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Why do people practice/not practice religion?

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Fri Jan 27, 2012 5:36 pm
parigirle says...



I go to a Catholic school and my religion exam is on Monday. In addition to the major world religions, we studied the religious impulse, and this question was on my review: Why do people practice religion?

Edit: I added not practicing religion. Basically, why are people atheist and why are people religious?

It kind of got me thinking. We do have specific answers to the question that we discussed in class that I will need to write on my exam, but I am curious as to other people's opinions on the subject.

Personally, as an atheist, I never could quite grasp the religious impulse, the desire people have for 'something more', and I did not find religion a comfort even during some very difficult times. I am partially hoping reading other people's opinions might be able to grant me another perspective.




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Fri Jan 27, 2012 9:27 pm
coldsky says...



I'm an atheist too, and I'm with you about not really understand the religious impulse.

I feel like the reason a lot of people turn to religion is because they want a buffer; to have something to fall back upon when times are hard and whatnot. Or they want a place where they can feel accepted and loved, because God is supposed to, in the majority of religions, love you unconditionally. I can see how it would be a comforting thought to some, although religion did nothing for me when I was depressed.

Another thing is that people have questions that they feel like they can't answer - how was the world created, for example, or what happens after you die. Personally I don't see the point in asking questions that you know have no particular answer, but again, I can see why some people would want answers to them.

To clarify, while I don't quite understand the religious impulse, I don't condemn it either.




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XxMattxX says...



I, being a Christian, pursue religion not because of 'insecurities' over the afterlife or as some sort of buffer, but because it makes sense to me and provides wisdom that I could not live without.

I imagine myself without God, and I realize that I would be exactly like many of the people I myself cannot stand or get along with. Not only because some of them hold uneducated opinions about God in general or just insult religion for the heck of it, but all of them have one thing in common, be it due to a lack of God or just because they are sad people-they lack the hope and joy that can only be found in God.

Naturally, it cannot be denied that there *is* a God-shaped hole in all of us, and even though filling it with religion may be seen as a weak escape to others who'd rather go through life alone, it takes a deep burden off of me because I find purpose in following what I know to be the only right path.

Anyone who feels like religion is taking the 'easy' way out seriously must reconsider...it's one of the hardest things to do, because you just can't change the rules and expect the same results. Just like in nature and chemical equations. Religion is a lifelong commitment(if you do it properly),and seeing as 50% of American marriages end in divorce ( according to divorcerate.org), committing isn't as easy as it may seem to most people.

I won't bother explaining why people don't follow religion unless directly asked, because I don't think (going on the past of topics like this) it will end well. Plus, I can't accurately assume considering that I live a life in salvation.

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Fri Jan 27, 2012 11:54 pm
parigirle says...



Before I say anything else, let me make it very clear that I am atheist but have respect for religious people, so I hope nothing I say is misconstrued as anti-religious.

Not only because some of them hold uneducated opinions about God in general or just insult religion for the heck of it, but all of them have one thing in common, be it due to a lack of God or just because they are sad people-they lack the hope and joy that can only be found in God.

It's interesting because many atheists (I am not speaking about myself here) say that religious people hold uneducated opinions about God, in that they are blindly following God. I am not saying I believe this, just that it is interesting that both atheist and religious sides of an argument find reasons to call one another uneducated, while I see no reason why a person can't be atheist and educated, or religious and educated.

More to the point, you spoke of finding hope and joy in God - do you believe that that hope and joy cannot be found in another way? Do you think that some people can find self-fulfilment from a source other than a belief in God?

I will not claim to be a happy person, but I attribute much of that to factors other than religion. There are many joyful and self-fulfilling activities a person can engage themselves in without bringing God into the equation, yet at the same time I see many people who have found so much happiness in God, so I'm curious whether those people agree that there are other routes to happiness, so to speak.

Anyone who feels like religion is taking the 'easy' way out seriously must reconsider...it's one of the hardest things to do, because you just can't change the rules and expect the same results.

To be honest, I have heard people say that atheism is taking the easy way out more often than I have heard people saying that about religion.

Also, I do think coldsky was just hypothesising and meant *no harm, because I can guess as well, but as an atheist I cannot actually know why religious people are so.

