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Author Topic: What is it about suffering that brings people to a religion?  (Read 780 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: July 24, 2011, 07:57:46 PM »

I know in my own personal experience and those of others that any time we are experiencing much suffering we turn to a religion to help us cope with it. Is there a psychology behind this? I find it to be fascinating because if I had not suffered a traumatic life event I don't think I would ever contemplate becoming a Christian.
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« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2011, 08:00:38 PM »

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." - C.S. Lewis
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« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2011, 08:03:53 PM »

I don't disagree with Lewis but what about those that take up Buddhism?
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« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2011, 08:06:19 PM »

People like to think that there is something "other" or "more to it" than what is obvious and visible. People like to think that there is some purpose to existence, and that what they do is not just ultimately meaningless. People feel this more acutely in times of hardship. People are probably right.
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« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2011, 08:08:15 PM »

People like to think that there is something "other" or "more to it" than what is obvious and visible. People like to think that there is some purpose to existence, and that what they do is not just ultimately meaningless. People feel this more acutely in times of hardship. People are probably right.

We must find meaning out of suffering. Reminds me of a great book by Viktor Frankl called "Man's Search For Meaning", which everyone should read before they die.
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« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2011, 08:15:18 PM »

I think that suffering or going through certain traumatic events reminds us that our physical lives are finite. Even though my mind is aware that I am going to die someday, it doesn't truly hit until I'm at a funeral or watching someone die in front of me. And then you realize that you are going to be that person one day, lying there, knowing that you were going to close your eyes at some point and never wake up.

Then we start to explore the questions of eternity, the afterlife.

I do agree also that people do turn to religion for comfort, because say what you will about any other pleasure or comfort that this earth can give, but it's fleeting. We know this. The term "God shaped hole" is extremely cheesy, but I do agree with the concept. Even those who don't believe in God but want something more -- we have the same urges and desires. We want a source of comfort and peace that will be unchanging and always available to us, regardless of money, marital status, etc.
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« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2011, 08:31:54 PM »

And I like to use that argument IsmiLiora for the existence of God, because I think it is a powerful one because if God did not exist then why should we have this innate desire for something that is outside of us for comfort and support, or to have communion with something beyond ourselves?

I think in times of suffering do we focus our lenses more clearly on God's mercy and I believe that God uses suffering for His purpose to save us.
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« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2011, 09:46:17 PM »

I don't disagree with Lewis but what about those that take up Buddhism?

Many people take up Buddhism in the face of suffering because it directly addresses suffering: the reality of it, its cause, the possibility of its cessation, and the means of its cessation. These are the Four Noble Truths. Whether or not you buy into it, Buddhism offers a lot of practices that, when put into practice regularly, do alleviate the kind of suffering we cause ourselves through our thoughts, attachments, cravings and aversions. For many of us, that's just not enough because it still doesn't address our longing for God. For those who don't long for or even believe in God, Buddhism includes a fairly practical set of tools for addressing suffering - at least mental / emotional suffering.
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« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2011, 09:53:42 PM »

Trauma has the nice effect of drowning out the background noise, making you listen to what really matters.
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« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2011, 09:28:33 PM »

The image of God in us tells even the most ardent atheist, "This isn't how it's supposed to be!" In suffering, ironically, we come closer to Reality because we recognize that there must be something better.

For those who have no reaction to suffering, such as strict Buddhists, they must train themselves to behave in such a way; it isn't within their nature to act that way.
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« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2011, 10:58:15 PM »

Trauma has the nice effect of drowning out the background noise, making you listen to what really matters.
Indeed it does.

The image of God in us tells even the most ardent atheist, "This isn't how it's supposed to be!" In suffering, ironically, we come closer to Reality because we recognize that there must be something better.

For those who have no reaction to suffering, such as strict Buddhists, they must train themselves to behave in such a way; it isn't within their nature to act that way.
Good post.

May I open this up a bit more. If the transhumanists can effectively eliminate suffering, what do you think the answer to "What is life?" would be, without using suffering as a means to show us there is something better?
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« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2011, 11:04:37 PM »

The image of God in us tells even the most ardent atheist, "This isn't how it's supposed to be!" In suffering, ironically, we come closer to Reality because we recognize that there must be something better.

For those who have no reaction to suffering, such as strict Buddhists, they must train themselves to behave in such a way; it isn't within their nature to act that way.

Good point. Often the abrupt and jarring nature of suffering quiets people's mind-noise from tv/music/life/etc so they can, even if faintly, hear the voice of their conscience.
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« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2011, 11:56:46 PM »

People like to think that there is something "other" or "more to it" than what is obvious and visible. People like to think that there is some purpose to existence, and that what they do is not just ultimately meaningless. People feel this more acutely in times of hardship. People are probably right.

We must find meaning out of suffering. Reminds me of a great book by Viktor Frankl called "Man's Search For Meaning", which everyone should read before they die.

Agreed, I also read "The Doctor and the Soul". I think MSFM should be read at the beginning of High School  and then again during the Senior year. It was a profound influence on my life and all for the good. Viktor Frankel attended the Divine Liturgy at my church two times (at least; way back when) and spoke to the congregation once after the Divine Liturgy.

Good call.
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« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2011, 03:08:15 PM »

I know in my own personal experience and those of others that any time we are experiencing much suffering we turn to a religion to help us cope with it. Is there a psychology behind this? I find it to be fascinating because if I had not suffered a traumatic life event I don't think I would ever contemplate becoming a Christian.

I believe it is because people feel desperate and have very little faith until they feel like "They Need God".

An old Amish proverb says "Don't pray when it rains if you don't pray in the sunshine".  I think it shows how many people try to use God as a tool rather than having true faith.  He's there when it suits them.
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