Is Religious-based Mourning Immoral?

SLAM: debunk creationism, pseudoscience, and superstitions. Discuss logic and morality.

Moderators: Alyrium Denryle, SCRawl, Thanas

User avatar
biostem
Jedi Master
Posts: 1488
Joined: 2012-11-15 01:48pm

Re: Is Religious-based Mourning Immoral?

Post by biostem » 2017-10-12 05:54am

loomer wrote:
2017-10-12 05:53am
biostem wrote:
2017-10-12 05:48am
Jub wrote:
2017-10-12 05:45am


You're the one making the assertions ergo, you provide the proof. This is pretty simple and supported by the rules of this message board, so produce proof or get reported.
Wrong - I started by responding to the original post. Others derailed the conversation into emotional grandstanding and virtue signaling.
Once you start making assertions, others have the right to challenge them and request evidence. That's how a debate works. You moved beyond just replying with an opinion into making categorical statements of fact - specifically that it is healthier to refrain from crying when grieving, and that religious grieving is a lie with long term harm attached to it - and it is those statements we are challenging you on.
Sources in my previous post. Feel free to search for more.

User avatar
biostem
Jedi Master
Posts: 1488
Joined: 2012-11-15 01:48pm

Re: Is Religious-based Mourning Immoral?

Post by biostem » 2017-10-12 05:57am

Jub wrote:
2017-10-12 05:54am
biostem wrote:
2017-10-12 05:48am
Wrong - I started by responding to the original post. Others derailed the conversation into emotional grandstanding and virtue signaling.
In your response to me, you made the claim that if a person is exposed to a certain consistent behavior from a young enough age they will exhibit the same behavior later in life.

"If they see someone break down and bawl at every skinned knee and boo-boo, then that's how they're going to act. If they see that those around them curse and carry on when they stub a toe, then that's what they're going to do. If, however, they see that, when someone skins a knee, they say ouch, pick themselves back up, go clean and bandage their wound, then that's what they're going to do."

Do you deny that you typed the above-quoted text? If you don't, then you owe me proof that this is a scientifically founded claim or you owe me a concession. You don't get to make a claim and then cry when someone asks you for proof. If you fail to do so, the mods will be called in and I do so hope that they're in a bad mood when the deal with you.
Link: https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-dos-do ... d-to-cope/

Of key note:
"Don’t agree with your child that life is unfair, mean, or a vale of tears. Yes, life can be unfair. People can be mean. Sometimes things happen that are terribly sad. But jumping from a negative event to a generally negative attitude about life is a prescription for unhappiness and powerlessness. Do acknowledge unfairness. Recognize when someone has been mean. But it’s crucial that we teach our children to separate their sense of themselves as worthwhile from other people’s unfair opinions and from negative events that are beyond their control. If nothing can be done about a negative situation, we need to teach our kids how to move on instead of feeling bad about themselves or getting stuck in resentment."

And: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-tian- ... 92232.html

"Small children have no way of assessing whether or not they need to be scared, or how scared they need to be, that’s why they need adults to act as “surge protectors” between them and the stimulus from their environment. Kids look to a caring adult to woo them back to a sense of calm and equilibrium when they get scared. They depend on what scientists call “an external modulator,” namely the parent, to restore their sense of inner calm because they lack the developmental maturation to calm themselves or to understand the source of their fear. "

User avatar
loomer
Sith Devotee
Posts: 2978
Joined: 2005-11-20 07:57am
Contact:

Re: Is Religious-based Mourning Immoral?

Post by loomer » 2017-10-12 06:08am

Well, it's something. But at only 97 women - all of them Dutch - it's an insignificant sample size with extremely limited scope, and better yet...
Still, even though the people who had a "good" cry were in the minority, the study found that:...
participants who sobbed with the greatest intensity — but not for the longest amount of time — enjoyed the biggest bang from their bawling: Their moods benefitted the most from shedding tears.
Even your own source admits that weeping can benefit the mood. Following it to its actual abstract - http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/ar ... 6611000778 - they claim that "Mood improvement following crying was reported for about 1/3 of episodes" and there is no indication whatsoever that the study was dealing with grief crying as opposed to other forms of crying.
Same study, same problem with your source. NEXT.
Literally talking about the same study. NEXT. Are you even reading your own sources? None of these are reliable or authoritative evidence that crying during grief is less healthy than not crying - they even outright suggest that for a third of the participants, it helped, and only for 9% was it harmful. No effect on mood for the majority of participants suggests it is of ambivalent impact at the worst, especially when over three times as many study participants found it helpful as found it harmful.

