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.
I should mention, I explicitly put in the form letter of the petition my ordained title of Reverend, along with of course putting that in the information my senators requested of me. Having faced religious discrimination in a catholic school for being protestant as a young child, I want nothing to do with religion being associated with government. So, yes, I know what it's like.
I have been banned from a site that promotes "Keep god in Schools," because I suggested that the religious have homes and churches for the purpose of promoting their religions, and have no need to recruit our schools for that purpose as well.
I recently read a letter from the Pakistani Taliban to Malala Yousefez, the 15-year old girl who was shot in the head for continuing to attend school despite a Taliban mandate that she not. The letter asked her to return to Pakistan, attend a Muslim girl's school for further indoctrination, and use her new-found fame to promote Islam. I can't see a lot of difference between the Taliban's idea of education, and that of the "Keep God in Schools" group. Both promote a theocracy.
I can't help but believe the Founding Fathers knew what they were doing, when they declared that the church and state should remain separate. Even today, the Queen of England is also the head of the Church in her country.
I do agree.
You're a good man, Charley Brown --