Is Belief in God Wishful Thinking?

Posted By on August 15, 2019


Atheists have often viewed belief in God as wishful thinking, a projection of an idea because man fears death. But is this a fair claim? The answer is no, and here are some reasons why. First, not everyone accepts God’s existence out of fear of death. There are many who acknowledge his existence on the grounds of reasonable arguments such as the five ways of St. Thomas Aquinas. Second, even if someone does believe in God out of fear of death, it says nothing whether or not the proposition, “God exists,” is true. Third, the same line of reasoning can be applied to atheists. Just as fear of death, and the desire for eternal life could lead one to believe in God, so too a desire to not follow traditional moral standards could lead one to not believe in a God who will punish us for our misdeeds. Would such a desire make atheism merely wishful thinking, thus justifying theism? Of course not! Similarly an atheist cannot justify his or her position by saying belief in God is wishful thinking. Finally, the objection is absurd given the fact that traditional monotheistic religions embrace the doctrine of eternal damnation. How can the theory of wishful thinking explain something so unpleasant? Something even believers are subject to experience if they stop believing? You would think if belief in God were merely wishful thinking, then eternal damnation wouldn’t be a part of the religion. But it often is. So, is it fair to attack theism on the grounds that belief in God is wishful thinking? Absolutely not. Therefore, it can’t be used to justify atheism. If you want to learn more about this topic and others like it, visit our website at catholic.com. For Catholic Answers I’m Karlo Broussard. Thanks for watching.

Posted by Lewis Heart

This article has 8 comments

  1. Why would anyone fear death. I love the unknown. That's where I live my life.

    We don't say anything about our thinking is justified, we embrace the big questions and don't say we have all the answers.

    Atheism/agnosticism is the exact opposite of wishful thinking.

    Don't settle believing, strive to know

    – Carl Sagan

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  2. I love your second point, I had never considered the argument reversed like that.

    However, I completely disagree with your last comment, it's not at all hard to imagine people dreaming up retribution for very bad people.

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  3. So many red herrings, misguided ideas, and poor reasoning here, I wouldn't want to waste time going through them all. I'll just point out that your last words "this can't be used to justify Atheism" just falls flat on its face from your lack of understanding of what Atheism even is. Atheism has nothing to do with why Theists believe what they do, or why they do. Atheism is just a personal decision of an unbelief or disbelief in gods, period. Atheism has no other requirements at all, no beliefs at all, no relationship to religions, or morals, or Evolution or fantasies about Creation. Most often it is just a personal decision based on not having seen any convincing evidence that any gods exist. God believers in various Theistic religions base their beliefs on taking man-made stories on Faith. Both faith and belief are specifically defined to be just accepting something as true without any need of any evidence or proof to know if it really is true, so just believing is good enough fro many people. Most God believers I've spoken with instead have abstract things like those philosophical arguments you mentioned, or personal justifed reasons to believe, the most common one being "I believe because Mom and Dad trained me to believe." no matter which religion it is. Once the indoctrinated beliefs take hold and are set by brain chemistry in the subconscious mind, they seem very real and true to the believer no matter which religion they fell victim to. It's much like a mental addiction, all caused by the mighty "power of belief." The neuroscience and psychology of religious indoctrination is well worth learning about for those seeking Truth. peace

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  4. l like how he makes the implication that atheists just want to sin, also i like how he takes the argument that there is no evidence for a god and strawmans it into "wishful thinking",also he provides no evidence that his belief in god isn't wishful thinking, except for referencing Aquinas(who's arguments don't hold just google it)

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  5. You are clueless. My recently deceased father who attended church regularly told me that he didn't really believe in God, he just did it because it made him happy because that way he would get to see me again. So you are wrong. Try again?

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  6. Wishing for something after death other than an existential void certainly appears to be a powerful selling point of religious belief for a great many people, so denying that's the case just makes you a blatant liar.

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