This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.


← Philip Kitcher - Living with Darwin

icouldbewrongbut's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by icouldbewrongbut

Strange. I posted the following comment about 8 hours ago, was told that it was posted successfully, but then it never appeared:

*** I think that this interview should be in the Featured section; I think this topic is at the core

of all the difficulty. ***

Bravo! I've been wanting to see this topic discussed - The need to help bridge the emotional gap for religionists. I've felt a void on the atheist side of things wrt validating religionists real emotional concern / hesitancy / need for meaning and especially the mitigation of death anxiety.

I loved the point about Dawkins apparently not respecting the extreme emotional difficulty others have with meaninglessness, etc, and how he doesn't seem to realize that he has been evidentally blessed with a strong sense of purpose and has been seemingly spared from the worst of the existential issues that people deal with. (I wonder if Dawkins agrees with this) I've wished Dawkins would try to address it more exhaustively and try to offer solutions. I understand Dawkins' goal was to demonstrate the illogic of God-belief, and getting into the details of religionists' emotions perhaps seemed unimportant. (or perhaps it's unclear what their emotial reality is)

I can see that for a lot of religionists, an understanding of science isn't mitigating their honestly-felt emotional fears. It seems that they still have deep anxiety based on meaninglessness and death anxiety -natural to the human condition - that we atheists aren't addressing very well, as far as I've seen.

But perhaps there is more that we can do to try to encourage religionists to let go of baseless
beliefs by helping to reduce their this anxiety. If so, what?

I recently read Ernest Becker's the "Denial of Death" and watched the related "Flight from Death" documentary. I haven't seen it discused on atheist forums, I wonder how many other concerned atheists are aware of Becker's ideas - basically that we all naturally, due to the reality that we humans are mortal animals, have repressed intense death anxiety, and that the mass of culture, esp. ideology / religion is necessarily constructed by us (subconsciously) to repress it (I'm not doing great justice to the theory). I highly recommend the documentary for insight into why people are susceptible to relgious and ideological belief (as self perpetuation).

It seems to me that Secular Humanism could also add a structure to intentionally help to mitigate
this death anxiety (which is perhaps the largest perpetuator of the religious crutch).

Can't we atheists figure out what strategies we use to mitigate our own death anxiety enough to
explain it to non-atheists? Would a good start be for us atheists to explore witnin ourselves how we are subconsciously dealing with our own death anxiety? - that is, when we really are aware of facing death, what is our unconscious strategy for suppressing death anxiety?

For example, we don't have an immortality belief to lean on, but perhaps some of us at the thought
of our death, realize the we're only here for a brief time, so we should revel in it, etc. I know Dawkins has addressed some of this, but I think we need a real dialogue / exploration where we identify atheists' more common strategies for dealing with death and existential meaninglessness and compare them to those of religionists to see what total solution we can offer in an understandable form, while fully validating the emotional concerns of religionists (if even unconscious).

Mon, 30 Jul 2007 06:42:00 UTC | #56465