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.
That's the nicest thing you've ever said to me!
FYI, you may have gone a bit overboard with that diet - who's your doctor, Kevorkian?
Arch! Why ever did you leave the diplomatic corps?
I was advised to do so - diplomatically of corps-se --
Actually, I'd say that being deluded due to not having paid any attention to the evidence is still being deluded. That it is the pressure of the social norm that is doing the deluding rather than a specific person or sub-group of people does not change the fact that the person is believing something that is not true and often is demonstratively not true.
The definition of deluded is believing things that are not real or true from the Cambridge dictionary. Merriam-Webster does not have a separate definition for deluded. It says nothing about why someone believes in things are not real. Being deluded due to following a social norm and being deluded due to a rejection of rational examination are two different reasons, but they both end with the person being deluded.
Or are you claiming that there is evidence that the religious belief in a god, for example, is true?
No I'm not suggesting anything like that at all. I'm not sure how you drew that conclusion.
I mainly brought it up as you seemed to be saying that religious belief did not match the description of a delusion, when both definitions focused on the fact that the belief was false.
I am getting a better idea of your point though, Belle. Implying that everyone who holds a religious belief is mentally ill is certainly neither accurate nor polite.
I like your position. Atheists more closely resemble delusion than believers, not because they are wrong, but the contrary. A word is only useful insofar as its usage, and when the majority of a group has a false belief, true beliefs (lack of belief in general) are more often categorized by humans as delusional. There is an inherent multiplicity to such concepts; one dictionaries' definition is only part of the systems of language.
That would be a false categorization, however.
I stated that not all believers should be categorized as having a mental illness because mental illness is not necessary to suffer from a delusion. Simple bad data can account for it.
"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring". - Carl Sagan
Not just Richard Dawkins then.
You can reject and abhor to your heart's content - but who is this "WE" you are talking about? Atheists are not a collective.
How about thinking of it from a different angle? There are some people open to persuasion by criticism, some by gentle discourse, some by cold shock, some by rational argument and some by ridicule - some aren't open at all. Its the variety of the way we are as humans.
Doesn't it make sense that these different approaches appear in atheists in the same way as in theists? These aren't religiously formed attitudes. They are the different human attitudes that make up the variety of humankind, religious or not.
The truth is that we are social creatures and we seek comfort.
Totally agree. I just don't agree that religion is required to achieve that comfort. Some kind of social gathering/grouping/community, sure. But the comfort and companionship can be achieved without needing to be explicitly religious or invoking the supernatural.