One religious argument I hear from time to time is that people have God-shaped holes in their lives, and if they don’t follow a religion (usually the one that whatever person is making the argument believes), they’ll try to fill that hole with other things.
Drug abuse, overeating, sleeping around…it’s all because you need God in your life. Never mind that some people who are quite religious have these same problems, which makes me wonder what their excuse is. Not ENOUGH God, perhaps. Sure, you hear the stories of people finding Jesus and getting over their alcoholism, but what about those who already found Jesus and drink heavily anyway? And what about when religion becomes another addiction? In general, going to church is healthier than doing drugs, but religion can have harmful effects. Some people will insist on tithing even if they can’t feed their families. Others will buy into holy war, or the idea that gay marriage is something to fear. There’s also the question as to why God would make people so they wanted to have relationships with Him, and then not just freaking INTRODUCE Himself.
In the introduction to Misquoting Jesus, author Bart Ehrman describes his own teenage experiences, writing, “There was a kind of loneliness associated with being a teenager; but, of course, I didn’t realize that it was part of being a teenager–I thought there must be something missing.” It seems to me that the fact humans feel incomplete and lacking is not proof that there’s a God who wants to know them; it’s just part of the human experience.
A related issue is the insistence that everyone has a spiritual side. The problem is, these people have to really stretch the definition of “spiritual” when it comes to people who believe neither in traditional religion nor the more vague supernatural ideas that are popular nowadays. The Wikipedia entry on spirituality includes this passage: “While atheism tends to lean towards skepticism regarding supernatural claims and the existence of an actual ‘spirit’, some atheists define ‘spiritual’ as nurturing thoughts, emotions, words and actions that are in harmony with a belief that the entire universe is, in some way, connected; even if only by the mysterious flow of cause and effect at every scale.” But if this feeling is based only on natural laws and not anything supernatural, can it really be considered spiritual? It seems to me that the feeling of inner peace that spiritual activities give to some people isn’t necessarily anything magical or related to the totality of the universe, but a product of the human brain. Humans have a desire to look for things that make them feel happy and/or fulfilled. So do animals, I suppose, although their brains tend not to be as complicated, so perhaps it’s a simpler matter for them. Not ever having visited another animal’s brain, though, I couldn’t say for sure. I think I often use my hobbies and interests to get the same satisfaction that other people do from religion or spirituality, but I don’t think there’s any magic there. So when people try to separate the mental from the spirituality, that comes across as religious propaganda to me. If it relates to the mind, it’s mental, is it not?