Again. Do you have any actual evidence for your position?
"You're wonderful, and you're alive, and you deserve every little bit of happiness that the universe has to offer anyone, no matter who or what you like. Never forget that." - Achewood

User avatar
Jub
Sith Devotee
Posts: 2728
Joined: 2012-08-06 07:58pm
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Re: Is Religious-based Mourning Immoral?

Post by Jub » 2017-10-12 06:13am

biostem wrote:
2017-10-12 05:57am
Link: https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-dos-do ... d-to-cope/

Of key note:
"Don’t agree with your child that life is unfair, mean, or a vale of tears. Yes, life can be unfair. People can be mean. Sometimes things happen that are terribly sad. But jumping from a negative event to a generally negative attitude about life is a prescription for unhappiness and powerlessness. Do acknowledge unfairness. Recognize when someone has been mean. But it’s crucial that we teach our children to separate their sense of themselves as worthwhile from other people’s unfair opinions and from negative events that are beyond their control. If nothing can be done about a negative situation, we need to teach our kids how to move on instead of feeling bad about themselves or getting stuck in resentment."

And: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-tian- ... 92232.html

"Small children have no way of assessing whether or not they need to be scared, or how scared they need to be, that’s why they need adults to act as “surge protectors” between them and the stimulus from their environment. Kids look to a caring adult to woo them back to a sense of calm and equilibrium when they get scared. They depend on what scientists call “an external modulator,” namely the parent, to restore their sense of inner calm because they lack the developmental maturation to calm themselves or to understand the source of their fear. "
Neither of these shows a general consensus among psychiatrists on nature v. nurture. Nor do they make any claims that this behavior persists past childhood. Worst of all, they're not what I asked for.

I asked for hard proof, not the first pop-sci article that agrees with your views. So run along and get some actual psychology journals, then read and understand them, and once you've done those things come back here and join the adults at the table.

User avatar
loomer
Sith Devotee
Posts: 2978
Joined: 2005-11-20 07:57am
Contact:

Re: Is Religious-based Mourning Immoral?

Post by loomer » 2017-10-12 08:17am

While I have a moment, and for the purposes of good faith, Biostem asked me to provide evidence that 'appeals to the supernatural' help with mourning. I've been having a look beyond personal experience, and the answer is a mixed bag (pretending anything else would be, frankly, intellectually dishonest.)

There are multiple reputable studies on the matter, but mostly the field is characterized by small sample sizes and a difficulty in objectivity - as you'd expect. Another. Here's a negative one - though notably we only have an abstract and it does not define negative religious coping, which may be distinct from religious coping generally. A fair synthesis would be that the area is pretty difficult to get a grip on due to its nature, but that there seems to be more evidence for a neutral to positive reported impact of religion on the experience of grief (issues of self-reporting biases, confirmation bias issues, and lack of self-objectivity are all obviously a risk here, so grain of salt), with the negative experiences tending to be specific to either types of religious practice or to certain kinds of deaths (suicides and stillbirth seem especially bad, from my brief survey of the material).

This being the case, I will set my actual argument out in the following terms, which I believe both reflect the initial irritable rant and the argument itself. Religious grieving is not immoral - for that, we will need to debate morality - or unacceptable where the following are true. First, where it does not inflict harm on another or, in the long term or in a serious way, on the self (e.g. short-term harm caused by sleep deprivation by a prayer vigil, if balanced with a concomitant sense of relief or comfort, is not a disqualifying factor. Long term denial, neglect, or self-harm is, as is severe self-flagellation or abuse of others.) Second, where it does not interfere with rational thought - e.g., a recognition that the deceased is in a material and very real sense deceased, that prayer will not resurrect the dead in body (religious doctrines of resurrection after the/a time of judgment/in another world/etc notwithstanding), etc.

