Of Hell and Eternal Damnation:  A look into the Existence of God






            In this paper I intend to study one of the ideas that I feel is quite important to me. I have done this through library research finding 3 sources which support my views, and 3 that are contrary to my views. In part A -there is an explanation of why I feel that I have come to think as I have, and part B is the use of the 6 sources I mentioned above. The 3 supportive sources come first then the opposition.

            My idea is that there is no God. However, I wish to make it clear that my mind is not closed on the subject. I always keep an open mind to all ideas and theories. And I do not deny the fact that perhaps one day I will come to find a view of God that makes sense to me. Perhaps doing this paper will help.



Of Hell and Eternal Damnation:  A look into the Existence of God



In a Christian elementary school Life

            Attending an elementary school with a strict religious environment has had an effect on my present life and my present way of thinking. In this school we had to wear certain types of clothes, have our hair short and cut above the ears, and we had to wear a belt. The curriculum involved going to chapel every morn before classes started. In chapel we would pray and sing, and listen to the preacher speak of hell and eternal damnation. It seemed that we would spend more time in religious practices rather than studying reading, writing and arithmetic. This strict religious environment shaped my mind from the time I was in pre—school until I was fourteen years old. However I fee! That I have views of life that my former teachers would probably not approve of. It seems that the rigid environment of my former school has turned me away from the very values that they were trying-to instill in me.


Some of my beliefs

            Ironically, I do not believe in religion. The school I attended was a Christian one Yet, I do not believe in God, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit, In fact I have come to a point where I do not believe in any god. I think I have come to take hold of an atheistic view on life. Another value I hold is the idea that I should live my life for myself and not through the ideas of others. I think that I am free to choose my own destiny. This is probably an extension of my first idea. I feel that I should not have to spend my time worshiping and living my life according to Christianity’s values or according to the values of anyone but myself. Yet in keeping with this belief I do not condemn religion for I feel it serves a great purpose by giving hope to those who are “lost’, and just giving people something to believe in.


Reasons for my disenchantment

            I often ask myself why I do not believe in Christianity after all, I was surrounded by it through my formative years. Yet now I see no validity in it. I think it is due to the way the religion was presented to me. The teachers and preachers would tell us stories of people burning in hell for all eternity. Now, I was only about six or seven years old when they started to tell us these horrifying stories. They would tell us that we would end up in hell also if we did not accept the Lord. Every morning we would go to chapel and hear the same things about hell, hell, and hell. Then in the very next breath, they would tell us how God is all forgiving and loves us very much. So like any frightened six year old would do in the same situation, I accepted Christ. So now I was safe, or so I thought. Now I was told that accepting Christ was just the first step in avoiding eternal crispy charcoal feet. I had to live a life worshiping Christ and following the Christian way of life. So as a young boy I did live my life according to the values of Christianity.


Adopting another view

            However as I grew older, I started to realize that many things in Christianity, as I knew it, did not make sense. I started to wonder how a God who loved his “children.” so much could turn around and send them to hell This is the only type of Christianity I was taught and therefore this was the only view on religion I had, I started to think that if he was “all forgiving” then he would never sentence anyone to an eternity burning in hell. By the time I was in intermediate school these questions were still unanswered and I started to not believe in Christianity. For me it did not make sense and really did nothing for me. When I was old enough to realize this, I stopped believing in it.


Explanations from Humanistic Psychology

            How would my ideas be explained in a theory in psychology? In ch. 17, Herganhahn discusses the ideas of Humanistic psychology. The ideas of Third Force psychology seems to be able to account for my current views on life. Herganhahn presents the ideas of George Kelly He felt that we all view the world though a construct system. According to Kelly the purpose of these construct systems was to accurately predict future events, just like a scientific theory. Kelly felt that the construct system was tested to see if it made sense and the system was corrected and revised until it accurately described and predicted outside reality.

