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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@Arch: 

Are you saying we should support those delusions?

NOOOOO!!!! Puedes leer?

....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 atheists actually stand for.

¡Por supuesto, puedo leer! ¡Y escribir, también!

Why don't you slip-slide on over to the Westboro Baptist Church and put that into practice - let me know how that works out for you --

@Strega What is out of line with Atheists being a Collective? Why this platform if Atheists are not a collective. To whom were the likes of Carl Sagan, Dawkins' writings appeal if not to the "community of Free-thinkers"? Humans are always a collective, any idea that take my fancy, and makes sense to my mind makes me to become one in thought with people that embrace such. I become part of such collective. @ Belle, my apologies for not contributing to the debate .

@bongani - interesting question.  The point I make is that other than having in common a non-belief in the supernatural, we are all different thinkers, with different attitudes.  Free-thinking allows for just that.  it is not an either/or status, where all free-thinkers think alike.

Imagine that a community exists on the net, like TA, for divorcees.  Now within the context, everyone will be divorced.  However, the way that occurred, the feelings that the members have for their ex-spouses, whether there are children (or pets) that were affected, and the attitudes to marriage as an institution will all be completely different. 

Consequently, although there may be a connection between all the participants (TA or Divorce Group), there is no group thinking, or group attitude, or group approach that binds the members.  This is why I say that atheists are not a collective. 

The entire concept of "free" thought contradicts the concept of collective thinking.

@Strega. I think initially I did not grasp your point. You made it crystal clear with examples you gave. Obrigado!

A definition from the much lauded Wikipedia: A delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary. I'd say that religiosity, in modernized, first world countries, fits that definition. Thus, treating religious people as legally competent, but insane, is justifiable, though generally unhelpful. There is a qualitative "sane". At the same time, you are correct that hostility towards religious folks is wrong. However, hostility towards folks who actively encourage such viewpoints is not only reasonable, but required. Those are the evil ones. For some degree of evil.
Maybe I will! You never know until you try. I would do it. You can't win 'em all but you can increase your odds by at the very least meeting them where they are at instead of a one-size-fits-all-you're-delusional-and-stupid approach. Even if they are the EXTREME (they are) I will never believe that they are unreachable. Everyone has it in them somewhere.

We're all just people.

RE: "Maybe I will!" - be sure and take plenty of pictures, and don't be too embarrassed to share --

I'm in a pretty fisty mood. Hell I would take video even. How about I bring my girlfriend along. We'll wear our stilettos and we'll dress like classy girls. Maybe some of the men will come over to the dark side and bring their women with them. They might like what they see. Persuasion is an art. LOL

Be sure and upload an uncensored copy to YouTube, and send me the URL.

I wonder if the editors of Merriam-Webster realize they broke the first rule when it comes to defining a word:  you cannot use the word, or another form of the word, within the definition itself.  They do that in definition a, which you show.  Sorry to be technical here, but I am oddly tickled by such an error.

I don't know what dictionary the definition was taken from, but I think you are right. You can define "delusional" using the word "delusion," but not vice versa because "delusion" is the root word for "delusional." The concept "delusional" is built on the word "delusion."

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