Further, as religious grieving is a means to cope with an extremely difficult situation, it has merit even as a 'delusion' or 'lie' provided that such belief does not interfere in matters of medical care, rational thought seperate from religious concerns, or public policy. A person who believes that their deceased aunt is resting comfortably beneath a mountain with their ancestors is entitled to that belief as part of a general right to freedom of thought, however irrational, and so long as that thought does not lead them to deny medical care to themselves or others to hasten a 'return home' or any similar scenario, or impact on public policy in a similar way, this belief is harmless to others and helpful to the holder. It assists in the processing of a difficult time in a person's life much like therapy, and may or may not be appropriate for each person depending on their own individual needs, experiences, and philosophical outlook.

I think that about sums up my initial angry rant's take on religion. On the showing of emotion during grief - especially crying, but not limited to it - I submit that it is on the whole more likely to be of help in most situations than it is to harm, and is far more likely to result in a neutral or ambivalent outcome than it is a negative one, with minimal negative health impacts over a long term and a possible role in helping to recognize and process grief. I also submit that it is a cultural phenomenon, a natural physical reaction to grief, and one that - where expressed in a healthy and appropriate way - people are entitled to experience and display if they wish.

What is a healthy and appropriate way? It is healthy to cry in a sad manner when one is sad if it does not interfere with one's day to day life, or where a situation is sufficiently severe that such disruption is not unexpected (death of close relative, survivor of serious bodily assault) and where it does not extend to a length of time that - in the circumstances - is unreasonable, and where it does not interfere in basic survival regardless of severity. It is appropriate when in private, when with friends and loved ones, or when first hearing news of a death or in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic experience, again with the proviso it does not interfere in basic survival. The exact circumstances must necessarily differ from event to event and person to person. Crying and other displays of grief emotion cease to be healthy ad appropriate, I submit, either when they extend to an improper length of time or where they interfere in day-to-day function after the appropriate window for severe causes, and at that time counselling or grief therapy is appropriate if it has not already been sought. While it is normal to experience sadness, prolonged and unceasing sadness indicates difficulty in processing a situation, but this difficulty should be distinguished on practical and philosophical grounds from grief felt in the ordinary and appropriate ways in a society.
"You're wonderful, and you're alive, and you deserve every little bit of happiness that the universe has to offer anyone, no matter who or what you like. Never forget that." - Achewood

User avatar
Broomstick
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 25704
Joined: 2004-01-02 07:04pm
Location: Industrial armpit of the US Midwest
Contact:

Re: Is Religious-based Mourning Immoral?

Post by Broomstick » 2017-10-12 09:20am

biostem wrote:
2017-10-12 04:52am
loomer wrote:
2017-10-12 04:48am
Can you provide evidence that expressing one's emotion in the face of grief is unhealthier than not doing so?
I never said that expressing emotion is bad. I only ever advocated for maintaining your composure. Do you not understand that you can feel extremely loss, heartache, and sadness, without crying and carrying on?
There are records of people enduring amputations without anesthetic without crying out or needing to be restrained, but that's not normal. You are expecting something the average person is not capable of doing.
biostem wrote:
2017-10-12 04:33am
So much is/ought confusion here. Let me explain; it IS the case that many people break down at a significant loss.
Not “many”. Try “most”.
I propose that we OUGHT not do that, as such breakdowns are neither productive, nor do they actually help in the mourning/recovery process. THAT IS ALL I'M SAYING!
OK, if you didn't get the reaction you were expecting maybe you either didn't communicate as well as you thought you did, or your opinion is NOT the majority one.
I am NOT saying that people who weep and carry on are bad, and I don't think they deserve ire. I've experienced my fair share of deathbeds, and the best thing you can do is to keep your composure and take in your last few moments with that loved one. Let them know you are there for them till the end, and when the time comes, make sure that their last wishes/rites are carried out.
That's not incompatible with being a sobbing mess after your loved one dies. That's exactly what I did with my husband, but I have no problem saying that after he was clearly dead I did some serious crying. The hospital even had procedures in place to allow people spend time at the side of the deceased for whatever expression of grief they needed, quiet or noisy.