            So it seems that according to my construct system, religion did not make sense. Therefore I charged and altered my construct system until it did make sense to me. To my construct system, there is no god in a religious sense. In fact it seems to me that there is no god at all. However as I mentioned before I do not denounce religion, for I feel that it serves a great function in the world today But why would religion bring so much fulfillment to some and at the same time be utter nonsense to me?

            Kelly also explained this idea through his concept of constructive alternativism. Basically Kelly felt that all humans were free to view the world in any way that they choose, Therefore we all see the world through different eyes Some people may construe that religion makes perfect se and therefore they may include it in their construct system So this idea of constructive alternativism can account for every one using the same “system’ yet arriving at different conclusions.


The conformity of Christianity

            However it seems that some ideas that we include in our ideas will affect other ideas It is as if some people put on a certain pair of “glasses” when they adopt Christianity And henceforth, everything that they perceive I seen through these glasses. They tend to live their lives according to the doctrines of Christianity. Depending on how strongly they believe. They cannot seem to take off these glasses and at least try to view the world in a different light. These people tend to conform and may not live their lives to their fullest. They may hold back on things they wish to experience because their desire to please God is stronger still.


Against conformity

            Because I have rejected the type of religion which was taught to me in my early school years I have also rejected the type of life that I just described I try to live a life that is not governed by the opinions of others. I believe that I can choose what I want to do and when I want to do it. I also do not believe in trying to push my ideas on others, because doing so may stifle their individuality. I must admit that it is often difficult to live according to my very own values for often they do not coincide with the values of the people who are very important to me. Yet I try to live an independent life as much as possible.


Explanation from Humananistic psychology

            It seems that this idea of individualism also ties in well with the ideas of the Humanists. However since I do not believe that humans are innately good, perhaps this idea is better described as existential. The existentialists believed in living life according to one’s o beliefs and that we were able to choose our own existence, Living life to its fullest was called living an authentic life. Carl Rogers a Humanist also had a term for a person living according to his own thoughts and feelings, he called such a person a fully functioning person. Both Existentialists and the Humanists are against the idea of not following ones inner feelings. Such a person would be leading an inauthentic life or according to Rogers an incongruent person. So my ideas of a well lived life are summed up in the ideas of the Existentialists and the Humanists. Herganhahn points out that the two shares many ideas and when applied to my thoughts I tend to think of them as one and the same.



            Basically we have seen that two ideas which are important to me have resulted from my elementary school. This school taught me a religion where the God was supposedly all loving and yet he would send a good just person to hell only because that person did not accept him. I was taught no other way and it was never clearly explained to me how this could be so. Consequently, I have come to reject religion because it did not correspond to my “construct system”. All the years of hearing of the horrors that were in store for me if I did not accept Christ just turned me off to religion.  And the idea of trying to be an “authentic person” probably stems from my anti—religion beliefs. For I see those who follow a religion as conforming to the wishes of others, basically I see them as living an “incongruent life”. So it would scorn that the great plan of my elementary school has backfired hut I feel that I have a greater chance of seeing more of what life has to offer without those “Christian glasses.”



Smith, G. II (1979). Atheism:  The Case Against God. New York: Prometheus


About the Author…

            In this book, Smith shares his views on atheism and God. Smith has studied philosophy at the University of Arizona he is associate editor of the Academic Associates’ Book News he also reviews books for Libertarians. Furthermore, he contributes to Reason magazine, and is also the co—editor for libertarian periodical, Invictus.  Smith writes from a philosopher’s viewpoint and from his involvement with the Atheistic viewpoint, his writings on the subject should have authority and may he taken as a solid explanation of the atheist’s stance.


