There is the opinion among some atheists that people use religion as a crutch to escape the “horrors of reality.” I think this is a rather interesting point of view, and one that is perhaps born from a lack of understanding of religion and an arrogance in the superiority of one’s own way. Permit me to explain.
I am going to give to points of view, and for the sake of argument I would ask non-believers to put themselves into the one I describe as that a “believer” experiences as if it was real. This is an experiment in “horror.” I leave you to decide which is the more “horrific” and which is the “Crutch”.
Imagine, if you will, a world where the environment runs mechanically, heat and cold mix with forces like gravity, where life is but a miniscule chance, and you are a thing so tiny you don’t even register on the cosmic level, but that doesn’t mean that bigger things won’t kill you either. Where the tiniest of creatures, things you can’t even see, can kill you, but your surrounded by billions of beings just like you, all who are mentally unbalanced, some of them dangerously so, who will abuse you, torture you, kill you, some for selfish reasons, some because an invisible, make believe being tells them to. The world is cruel, cold, indifferent, doesn’t care if you live or die, and there’s more ways to die than there are ways to live. A place where ultimately you don’t matter at all, except for where you’re part of the problem making everything even more screwed up.
Pretty damn scary, right?
Now, imagine a world just like i described, only there’s more. In addition to the people and the animals, and the bacteria, there’s other things. Spirits, demons, ghosts, Gods, angels, and things without names. That tornado that ripped up your home isn’t the impersonal reaction of thermodynamic forces, it was the physical embodiment of power belonging to a God in furious war with a Giant of Elemental chaos!.
The lightning that strikes a person isn’t the mechanics of an impersonal system, but the divine attack of a Deity. That those people screaming as they kill dozens, hundreds, in the name of a God aren’t worshiping some make believe character from an ancient storybook, but are the instruments of wrath and hunger of a Cosmic Horror so terrifying that just to look upon a fraction of what it is brings insanity and death. And that there are people out there who with the aid of other Gods and Goddesses, beings with the power to make the very world you stand upon exist and fight both with themselves, with that Cosmic Horror intent on making everything worship it so it can possess their immortal souls, and with other things, some of which might be even more horrific!
That behind every tree could be a Fae who could give you great gifts, or turn your life into unending horror! That the gods you walk with as family, or pray to, or fight, can shape the very fabric of reality as you know it, that some of them will kill you for a slight, or guard you for standing proud, or want to devour your very soul. That your house could be filled with hateful spirits, or kind ones, and that just around the corner could be something eager to devour you.
And when you die, it doesn’t end. It keeps going. Beasts to devour you, or you can remain trapped on this world as a spirit. You are judged, judged by all that you were and are and could have been. Some get nice places, some get places filled with horror and pain, and it all lasts to the end of existence. Sometimes you can earn your way into good places, by being honorable or die in battle or do good deeds, and in some cases you only get to the good place by giving up your immortal soul to a being you can’t comprehend and depend on it’s unknown mercies.
So, tell me, which version is the crutch to escape the horror? The one that believes in the spiritual, or the one that denies it? You decide.