My textbook offers these explanations for religion:
- Answers to the big questions of life (ex. why do good things happen to bad people? What is the meaning of life? How was the world created?)
- Fear or crisis-oriented guilt
- Seeking to belong/a sense of community
- A desire for love, security, forgiveness, compassion

Now I'm wondering whether religious people are religious for any of those reasons.
Last edited by parigirle on Sat Jan 28, 2012 12:28 am, edited 1 time in total.




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Sat Jan 28, 2012 12:08 am
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Cole says...



I used to be an atheist and I used to feel the same way, parigirle. I used to think that nothing was missing in my life.

An old priest of mine called it "being hit by a brick". He said it is when something awful happens to you, and you're forced to reevaluate your entire world, including the place of God in your life. He said it is a time when we realize we cannot possibly live alone or without God’s aid.

When I was younger, I was struggling so much with multiple different things; bullying, my brother was dying, I was failing out of school... and I decided I had nothing to live for. I was an atheist at this time and I was considering suicide.

Yet, something stopped me, and I finally reached out for something, for God. After that, I felt like I could feel Him in my life, I felt I could see His influence and sense His hand guiding me. Almost immediately after I converted, the bullies stopped (At least for awhile... when I got into high school, the students started to bully me about my faith. They still do), my brother recovered from his life-threatening illness, school got easier, my grades improved, my relationship with my parents repaired itself.

Not to mention, I wasn't hurting anymore. I wasn't stressed, depressed, insecure, paranoid, or afraid like I had once been. God freed me from all of those burdens and continues to liberate me.

I believe in God because I was forced to go through a time where I either found His strength or I ended my life. Nothing is too great for God and that's such a comfort to have.

I think a major part of the problem is that people often associate religion with faith. Religion is so much about rituals, rules, do's and do-not's. But faith... faith is something real, something intimate. It's personal and I think that's the difference. Faith inspires people, gives them hope. I don't think people have an impulse for religion, but for faith.

Having Christ in my life has made me so much happier, happier than I ever was while being an atheist. I'm not saying atheists cannot be happy--I'm just saying that nothing can supply the kind of awesome joy that Christ does. I never knew I was missing anything until I actually came to know Christ. Following a religion is not enough to notice the hole. You have to believe, you have to put your trust into it. You have to have faith and the rest will just fall into place.

Believing in the Gospel gives me something to live for, to model my life after. It gives me something to fight for. It gives me a purpose, it gives my life wonderful meaning. I am not a Christian because I am afraid of death or hell. I worship Christ out of pure adoration, love, and compassion out of all that He has done for me, all that He has provided for me. Now that I am so consumed by my love for Him, I can never turn back, I don’t think atheism is a possibility for me any more.

And I have to say that for those who claim to have been once religious and are now atheist… I go back to my original point. Being religious is different than being faithful. I think we can fall out of religion, but as for falling away from true, honest faith? I don't think it's possible. At least not for me.

I am a Christian because I found something greater than atheism. I found something more meaningful, more joyful, and more fulfilling than living a life without faith. I found something greater than atheism.
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shiney1 says...



So far from reading the posts before mine, I see these two things:

Some people do not follow a religion because they don't get the concept and don't see the need for one.

Some people follow a religion because they do understand the concept and see the need for one.

That's what I see so far here.

I really like this question. Unlike other questions about religion which question it's importance or if it causes trouble, this question asks why people do and don't follow religions.

I am not saying I believe this, just that it is interesting that both atheist and religious sides of an argument find reasons to call one another uneducated, while I see no reason why a person can't be atheist and educated, or religious and educated.


Good observation here. I believe you can be educated and be either an atheist or religious. As you can see, education is taught in school and apart from religion. If you are taught religion, it is usually in a separate class. So someone can be educated, and not educated about religion. Thus, they can be an atheist and be educated.

More to the point, you spoke of finding hope and joy in God - do you believe that that hope and joy cannot be found in another way? Do you think that some people can find self-fulfilment from a source other than a belief in God?


I think this depends on that person's personal definition of "joy". Some people do not define joy as an extreme moment of happiness, but as constantly being at peace, being so elated you don't know why.
Some people define joy as an extreme moment of happiness.
And there are so many other connotative definitions. It depends on what you think joy is like.
And people can refer to a dictionary if they want, but most people do not when they think of joy. They think of what they want it to feel like. So, can you achieve such a feeling, and through what method? That's what I think, anyway.