Searching for the book…

            I found this book after the first session with Margie on using UH CARL.  I found the time saving techniques to be highly useful and I had a much easier time as compared to my previous searches. I searched on UH CARL wider the heading of ‘Atheism” and found out there were many books on the subject. So instead of looking for a specific title right there, I just looked for the section that these books were in. This particular book caught my eye because it was quite thick and had a bold title on it. It read “ATHEISM: THE CASE AGAINST GOD” (call number EL 2747.3.S64), and I thought that it would be perfect as the point of my paper was to support my atheistic views. I did not oven look inside of the book to see if it would be applicable to my paper because the title said it all. I later went to find its Library of Congress Subject Heading. I found this using UH CARL, as I did with all my sources. The subject headings were listed as Atheism and Skeptics Bookshelf.


Is the author to be trusted

            In this book Smith writes in a scholarly manner yet he is very clear and. easy to understand. It seems to me that Smith would he best categorized as an Empiricist or Positivist because they disliked things that were not concrete. Smith seems to be coming from this direction as well. It seems to me that Smith is objective in his view point he always takes into account the “other side of the coin.”  And right from the beginning in the introduction he makes it clear that his intent in writing the book was not to convert people to atheism (p.xi).  He also points out the fact that he has always strongly believed that every man has the right to his own opinion regardless of how different it is to his (p 1). He feels that if a person does not subscribe to such a view point, that person will be enslaved to their present opinion and will forfeit the right to change it (p. 1). All in all I think that Smith can be trusted because he is not trying to force his views on anyone and he is objective in his mission.


The concept of “god”

            In this book, Smith attempts to show that a belief in God is irrational and does not make sense This fits is nicely with the views that I expressed in part A. tie discusses the concept of the word “god”. It is helpful to note that Smith distinguishes between a general “god’ and the Christian “God” though the use of the capital “C”. Smith argues that before one can believe in a god, one must explain what ‘god” is (p. 29) To Smith, it only makes sense that in order to believe in something a person must know what they are believing in. Smith points out that even many Theists are unable to define and clarify the meaning of “god” (p. 31).



            One way in which Theists attempt to clarify what God is to identify him with nature. Pantheism according to Smith is, “the identification of 'god' with nature” (p. 32). Smith argues that if God is to he the same as nature or the natural universe then why make the distinction at all (p 32)? To say that “god is nature” is just a confusing statement and is not rational.


The theist’s attempt to convert the atheist

            Smith also points out that some modern theists use cunning twists in their writings to explain the existence of “god”. These theists can write in a way that the atheists are actually believers in “god” but they just do not know it. For example a theist named Robinson wrote, “God is by definition, ultimate reality. And one cannot argue whether ultimate reality exists. One can only ask what ultimate reality is like...“(p. 35) Here an atheist who believes in ‘reality” is actually believes in “reality” is actually believing in a “god”.


A “god” as a supernatural being

            Smith feels that at the core of’ the disagreement between atheists and theists is the belief in a supernatural “god.”  Any attempt by the theists to explain god in any other way is to Smith just confusing (p 36). Smith illustrates the importance of the supernatural element in the belief in a “god”. He writes that with out this element, an alien life form from our universe which is superior to man in every way would he considered a “god (p. 36).” And basically Smith says that if we consider a “god” to be supernatural then there is no way we can understand such a “god”. He argues that we cannot conceive of anything beyond a natural existence (pp 40—42). Smith also points out that many theists argue that God is unknowable. This would constitute the views of a “religious agnostic (p 43).” Here Smith points out that if God is “unknowable” then there is nothing to be said of him. And furthermore, if God is unknowable then how can a person believe in him (pp. 43-44)?


The Christian God

            Here Smith says that Christians basically fall under the same on ten and that he uses previously. Smith writes that modern Christians are also attempting to know Cod through reason but the extent of this knowledge is questionable (p. 47). Smith categorizes the Christians in the same area as the “religious agnostic” mentioned above. He does this because Christians maintain that the nature of God is unknowable. Arid again Smith questions the rationality behind believing in something which cannot be explained


Does it make sense?

            Smith is quite convincing in his arguments. To truly understand the rationality and validity of his arguments one must read the book. What I have covered here is just a basic sampling of his ideas. After reading this book I felt I had more information to back up my views on god mid religion.



