I have never liked the comparison that a person who has religious belief is infected with some sort of “virus.” I understand the logic and the eloquent explanation of those who hold this view. I don’t even like the explanation that it is a delusion even though this concept can be substantiated if you manipulate the definition of delusion to conform to the idea that religious practices are oppressive, insulting, and completely irrational, not to mention, man-made, therefore untrue.

I have found myself at times stating that religious beliefs are delusional, only to find that I am at odds with myself. I pushed these feelings aside for some time simply to conform to what many atheists believe. I think many atheists believe this simply because of the “God Delusion” by Dawkins. I think he coined the phrase in a masterful way to give a wake-up call to the absurdity of the belief systems of religious and the harm it can cause humanity. I am not arguing with the concepts that Dawkins wrote about, or even saying that he is wrong.

I do however believe profoundly differently. I take a sociological approach to religion. I think Max Weber got it right in his profound work, “The Sociology of Religion.” His historical analysis begins with a simple…very simple premise: People pursue their interests. Weber is an idealist like myself, (why I like him so much…) His approach to say that ideas are the major influence human action is spot on. Ann Swidler writes: “He does not argue that ideas always or necessarily influence action. He does try to understand variation in the influence of ideas on action.” From these building blocks, “he builds a powerful theory to explain why some kinds of cultural systems have much more influence on economic and political action than others do. He analyzes the critical historical contingencies that determine whether and how ideas guide action.” Furthermore, “Weber argues that once a religion is sufficiently “rationalized” – systematized and unified – its core religious ideas come to have a logic of their own.”

His Verstehen approach (interpretive) allows for a more empathetic, and participatory approach, (notice I did not say condoning approach) towards the understanding, of religion in general.

My own feelings towards the matter: I do not believe religion is a phenomenon we should be hostile towards. Religion is nothing more than a sociological concept. I do believe we should separate the phenomenon itself from the ideas and actions of the individuals who perpetuate, teach, and try to implement, or force into our society. The difference being that we can ultimately evaluate and see religion on an empathic basis rather, than a force to be eliminated.

Religion has evolved with us and through us and has formed much of what we see in culture today. The ideas and actions are what can be poisonous if used (or misused) to have power and control over another person(s), or entity. Just as we would take an approach to rid our society of an imbalance of power and control, (we already do this with other sociological problems such as domestic violence) we can also make a more positive impact politically and interpersonally. I believe the key to being heard and having a TRUE lasting impact, is to take a sociological approach to understanding, and to use this knowledge to rationalize and demonstrate why the atheist position is the more mature approach for humanity. It would seem to me that we might actually see a change in public (religious) opinion, persona, stereotype, and awareness of what atheist actually stand for.

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If I catch your meaning properly... well let's take an example:  bigotry against homosexuality

You are saying the religion does not cause the bigotry (as many here seem to think), rather, the bigotry pre-existed and was incorporated into the religious dogma.

Though I do suppose that once the religion is established it can be used as a vehicle for teaching the bigotry to the next generation.  So today it looks to a lot of people like a chicken-egg question.

The chicken/egg question isn't even a question - my people, as well as insects, amphibians, reptiles and fish were laying eggs long before any chicken ever spotted a rooster and volunteered for a little cock-a-doodle-doo.

Hah, wise guy!  Clearly it's a "chicken egg" and "chicken" problem since chickens don't lay archaeopteryx eggs.  Just as ducks don't lay crocodile eggs (or vice versa), not even to breed crocoducks.

The real answer of course is that something not a chicken must have laid an egg of a chicken... at least as long as we insist on putting critters into distinct species "buckets" and ignore the fact that it's really a continuum in time.

Taxonomy doesn't yet really know how to cope with the way evolution actually works.  It's like asking the question below, what's the red letter?  the first and last purple letters? the first blue letter?

Not so fast - you didn't say "the chicken and the chicken egg," you've been on this site long enough that you should know to be specific. BTW - you're not in the part Of Colorado that's trying to secede, are you?

I am not in one of those specific nine counties... but at least some people here in this county would like to join that effort.  Of course this county would stick out like a sore thumb in that group.  The secession wannabees are all counties of very low population, while my county (El Paso, which includes Colorado Springs) is actually the most populous in the state and I believe would have more people in it than the nine put together... by far.

One peculiar thing about Colorado is that there is a north-south stripe down the middle of the state called "the front range" named after, and just immediately east of the line of mountains called "the front range"--because it's the first significant terrain west of the Mississippi (and beats the Appalachians to a pulp for that matter).  The front range is where at least 90 percent of the people live. Pretty much the whole state east of the front range is the "plains" which are semi arid (or lately, just flat out arid); largely devoid of population, and people either ranch or irrigate.