My sister is a hospice director. She deals with death every single working day. She is also a very rational, logic-based atheist. She is also adamant about letting people grieve in the manner they are comfortable with and would never reprieve someone of religious comfort no matter how irrational, strange, or useless it appears to her. (Yes, we have actually discussed that) The only time she would step in is if someone is in actual danger of physical harm. She also engaged in some “useless sobbing” when my husband died, sitting right alongside me, because no matter how rational you are as a human being you're going to grieve when a family member dies. But what the hell does she know, right? She's only got an MD, specialty training, and extensive experience in working with the dying and their families.

My father grew up living over a funeral home. There were literal dead bodies in the basement throughout his childhood (that's where they did the embalming and cleaning up for funeral presentation). He worked in the family business starting in his teens with going out to collect dead bodies and bring them to the funeral home. I assure you, he was not emotional or irrational about death. But when his daughter (my sister, obviously) and his wife of nearly 60 years died I assure you he did some serious crying both times. Those were only times I've ever saw him in tears.
As for the "effectiveness" of my proposed behavior - let's see; On the one hand, we have crying and carrying on, and on the other we have keeping your composure. It's pretty obvious which is a healthier and more productive behavior.
WTF “productive” behavior does anyone expect out of a parent that just lost a child? Seriously, WTF are you expecting such people to do? Wake up the next morning and go to work like nothing happened? Build a house? Discover a cure for cancer?

MOST people who “cry and carry on” after a death can, actually, pull themselves together and do what MUST be done – if that is actually required. It usually isn't. I can't think of a society that doesn't allow a period of mourning after a death like that, a period of time when a person is excused from normal duties and tasks. Apparently, history and multiple societies disagree with your assertion that the mourning should be “productive” in the immediate aftermath of death.
There seems to be a trend here of appealing to emotion, and while I fully admit that emotion is an integral part of being human, and can be very healthy, it is highly likely that bawling at a loved one's passing is probably NOT what they'd want you to do, and only serves to reinforce this notion that we should carry on whenever we face a loss.
Quite a few societies have actually decreed that loud, public bawling is the way to show how much you cared for the dead. A few even went to the extent of having professional mourners that could be hired to cry and carry on for the dead.

EVERYONE grieves. What you are attempting to do is impose what YOU are comfortable with on everyone else. It's like whether or not you should slurp your food – in some cultures that's rude, in others it shows how much you're enjoying your food.

Frankly, I view crying like vomiting – it's not very pleasant, but you often feel better once it's over. Not always, and like everything else it can be taken to excess, but I've even called crying an “emotional vomit”. For many people it is a way to get an emotion out and they do feel better afterward. If you're not one of them, bully for you. Do what works for you and let other people do what works for them. Why does it matter to you how someone expresses their grief?

I've always like the Jewish rituals around mourning – for the first seven days the mourners are excused from just about everything. The community comes in and provides food, cleans up, and keeps the household running. The mourners can talk, or cry, or just stare quietly at the wall at their choice. If they want to “function” and keep up their daily rituals they can but they don't have to do so. After that seven days they are obligated to get up and get back to their lives. There are still mourning tasks to be done but there are times and places set aside for them. The mourner is NOT to visit the gravesite for an entire year after the burial to help them focus on life rather than death. The beauty of it is that absolutely no belief in the supernatural is required. I've known atheists who followed the rituals (one of them even went to the synagogue to do the full deal required of a son for a parent because it was one of his father's last requests) and found the structure to be very helpful to him.

But note – there is a time and space for full-on bawling in there.

If someone is non-functional six months past a death that is definitely a problem (actually, it's a problem a lot sooner than that) but what you call “non-functional” immediately after the death of a child is actually pretty damn normal for a human being.
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Leonard Nimoy.