Fish, C (1989). Two Kinds of Atheism. Monthly Review, 39(1), 23—33


About the author...

            In this journal article, the author Fish attempts to relate the validity of’ atheism in social relations, lie is writing in a scholarly manner and seems to be coming more from a social science viewpoint rather than a philosophical one, The only information given on Fish is that he is an ex—Catholic, a Marxist Atheist, and a freelance writer. This is not much to go on and the authority that Fish has is in question. However seeing that he is an ex—Catholic shows me that he went through the same disenchantment with religion that I did.  In this light, I trust Fish to give a solid argument for the atheistic viewpoint.

            It is difficult to tell if Fish would be objective in an argument about the existence of God. This is due to the fact that his article is not about theism versus atheism, but rather one type of atheism against another. Consequently, the existence of God is not directly argued about. However, in the context of his argument, Fish seems to be objective as he looks at the two kinds of atheism realistically.


Finding the article...

            I found this article after the first session with Margie on the CD ROMs.  It was in the Social Sciences Index under “atheism”. This was the only journal article in the 5 under atheism. I next looked up what its call number was and found it to be HX 1.M86. I had a little trouble finding the “HX” section because it was off in the corner next to the “cage” of books on the second floor, Once I found the section 1 found the journal quickly and read a few pages. 1 decided to use this article in my paper because it explained a different kind of atheism, which could explain some short comings of certain other views of atheism. Later went back to search for tile subject heading on UH CARL I found this journal to be listed as Socialism Periodicals


Relation to Part A

            In this article, Fish contrasts two types of atheism. He seems to be a pragmatist in that his idea seems to be valid because it works. In Hergenhahn that would qualify him as somewhat of a functionalist. According to him rationalist atheism does not work and does not stand up well to scrutiny. The rationalist atheist is following the ideas of the anti religious climate of the Enlightenment (p.23).  Basically, these rationalist atheists feel that religion is a result of ignorance and superstition (p. 23).  The rational atheist feels that if one becomes educated then religion will disappear (p. 23). It is the notion of science becoming the new “religion.” Here Fish points out that this view clearly cannot he substantiated because many highly educated people are very religious. He points out that science and technology has not made religion disappear hut rather has helped it to expand (pp.23—24).


Marxist atheism

           According to Fish, Marxist atheism, from (not surprisingly) the ideas of Karl Marx, can answer the call in these areas. This is because Marxist atheism dues not view religion as a result of man’s ignorance or superstition, but rather man’s reaction to societal conditions (p. 24). Marxist atheism suggests that people do not turn to religion because they lack of knowledge, but because they lack awareness (p. 25). In other words these people cannot deal with the stresses and inconsistencies which society places on them. These people then project these feelings outward onto a supreme being (God) (p 26.)

            Thus religion is from the whole of society not just from an individual level. Fish feels that the Marxist atheist has a better understanding of religion and can understand why people turn to it. Thus he feels that his atheism is better suited to advancing atheism. (p.33). And furthermore because Marxist atheism understands the importance of societal influence, it is better equipped to deal with the problems which humans face He feels that this also shows the Marxists atheist to be not only anti—religious, but also in support of human freedom (p. 33).



            This article supports my views expressed in part A.  It backs up an atheistic view and allows for some improvement in society to boot. My first reaction was that Marxist atheism sounded wonderful but I quickly realized that I had to find out more about it before I could make a final judgment. This article also spurred my interest in finding; out how many different types of atheism there are. Before I just thought of “atheism” and nothing e1se .While when I thought about religion I thought of Christianity Catholicism Judaism, etc.  I now realize that there may be many different types of atheism out there.




Johnson, B.C. (1981). The Atheist Debater’s Handbook.  New York: Prometheus Books.


Searching for the book

            I found this hook while browsing in a section with many books on atheism. I liked the title of the book; actually I found it a little humorous. Anyway,

I leafed through the book, and found that it was easy to understand and Johnson provided many examples to back his claim up. I later used UH CARL and punched in the books call number (B 2747.J63) to find out its Library of Congress Subject Heading, which not too surprisingly turned out to be Atheism.


