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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Steve, unless JAT knows the contents of others' minds, you can name his deceptive use of we what you will and it still conceals an I.


Tell readers your "Maybe it was a general 'we'...." isn't speculation.

Your evidence that JAT has left the theist plantation will persuade more readers than your speculation on where I found my conclusion.

He has claimed to be an atheist, he works for (or with) the Richard Dawkins foundation, and he sure sounds like an atheist every time I listen to or read him.  Is it possible he is faking everyone out?  Sure, it's possible.  (For that matter, from my point of view, it's possible you, or any other atheist regular on this board is too, and just about as likely.)  But I think it's far more likely you simply grievously misconstrued his title.

My "maybe" was sarcastically intended, the meaning was "did you by any chance stop during your Olympic long jump to conclusions to consider"  I was trying to point out that you were making an unwarranted assumption in stating that "we" must be an editorial "we."

You continue to have no basis whatsoever for your accusation, regardless of what your thought process was.

Steve: re your "maybe" being sarcastically intended, sarcasm conceals anger but not very well.

So does much hyperbole, such as "...Olympic long jump to conclusions...."

You appear to know neither what an editorial we is, nor the purpose it serves.

In JAT's title, it attempts to make an emotional connection with a potential buyer. It's a marketing tactic.

Did you buy the book? If you have any remaining theism, seeing it as hard wired can be comforting.

Having comfort disturbed can stir anger and in your posts you are persuasively demonstrating anger.

I was describing my state of mind when I wrote "maybe' not my state of mind as of the time I was writing that description.  I was indeed angry, you had just made an unjust accusation on the flimsiest of logic.  During my second posting I realized you know nothing of this guy other than the title of his book, so I was somewhat more in a mood to educate rather than just condemn you.  But now I have, and you continue to insist, for some reason, that the "we" in the title must be an editorial we. 

Your accusation is still unjust.  Your logic is even worse than it was before because now I've given you some information to evaluate JAT outside of that title.   Well this time, I will counter with more information, in the hope that you will re-evaluate.

As for the book, I have not only bought it (directly from the Richard Dawkins Foundation over a table, and highly recommended to me by at least two employees of theirs I know personally), but I have read it.

There is no evidence whatsoever that JAT is a theist. He has presented at numerous atheist events.  He has made it clear he himself does not believe in god or gods.  If that is not sufficient for you than anyone on this board could be a closet theist.

Anderson is reporting this neuroscience not in the vein of "see we have a god shaped hole in our soul" but rather in the vein of "it will be very hard to win a victory over religion, when people are so predisposed to it."  He certainly is not making the claim that because a lot of the things that lead to religious experiences and opinions are hardwired, it's something we should believe.  And he's not making the claim that god made us that way, no he is attempting to show that evolution made us that way, and he comments on the irony that evolution has made it more difficult for us to accept its existence. 

No theist would take comfort from this book unless they willfully ignored a good proportion of it, and filled in the blanks created thereby with their own mindless drivel.  Which of course we (you and I specifically, I suppose I had better clarify) both know they are willing to do--but if that's reason enough for an atheist to not write a book for fear of being condemned as closet theists, atheists should as a group stop writing at all.

I do know what an editorial "we" is.  I am also aware that there are other uses for the word "we."  (I've taken advantage of some of them in this very post.)  And given what I know of both Thompson and this book, I disagree with your contention and insistence--based on absolutely nothing, since you don't appear to have read this book or even know anything about JA Thompson--that "editorial 'we'" was his intent when he used that word in his title.

Oh and if all that is not enough... the Foreword to the book is written by Richard Dawkins.

Steve, I wrote in a post below that if you have any remaining theism, seeing it as hard-wired can be comforting. I wrote too that having comfort disturbed can stir anger.

Here is a post by you earlier this year on the Suicide discussion:

If you think about it only attempted suicide could be a crime, at least here on earth.

Your words here on earth tell me you do have some remaining theism. A remark by me disturbed your comfort, and rather than acknowledge your remaining theism you've hurled a lot of anger at me.

Look about five posts up this discussion to one where you felt a need to remark on my reply to another poster, where you mentioned JAT's book.

I understand the need you are feeling; in 1958 I did not in an instant get rid of 100% of the Catholicism that for 12 years had been imposed on me. In college I got rid of its intellectual baggage. Dumping its emotional baggage took me longer; I first had to see and acknowledge it.

Unless you deal with the need you are feeling, it will remain strong and might drive you back to the theism -- and its unhappiness -- that is still influencing your life.

You choose.


Thank you for your expert attempt at psychoanalysis. 

Oh wait.  It isn't expert at all.

@futile, RE: "religiosity is inherent in human nature" - I'd be more inclined to say that searching for answers to mysteries is inherent in human nature, and when little is known, irrational possibilities were often the only available conclusion early Humankind could draw. But as Neil deGrasse Tyson stated it so succinctly, "God is an ever-increasing pocket of ignorance, that grows smaller and smaller as time goes by." - we need not have religion with us always, and the more we accept the addiction of religiosity, the more we enable the addict.

Religion is not the problem.. it is the Authoritarian and Literalist and unquestioning mindset that is the problem..  This is not only the problem with religious belief but political belief and any other belief system for that matter.

Here's a neat little e-book that while interesting at presenting the idea, needs filling out of its own to support its arguments..

With that in mind..


uhm religion is based on authoritarian and literalist ideaology, which basically is described with the word dogma, instead of religion just being a club of interest or beliefs , it becomes a personal army throwing threats to people who are not part of the club or disagree with the ideology and beliefs of the club.Spirituality focuses on one's self and does not impose beliefs on others and threaten them to comply such as "believe in god or burn in hell" kind of thing... if all religions were spiritualities there would be no friction and violence between the theists.

@danielle -

"if all religions were spiritualities there would be no friction and violence between the theists.

All religions are spiritualities, but the spirituality is buried among a load of complicated stories and culture.  I feel I have a challenge in making my spirituality available to everyone.  Really it amounts to experimenting (whoops) and trying to explain it to as many different people as possible.  

I actually have to agree with Danielle on this--religion by default is dogmatic and people who abstract what they think makes sense and ditch the rest--thereby becoming someone you can actually live next to in spite of not thinking exactly the same way--are actually violating its tenets though they can rationalize away all they want.


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