To be honest, I have heard people say that atheism is taking the easy way out more often than I have heard people saying that about religion.


Really? I have never heard that before.

Also, I do think coldsky was just hypothesising and meant to harm, because I can guess as well, but as an atheist I cannot actually know why religious people are so.


Thank you. I respect people who can say they don't know everything. I do not understand a good chunk of what atheists do and believe, and I will not pretend to either.


To be continued....
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Sat Jan 28, 2012 1:03 am
parigirle says...



I realised I've said I'm atheist but haven't even answered my own question, so: the reason I am personally atheist is because I just cannot find it in myself to have faith in God, and I am actually very envious of people who do believe.

An old priest of mine called it "being hit by a brick". He said it is when something awful happens to you, and you're forced to reevaluate your entire world, including the place of God in your life. He said it is a time when we realize we cannot possibly live alone or without God’s aid.

I am jealous of you, although not in a bad way. I went through a hard time during the last two years, struggling with an ED and major depression, and I was pretty much desperate for anything that could help me, and I looked towards religion/faith. No, it is not the best reason to become religious, and in retrospect I was setting myself up for failure, but I wanted something that could help me and I tried desperately to find some comfort in the idea of God, but it just did not work. I just could not believe. Even now, with a slightly more level head, I just don't believe. I'm trying to understand religion (hence this entire discussion) but I can never personally connect to it.

Basically, this makes me question the religious/faith impulse. Everyone says that we are conditioned to have some kind of impulse for God or religion, but I am not so sure, mainly because of my own experience. I even go to a Catholic school and have taken religion class, including a class this year on World Religions, every year of high school.

That was lengthy, and I rambled a bit - I am not trying to offer up my autobiography here, just trying to get my point across.

So someone can be educated, and not educated about religion. Thus, they can be an atheist and be educated.

I also know many people who are well-versed in the ways of religion, and familiar with most of the major religions, but are still atheist.

I think this depends on that person's personal definition of "joy". Some people do not define joy as an extreme moment of happiness, but as constantly being at peace, being so elated you don't know why.
Some people define joy as an extreme moment of happiness.

You're right, and I did not consider that. To me, joy is just feeling briefly happy. I agree with a many bits of Buddhist philosophy, a lot of which is based around suffering and the idea that nothing is permanent, happiness included. Anyone can find brief happiness in small things, which is probably why I personally don't believe you need God to be joyful.

I can see how people who define joy as being at peace would believe that God offers that to them, since even I agree that nothing material can put you in a state of relatively constant serenity.

Really? I have never heard that before.

I have been accused on multiple occasions of being atheist because I'm "too lazy to look for answers to what is important", and I quote that because I strongly disagree with it as far as my own situation is concerned.

However, I do feel that some people choose not to be religious because they are scared of confronting the complexity of religion and what faith reveals about who you are, which, in my opinion, could be another reason why religion is not practiced.




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skwmusic says...



I think there are 3 main reasons.
1) They were raised religious
2) They want some form of hope or reason to live
3) Everyone else is religious

I'm not saying that this will apply to everyone but based on my observations this is pretty much the middle 50%. I know for me it was definitely the third one. I was really a lip-service christian, hey everyone else was doing it. And when you're 6 years old, doesn't that just justify everything? Then I met my first evangelist. He told me that all that defied christianity were doomed to hell. I couldn't believe it. Never really taught religion by my parents or looked into it, I wanted to believe this was false. But research turned up otherwise, this is what the bible said.

The reason I don't believe is because I don't believe that any religion is true or even fits me. I see no reason to praise any god, or believe that there is a god to praise. I don't feel like I need some god to uplift my existence. I like atheism because I get to choose what I believe in, and not have some archaic text tell me what to do. And if I get some of my ethics from religious teachings, that's not hypocritical, just like it's not hypocritical for a liberal to acknowledge smart things a conservative has said and vice versa.