About the book

            This book is a long series of arguments and examples which one could use against the Existence of God. I do not know who the author is, and there is no information given about him. So it is difficult to make a judgment on his authority in this area. However, it is clear that he is an experienced debater Johnson writes in a scholarly style and appears to come from a philosophical discipline. I would classify him as an empiricist because he definitely does not like to speculate about things, he wants concrete data. He also seems to somewhat of a pragmatist in his defense of Atheism.

            Although this book is in accordance with my atheistic views, I do not believe that Johnson is worthy of my trust .His ideas appear to be sound yet he does not seem to be very objective. It seems that he is the type of person that can take any argument and “prove” it to be true. While reading his work I had the feeling that he was very biased in his views. Yet at the same time I felt that he could turn around tomorrow and write a hook saying that there is a god. However his book is called a “Debater’s Handbook,” therefore perhaps that is why he wrote it in such a manner.


Relation to part A

            I picked this book because it obviously was in support of my views expressed in part A. In this book Johnson uses many examples to hack up his atheistic ideas. In first part he discusses the existence of God.  Here he does not really answer the question, but rather he discusses who is the one with the burden of proof the theist or atheist. He claims that the theist will often place the burden on the atheist (p.11). Johnson feels, however, that the burden is on the theist because the theist is the one with the “extra” idea. In other words, both the theist and atheist believe in the material universe, hut the theist takes it one level higher when he introduces the idea of a God. Therefore it is the theist responsibility to prove that there is a God, not the theist’s responsibility to prove that there is no God. He uses an example where a person claims that there is a gigantic man eating frog at the lake. This person’s friend denies such a creature. Johnson says that it would him, the first guy’s responsibility to prove that there is such a monster. It would not be the second fellow’s burden to disprove it (p.13).

            Johnson also goes into a discussion of God and science. He likes only concrete evidence.  This is why he cannot accept the existence of God. He feels that there is no conclusive data to support such a claim (p 18). Johnson writes that theists often claim that God is an adequate explanation for certain phenomena for which we cannot explain scientifically. But he feels that adequate is not enough (p. 18). He further asserts that an explanation is not adequate just because it is the only one we know at the present. Johnson points out that many phenomena may have been attributed to the supernatural by our ancestors, yet today there are scientific explanations for such phenomena (p.18). For Johnson the only explanations which are valid are those which are concrete and stand up to scrutiny (p.19)



            As I stated earlier I did not really like what Johnson had to say even though he supported my atheistic ideas. However his book will be useful the next time I argue with my friend about the existence of God. I think the thing that turned me off to his book was Johnson’s apparent bias. He did not appear to he open to any other ideas and this I do not like.




Synnestvedt S. (Ed.). (1977). The Essential Swedenborg. New York: Swedenborg Foundation lnc.


The work of Emmanuel Swedenborg

            In this book edited by Synnestvedt, there is a collection of selected writings by Swedenborg. Therefore the real “author” of this book is Swedenborg himself Swedenborg wrote his views on ii I from a philosophical, yet scientific viewpoint. He claimed to have a special ability to see what goes on in the spiritual world. Therefore, he can be said to have an eyewitness account of what goes on there (assuming you believe in “there”).



Can we trust him?

            If one believes that Swedenborg actual] y did see the spiritual plane, then Swedenborg is the authority on religion and God I cannot argue with a first hand account. Yet here is where I have much trouble in believing in the work of Swedenborg. It seems very irrational to me that Swedenborg really did see the other “side.” There are just too many other possibilities in my mind. What if he just made it all up?  I realize that it is difficult for a person to conduct such a complete. intricate story, yet it is possible.

