A recent commenter on my post "Reason" stated "God is a meaning larger than ourselves that creates a framework for the randomness that is life and death." I do not disagree with the comment, after all, death is the great unknown, the darkness that is beyond what we know, yet a fundamental fact of life (and for ancient people who died at the age of 45 or so it was even more so). And it is this fear of death that causes so many to cling to the hope of something or Someone in the BEYOND.
I was raised a Christian-- with the devil and hell as deeply ingrained upon my psyche as the idea of god. There was no doubt in my mind for most of my life, including adulthood, that some people would go to hell. But the more I pondered upon who exactly it was that was going to hell, the more ridiculous the afterlife seemed to be. After all, if christians are right (and they sincerely believe they are!) most of us who do not BELIEVE (and note that I am not saying that you have to be good or anything-- you simply have to believe) that jesus is the son of god, that he died for our sins, and will come again some day to save us all, then we, the ones who don't believe that exact line about Jesus, are ALL going to hell. And it is this fundamental fear that still streaks through most Americans, in particular, whether they actually go to a christian church or not. And it is this same fear that the church, as stated in the article I quoted from the Telegraph in my post "Reason" that church leaders hope to capitalize on.
And as far as "the randomness of life" well, I will say that on the most fundamental level-- the quantum level life is random and that is difficult to understand. In fact it is the very randomness of life that seems to keep life on any kind of stable ground. For example: if electrons spun around the nucleus the way they should according to classical physics, the atom would not exist. It would collapse. But because the orbit of the electron is random, the atom is sable. And the atom is the fundamental building block of all life. Even Einstein struggled with the randomness that quantum physics revealed yet his belief did not change the facts of quantum physics. He was a genius, yet he was wrong fundamentally about the randomness of the universe.
Finally, to the idea that believing in god makes people better or gives them meaning that might give them a greater purpose as seemed to be implied in that statement (although if it was not implied by the commenter it does not take away from the importance of making this point)... most people who believe in god do not adhere to a higher standard of living or behavior because there is a god, and in fact too many of them behave abominably and can because they BELIEVE the right thing. They don't have to ACT in any certain way. god forgives them after all and they are going to heaven! (i.e George Bush or Mohammad Atta although these are not even very good examples since both had the very dangerous attitude that they were working on god's behalf. Perhaps Dick Cheney would be a better example of what I am trying to illustrate.)
In actuality, those people that do have a high standard of behavior or have a sense of a higher purpose may attribute it to god but if they gave some in depth thought to their standards they would most likely find that they would behave they way they do with or without god. It simply makes life better and they are able to hold their heads up in dignity. And after all, the life we have today is what we know and what we do actually have. It's worth doing well.
Atheist quote of the day:
"We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children are smart." ~~ H.L. Menken