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.
And the fact that so many religions involve either reincarnation or an afterlife, implies that one of the greatest of those fears is that of death. I don't want to die - I'm not afraid of it, it's just that as time goes by, I learn more and more that could make life in the future more meaningful, information I hadn't learned early on, but acquired gradually over time, and having finally acquired it, with the promise of even further acquisition, I simply don't want life to end, with its potential of using all that I have learned.
If we humans had devoted even a fraction of the time we have spent over the centuries on religion, to science, and discovering ways of increasing Human lifespan, we might well be living into the hundreds of years by now, using our full potential, instead of wasting both that time, and all of the learning we've acquired, on the fairy tale of being magically transported to a different world once this life is over.
...it's just that as time goes by, I learn more and more....
You haven't reached the age at which your body starts coming apart. Good luck.
If we humans had devoted even a fraction of the time we have spent over the centuries on religion, to science, ....
Ho, ho, ho! The people who spent their time doing religion didn't have the ability to do science.
Paraphrasing from Lola's song in Damn Yankees: "Whatever the Grim Reaper wants, the Grim Reaper gets, and archaeoptteryx, the Grim Reaper wants you.."
Make the most of what you've got.
Tom - RE: "You haven't reached the age at which your body starts coming apart." - then what are all of those pieces I keep picking up and Super-Gluing back on?
RE: "The people who spent their time doing religion didn't have the ability to do science." - well, you say that, but if they hadn't devoted so much of their intellectual output to religion, possibly they would have developed science much sooner. Pi, for example was known by some cultures at least a thousand years before the Hebrews even developed writing.
** "theology is a subject without an object."
There are no religions -- only religious institutions.
There are no gods -- only alleged god-proxies.
There are altogether no supernatural phenomena, only supernatural interpretations of phenomena.
I like that, Rick!
The anthropological truth is that religiosity is inherent in human nature, and will likely continue to exist as long as humanity does. Therefore, we as freethinkers must learn to coexist with our religious fellow human beings, despite the many evils that are inherent in religion.
Seconded. I'd even go so far as to say we should be able to learn from each other. Right now I don't feel we've got a lot we can do for them, apart from poach/rescue their followers.
"The anthropological truth...."
Does humanity now have an anthropological gospel?
"...religiosity is inherent in human nature, ...."
I've long believed that fear is inherent in human nature and many people relieve their fear with religion.
So if freethinkers can relieve the fear that 1) rules believers' lives, and 2) benefits their leaders, believers will be happier and no longer need religion, and their leaders will have to find honorable employment.
He is probably talking about the sorts of things discussed in JJ Thomson's "Why we believe in god(s)" wherein it turns out that there are tendencies "hard wired" into our brains that have us seeing agency in random events, etc., adding up to belief in a god or gods.
Ironically this could mean that evolution causes us to evolve to have difficulty believing in evolution.
In JJ Thomson's title, Why we believe in god(s), his we conceals an I.
With his saying belief in a god or gods is hard-wired, he conceals himself further.
My reason for saying so?
What is the editorial we, or the monarchical we, if it's not concealment for the editor, or the monarch?
It's not news that some people are unable to leave the plantation.
You are basically accusing Thomspon of being a closet theist? Because he used "we" in his title?
Maybe it was a general "we" for humans, rather than an editorial "we"?
Unless you have real reason for this speculation, rather than just pulling it out of your ass as it appears you have done (you give no evidence other than your amateur psychoanalysis of a pronoun) I am going to dismiss this out of hand.
EDIT: The author's correct name is J. Anderson Thompson. That's what I get for going from memory.