Now I did a job. I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character so let me make this abundantly clear. I do the job. And then I get paid.- Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, which sums up my feelings regarding the lawsuit discussed here.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. - John F. Kennedy

Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice

User avatar
Formless
Sith Marauder
Posts: 3658
Joined: 2008-11-10 08:59pm
Location: the beginning and end of the Present

Re: Is Religious-based Mourning Immoral?

Post by Formless » 2017-10-12 04:53pm

ITT Biostem fails to understand the Is/Ought distinction yet tries to throw it in the face of someone with an actual degree in psychology. :roll:
Biostem wrote:I propose that we OUGHT not do that, as such breakdowns are neither productive, nor do they actually help in the mourning/recovery process. THAT IS ALL I'M SAYING!
Here is a philosophical principle you should also know which by definition bridges the Is/Ought distinction: Ought Implies Can. No one has a duty to do something that cannot be done, in practice or in principle. Look it up.

Moreover, Is/Ought is also bridged any time we talk about issues of health, both physical and mental. These fields are by definition normative fields even though they use the scientific method. They start with a definition of Healthy VS Unhealthy and conduct research around those assumptions. Your inability to comprehend that is a big sticking point in this thread. We are telling you that it is not a sign of poor mental health to respond irrationally to death or to openly cry and seek solace in religion. In fact, you have yet to explain how you think there can be a rational response to death in the face of the existential argument that it is inherently absurd. Just you insisting that your own form of grief should be the Norm. Which, ironically, is an actual case of mistaking an Is for an Ought! To put it bluntly, you are acting smug and condescending towards cultures you don't consider yourself a part of. That's not rational or virtuous.

Thirdly, from the moment David Hume created the Is/Ought distinction he never meant for it to be an absolute rule that you can never derive an Is from an Ought, because that in itself would be a paradox. An Ought presented as an Is within the lexicon of logic, as it were. He meant for it to be a challenge to be overcome through argument (as clearly there will be some facts that will not be ethically relevant and possibly vice-verse) and made many Ought statements himself based on psychological speculation/fact. It was only later when the Logical Positivists and Vienna School came around that we see people claim such arguments are impossible, because they decided that all ethical statements are in a category of Nonsense to begin with. But their categorization system regarding Synthetic statements VS Analytic statements was later proven to be wrong around the 1950's, so we have no reason to believe that there cannot also be overlap between fact statements and value statements. Just like philosophers had always assumed.

By the way? The Principle of Parsimony/Occam's Razor is an example of an Ought that we use all the time in philosophical and scientific debate. It doesn't actually constrain the world around us, but we assume that theories and arguments are more plausible the better they fit that ideal if there is no evidence for a more complex theory. Plenty of other philosophical razors also work that way. It may not be a moral value, but it shows that Ought creeps into debates about what Is all the time.

You might want to do some research into the history of philosophy before getting into these kinds of arguments, dude.
Link: https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-dos-do ... d-to-cope/

Of key note:
"Don’t agree with your child that life is unfair, mean, or a vale of tears. Yes, life can be unfair. People can be mean. Sometimes things happen that are terribly sad. But jumping from a negative event to a generally negative attitude about life is a prescription for unhappiness and powerlessness. Do acknowledge unfairness. Recognize when someone has been mean. But it’s crucial that we teach our children to separate their sense of themselves as worthwhile from other people’s unfair opinions and from negative events that are beyond their control. If nothing can be done about a negative situation, we need to teach our kids how to move on instead of feeling bad about themselves or getting stuck in resentment."
Every piece of advice regarding parenting has constraints on when and where it is useful, and you are failing to understand those limits. For context, here is what kinds of things the article expects its advice to be applicable to:
Every disappointment is an opportunity to teach our children that they are strong enough to handle it. Whether it’s not getting the test score they expected, suffering a defeat in a sports event, not getting invited to a party or being let down by a friend or relative, we can offer more than sympathy. We can also help our children learn skills for solving problems and for carrying on.
This article is therefore limited in scope to normal everyday disappointments. Grief and mourning are extraordinary by comparison, and no one would expect normal coping skills to work in a situation where a loved one has died. Its an event with far more permanent consequences than getting an F on a test in grade school.

