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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The definition of delusion:
a : something that is falsely or delusively believed or propagated
b : a persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary; also : the abnormal state marked by such beliefs

Nothing in there about oppressive or insulting. It does talk about being a persistent false belief, however. I'd say that most, if not all, religions confirm to the definition of delusions.

And to the extent that religions promote ignorance, oppose critical thinking, encourage dogmatic behavior and claim blind faith as a virtue, it is a phenomenon that I am absolutely hostile towards.

Yes but notice that the definition you used does not accompany a synonym to religion. You've formed this notion that religion is a delusion because of Dawkins, have you not? Like I said, he coined the phrase and it's now at a level where so many atheists truly think that anyone who holds religious beliefs are mentally ill. I absolutely reject this with every fiber in my being and I abhor the notion that WE could continue to allow this mentality to flourish without speaking my mind about it.

No, I consider religious belief to be delusional because people are maintaining strong beliefs despite a lack of evidence or strong evidence to the contrary. Or are you claiming that there is evidence that the religious belief in a god, for example, is true?
Likewise, maintaining a strong belief in Bigfoot, the Greys, time-travelling dinosaurs or space lizards masquerading as world leaders are also classified as delusional.

That the word religion isn't listed as a synonym is irrelevant. "Breatharian" isn't listed as a synonym, either.

You're also making the mistake of thinking that 'deluded' automatically means "mentally ill". That is not the case. While a person may be both delusional and mentally ill, a person can also be mentally ill and not delusional, or delusional and not mentally ill.

If someone steadfastly believes that the Biblical flood happened, they are deluded. But that does not mean that they are mentally ill. They could be drawing a rational conclusion based on false evidence. They could be irrationally deciding to reject the evidence because it makes them feel better. Mental illness is not required.

I consider religious belief to be delusional because people are maintaining strong beliefs despite a lack of evidence or strong evidence to the contrary.

The problem is most people don't examine the evidence, they accept the social norm (ie the religion of their culture or upbringing.) This doesn't make them deluded, it makes them conforming to the group (ie the social norm). There are many examples in the world of people conforming to a social norm that is also a delusion but we do not call them delusional. Let me give you an example. We now know that eating the Atkins diet makes you fatter. There is LOADS of evidence to support this. However you will still occasionally find someone who is trying to adhere to it (or any other "diet" that disrupts the metabolic process, let's not argue over semantics...you get the jist). So you would not tell someone to their face, "If you are adhering to the Adkins diet, you're delusional." You would however say that they are misinformed, uneducated, out of the loop, and they have not examine the evidence. It's the SAME THING. A person who is trying to lose weight is adhering to the social norm of being thin. 

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.


Random, I realise, but I've been on the Atkins diet for one year now, and I have lost a total of 60 pounds - I'm almost at my target size.  I have photographs as evidence, but critically, my doctor has been charting my progress with delight.  My blood pressure has also dropped from 158/110 to 120/80 steadily, during the process. (I have already given my doctor permission to use my data any way he feels like, so if anyone really wants corroboration, it's available)

My wife has been on it for two months now and lost 30 pounds.  She is close to her target weight.  Frankly we don't actually care why it works - we just know it does.

I hope I didn't offend you Strega!!! (sheepish grin and blushing...) :-) Congrats on your progress!! I probably shouldn't have used that as an example and I don't want to "argue" that...

Its why I started my post *random* - let's imagine you used a different example and it supported your statement.  I'm never offended - it's too much effort!

OK: Here's an example that hopefully won't come back to bite me in the ass, LOL!!!!

Example: Brushing your teeth...if you ONLY brush your teeth but do not floss then you almost aren't brushing your teeth because you're missing the bulk of your teeth/mouth. You ARE causing harm to your mouth, putting yourself at risk for heart disease, and almost certain to have a really high dentist bill for tooth decay at some point. You brush your teeth thinking you're adhering to a good dental regimen - but you're uninformed, uneducated on the subject, or simply burying your head in the sand. You're not delusional though...right??? 

Well, if you think that you are doing a good job cleaning your teeth by just brushing, then you are deluded. The cause of being deluded can vary, however. 

It's kind of like the difference between being ignorant and being willfully ignorant. In both cases the person is ignorant, but one type is more egregious than the other.

I think what you did re: Atkins diet is commit the fallacy of "composition" where you take some cases (where some people—maybe most—got fatter on the diet) and assumed that it applied to all cases. I'm sure that ANY diet works for some people but not others. Obviously, it worked for Strega and her partner. Dieting just makes things worse for many people.

The thing about the Atkins diet is not that it doesn't work, but rather that since you are placing your body into ketosis, you should keep a careful eye on your health in general, as Strega is doing by consulting with her doctor.

I see my doc about once every three months.  We check my cholesterol levels alongside my thyroxine level (I have a very low thyroid function that requires 150mg thyroxine daily) and blood pressure.  He has me on a low level statin (5mg) to keep things in check. 

You are right that it isn't for everyone, but it does work for me, and the doc visits are important, I agree. I am not advocating it for everyone, but I did have to interject when I read the claim that it makes you fatter.


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Started by Devlin Cuite in Small Talk. Last reply by Ari E. S. 2 hours ago. 67 Replies


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