the Church, it increasingly becomes apparent to him or her that the Church is true. People’s lives have been changed by God through His Church.

  • We know that God exists because there is no other explanation for the world. The Big Bang Theory (a theory which many Catholics accept) says that the universe has not existed forever, so it had to have been created. God, on the other hand, has always existed, and did not need to be created.

  • We know that God exists because there have been so many miracles, such as Eucharistic miracles and Marian apparitions, that cannot be explained by science.

As you mentioned, faith is a gift, and sometimes it is difficult to believe in God. I will pray that your friend’s faith will be strengthened.


#3

I would say, yes Catholicism helps tremendously to get through life’s sufferings and the reality of death. Thank God it does! There is nothing wrong with this. Jesus came to show us how to suffer and how to die.

However–and a big however–Catholicism is, primarily, a love affair with our creator and our redeemer. It is a relationship and as wonderful and helpful in joyous times as well as in times of suffering. It affects our whole lives because Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.


#4

I’d recommend he read The Case For Faith by Lee Strobel or give him a copy.


#5

The Case for Christ is another great book by Lee Strobel that I would recommend.


#6

As Larquetta mentioned, there were prophets predicting thousands of years before about the Messiah, the Saviour.

There were no such prophets for the wise men such as Confucius, Buddha, and others.

The faithful Apostles gave up their lives being tortured rather than deny Our Saviour Jesus Christ, Second Person of the Blessed Trinity! 100% human and 100% Divine!

They saw Him Risen! St. Paul met Jesus afterwards, and Paul turned his life around after seeing the Risen Christ. Then Paul no longer punished Christians for believing in Christ.

This world where our free wills make choices is just a stepping stone to everlasting life.
We are truly free when we pick up our cross and follow Him.

(Just some suggestions for speaking with your friend. I will keep him in my prayers).


#7

Your friend seems to be ignorant of the basic tenets of Christianity, if he thinks it was invented to give people solace. Let’s put ourselves in the position of early man, just beginning to look beyond food, shelter and companionship to consider life’s deeper questions. He feels alone in the universe, with no overarching Being watching over him. One would think he would invent a jolly, grinning, indulgent grandpa in the sky who is an all-embracing, sentimental, near-senile figure of sloppy kisses and big bear hugs, a wish-fulfillment picture suited to mankind in its infancy. Instead, what do have? A stern, lawgiving Taskmaster, One who evicts our first parents from Paradise for infraction of a seemingly arbitrary rule, One who has a bet with the source of all evil over how far he can torture someone before he is pushed over the edge into blasphemy, One who allows a loving father to approach the very edge of filial murder before bringing him back from the brink. To make matters worse, the ‘chosen people’ of this Tyrant are homeless, starving and universally enslaved and reviled. Judaism is exactly the sort of religion one would NOT invent were one seeking solace and comfort from beyond the stars. Then its eventual successor, Christianity, comes along to worsen matters considerably: the Son of the Tyrant is willingly turned over by His Father to suffer ignominious torture and death, and we are told we must love those who hate us, forgive our enemies, and sell all our possessions to follow the way of a homeless, starving rabble! Completely against all natural instinct and desire. If we invented these faiths to comfort ourselves, we made a singularly incompetent job of it.


#8

Your friend’s argument does not make sense. Christians were persecuted for 300 years after Christ. Their lives were already difficult and preaching Christ resulted in being put to death. Why did they persist in something that would make their situation worse and pay the ultimate price?


#9

If we invented religion to be comforting the prospect that majority of us go to hell seems contradictory to that.


#10

If that’s true, it sure didn’t work too well for the apostles!


#11

I think religions began with encounters with the supernatural, such things as miracles and angel appearances. My personal encounter with such things made me a believer.


#12

While I believe in God I don’t think some of these arguments are great.

-“But religion has brought suffering on its adherents” does not negate people inventing or pursuing it in order to deal with suffering. People cut to deal with suffering, people join destructive subcultures to deal with suffering, people don’t only do helpful things to deal with suffering.
-" Then why have a Hell if it’s just for comfort? " many reasons. Maybe you just don’t believe you would go to Hell. Maybe it helps make it seem like in the end the world will make sense as good things will come to good people and bad to bad people. Maybe it ties into their suffering as they believe they deserve such a place, depression isn’t logical.


#13

I guess if he is talking about cafeteria Catholics or the self-willed he could be right.


#14

Just understand that different people are going to react differently in being told there is a god when they are having a rough time of it. For some it will add up, but for others your attempt to convince them will only push them further away from your god.


#15

Quite true. Thank goodness the conversion of unbelievers is not dependent on the rhetorical power of human argument, but rather on the grace of God. If He wants an individual to have the gift of faith, be assured that person will receive it.


#16

People created religions to help them get through the difficulties of life - How to answer a friend?

You need to gently point out to your friend that human beings did not create religion. Rather, religion is a virtue quite distinct from the supernatural virtue of faith. See here for more info: https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/virtue-of-religion

Also, you’re friend may be confusing Religion with Religious Experience, which is “any subjective state suggesting to the individual the presence or action of the divine or transcendent reality.” (pg.151 A Still Small Voice by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.) Once again, the two are not the same.

