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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** "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.

Nicely stated futilethewinds :)

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.

Steve, unless JAT knows the contents of others' minds, you can name his deceptive use of we what you will and it still conceals an I.

Speculation?

Tell readers your "Maybe it was a general 'we'...." isn't speculation.

Your evidence that JAT has left the theist plantation will persuade more readers than your speculation on where I found my conclusion.

He has claimed to be an atheist, he works for (or with) the Richard Dawkins foundation, and he sure sounds like an atheist every time I listen to or read him.  Is it possible he is faking everyone out?  Sure, it's possible.  (For that matter, from my point of view, it's possible you, or any other atheist regular on this board is too, and just about as likely.)  But I think it's far more likely you simply grievously misconstrued his title.

My "maybe" was sarcastically intended, the meaning was "did you by any chance stop during your Olympic long jump to conclusions to consider"  I was trying to point out that you were making an unwarranted assumption in stating that "we" must be an editorial "we."

You continue to have no basis whatsoever for your accusation, regardless of what your thought process was.

Steve: re your "maybe" being sarcastically intended, sarcasm conceals anger but not very well.

So does much hyperbole, such as "...Olympic long jump to conclusions...."

You appear to know neither what an editorial we is, nor the purpose it serves.

In JAT's title, it attempts to make an emotional connection with a potential buyer. It's a marketing tactic.

Did you buy the book? If you have any remaining theism, seeing it as hard wired can be comforting.

Having comfort disturbed can stir anger and in your posts you are persuasively demonstrating anger.

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