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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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.

"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.

I suppose not then. It doesn't really matter to me who says it, I do disagree and I'm hoping to explain why articulately in this thread. We'll see where it goes :)

You can reject and abhor to your heart's content - but who is this "WE" you are talking about?  Atheists are not a collective.

I suppose you're right, I should not have said it that way. I know atheists aren't collective. That's the beauty of it!!!! I have not seen other atheists on TA ever say that Richard Dawkin's assertion is intentionally misconstrued to cause an emotional reaction to get people to read his book. I agree with a lot of what he says IN the book, but I do not agree with the premise that a religious person is automatically "delusional" without observing their "ideas" and "actions" first (Weber's interpretive approach referenced above) which I suppose that's why I said "WE." I guess if other atheists have the same feeling they might be obliged to speak up about it on this thread.

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.

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

Here’s the thing though: We are under pressure to rationalize and conform to group order. This is part of OUR evolution (collective this time as in all of humanity.) Throughout history religious and magical practices have evolved, and decision making and ideas have followed along with these changing rationalities. It is not enough to simply say that any single person either is or is not open-minded enough to “hear the facts.” The truth is that we are social creatures and we seek comfort. Religion does provide this and for some people it’s a necessity. You and me (as atheists) can understand the lack of need for such beliefs and there have undoubtedly always been people in any social group that do not share the same beliefs, but they are – you guessed it – outside the norm for their particular culture.

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.

Totally agree. I just don't agree that religion is required to achieve that comfort.

I agree. But do you honestly think that religion itself is bad? Or is it the ideas that have evolved over the centuries along with the social attitudes of the people - their primitive mentalities and social structures - that has worked its way into religious texts that we now call "religion." Religion is not the enemy. Primitive ideas are. It's the ideas themselves that need attacking. Not individual people by name calling, and not by becoming hostile whether that hostility is internal, or external.

I came on this forum almost a year ago as a Christian. I was (for the most part) not attacked personally. I was welcomed. I was educated. I was taught and I listened. If I had not been so welcomed I might still be a theist. I would still be trapped in the clutches of oppressive ideas and primitive ways of thinking. But I'm not. I'm free. There are a lot of people I think like myself that will listen to ideas when they do not feel attacked, personally or ideologically.

How many religions can you name that don't depend on a delusional belief in the supernatural? Are you saying we should support those delusions?

But do you honestly think that religion itself is bad? Or is it the ideas that have evolved over the centuries along with the social attitudes of the people - their primitive mentalities and social structures - that has worked its way into religious texts that we now call "religion."

At this point, I am wondering what your definition of 'religion' is.

Religion is not the enemy. Primitive ideas are. It's the ideas themselves that need attacking. I want to agree with this. I would not low my self so shallow as to attack a person ( bearing in mind also how dangerously murderous are religous people) because of their delusional mental framework. If I cannot appeal to their senses/ mind with proveable facts I would call it a day, and rather share ideas with like-minded persons in TA.

Hmm. I didn't really understand what you were getting at in the first post until you wrote this part. I see what you're saying there, even though I can also see why other atheists would be adamant about attacking religion.

It's the ideas themselves that need attacking. Not individual people by name calling, and not by becoming hostile whether that hostility is internal, or external.

That should pretty much always be true, no matter how wacky someone's beliefs are.

Found some more, Strega. :)

"When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion." -- Robert M. Pirsig

"It is not by delusion, however exalted, that mankind can prosper, but only by unswerving courage in the pursuit of truth." - Bertrand Russell

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