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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"Weber is an idealist like myself, (why I like him so much…)...."

In the 20th Century, political ideals have led to the deaths of many millions.

I haven't read Max Weber's The Sociology of Religion so I'm not saying his idealism will lead to similar results.

I am saying the language of idealism (should, should not) is a step away from the language of democracy toward the language of authoritarianism (must, cannot) and toward the language of totalitarianism (shall, shall not).

Decades have passed since I heard of a Weber who linked Protestantism with Capitalism. I will look up Max Weber.

Editing: Yes, it's the same Weber. I'll read some more.

 I think Tom that you may find the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism pretty Earthshaking if you haven't read it. Read it. It's a difficult read but you will not ever see the world the same again. One of my faves. Weber is one of my faves.

Frankly, I can't imagine Tom Sarbeck having difficulty reading anything he pleases.

Thank you, arch, but I'm having difficulty with general relativity.

With the math? Because I certainly can't imagine you having any trouble grasping the concept. I do recall that you have a math background, which I admittedly do not - is that what it is?

Actually, I loved higher math and did quite well at it, but then life got in the way, and I took another direction - last month, my grandson asked me to help him with his elementary Algebra, and I was lost - it had all gone away!

I was studying physics, intending to do low temperature work, and realized that my BA in math wasn't enough. Happily, I had enough math to persuade a company working on NASA's Apollo Project to hire me.

I got special relativity. It was fun imagining myself moving fast enough to see a red shift-like effect with light moving in the same direction. I didn't need the math.

I've just started Andrew Thomas' Hidden in Plain Sight: The simple link between relativity and quantum mechanics. It ain't simple and I haven't gotten to the math yet.

If he has truly shown a link then he should get a Nobel prize.

I wonder if it is even possible to reason with a theist who believes, today, that the sun revolves around the earth.  Yes, that is taking place folks: today, Christians are reading the Bible and saying, "The Bible clearly states that the sun revolves around Earth, and not what science 'wants' us to believe."  Here's the proof (I had difficulty believing such ignorance could exist in our modern world, but it's catching on) Bible Forum.  I am not a member of that forum, but a friend of mine mentioned that there is a growing number of theists who are reclaiming the geocentric model of our solar system/universe.  I was dumbfounded so I had to see it for myself.  Needless to say, I am ashamed of such ignorance.

Maybe now, Barry, you can begin to understand why we bang our heads against walls and computer screens as often as we do - here's your badge, attach it to your banging point of choice --

BAHAHAHA!!!  Thanks, Arch.

Just think of it as, 'hands across the chasm' --

Can we just put them on an island and see what happens? Oh wait, I already know how that ends.

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