But there is also a very interesting that Richard Dawkins brang up. He didn't specifically suggest this but something he did give me this idea. There is something called the god helmet, which sends some electromagnetic wave through a certain part of your brain, and the user will usually feel some weird presence around them, hence the name "god helmet". However when Richard tried it, it had no effect on his psyche whatsoever. This is what led me to think maybe the tendency to believe is genetic. Unfortunately I have no scientific proof to back up my claim but I think it'd be very interesting to preform experiments on this subject.
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Kit says...



My best mate was a Christian growing up, went to church every Sunday, Bible camp, the whole deal. When he realised he was gay, the church told him he was evil and possessed by demons. He is not the only one, all of his exboyfriends have come from conservative Christian backgrounds, and ostricised from their church and families. My best mate hates organised religion now, and really, fair enough. How could he still be a Christian, when they were teaching him to hate himself for something every accredited psychological association says is not his fault? In all other aspects of his life, he is more compassionate and generous than most people. I think there is a trend in our generation away from organised religion because we don't appreaciate them being hung up on gay marriage and abortion, instead of focusing on poverty, corruption and violence. As a Christian Scientist, I don't really care what people do with their dangly and/or non dangly bits as long as everyone involved is a freely consenting adult. Also if anyone who tries to lynch, bully into suicide, ostricise, judge, or treat my friend like a second class citizens, my obligation is to turn the other cheek while bending down and opening up a can of whoopass, but I'm fairly sure that is implied dogma somewhere in Science and Health With Key To The Scriptures.

My partner is an atheist because he thought about it, and realised that if there was a god, he wouldn't behave any differently, he is good to people because he enjoys it, and God doesn't much enter into the equasion.

I am a Christian Scientist because its primary focus is on empathy and understanding others and seeing God through them. I struggle with the way I perceive God, but I have the feeling, like in Joanne Greenberg's "Certain Distant Suns" that there is a purpose for that belief, that if I gave it up entirely, something would be lost. My family is Jewish and Catholic, my mum is Christian Scientist, and she influenced my belief, but I think the adaptable philosophical nature of Christian Science has allowed me to keep believing. That and they don't lynch people.
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shiney1 says...



Everyone says that we are conditioned to have some kind of impulse for God or religion, but I am not so sure, mainly because of my own experience. I even go to a Catholic school and have taken religion class, including a class this year on World Religions, every year of high school.


And you are an atheist.
This is one of the most common answers I get when I ask my peers why they are atheists.
The religion has been beat into them by their parents for so long and so hard that they end up resenting it, and want no part of it.
Also, some of those whom I asked didn't like their parents or didn't have a good relationship with them (notice I said "some"). What kids tend to do when they get older is select what their parents do that they do and do not like.
I hear that many of my peers' parents are very religious yet cold, judgmental, condescending, and hard to reach. And they are religious. And they are religious.
Yes, I repeated that.
Because, I found out, some people associate religion with their parents and how they practiced it (which is not necessarily the "correct" way).
So all the child knows is that form of religion, so they don't want any of it as an adult. It takes on a bad connotative meaning, not necessarily denotative.
And you can't blame them. This happens a lot.
Religiousness. Not faith.

But I really admire people who, even though being exposed to religious bigots and judgmental people, still want to find out the actual truth. That ask questions instead of assuming.
That's hard to do, and is too much work. So most people stick to their own views, an easier way. Or end up debating about it with no intention opening their minds.

For me it has been the opposite, which is not common. I grew up with my religion, and my parents were earnest in their faith. They make mistakes, but handle them the way the Bible said they should. They raise me and my siblings according to the Word, and walk us through their actions and tell us why something is wrong or right.
They warned us, and still do, to not judge people, even though what they do may be wrong. We read the Bible together often and discuss it, and instead of telling us what we should do, they show us by example. They show us with supporting Scriptures as well. They make sure their actions do not contradict what the Bible teaches us. And they openly admit when they are wrong, apologize, and pray for forgiveness.
They have made it so that there is no doubt in my mind.

And, they both say that if I turn away from Christ in the future, they will always love me and will never abandon me.
They say that this is Christ's love. And, from what I have witnessed, it is a very beautiful thing. I hope I have faith like my parents' someday. T

Not many of my peers experience this. They don't see the real fruits of faith, just religion. And so they don't understand because they cannot. They see the problems religion has caused, and snobbish Christians (let's face it, we are talking about Christianity here), and are automatically turned off. And once that door is closed it's hard to open.