            So it seems that to believe that Swedenborg actually saw the “other side” is to find him a trustable and credible source. And although I find his work inspiring and interesting, I just cannot bring myself over that initial barrier. If we look past this “barrier” the writings of Swedenborg (as little as I have read) are objective and rational. They would be objective because he is just reporting reality as he observed and rational because his explanations make complete sense. Swedenborg writes in a scholarly manner and is at times difficult to understand, although what we read is subject to the translation his writings underwent and also the time period in which he lived. It is also difficult for me to categorize him in any one school of thought. This may ho because of the uniqueness of his work. If we accept the fact that he did see into the spiritual realm then c might say that he was a rationalist because he was experiencing reality at the time.


The search for Swedenborg

            The first day I received the assignment. I knew that Swedenborg would be one of my sources. I think that any student who has taken Dr. J’s course will understand why I chose this book because it was a collection of Swedenborg’s works. After I realized the enormity of his work, I felt this was the on way to go. I did a search on UH CARL and found where his works were located at did this search before any of our sessions with Margie and it took me quite a while to remember what 1 was doing.

            I found the section where there were many of Swedenborg’s writings and I skimmed though a few. I finally found this book (call #BX 8711 .A25) which suited my needs. This hook had a long Library of Congress subject heading: General Convention of the New Jerusalem in the United States of America Doctrinal and controversial works and Theology 18th century.


Relation to part A

            This is the first book which will disagree with my atheistic views. Swedenborg definitely believed in Religion. In fact he believed that life should center on religion (p.81). However there is a crucial difference between Swedenborg’s views and the type of Christianity which I discussed in part A. To Swedenborg the ideas behind religion were important and not the rituals of religion (p. 81).  All religions stress doing good and stress the existence of God. Swedenborg said that if one acknowledged the existence of God then one would refrain from doing evil.  He felt that doing evil and acknowledging God is a contradiction (p.82). If a mast does good deeds and refrains from evil, he is in effect, doing God’s will. Such a person will have a place in heaven (p.83).


Which religion is correct?

            In accordance to the views stressed above, Swedenborg did not stress one religion over another. Again it does not matter the religion a person follows, because it is not the religion itself which is important, but rather the ideals behind it (p.85). Swedenborg wrote that God provided that every main would he exposed to God in some manner, therefore every man could be saved (p.85).


Is he correct?

            After reading some of Swedenborg’s work I realized that the kind of religion that I was exposed to was not the only one out there. I really like the ideas of Swedenborg, for they do make sense I liked the thought that anyone could be saved providing they lived a good life. This makes God seem loving, which he definitely did not seem to be in “false” Christianity. Also the idea that no one religion was correct was also enticing— to me. While reading his works, I found myself really enjoying arid at times hoping that what he wrote was the truth. But no matter how much I would like to believe in his works, I just cannot forget how he derived them.



Bertocci, P. A. (1958). Religion as Creative Insecurity. New York: Association Press. Association Press.


About the author

            The author of this book, Peter A. Bertocci was at the time a professor of philosophy at Boston University. The book can be viewed as a philosophical discussion on religion He writes in a scholarly manner, yet is easy to understand. He has many credentials to justify his authority on the subject. He held the Chair of Borden Parker Bowne Professor of Philosophy at Boston University and has written numerous other articles and books. His writings have the overtones of a caring, thoughtful person who deserves to be listened to. He seemed to be objective in his thinking, although very committed to his ideas. He seems to be a Functionalist or a Rationalist because he wishes to make his ideas pragmatic. Yet he is willing to point out the fact that at one time he questioned how God could allow evil deeds to occur in the world. Thus he shows a cynical reader, such as myself, that he had “been in the seine boat.”


Searching for the book

           Actually, I was not looking for this book. I came across it accidentally while I was looking for the Swedenborg book.  There were many books on religion in this area. So when I found the book on Swedenborg, I decided to spend some time looking for other possible books. The title of this book (call #BL51 ,B543) attracted me to it. I was wondering what “Religion as Creative Insecurity” could possibly mean. So I skimmed though the book and I actually did not think it would be useful for my paper. But for some reason, I borrowed it any way.  Later, I read some of it again and found out that it actually would work quite well with my paper. Later, by utilizing UH CARL I found the Library of Congress subject headings to be Theism and God.


