Statesboro, GA, USA
Of course you know I'm glad that you're inclined to see the need for Spirituality. I know you wanted atheists/ agnostics in particular to respond. But if I may comment on a couple of things ...
I have read the arguments that salvation is a comfortable delusion, convenient to the mind, (even a virus) and I have argued for the favor of delusions, wondering what is the harm of that?
My general philosophy regarding personal beliefs/religions has been this:
"If it gives a person comfort, and helps them to be a better person? Then why not?"
I would agree with Brad (somewhat) on this one, granted his premise were correct. His supposition is that religion is a false hope. And IF it is a false hope ... a delusion and nothing more, then it will inevitably produce poor results. His charge against believing delusions is based on the same reasons that Doctors do not typically hide a diagnosis of cancer from a patient. The most healthy thing is to face the facts head on ... not to bury one's head in the sand. But again, I believe his premise is wrong. My defense of "faith" would be somewhere along the lines of explaining, showing, confirming that it is not a delusion ... that God is real and is not antithetical to science or reason. Whereas your approach, in conceding that it might be a delusion after all, would have to involve defending the merits of retreating into fantasy. I think that in order to ultimately hold on to faith (or the Theistic view) as a valid and real comfort, you will have to come to the conclusion that it is no chimera, but an accurate description of the human condition and of the world in which we live ... in short that God is real.
On your other points, I'm in agreement. I of course think that until the revelation of our dependence upon God breaks through, people in general are basing their confidence in their current emotions, or the temporal things of life. There is truth to the saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. What will we do when all our props are gone? And though Brad asserted that if a certain atheistic view of death were right then there is "no experience of death" ... the thing he (and others) fail to see is that if that same description is right then there is also no experience of life. Because a sleeper who doesn't wake up, is separated from his waking moments by an uncrossable chasm. Atheism really does render our lives of no meaning. Spectres and ghosts who claim meaning aren't really convincing.
For me atheism really does pave the way for nihilism. Of course it seems that some, like Brad, claim to be comfortable with accepting a certain spectral existence as final. But even he has admitted in former posts a vague awareness that there must (or should) be something more.
It reminds me of a quote about a quote (in bold):
... we philosophers and 'free spirits' feel ourselves irradiated as by a new dawn by the report that the 'old God is dead'; our hearts overflow with gratitude, astonishment, presentiment and expectation. At last the horizon seems open once more, granting even that it is not bright; our ships can at ast put out to sea in face of every danger; every hazard is again permitted to the discerner; the sea, our sea, again lies open before us; perhaps as never before did such an 'open sea' exist' (Nietzsche, The Joyful Wisdom)
Nietzsche's starting point is the non-existence of God. Man is therefore left to fend for himself. Since God does not exist, man must devise his own way of life. Admittedly, Nietzsche found it necessary to shout from time to time at those who still believed. And the reader of the above passage may discern a certain wistful note among the more jubilant strains. For if God no longer exists, man must go it alone. While this brings a certain sense of relief, it also brings anxiety about the future.
(Colin Brown, Philosophy and the Christian Faith)