But, anyway, that is why I follow my faith. I am grateful for an experience that is hard to encounter in this day and age.
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Pigeon says...



I had very firm faith for roughly the first sixteen years of my life. I did not consider myself to be religious, rather, I considered myself as having a personal relationship with Christ. It was never simply religion of convenience - I was very much committed to it. I went to church and youth group, took notes, read over them and considered them and prayed about them later. I dominated debates in Christian Studies classes at school, and engaged in debates with other students at lunch time. In my head I would talk to God throughout my day, every day. In answer to the question being asked in this thread, I was a Christian because I felt a deep conviction that Christianity was truth, and the Jesus Christ had died to save me. I followed it because to me it seemed like the only worth-while thing, and the most beautiful thing, in the whole world. I grew up surrounded by Christians who were loving, wonderful people who earnestly wanted to do right by everyone. My reasons for "following religion" were that I believed I had found the Truth (with a capital 'T'!). That was my heartfelt belief, so why on Earth wouldn't I follow it?

Some people would like to say that people of faith follow religion simply to stave of their fear of death, or because they were raised that way and never questioned it. I think that this is, for the most part, untrue. Most people follow their religion because they believe it to be true and want to do what's right, not because they are afraid or stupid.

Over the last year or so my life stopped going so smoothly. Things got harder and I turned to God, like I always had, but He didn't seem to be there. I questioned my faith. Actually, I'd questioned my faith my whole life, but I'd always found the answers satisfactory. This time I didn't find any answers at all. What is real to thousands of people around the world stopped being real to me. Simply, I lost my faith, and I was astonished to find that I didn't regret it. Something which had been my primary concern was suddenly gone, and I wasn't left with a hole which needed filling; I actually felt more complete than I had before. It was a freeing and beautiful spiritual experience for me. I experienced great joy through my faith, but I think the euphoria which has accompanied letting go of it may be greater. In answer to the question though, I do not follow a religion because, after a lot of thought and research, I no longer believe any religion to be true.

So, for me the reasons to follow and not to follow religion are the same - people will go where they think truth is. Religious people are not necessarily scared or stupid, they are following what they think is true. Atheists are not necessarily lazy or resentful, they are following what they think is true.
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Cole says...



Pigeon, I don't want to seem insensitive or preachy, but I think that you probably didn't see the big picture and that is why you fell from faith. It happened to my brother. We have to understand that God does not always pick us up or answer our prayers.

The same priest I mentioned before had a sermon called "Holy Darkness, Blessed Night" where he discussed how just because God does not reveal Himself, just because He does not answer prayer, He is still with us. Those times of "dark faith" can make our faith stronger. I have experienced it. God has provided for me some days and then the next day, has not. I have heard the voice of God one day, and then the next never sensed a trace of His presence. I think "dark faith" can help teach us not to expect God to do everything for us, but to also trust in His judgment and will.

I don't want to say that any of you were being ignorant or anything, but, I feel that for those who always expect God to do everything for them, to always provide for them, they're setting themselves up for disappointment.

Mother Teresa experienced "dark faith" for about fifty years. She suffered through a very long time in her life when she could not find God's influence, could not feel His presence. Yet she still kept her faith to the very end. She understood the big picture.

Here are lyrics to the song that the priest's sermon was based off of.

Holy darkness, blessed night,
heaven's answer hidden from our sight.
As we await You, O God of silence,
we embrace Your holy night.

I have tried you in fires of affliction;
I have taught your soul to grieve.
In the barren soil of your loneliness,
there I will plant My seed.

I have taught you the price of compassion;
you have stood before the grave.
Though My love can seem
like a raging storm,
this is the love that saves.

Were you there
when I raised up the mountains?
Can you guide the morning star?
Does the hawk take flight
when you give command?
Why do you doubt My power?

In your deepest hour of darkness
I will give you wealth untold.
When the silence stills your spirit,
will My riches fill your soul.


As the watchman waits for morning,
and the bride awaits her groom,
so we wait to hear Your footsteps
as we rest beneath Your moon.


This song takes passages directly from the Book of Job. Job was a man who had incredible faith in God. However, Satan, trying to prove himself, said to God that he bet he could make Job lose his faith, the most faithful in the land. God, however, knew Job well and knew his faith was strong, so He told Satan to do with Job as he wished, but never end his life.