Is God a fool?

            In a section entitled “Can a good God allow evil?” Bertocci relates to the reader an incident where one of his students verbally accused God of being a fool because he created a world of evil (pp. 44-45).  Bertocci uses this incident as a basis for his explanation of why God made such a world. To him God would be a fool if he did not allow evil.


The freedom to choose

            Bertocci points out that if God had not given man the choice to do good or evil then man would never become a “mature moral person” (p.45). In other words God intended for man to have the freedom to choose his own destiny. God did not intend for man to do evil, rather he just gave us the freedom to do so.


The loving parent

            Bertocci then brings up an analogy of a parent/child relationship. Surely a father, if he had the power, would stop all evil and prevent his children Fran k evil deeds. Is this a good father? Bertocci thinks not. He writes that if a father makes impossible for his children to do evil deeds then he is at the s time taking away the things that make life worthwhile (p.47). Here he turns away from the nature of God to the quality of life.

            Bertocci continues with the parent/child analogy. He feels -that when we are born we learn to depend on our parents for security. If the parent is overly protective, then the child will not “grow” as a person and will be stuck to his or her parents (pp 49—51). Here is where the idea of “creative insecurity” comes into play. Bertocci suggests that in order for the parent to be truly loving, he must allow for the child to make his own decisions and not to be dependent on the parent for security. The c ld will be “insecure” yet his creativity will not he stifled Thus the same situation applies between God and man (pp.51—53). This is the Bertocci’s basic idea about why God allows evil to occur.


Is the reason enough?

            This is the second book which is contrary to my beliefs expressed in part A. As I read it reminded me of the same thing that Dr J. stated in class on numerous occasions. Dr J. also utilized the freedom explanation to justify the existence of evil in the world. The idea makes a lot of sense to me. I can see how a God can still be good and allow evil.  It was out of necessity or true love. However, I still cannot believe in a Goth It would seem to me that if a person thinks about something long enough he can justify or “prove” anything, The existence of evil in the world would to me be explained just as well by a belief that there is no God, and therefore man has chosen to do this to himself.




Righy K. & Densley T. (1985). Religiosity and Attitude Toward Institutional Authority Among Adolescents. The Journal of Social Psychology, 125, 723-728.


About the article

            In this journal article, the researchers attempt to show a relationship between religiosity and positive attitudes toward authority figures. They did this study because since the time of Freud, many scholars have concluded that a belief in God is related to a persons need- to have an authority figure to provide stability and direction (p. 723). Therefore the authors of this study theorized that if this were so, then a belief in God and positive attitudes toward institutional authority figures would he positively correlated. The authors points out those previous studies have supported this theory. The previous study was with an adult sample and this particular study would use adolescent subjects.

            The authors of this study are writing in a research style from a psychological standpoint. There is no information on the researchers so it is difficult to determine what authority they would have on this subject. However, it seems that they are coming from a psychoanalytical background because they are suggesting some internal, unconscious need for authority. I tend to very skeptical when it comes to psychoanalytical theories; however, the idea behind this study was interesting. Therefore I decided to use it for my paper, but with a skeptical attitude. The authors were objective in this study. They used a standardized questionnaire to obtain their data and results. It does not appear that they were biased toward religiosity in one way or the other. Also I guess these authors would be categorized as psychoanalysts by Hergenhahn because of their use of unconscious factors.


Search the article

            I found this article using the CD ROMs It was during our second session with Margie. This article was on the PsycLit file. I found it under the topic of ‘belief in god”. I did think that I would need this article so I did not go to look for it on the shelves. However, after finding out that one of my sources was not to my liking I decided to use this article instead. I searched UH CARL for the Journal of Social Ps awl found the call number to be HM 251.A1.J826. I next looked for its Library of Congress subject heading arid found it to be Social Psychology Periodicals.