The secession wannabe counties are all in the northeast part of the state and hence in the plains.  Although El Paso is definitely a front range county, the eastern 2/3ds of this county actually sticks out into the plains, and there has at times in the past been talk of splitting the county.  I do live in the rural part of El Paso county, so I call it living on the edge of nowhere... the middle of nowhere would be somewhere near the Colorado/Kansas border.

Western Nebraska and Kansas have similar situations, too dry to farm without irrigation, so in some ways there is a lot of cultural commonality between the eastern part of this state and the western halves of those two states.  So some of those states' western counties have people who have expressed interest in joining the new state should it happen.

Now El Paso may be a big urbanized county, but it is very conservative and there has been talk of joining the effort to secede (as I mentioned earlier) and that would include the whole county, not just the rural part.

It does look as if the movement has petered out.  Some of the Nine Counties' county commissioners have decided to try to amend the state constitution to make the state senate representation by county rather than population.  Though I am sure the US Supreme Court would block that; they have in the past.

As I may have mentioned in the past, I used to own a home in Golden, so I'm more than a bit familiar with the geography.

Parts of Kansas have wanted to secede in the past, as well.

You hadn't... but even if you had you aren't the only one reading.

Let me attempt to “attack” some of the ideas and concepts that flourish within and because of religious belief systems rather than the structure and type of the religion itself.

The idea of a Creator is common to all modern religions. Mankind is designed within the mind of a deity and placed upon the Earth.  Modern Science has offered objective evidence that differs from this religious idea.  I use this evidence to counter the Theists argument when he tells me I am wrong for not believing that his god created me. He takes it on faith but it is a FACT that we are an evolved species. The Theist will counter with the Koran or Bible stories and tell me that they do not believe in Evolution because of what their book says.  However is not a matter of belief but only one of understanding.  So we now know that their claim is only a myth. Their denial of this evidence only makes them appear even more delusional.

No matter how much evidence is presented to them they will insist “we” are wrong. Not only will they refuse to become educated on the subject they will denigrate anyone that expounds it. To confuse the issue even more they have come up with “Intelligent Design” as a counter argument of their own. The Gapsters* insist their supernatural beliefs are “natural” and that modern Science is wrong. So no matter how “we” try to debate ideas with them they will put the hands over their ears and play the “Faith Card” which trumps everything else.  Of course they must do this or else concede that their Religious meme is wrong and therefore that page one of their Book is wrong.

They remain deluded enough to insist that these ideas they hold are truisms and must be taught side by side to children in science class. Therefore we are forced to fight against the encroachment of their religion directly as trying to counter the Creation idea failed.

The same goes for other “ideas” such as faith based reasons behind not allowing medical intervention to save children’s lives. So again we end up having to put their religion on trial and not just the barbaric ideas it perpetrates.

I am not looking to reach an accommodation with Religion. I will not tolerate it encroaching any further into the society I live in and I will do whatever I can to push it back as far as possible. I will help others to do the same in the societies they live in. It is my enemy.

*my new term for those that claim “goddidit” to explain gaps in our knowledge.

To defeat it, we will need multiple approaches.  As your nature impels you to approach it sociologically, that is the way that you will feel is correct.  Others will attack it logically, and others still will mock it.  Some are still angry at how it has affected them personally, and for them, your approach is entirely inappropriate.

The most important thing is that atheism is on the rise and religion on the decline.  This means that whatever we are doing, it's working.  However, it is more likely to be because a combination of different approaches is being utilised, than because one single approach is the answer.

"Religion is a reflection of society."  I gotcha. 

"I'm suggesting a sociological approach to defeating it."  Why defeat it?  It's better to change people's understanding of it, people's underlying ideas, to reach a new humane approach.  We can have the power to do that.  If people want to be conservative or liberal within that, then they have the right to do that.  After all, each side has something valid to say.  And THAT is all I have to say. 

Would that that were only true --

We have to remember that Christianity has Jesus, and his ideas are also at the heart of the other religions. 

I'd better get my fingers typing (before it's too late, d'oh).  I really do have something to offer, a spiritual heart for atheism. 

If I've got myself in trouble, it's partly because this is how I find things out: do something and see what happens.  I know I must look like a right royal idiot, but my philosophy has come out of a crazy life and it just carries on being crazy while my mind is cool and logical.  So:  "IRONY!"  If I had followed my own advice and philosophy, things would have been OK. 

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