Satan came to Job, killed all of his children, stole his livestock and wealth, and eventually plagued Job with hideous, agonizing boils. Yet Job kept his faith. Though he cursed the day he was born, he never cursed God. And because of this, both he and God proved Satan wrong, and God rewarded Job with seven-times everything he had lost due to Satan.

God did not deliver Job from his suffering, but Job trusted in God and because of it, was rewarded and Satan was defeated.

This is a lesson for us. Awful things happen to us all the time; we are beaten and abused, our friends and loved ones become sick and die, we lose our belongings, our means to live. However, true faith in God means that we can see the bigger picture. No matter how we are tested in this life, we must continue to teach others of Christ and what redemption He has offered. Our trust and faith in God, especially through terrible times, will earn us eternal life in heaven. We must see what is to come, we need to see the bigger picture.

I witnessed your faith in Christ and it was wonderful, but had you really been rooted in faith, you would have also understood that God does not do what we want or what we expect. We can pray and pray, and God will listen, sometimes even answer, but primarily, it is God who is the one to decide what to do. We must await God's command, we must abide by His will, for He knows what is best.

But I don't want to preach to you any more than I have. I respect your decision to turn towards another path, Pigeon. It takes a lot of courage, I think, to leave faith behind.

As for what Shiney said, I agree. If religion is beaten into or forced upon a child, they will most likely turn away from it. Religious bigots are the biggest cause of atheism, I think. Even though Christ advocated conversion, it is the person's choice to accept faith or not. No one should force it upon anyone.
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~Hosea 6:3~
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Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:13 pm
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Pigeon says...



We're probably getting kind of off track from the question now, but anyway...

Hayden, I have studied the book of Job before. I had experienced periods of doubt and feeling far from God before and come back to my faith stronger. I did not expect God to do everything for me and I wasn't looking for immediate answers to prayer or anything like that. When things got hard for me it actually made me look at the bigger picture, at the world as a whole. That made me ask a lot of questions which there were no answers to, or at least no satisfactory ones, and none of it looked like Truth to me any more. Please believe that I was deeply rooted in my faith. It mattered to me more than anything and I did not throw it away on a whim.

Thanks for your concern and respect. I have much respect for your faith too. :)
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Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:36 pm
Cole says...



I just hope you have a great life, and maybe you'll come back to your faith some day. No one knows. I do know people who are content in their atheism, though.

However, I was an atheist, (and I recognize this as mere opinion) and I don't think you'll find anything out there that is better and more rewarding than God. I spent years of my life trying to find the most worthwhile thing in this world, and I came back from that journey with God.

The same thing happened to Lee Strobel (author of “The Case for Christ”): Graduate from Yale University, he spent nearly twenty years of his life as an atheist all while trying to find the truth, and he concluded that the truth was Christ. And do you remember C. S. Lewis? Same story. Lewis was 15 when he became an atheist due to faith being forced upon him and it was not until twenty years later that he became a Christian (one of the most influential Christians in the 20th century, I might add).

Anyway, I respect you and your atheism, and if you ever just want to talk about anything, feel free to PM me.

And yea, we're getting off topic. Sorry guys.

Anyway, I think we can narrow what prompts people practice religion and faith down to this:
Fear
Hope
Enlightenment
Deception
Loneliness
Pain
Stress
Curiosity
Disater

Tell me if I’ve missed any.
My heart holds all secrets; my heart tells no lies.

~Hosea 6:3~
ונדעה נרדפה לדעת את יהוה כשחר נכון מצאו ויבוא כגשם לנו כמלקוש יורה ארץ׃




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Mon Jan 30, 2012 4:15 pm
Lava says...



I'd agree with that list. Basically, looking up to someone knowing he/she's there.

I should say with this growth of neo-Hindus (I just made that up, basically people who think about why they follow that particular religion and not blindly accepting dogma), among my age group, it's because it's what is seen as understandable, just like how evolution may make sense to us.
I BLOG!
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Pretending in words was too tentative, too vulnerable, too embarrassing to let anyone know.
- Ian McEwan in Atonement

sachi: influencing others since GOD KNOWS WHEN.