Relation to part A

            I selected this article because it offered a different alternative to why people turn to religion This study was suggesting that it is due to some need for art institutional authority figure to supply stability and direction that many people turn to religion This article is contrary to my atheistic views and it gives an alternate reason for a belief in God.


Results of the study

            The results of the study supported the researcher’s theory. The results showed that there was a positive correlation between the adolescent’s attitude toward authority figures and their religiosity (p.727). The authors also point out that the findings are consistent with the findings of a similar study done with adults, suggesting continuity through the life of a person (p.727). There was a difference between actual behavior (i.e. going to church) arid attitudes. The researchers found

that males were less likely to go to church than females, however their religiosity was similar.



            This article suggests an alternate reason why people turn to God. As I have stated in Part A, I do not believe in a God, and feel no need for one either. However, I also feel no need for something to provide stability and direction in my life. So this study may be valid. As I also stated in part A, I have nothing against religion, and feel that it serves a great purpose for many people. Although this article is basically contrary to my main idea it is supportive to one of my related ideas. I stated that I felt that religion was important for people who are “lost” or need something to believe in and this study supports that idea.




            Doing this paper has definitely had an effect on my thinking. This is really the first time that I had really thought about religion since I decided that it was not for me. After the type of experiences I had with religion in my formative years, I did not want to ever think of it again. But now after seeing some of the differing views on God from Swedenborg and Bertocci, I feel a little different. I see that there may be some explanations available which would explain many of the discrepancies I see in religious thought. However, as of right now I still do not believe in God because the explanations given in support of God are still not conclusive, and we have seen how atheists such as Smith and Johnson demand conclusiveness.

            It seems that the idea of Atheism vs. Theism goes back a long way In way research we see that it could go back to the Enlightenment and Voltaire, most probably much farther than that. I have also come to realize more than ever that religion will always have a solid existence. I feel that man will always have a need to believe in a higher existence. I think this stems from man’s inability to accept his mortality. I feel that many people cannot accept the fact that this is all there is,

            However, as I see it when we die there is nothing, so there is nothing to worry about. Why worry if you won’t know anything anyway. I also feel that instead of being depressed with my finiteness, I should make the most of the one shot that I have. However I realize that many people will not agree with this line of thinking. I feel that it all depends on how you were brought up and the type of culture in which you live. I am positive that if I was born in Pennsylvania to an Amish family I would not think the way I do today.

           When I first thought about doing this assignment I thought that I would never be able to do it without losing my sanity. Yet here I am writing the concluding paragraph and I still have my faculties. All in all I feel that this assignment was quite an eye—opener for me. As I said before, I now know that there are theories on God which differ from the fire and brimstone ravings of my former teachers. These theories seem to be full of hope. For the first time I can look at religion as something hopeful instead of something to he feared. I would not say that I have abandoned my atheistic views for I still see much validity in them. However, I do now want to find out more about theories on God and religion. As I said in the introduction, I have an open mind, but now perhaps my mind is more open than before. I think that doing such a paper can help anyone in finding more about their ideas. And most probably more about themselves. I think by doing such a paper, a person may find that his or her ideas are not as concrete as they thought.





Smith, G.H. (1979). Atheism: The Case Against God. New York: Prometheus.

Fish, C. (1989). Two Kinds of Atheism. Monthly Review, 39(1), 23—33.

Johnson, B.C. (1981). The Atheist Debater’s Handbook. New York: Prometheus Books.

Synnestvedt, S. (Ed.). (1977). The Essential Swedenborg. New York: Swedenborg Foundation Inc

Bertocci, P.A., (1958). Religion as Creative Insecurity. New York: Association Press.

Righy K. & Densley T. (1985). Religiosity and Attitude Toward Institutional Authority Among Adolescents. The Journal of Social Psychology, 125, 723-728.