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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@Dave: because religion has been formed (man-made) to support what men WANT. Religion is the product of corrupt and primitive thinking. Not the other way around. This is why declaring "religion" as the enemy is useless. This is why "WE"...(Rational thinking people)....are scratching and clawing SO hard to be heard!

I'm suggesting that Weber's approach (you don't even have to read the whole book. Just read the intro and you'll get the jist) - rather than a hostile Dawkins/Harris/Hitchens make-religion-sound-stupid approach.......is superior.

I've read the intro and I still don't see the 'Religion is not the enemy' tack you are taking. Sure, religion is not the entirety of the problem; the fundamental superstitions, irrational thought, power dynamics and the like that influenced the form of the various religions are also the problem, but that doesn't mean that the religions that already exist and are causing harm are not also an enemy to be confronted.

Weber BTW was a sociologist. I'm simply suggesting an adaptation to his historical analysis with an interpretive response to the primitive ideas we loathe (backed up by any number of XYZ religion....because primitive men made it this way on purpose for social control, comprehensiveness, and group cohesion to give just a few examples) - Would be much more effective in advancing our species beyond primitive thought processes.

I did read it, once I found it. The 'Reference' link was unobtrusive.

I understand Dave. Try just the intro. It gives a concise synopsis. I think it might clear up some confusion....perhaps. If not I'll find some better references that are less intimidating. Sociology can be overwhelming if you're not accustomed to the terminology. At least you tried. Thanks!

I did read it (comment on it elsethread) and the terminology is familiar enough. It's been a few years since my sociology and psychology courses, but I remember the basics.

Even though so many are as ignorant about their own religion as they are about others....They KNOW all the answers. They KNOW all about the purpose of human life, the past, and the future. And they will kill you to prove it.

As Socrates says, "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."  And, "There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance." And,  "Wonder is the beginning of wisdom."  And finally, for good measure: "To find yourself, think for yourself." 

Funny to think he is often referred to among theologians and seminarians as the "Proto-Christian," and yet few if any actually listen to his counsel.

Try this one on for size: "The shortest path to finding one's self, lies in losing one's self in the service of others."


Being a whole life atheist, I have always considered the need for the imaginary friend to be delusional. It's probably been a little over a year since I gained the knowledge of who Richard Dawkins is. Therefore the implication that he started the whole "god delusion" doesn't wash nor work in my case.

I'm sure a sizable portion of atheists are in a similar position with regards to what they consider to be delusional. We understand the meaning of the word and we know that it is not just limited to religion.

I personally don't have a problem with telling a theist that they are deluded, because that's how I understand the meaning of the word. They feel the same way about us really.

Religion is against progress and the gaining of knowledge. A leading cause of child abuse, homophobia and racism. Promotes murder assault and spousal abuse. Religion is a major cause of and almost always allows people to accept a war. The rationale of the religious is that any question to their scripture is an attack on them personally and they attack.


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