Is there ever a time when people “need” god?

So I was watching Dr. Phil again. This time my husband was in the room. In this episode, there was a boy with a very rare genetic disorder where he couldn’t feel pain. It was very dangerous because he was constantly getting injured. They interviewed the family and they were obviously religious. They brought up god a couple of times. Then when interviewing the boy – who was surprisingly upbeat – he said “it’s how god made me.”

It was obvious that the thought of god was comforting for this family who has been through so much. My only hope is that they are thanking all the doctors who have helped them as much as they are thanking god. 

Do you think there’s ever a time when people “need” god (or something like it)? Like you’re in such an extreme situation that you need faith in something to get by?

After watching this episode, my husband asked me, “If you grew up with very serious health issues, do you still think you would’ve become an atheist?” My answer was “yes” but honestly if I was put in those circumstances I’m not 100 percent sure. 

So now I’m asking you the same question – if you grew up in an extreme situation, would you still have become an atheist? Maybe you’ve been through something similar. Do people ever “need” god? Is there something you have faith in for coping and comfort other than god? 


  1. John Morales says

    “Do people ever “need” god?”


    “Is there something you have faith in for coping and comfort other than god?”

    I notice your phrasing; technically, if I say “yes”, I need God and other things, but if I say “no”, I only need God. But I need God either way.
    So, you should have used “instead”, I think.

    Anyway: No. Nor do I need God.

    FWIW, there’s always philosophy for those who need comforting ideas.

  2. Holms says

    I’ve never believed in any religion, higher power, spirit, creator etc. in my life, and I have never felt any desire to have faith in such a thing. The closest I have come is during times of grief, I might daydream about the person or pet going to heaven. The prospect of reuniting with them is comforting, but I have never actually believed in that; it was always just a bit of comforting escapism.

    As for growing up with a debilitating health problem, I too can only speculate. A person is shaped by their circumstances, so the version of me that would result from that childhood would be different from the version of me that didn’t. And I don’t know how extensive the differences would be.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    Do people ever “need” god?

    It’s funny… I’ve got only a few friends who are religious. One or two are religious only because they were brought up that way and haven’t ever given it any thought. A few more, though, “found” religion later in life – often at university or when they were in their twenties. And not a single one of those people found religion starting from a happy, settled life. Every one, without exception, was targetted by religious zealots at a time in their lives when they were in crisis, and they’ve been paying for it ever since. Their crises vary, of course, and the specific brand of religion that “saved” them does (just a bit – it’s England, so there’s no Muslims among them*). But crisis and the “helping hand” of religion and their saviour narrative is fixed and unvarying. It’s horribly sinister, because it absolutely clearly works. I’d like to finish that sentence with the words “on the weak minded”, but I’ve done enough closeup magic to know you people are ALL weak-minded. I don’t kid myself that I’m not.

    So I’d say this: people don’t, ever, under any circumstance, need a god, any more than they *need* a vodka or sexually-transmitted disease. But just like those things, when they’re at their lowest, it’s what they sometimes get.

    (*I have friends who are Muslim, but every *single* one of them is Muslim because their parents are. No exceptions. Ditto Sikhs. I don’t know any Jews.)

  4. lanir says

    It’s terribly difficult to visualize living another life. It generally takes a talented author hundreds of pages just to give you a start on what a very different life might look like. So I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that I could know what living in very different circumstances would be like and how it would change me, not with any great certainty.

    I can make a guess though. To me, it feels like those stories where someone gets religious in response to hardship involve other people supporting them while spouting off religious ideas. In my life, someone being that supportive of me would also be a big change.

    Even if that happened and I bought into religion, I think the actual things that caused me to become an atheist would still pop up. Like the stories being impressive for a bunch of displaced tribal people thousands of years ago but not so much right now. The other “believers” seeking to be quite happy to act at least as poorly as anyone else and even being truly awful people. And the rampant hypocrisy of that last point coupled with the idea that the religious group is full of people who are better and/or more moral than anyone else.

    Also, once you’re part of the group, the help doesn’t necessarily keep coming unless someone thinks they’re getting something out of helping you. When you need help but aren’t getting it all while being in the middle of this group that says it’s all about helping people that’s kind of a wake-up call.

    Religion on its own has nothing for me. A group might sell me on the idea for a time but I struggle to imagine one that would follow through enough to keep me.

  5. Alan G. Humphrey says

    No, gods are not needed, simply because they do not exist except as concepts.

    So far, the concept of gods as saviors and providers of succor has not been replaced by the concept that civilization is the only answer. When societies of people do the saving and provide needed succor, then we will have achieved advanced civilization.

  6. tuatara says

    Does anyone ‘need’ god?
    You need to define the term god a bit better but if you mean the god of the bible then absolutely not.
    From my own family experience (admittedly before I was born but still an anormous influence in my life) my uncle died of patent ductus arteriosus in his teens. Incidentally the year before a surgical repair became possible – which of course still has nothing to do with the god of the bible.
    My grandmother, his mother, was a vehement atheist in part precisely because of the death of her eldest son.
    Her attitude was one of ‘how dare you say that your god killed my son to show me how much he loves me. You and your god are perverted.”

    I certainly share her aversion to the god of the bible.
    On my indegenous side I have no need of a god either because I am my ancestors. I am as dead as I am alive.

  7. anat says

    My secular grandmother had a much easier time accepting that her death was probably near than the religious one.

  8. flexilis says

    This question reminds me of a comment back in my rock climbing days. We were in a dicey situation halfway up a 900 foot high face with a thunderstorm threatening. One of my partners said “You know, at a time like this it would be nice to have something to pray to.”
    Well, nobody prayed (aloud) and we all survived

  9. Robert Estrada says

    Raised completely without a deity of any sort. I know life is random and arbitrary. If I though there was a “divinity” or “entity” that was responsible for what my late my my late wife went through, I would have dedicated my life to eradicating all traces of it instead of raising her granddaughter to be a healthy young woman.

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