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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All belief in a religion is, in my opinion, delusional, and until you mentioned it, I've never even associated that opinion with Richard Dawkins, and in fact, held it long before he ever published his book.

But to a degree, you are right - religion is not the enemy, the religious are - without them, religion would die a long overdue death.

Yup.

It could also be not entirely true --*:x lovestruck

I'm watching "House" re-runs. House is criticizing prayer, and the fact that it doesn't work. He says, "Little boys pray for jetpaks, priests pray for little boys - no, wait, that last one actually works out --"

Don't you know when I'm just screwin' with you?

Ok - here's the thing - I find it difficult to respect the opinions of those who believe in the supernatural, which makes it difficult for me to have rational conversations with them about anything more than the most superficial topics.

I'm not saying you're wrong, for you, but your methods wouldn't work for me, because I couldn't pull it off and keep a straight face.

"Admonition," yes, admission, no. "Does el Pajarito admit weakness?" - nunca.

Sometimes, when people shoot off their mouth, they accidentally hit their foot! It's a natural mistake.

Duerme bién --

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 is more than a concept. It permeates every aspect of American life.

  • The state has your child's teacher conducting religious indoctrinations in public school, "One nation under God."
  • The local school board has a warning label affixed to the high school biology textbook stating that evolution is "only a theory" and alters the biology curriculum to teach that God made life with magic.
  • Your tax dollars end up in voucher programs that pay to send kids to religious schools.
  • Every dollar you spend has, "One nation under God" on it.
  • Vote and there's a fairly good chance you have to walk into a Church to do it.
  • Medical stem cell research is shelved, delaying potentially lifesaving medical research that could save thousands of lives; cancer treatments, growing new organs, etc.
  • Two men blow up a hundred people-- families with children-- at the Boston marathon because they're angry about the way Muslims are being treated on the other side of the world.
  • A nativity scene appears at city hall every December.
  • Children are prayed to death rather than given medical care. The laws in your state probably allow religion as a defense to child abuse or murder of a child in this way.
  • You appear in court. A monument to the Ten Commandments stands on the front lawn. The words "In God We Trust" are emblazoned on the wall behind the judge. You are asked to tell the truth so help you God.
  • State constitutions are modified specifically to create second class citizens and deny those citizens over 1000 state and federal rights and benefits that are associated with marriage.

It goes on and on. Try pointing out to believers that what they're doing is illegal and unjust. You're told to keep quiet or get out of the country. Judges concoct mind-boggling acts of dishonesty like "ceremonial deism": sorry atheists, God is entirely secular! We are peppered with threats, abuse, and violence: a reminder that we're the most hated and mistrusted minority in America.

If believers quietly lived their own lives without endlessly intruding into mine, there would be no need for hostility. But it's not like that, Belle. It's as though I am being punched in the face repeatedly and upon fending off additional blows and demanding my attacker cease his assault, you tell me I should not be hostile to his aims. Well, I am. Religion is hostile toward me. Religion injures me. So I am hostile in return.

Religion-- the service and worship of God or the supernatural-- is harmful. Religion is backward. Religion impedes medical and scientific progress. Religion promotes destructive and immoral acts. Religion damages individuals and society.

I am hostile toward religion in that I want to confound the efforts of religious people to do the harmful things on the list above. (The recent destruction of DOMA is a gigantic success: the end of what was essentially a religious law.) I am hostile to religion in that feeble and childish beliefs are fair game to be shamed and ridiculed: a way to effect change and improvement. But I am NOT hostile to religion in the sense that I want religious folks to come to harm or lose their freedoms, including the freedom of religion. Not that many mainstream religious folk would similarly restrain themselves toward me should they ever obtain enough power and support.

I want an end to the special privileges for religion; an end of the intrusion of religion into the public, scientific, and legal realms. No religious shrines in the public town hall. No religious teachings in public school biology classrooms. No special laws excusing religious people from murdering their kids. No religious bans on medical stem cell research.

I demand what the Constitution says I have already as a non-believer, but do not possess by a long shot in my everyday life: equal rights and status as a citizen under the law. Anyone who denies me and others those rights and confounds my attempts to secure them has made himself my enemy. 

I agree.  I understand what Belle is saying, but there has to be a line in the sand beyond which I cannot look the other way, understand, or collaborate when so much damage has been done and is being done via religion.  

It is difficult to have an understanding and collaborative approach when some yahoo in my state is proposing that science teachers have to say that evolution is "just a theory."  This is purely motivated by religious beliefs.  My response when this recently happened in New Hampshire was to write to the members of the Senate Education Committee, rationally explaining why I opposed the passing of that particular bill.  

The bill seemed harmless enough, but it was attempting to lay the groundwork for further attacks on the teaching of science in public schools.  I used the knowledge I have to send a respectful and well thought-out message to the Committee, which, I think you might agree, is a positive approach.  Make no mistake though,  The religious ideas that foster the proposing of such bills are dangerous and need to be opposed.  I believe the people proposing such bills will generally not listen to reason because they are deluded and/or are beholden to their deluded constituents.  

When they start to insinuate their religious tenets into education of children, especially MY children, you can be sure they feel like enemies to me.  The other people in the picture, like the Senate Education Committee members, most certainly need to be respectfully approached and educated regarding, usually I think, their sworn responsibilities to serve the State, it's people, and not any religious dogma.  Beyond that, in a world where nobody might have opposed them, get ready to wear a large A on your lapel and be treated without regard for your particular intellect or humanity.  This may seem extreme, but I contend that at some point, when religious ideas threaten to, or actually do, override logic to the point where the science textbooks in my child's school include a section on Intelligent Design as a viable, scientific cosmological theory, religion has become the enemy indeed.

I am all for collaboration and peaceful, respectful education up to  point.  Beyond that I want a metaphorical rocket launcher.

Yes what you are saying makes sense.  It is good to think of seeing the big picture.  

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