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You'll Believe When You Are Desperate
In his book, Why There Is No God, atheist author, Armin Navabi argues that fear is not a proper motivation to believe in a religion—especially as one nears death. Navabi states, "The idea that fear could drive you toward the belief in God only goes to suggest that religious claims are commonly fear-based and not rooted in actual logic or evidence."
Fear is a legitimate motivation for religious belief. To say that the use of fear means a faith is not rooted in actual logic or evidence is forgetting that fear motivates us in many areas of life—and we are the better for it.
Some people decide not to commit crimes for fear of punishment. Parents routinely use fear as a tool to help keep their children safe: look both ways when crossing the street, don't touch a hot stove, don't talk to strangers, don't play with knives. Fear is commonly used for our benefit.
Why should a person not fear eternal punishment? Should we not fear God who holds the power of life and death?
Navabi says of theists that fear-based faith is "essentially acknowledging that their claims are irrational." As we've already seen, that's nonsense. Are parents irrational for putting the fear of a hot burner into their children's minds? Not at all.
Atheists routinely argue that there may be an evolutionary connection for religious belief; that evolution produced genes which allow us to believe in nonexistent deities. If that is true, it means that humanity is irrational to the core and cannot trust its own perceptions, whether facing death or not. If that is true, why should the atheist's perception be trusted either?
When facing death, virtually everyone has some element of fear. Some people fear non-existence. Many fear eternal punishment. Some fear that God will not accept them. All of these are healthy fears and those fears should be explored to find out not only how to overcome fear, but how God can be the answer to the person's fear. Whether it's a lengthy search for God or a death-bed conversion, fear should motivate us to find ways to avoid the thing we fear, or to overcome it. This is true whether the fear is earthly, or eternal.