Malaysian Atheist

An avowed atheist living in Malaysia.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Do not despair!

Have you ever been through one of those days where at the end of it, you wished you hadn't gotten out of bed that morning, because so many bad things happened to you throughout the day? I'm sure we all have had those before. So far, I've been having bad days everyday this week!

On Monday, I dropped my iPod and damaged the screen. Everything else is working fine, but now, half the screen is gone. Then in the evening, some unscrupulous thieves stole some parts off my car. I discovered it Tuesday morning. I didn't think those parts are worth much money but they had to take it anyway. In the evening, I noticed one of the fog lamps on my car is missing too. I'm not sure if someone took them or they fell off. Then during soccer, I busted my left big toe and hurt my right foot. My toe was bleeding under the toenail, and it'll fall off soon while I'd have to quit soccer for a while for my foot to heal. All this while, work was piling up at the office, all mundane and uninteresting work. Meanwhile, the local stock market has been heading south and I'm seeing my portfolio shrink.

Ok, perhaps I'm allowing my emotions to get the better of me, but that is only human. We are not robots; we can't live on cold logic alone. In such a situation, one can't help but feel that everything just isn't going right. You just don't know what bad thing will hit you next. The irrational part of me fills me with dread but the rational part of me knows that this is just the gambler's fallacy, which is the incorrect belief that certain, independent events are more likely to occur because it has happened recently.

In a way, it does explain why in such situations, so many people turn to religion. When people get hit by a run of bad luck, they feel helpless and really need to believe that somewhere out there, there is a god or a deity who is in control. If you worship the deity or pray to it or give offerings, the deity might end your run of bad luck. It explains why some people are all superstitious - they wear charms and amulets to ward of the bad luck. If we apply Pascal's reasoning:

1. You pray/give offering/wear amulet to improve your luck
  • If God exists, He hears you: your luck improves.
  • If God doesn't exist, your loss is nothing.
2. You don't bother to pray/give offering/wear amulet
  • If God exists, you've pissed Him off for not being penitent: your luck remains the same or worsens.
  • If God doesn't exist, you lose nothing and might not gain anything.
The only prudent action here would be to pray/give offering/wear amulet or do something to change your luck. So what if you are an atheist? You don't believe in prayer, you don't believe in amulets, you don't believe there is any God out there who can help you. So what CAN you do?

To be honest, I don't have the answer. Whoever said being an atheist is easy? The rational thing to do would be see the events as independent and unrelated. Then, one would need to think positively, talk to someone, write about your worries, or do something pleasurable to take your mind off things. Remember, do not despair.

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At 6:35 AM, June 01, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pascal's reasoning is flawed logic for a few reasons. The first being that which religions symbol will you wear? If the flying spaghetti monster is the one true god, then he won't reward for wearing a cross. There is no proof god exists, and no proof that it's the Judeo-Christian god. Secondly, if you do wear some sort religious necklace, something is lost, you look like a retard, and people will take you less seriously. Especially atheists.

At 7:54 PM, June 14, 2007, Blogger Shalini said...

You might be interested in this:


At 6:59 AM, June 19, 2007, Anonymous Mark said...

I discovered your weblog through your review to Victor Frankl's book, Man's Search for Meaning on Library Thing. (Where is your review? I could not find it.)

Maybe, or maybe not, a quote from his book applies to your bad day.

"Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost. ...

"What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life--daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

"These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements. 'Life' does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life's tasks are also very real and concrete."

True religion should point one in this direction instead of the superstition of amulets and charms. True faith and prayers are not about luck, or changing the mind of God or gods. It is about purpose, meaning, and ultimately about relationships and responsibility.

As Frankl quotes Nietzsche, "He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how."

At 10:32 PM, July 08, 2007, Blogger BEAST said...

Good day to a bro from across the causeway:

I am an atheist from Singapore, and I emphatize with your religious situation over there (Bloody Islamofascists forcing people into Islam and all that).

Anyway, my blog here:

Great blog by the way. I shall be visiting here often.

At 10:12 PM, December 11, 2009, Anonymous Hedonese said...

Atheism offers little practical help when it comes to suffering and despair we encounter in life. It boils down to "Life sucks. Get used to it."

On Pascal's wager, I think it has often been misunderstood. This 'game theory' argument is advanced in a scenario in which the evidence leads us to a fence sitting position, where there is as much reason to affirm theism as there is to deny it. In this case, what should one do? Pascal argues in this 50-50 situation, it is still rational to be a theist since you've got nothing to lose and all to gain. those who criticize it often forget this context

At 10:25 PM, December 11, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what if organized religion offers help for suffering and despair? Does that make it true? No it doesn't. Utility and truth are quite different.


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