Moreover, you also cherrypick the one piece of advice in the column that sounds relevant to the argument that you want to present. However, the rest of the advice is largely irrelevant and frames a rather different picture of what you can and cannot prepare your children for. Tips 1 through 3 are all about problem solving, but death and grieving isn't a problem to be solved. Its an experience to be suffered through. At least, it will remain this way until such a time as necromancy is discovered. Tip #5 says "don't let yourself get depressed if your child is depressed." How, pray tell, does a parent do that when they themselves are in grief? If anything, in these situations showing that you are sad is important precisely so that they understand the significance of death. Which, as I said earlier, isn't something kids understand below a certain age. Tip #6 is the ONLY one that actually has to do with teaching your children how to cope with emotions, and I can actually agree with it even though I don't know how tantrums are relevant to grieving. But what you didn't realize is that when the writer says to validate their feelings and that everyone needs to vent occasionally, that means letting them cry when they need to cry! Tip #6 literally is an argument against what you have been saying! In the context of grief anyway. And it adds up with what I've learned in college, in a class all about the psychology of death and dying. Its also the basis of any good therapy regime; as opposed to telling a client that their emotions and how they express them are unhealthy and irrational. No one in the profession advocates a "toughen up and take it" attitude towards life's hardships. Seriously, find me someone who does. And don't say Freud, because he would likely diagnose you as having an overbearing superego. Yes, I took that class as well.
And: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-tian- ... 92232.html

"Small children have no way of assessing whether or not they need to be scared, or how scared they need to be, that’s why they need adults to act as “surge protectors” between them and the stimulus from their environment. Kids look to a caring adult to woo them back to a sense of calm and equilibrium when they get scared. They depend on what scientists call “an external modulator,” namely the parent, to restore their sense of inner calm because they lack the developmental maturation to calm themselves or to understand the source of their fear. "
More cherrypicking. This article is entirely irrelevant because it is about fear, not sadness or grief. Different emotions need different emotional coping strategies, there is no one size fits all approach. You would obviously need different strategies to deal with anger than to deal with joy or disgust. The second half also indicates that the intent of the article is to help teach kids responsibility and prevent them from learning shame-- all irrelevant to the topic at hand. Finally, yet again it talks about children at an age when they aren't old enough to understand death, so it isn't relevant to them. The article directly indicates this by talking about the underdevelopment of the hippocampus before age five. Even the discussion about children under age 11 and the development of the prefrontal cortex isn't really relevant because there is no evidence that the prefrontal cortex helps you deal with grief to begin with. You need to prove that first; I've never heard it before. And again, existentialist literature would suggest otherwise. I recommend Dr. Irving Yalom's writings on death for more information.

Consider that many people will say that their grandparents died when they were too young to really know them, so the death never really effected them. Go ahead, ask around. You will find that unlike deaths that happened when they were older than 10, their emotions either are not there, or are very different from when they were older and able to understand what was really happening. And that's assuming that they even remember the event! There are a lot of things from when I was five that I can't remember or which are... fuzzy. For instance, I had a great grandmother who died when I was... actually, I don't know how old I was, I would have to ask my parents. I don't really remember grieving. But when my grandfather died just a few years ago, I admit it: I cried. I knew the man, and I knew I would never talk to him again. Indeed, thinking about it even now, I wish I had talked to him more when he was still alive. Its irrational, as there are many people I will never get a chance to talk to in my life, but that's the irrationality of death for you. The problem with your theory is that the experience of death and grief is completely different for a child than it is for a teenager or an adult. Therefore, you have to learn how to grieve when you become a teenager or an adult. Not before.
"Still, I would love to see human beings, and their constituent organ systems, trivialized and commercialized to the same extent as damn iPods and other crappy consumer products. It would be absolutely horrific, yet so wonderful." — Shroom Man 777
"To Err is Human; to Arrr is Pirate." — Skallagrim
“I would suggest "Schmuckulating", which is what Futurists do and, by extension, what they are." — Commenter "Rayneau"
The Magic Eight Ball Conspiracy.

