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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"We have to remember that Christianity has Jesus, and his ideas are also at the heart of the other religions."

If Yeshua ever existed, we have no clue as to what his ideas were. The ideas at the heart of other religions were plagiarized by the loosely-knit committee that created the literary character, and attributed to that character. The "Golden Rule," for example, was contributed by Confucius, 300 years before legend tells us Yeshua was ever born.

Confucius-2.Jpg"What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."

Whether Yeshua actually lived or not, is irrelevant, as 99.9% of everything ascribed to him in the New Testament is literary fiction.

"What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."

Ouch. 

There's a very important difference between Confucius' phrasing of the golden rule, and Jesus' version.

Confucius says, in essence that you should NOT do something.  You are okay under his rule if you merely do no harm.  Jesus says that you MUST take positive action, you must do to others as you wish they would do to you; you can't merely just do no harm.

@SteveInCo - both versions are the same thing in MO.  The interesting thing is, we can extend this to reputation. 

If I treat you in X way, then you will reward/punish me by behaving in X way in return. 

If I treat you in X way, then someone else will reward/punish me by behaving in X way in return. 

The group needs people who cooperate for the good of the group. 

Belle, you write IMHO and I, admitting that my opinions are not at all humble, write IMNAAHO.

In what I've seen of your views, there appears to be no provision for emotion. Do you intend that?

Belle, please tell me if I'm mistaken: You know there is more to emotion than acting it out.

There certainly is acting out. Who doesn't act out when pushed too hard?

There's also the view that emotion provides the energy people use when they take action, and thought helps people choose actions appropriate to the situation.

In plainer words, emotion moves me and thought keeps me out of jail.

I'm seeing this use of emotion in your researching your case and presenting it well.

- - - - - -

I minored in economics many years ago, and though my work didn't require any expertise I stayed somewhat current. I used my knowledge of economics when, in the 1970s I became active in environmental politics.

I also heard of various religions' teachings regarding poor people.

As you know, the New Testament tells Xians to help the poor. Yet, as last year's campaign rhetoric made clear, many Xians attacked the poor.

As I recall, Calvinism teaches that poverty is a consequence of sin. It being easier to ignore sinners than to ignore the poor, Calvinists can with clear consciences ignore the poor.

Re Greenspan. I've read about him, including that he's a libertarian Repub. About Libertarianism, I tell people that people who want to do away with vice squads can't be all bad. Libertarianism's downside is that it will return us to the Law of the Jungle.

I've read more of the work of Richard Posner, an appellate judge and law professor who did a lot in the field of Law and Economics. His economics is less about money and more about rational decision making. In 1993 he surprised people with Sex and Reason. He said he wrote it to embarrass his fellow judges into seeing and admitting to their ignorance about sex. It persuaded SCOTUS, in its 2003(?) Lawrence v. Texas ruling, to reverse its 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick ruling that let states ignore hetero sodomy and prosecute homo sodomy. I'm not gay but in 1987 a cousin I'd grown up with died of AIDS and the Bowers ruling would have allowed his prosecution.

Emotion energized my 1970s plunge into environmental politics when politicians told urban taxpayers like me to go home, be quiet, and pay the taxes for a water/land project that would make a few landowners wealthier. Their attempt to silence me reminded of my dad's violent tyranny that had angered me so much. I'd wanted to beat him up but he was stronger than I so I had to repress my anger. I was 42 when the politicians stirred that anger and I put my energy into researching and speaking/writing. One result was my running in a primary for a legislative seat. Another was the biggest compliment anyone had ever given me: a politician's attempt to get my employer to fire me. When I next saw my dad, by then aged and frail, I no longer felt a need to beat him up.

A part of that land/water story is in Wikipedia under <Don Bolles> (the reporter, not the musician). I added the district attorney's words about country club people being behind the killing. It was too messy to be a mafia hit. A woman who'd worked with Bolles cautioned me to be careful. Refusing to be silenced, I quit my job, moved to San Francisco, and started another, happier life.

About my above post. As I wrote it I was dimly remembering Max Weber's connection with Calvinism. I saved my post and looked up Weber in Wikipedia. I came back to my post and saw I had time to edit it. I added words about the cruelty of American capitalism and a humane alternative: employee ownership. I clicked to save my edited post and TA's computer showed me a rotating "wheel", which might mean the computer is overloaded or a moderator is looking at a post. Not wanting to wait, I returned to Yahoo. TA's computer, ignoring my edits, redisplayed only my original post.

My HUGE compliment? Though I'm wary of the work of people who follow too closely the views of another, I respected the energy you had put into your research and presentation.

@Tom - RE:

"I came back to my post and saw I had time to edit it. I added words about the cruelty of American capitalism and a humane alternative: employee ownership. I clicked to save my edited post and TA's computer showed me a rotating "wheel", which might mean the computer is overloaded or a moderator is looking at a post. Not wanting to wait, I returned to Yahoo. TA's computer, ignoring my edits, redisplayed only my original post."

I can tell you what happened Tom, and neither ("the computer is overloaded or a moderator is looking at a post") was the case. I've had it happen to me many times.

You write your comment, and hit, "Add Reply," the 15-minute-to-edit clock starts. You spend time reading what you wrote, or you go somewhere else, think of something, and come back, you see you have, say, 3 minutes left, so you decide to change or add something. The clock on the page doesn't count down, it freezes until you hit "Add Reply" again, so you wind up going over 3 minutes by a few seconds, unknowingly, and hit, "Add Reply." The wheel spins, as the computer tries to upload the revision, but TA software says, "Sorry, you missed the deadline!" so the wheel continues to turn, and will still be turning next week, should you leave it open and come back. The only solution is to copy your entire, revised comment, go back to the same "Reply" tab, click it, paste your revised comment, hit, "Add Reply," then go back to your old comment and click the little "x" in the upper right-hand corner, deleting your old post.

I think that religion gives a focal point to discrimination and needs to be eliminated.  Ergo, to me it is an enemy.  I think that atheism is a better approach to progress our civilisation.  Ergo, to me it is an ally.

I do not think that the elimination of religion will solve all our problems.  I do think it would be a bloody good start though.

Like a busload of lawyers going off a cliff!

Or the proverbial 500 lawyers at the bottom of NYC's East River.

From what I know of the East River, the bottom is overkill - anything more than a toe dunk is lethal.

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