The “Nones” on Nuns

Question from Monika:
What do atheists think about the lives of monks, nuns and priests? Do you think their lives are wasted, a tragedy, because their religion is a lie or it is more important that they are happy this way?

I am an atheist and do not know what to think about it. I do not wanna judge them because I do not know their background but I can not understand them at all (but I do know that the church provides food, clothing, quite a good standard of living and some social benefits so it might be a good way out of misery for poor people, in fact some years ago I thought it would be much easier for me just to become a hypocrite priest, no hard work and you have a feeling of security in your little religious community, not caring about money because the church gives you everything you need although the religion is bullshit).

Answer by SmartLX:
Have you ever heard of Eugene Ionesco’s play The Chairs? An elderly man and woman arrange chairs for a number of guests coming to hear a great orator deliver the old man’s incredible discovery. Once everything is ready they throw themselves from a high window because their life’s work is achieved. Trouble is, there are no real guests (the two actors mime their interactions with an invisible congregation) and the orator is literally dumb, unable to communicate anything meaningful.

It’s the kind of play that stimulates long discussions about its meaning, but all I want to point out is that the old couple die happily despite the fact that they have not achieved anything real, and we can understand how they feel that way. Their lives are wasted from anyone else’s perspective, but if they’ve worked hard and died satisfied and happy, and haven’t hurt anyone else, can it really be called a tragedy? I lean towards no.

So it goes with monks, nuns, hermits and others who dedicate their entire lives to religions based on false premises, like the existence of non-existent gods. While shunning materialistic excess they often lead peaceful, comfortable lives, and in many cases manage to help others along the way. The fact that they may well be praying to nobody makes little difference in the end. It’s the practical effects of someone’s lifestyle by which I judge it, and monks and nuns who tuck themselves away in their faith and withdraw from the world do far less harm than preachers and zealots who try to impose religion on others.