Is believing good?


This morning I read the incredibly tragic story of Makayla Sitton, a 6-year-old girl who was murdered by a relative in her Jupiter, Florida home this past Thanksgiving. The suspected culprit is Paul Michael Merhige, her 35-year-old uncle, who supposedly walked through the Sitton household with a gun, killing Makayla, his 76-year-old aunt and his 33-year-old twin sisters, one of them pregnant.

The article, tastefully written by Liz Balmaseda, catches up with Makayla’s parents, Muriel and Jim, who are obviously struggling to cope without their daughter. It’s a heartbreaking tragedy, and the killer clearly deserves to be locked up for life.

But the piece also got me thinking …

Throughout the story, Muriel and Jim speak of their faith in God, and how clearly He (God) has a plan for everyone. They believe their introduction to Jesus a decade ago took place that so, in 2009, they’d be prepared to cope with losing their only child. They clearly know in their hearts that Makayla is in a better place; that God simply needed another angel; that they’ll reunite in heaven one day. This sort of faith has allowed them to cope; to deal; to survive; to move forward. It is of great value.

And yet, what if it’s not true? Let’s say there’s no God. Or let’s say Jesus isn’t the messiah. Let’s say there’s no such thing as an afterlife; let’s say we’re all just pieces of dust, floating around accidentally. Let’s say Judaism and Christianity and Hinduism and all the other religions are pure, 100-percent garbage.

If so, are the Sittons better off, or worse off, believing? If it helps us survive, is it OK to believe in something that’s not true (hypothetically speaking), but that’s comforting? Let’s say religion provides us with a moral code—but that the foundation of that moral code is baloney. Should we still follow it? Or is truth what’s ultimately important?

I’m not sure. But I often wonder.

5 thoughts on “Is believing good?”

  1. Well, the problem with Pascal’s Wager is that it isn’t faith. It’s logic.
    Every athiest or agnostic realizes that life would be easier with the belief in a benevolent god, but believes that (or is not sure that) this god does not exist.
    You can’t pretend to believe just because you want to get into heaven.
    Jeff’s questions are valid, and I think only answerable by the people in the situation, if at all.
    What an f’ing tragedy, though.

  2. As an atheist, I am sometimes envious of the comfort people have in their invisible man, that it’s all part of a plan, His will, yadda, yadda, yadda. But the rational part of me believes that things just happen… not for a reason, our brains provide that… and how we cope or react after that it is what matters.

  3. For me the problem is not whether ot not there is something after this. There either is or there isn’t. If there isn’t, the issue is how to deal with whatever this is and how to make the best of it.
    If there is something after this, the issue is what is it and how does present existence affect what future existence will be. If what I do now determines what my existence will be in the next life, then the best I can do is believe in a lifestyle that does not hurt others and the society I live in. Anyway you look at it, it’s a crapshoot, since to my knowledge noone has ever proven the exixtence or non-exisyence of something after this.

  4. They are one thousand times better off believing.

    Whatever they need to get through the day without collapsing is fine with me. They have chosen Christianity. Others choose Crown Royal, or worse drugs. Others go batshit insane.

    Diving into Jesus is not the worst reaction to what they have been through.

    As for your closing questions, let me reverse the sides.

    Let us say that the moral code is based on a solid rock foundation.

    Say there was, hypothetically speaking, a mass vision, or a proven math theorem, or a more concrete document, that gave us more proof of God.

    Would it not be more depressing if the moral code was not followed, even if there was more proof?

    So, I prefer to see the moral code followed (and it is too often not, or worse, followed inconsistently)

    And if that code is based on trash, at least it makes an attempt at making us all better.

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