User avatar
loomer
Sith Devotee
Posts: 2978
Joined: 2005-11-20 07:57am
Contact:

Re: Is Religious-based Mourning Immoral?

Post by loomer » 2017-10-13 09:18pm

On a further note on the utility of religion - and not in an attempt to overwhelm, so this can be ignored - there's research building (albeit, not without debate) that suggests the human being is naturally inclined towards religious and spiritual belief. The social and health benefits of religiosity are well-established, with both prebuilt social networks and increased opportunities for connection with people inclined to assist you playing a very big role. Religious people live longer on the whole in countries where religion is a significant factor when we adjust for standard of living, both because of those elements are helpful ('john isn't doing well, we'll shoulder some of the load for him') and because of the stress of non-conformity and the relative isolation that can attach to it. Religiosity is pretty much just one more of the long list of cognitive biases that we all, to one degree or another, possess - just one with way cooler hats and better robes than most of them.

While atheism is, where actually entered into in a sincere conviction founded on solid logic, a perfectly valid choice and secularism should always prevail for government and scientific purposes, this does not mean that religion is necessarily a bad thing, especially in the context of grief. If the human being is naturally drawn to some kind of spirituality, and spiritual activity brings community in, then the opposite combination - social isolation with the pressure of non-conformity and a smaller pool of people to help shoulder the burden, along with the cognitive stressor of forcing oneself to remain entirely rational despite a tendency of the human mind to irrational but helpful thoughts (more on that in a moment) - is undesirable in cases of bereavement and other traumas.

This is not to say that religious routes are unconditionally good (especially where the methods or practices of a religion or spiritual faith are abusive or unhelpful), but rather that it may be better to let people accept 'the lie' in order to function better, especially if our metric is how effectively can they carry on. If a man is most able to carry on because he thinks he will see his brother again in the Elysian fields, why should we rob him of this notion? The proviso in my earlier post applies, and I submit that where this belief does not impact on healthcare decisions or public policy, not only is it none of our business what he believes but it may in fact be in our interest for him to continue to believe if religiosity is an effective tool for him. Ripping off the band-aid of a comforting lie is all well and good, but if the underlying wound hasn't healed yet, all you get is a lot of screaming and blood and a longer healing period, and unless the long term benefits of this outweigh that cost the metric of 'effectiveness' and 'efficiency' should in fact favour leaving it in place.

For a personal anecdote, I make ritual offerings for my dead relatives from time to time, and even make them for my living ones at times of crisis. Do I believe this will in fact fix the universe? On an intellectual level, no - but on the level of my 'inner primitive', the irrational mind that leaps at patterns and screams 'that's a face in that tree!' when the shadows hit it wrong and which the rest of my body is intimately attuned to, yes. The result is that while, intellectually, I can recognize the fact that burning my offering of grain and oil with a prayer to my gods and a side-cut for my psychopomp as a messenger tax does nothing for the universe, I can also recognize the subjective experience that it makes me feel like I have power over a situation in which I fundamentally have none. It is easier for me, and I suspect for most human beings, to create a sense of power however false than to accept true powerlessness in the jaws of an unfeeling, mechanistic universe.

We have two choices. Either lean hard into the howling wind of truth, which is admirable but often extremely difficult (spoken as a former atheist of many years, there, so personal bias warning), or we can accept that sometimes the path of lesser resistance may be psychologically more healthy in a given situation and let ourselves bend a little to accomodate both rationality and irrationality. For some, the first choice is the only one they need to make and one they can sustain from the day they make it to the day they die, and for others a little vacillating back and forth might be necessary to cope with the essential suffering of existence.

It boils down to what we view as more important. Is a rigid adherence to truth and objectivism at all times in all forms, regardless of a person's capacity to function under the model, more important than a utilitarian approach emphasizing the ability of a person to function? If the latter is preferrable, then allowances for religiosity and spirituality must be made from time to time. If truth is the most important thing, then we're all in some deep shit simply by nature of the mind's tendency towards irrationality.
"You're wonderful, and you're alive, and you deserve every little bit of happiness that the universe has to offer anyone, no matter who or what you like. Never forget that." - Achewood

Post Reply