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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Consider Semantic externalism: the view that the meaning of a term is determined, in whole or in part, by factors external to the speaker. 

Well, what if the definition of delusion is falsely propagated? Do not the definitions of words change? Does not etymology exist?

as for your hostilities, I find them mis-placed. Any religious organization that promotes ignorance is an excellent and useful establishment. Doesn't the ignorance of the masses give benefit to atheists by them gaining a mental advantage? Why would you hate something that gives non-believers the fruits of THIS world while the believers are also completely happy because they think they will be rewarded when they die?

as for your hostilities, I find them mis-placed. Any religious organization that promotes ignorance is an excellent and useful establishment. Doesn't the ignorance of the masses give benefit to atheists by them gaining a mental advantage? Why would you hate something that gives non-believers the fruits of THIS world while the believers are also completely happy because they think they will be rewarded when they die?

Maybe because I have empathy for other people and would like to see the lot of humanity to improve in general? I'm not nearly self-centered and uncaring enough to condemn others minds to rot in ignorance just to give myself an advantage.

I agree.

I agree that religion provides comfort just as I agree that it is a delusion.  I also do not think that having hostile feelings towards religion is productive.  However, when I run a mental list of the numerous atrocities that have occurred over thousands of years (and continue to occur daily) in the name of one deity or another, I can't help but think that religion is dangerous and is quite possibly "enemy" material.  Blasphemers have been killed brutally-- and continue to be-- for centuries.  There have been witch hunts, crusades, female castrations, the withholding of both reproductive education and birth control in countries rampant with AIDS and Catholicism, continued abuse and oppression of women, bigotry, and on, and on, and on.  I also find that the fact that most major religions not only don't support the progression of science, but aim to suppress it, disturbing, especially since they promote magical thinking in its stead.  I am friends with (and related to) some very amazing religious people, but overall, I believe religion to be a dangerous vehicle with too much money and power fueling it.  Enemy, indeed.

Blasphemers have been killed brutally-- and continue to be-- for centuries.  There have been witch hunts, crusades, female castrations, the withholding of both reproductive education and birth control in countries rampant with AIDS and Catholicism, continued abuse and oppression of women, bigotry, and on, and on, and on. 

This is true M. I’m not denying this argument has some validity and there are many horrible things in this world that have happened and continue to happen every single day in the name of religion.

I'm suggesting to consider a different approach to solving these world wide problems with a more sociological approach....

Let’s use a real world example: Domestic Violence. There are MANY secular organizations in this country that are helping thousands of women each and every day get informed, educated, empowered, healed, and providing services to allow them to escape an abusive environment. They are not religious. They are combating the attitude that a wife needs to be submissive to her husband and do what he says. They teach ideas and concepts that are COMPLETELY OPPOSITE of what religion (ie Christianity or Islam) teaches. They are WINNING THE BATTLE!!! They are doing so NOT by being hostile towards religion, but by being vocal of the FACTS. This approach is effective. It’s saving lives. It’s also simultaneously moving women away from religious practices/mentality. 

religion.... a dangerous vehicle with too much money and power fueling it.  Enemy, indeed. See religion is the enemy of everything progressive. Countries in continents like mine (Afrika) instead of coming up with scientifical means of make use of vast resources and wealth they fight over whose imaginery friend is bigger. And the very countries who sold them the delusion are selling to them guns and mortars to kill each other, while no human rights are observed but every sunday or friday they fill their submission halls to feed their delusional appetites. I observe with dismay when intelligent appearing humans behave lunatically (if there is such a phrase) for the sake of upholding their delusions. I stand convinced that indeed all religious persons are delusional. This planet, or the  universe for that matter, is better off without them, they should not be killed, but their mindset be readjusted.

Sam Harris addressed it in this way....

If you go around seriously saying Elvis is alive, like at a party or job interview you will pay a price. There is no price with religion. In fact you actually get acceptance. Many benefit from selling religion and they work hard to provide people what they want to believe. It's the biggest business in the world.

If you go around seriously saying Elvis is alive, like at a party or job interview you will pay a price. There is no price with religion.

So what is more effective: Telling the person who says Elvis is alive that they are delusional or mentally ill and becoming hostile? Or would it be more effective to understand their point of view so that you can rebuttal with an educated response and meet that person where they are at in order to show why their belief is unsubstantiated? 

Or would it be more effective to understand their point of view so that you can rebuttal with an educated response and meet that person where they are at in order to show why their belief is unsubstantiated? Try Belle, I dare you, to talk rationally with a deeply religious person. Not catholics, I find them easy to talk to- not to convince- Try Belle the tounge talking-waterbaptised- spiritfilled-bornagain xians. You will feel like you were conversing with a person in a mental institution.... beyond any cure.

Heck, that can be tried right here on T|A with Professor Bob. No one has made much progress yet in showing him why his beliefs are unsubstantianted.

Dave, here, has the best possible test of your theory, and you don't even need to travel to Westborough! Of course you won't get to meet and greet Shirley Phelps, and I can only imagine what a loss that will be.

Try Belle, I dare you, to talk rationally with a deeply religious person. Not catholics, I find them easy to talk to- not to convince- Try Belle the tounge talking-waterbaptised- spiritfilled-bornagain xians. You will feel like you were conversing with a person in a mental institution.... beyond any cure.

It's not really any different than trying to convince a huge, muscular, angry, testosterone-filled, mentally unstable, power hungry, male inmate not to start a brall with his fellow inmate.Corrections officers do this daily.

It's possible to persuade a person with your mind - you have to think like they think, and understand them to be able to do this. That's the whole point of why I linked the reference that I did above. I'll be interested to see if anyone actually reads it. All the statements thus far are following the status quo cliche responses I expected with the same song and dance.... I frankly am a little disappointed but not at all surprised.

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