Religion is simply a part of human nature, and is one of those attributes that differentiate us from other living creatures. It’s not something we created. It has to do with our relationship with God (or with what we perceive to be God) and what must be rendered properly to Him. You can try to eliminate religion from existence (like the communists have tried), but human nature will always resurrect it in some form or another. Why? Because humankind is by his very nature inclined to search for God, and that inclination necessitates the virtue of religion. What often happens is that humans will sometimes substitute other things (idols) for the one true God. Idolatry ultimately comes about from the worship of oneself, which never brings us happiness. So, idolatry ends up being a dead end. We are created beings in search of our creator: the one who created all things.

Not sure how much more is needed to answer the question. Every philosopher through the ages has acknowledged the human inclination to search for the ultimate happiness which is God. In a sense, your friends statement is true, but somehow I don’t think he is attempting to make a deep philosophical statement. His statement is somewhat illogical in that it attempts to substitute humanity for God. It is true that people search for happiness because their lives are difficult. Difficulty in life is another fact of the human existence that none of us can escape (Thank Jesus Christ for showing us a way to unite our sufferings to His passion and death on the cross.) The search for happiness leads to the search for the ultimate happiness, which is God. Hence, the virtue of religion comes about from a need to render unto God what is just.

I want to say… and this is very important… pray for you friend and let God’s grace convert him. Don’t try to win him over with logical arguments if he or she is not prepared to hear them. Just gently steer him in the right direction when you can. For you own peace of mind, try to understand the truth the best you can for the time when you might be called upon to give the answer.


#17

For believers who have been persecuted and are still persecuted today because of their Faith, we can not say that religion has made their lives easier.
On the contrary, "wide and spacious is the road that leads to perdition. Narrow is the path that leads to Heaven "So for the one who really wants to have an easy life, he must absolutely convince himself that God does not exist, or he must seek how to falsify the exigent teachings of Jesus (as Luther did it).


#18

if I had to make a “god” or a religion, then I was definitely going to make a “Muslim god” that would allow me to have several women on this earth, and would give me 72 virgins in Heaven, or a “Protestant god” who would let me live in lust without threatening me with Hell, provided that I believe it covers all my sins


#19

You could equally say people invented atheism because it made life easier, but that wouldn’t prove atheism is false. Psychological motivations behind belief and unbelief are complicated, and in the end don’t really prove or disprove anything.

I know that in some atheist circles there’s this notion that religion is for the weak minded who can’t cope with the cold harsh reality of a meaningless existence in an indifferent universe, while the strong are those able to face the abyss and accept it. But to me that’s as dishonest as those Christians who say atheism was just invented because people wanted to live unbridled lives of hedonism without fear of consequences. As someone tempted to atheism about 17 times a day, I see a lot of its appeal. There’s a sort of strange comfort in the idea of chance, that the reason we suffer is just bad luck. Even oblivion sometimes sounds more appealing than eternal life, especially when you’re in the pit of despair and depression. So yeah, atheism can be just as much a “coping mechanism” as religion.

I don’t believe anyone comes to their position from a purely logical stand point. And honestly, no fruitful dialogue can ever come about until we admit that we all are looking for a way to bear the whips and scorns of time, believer and unbeliever alike.

I personally am convinced though that the only real answer to the idea that religion is merely man made is in the Cross. We’ve been conditioned to view it as a sanitized, kitschy religious symbol, but it’s actually the most irreligious and godless symbol imaginable. Nobody in the ancient world would have wanted to be associated with a crucified man, let alone worship him as God. It was a death reserved for the lowest, most worthless members of society. We really don’t have anything analogous to that today, so it’s hard to fully grasp the shock and disgust the idea must have produced in the average person back then. If religion only exists as a projection of human wishes and desires, then Christianity should never have been invented. Or at the very least the earliest Christians would have glossed over the cross and focused almost exclusively on the resurrection. (Something the gnostic gospels do, btw) Instead the New Testament writers do the exact opposite. The Crucifixion is at the heart of all four Gospel accounts, and it receives the most attention of all Jesus’ other deeds. That’s incredible to me and something that makes Christianity utterly unique among world religions. It’s something I think all those wanting to dismiss Christianity as a coping method need to honestly address. It just doesn’t fit the narrative.


#20

First of all, I don’t think people outright make up religions (not counting L. Ron Hubbard0. To me, religion first started out as a means to answer questions. Sonic stated in an earlier post, “Because humankind is by his very nature inclined to search for God…” Personally I think he’s partially right. Man is inclined to search for answers. This drive is what separates us from other animals. Early on the questions were things like “How do we get rain for crops?” “Why did one child die, but the other lived?” “How can I prevent sickness?” The problem is questions like that is primitive man didn’t have the capability of answering those questions. For many an unprovable answer (religion) is better than no answer.

Now just because we can answer many of the questions that primitive man struggled with doesn’t mean that we still aren’t beset by questions without answers (or at least without comforting answers). Take for example the recent Missouri duck boat accident where 17 people drowned. The news interviewed a woman who said God saved her child. Now on that boat were 11 members of one family, 9 of which died. That family probably doesn’t want to hear that God saved one woman’s child but killed 9 people on their side. Death by seemingly luck of the draw is not appealing. To say my child, or my mom, or my dad lived or died because God chose so for reasons we don’t understand attempts to give reasoning to what happened where there seemingly is none.

A few folks talked about how people wouldn’t convince themselves to believe in a religion due to persecutions they have endured. But we have to take into account that religion offers an escape, a promise of paradise, for people whose lives may be filled with suffering. That’s not to say believers don’t believe, but that in no way means believers can’t be willing to suffer the hardships that sometimes occurred back in the day provided they also believer the great reward is within their grasp.


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