A question came up in the comments section of this video that I think is a good one for the T|A community to discuss. For myself, I'm not sure what to think about it yet and have resigned myself to ponder it some more. But I would love to get feedback from the smart and witty people that make up the T|A community.


The question?


Is it defensible for an atheist to say that religious beliefs are not delusions?


It stems from Shine saying that right wing atheist S.E. Cupp (if you haven't heard of Cupp before, you are in for a treat) not wanting to admit to Bill Maher that religious people are delusional.  Shine says that "she cannot logically claim to be an atheist if she does not think that religious beliefs are delusions. If she does not think that religious beliefs are delusions, I think that she is necessarily inferring that these assertions are justified. She may say, "I don't believe in God," but she also says that she does not think that people who do believe in God are delusional. A delusion is a false belief. Because Cupp will not identify religious beliefs as delusions, she is then saying that those beliefs are not false".


Shine makes a pretty good point.  What do you folks think?

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First of all, I agree. If a person is "truly" atheist, then they would see the practices of religion to be rooted in delusion. SE Cupps should not admire Bush for calling on a Higher Power before he goes to bed at night if she doesn't believe one exists! I find no comfort in picturing the leader of my country talking to leprechauns at night! I'd find it downright disturbing and frightening, and I think Cupps should view intercessory prayer with the same sort of aversion. If there is no Higher Power, then Bush would do much better to sit in the Oval Office and ruminate over the problems facing the country without consulting his imaginary friend.

I think us admitting we think theists are delusional is the same as them admitting they believe we're going to Hell. Sometimes Christians worry about offending people if they openly reveal they think the nonbeliever is going to Hell; if pressed, however, they will sheepishly admit it, "Well, yes... I do believe you're going to Hell..." They might follow it up by saying they're in no place to judge whether you deserve to go to Hell; it's God's place to make that decision.

So, when pressed, I think atheists would or should (however sheepishly) admit they view believers as delusional. Maybe Cupps could have found a more PC way of framing it. But she doesn't; rather, she envies those with faith and admires those who pray. That does not sound like someone who does not believe in God.
Maybe Cupps could have found a more PC way of framing it. But she doesn't; rather, she envies those with faith and admires those who pray.

I agree. I could understand her wanting to use different terminology if she thought that "delusional" was too harsh, but instead she just rejects the concept entirely. I really wish that Maher had pressed her on the issue; I would love to see if she would at least say that theists are "wrong." If she cannot say that theists are wrong in their belief in God, then she is necessarily condoning their beliefs as correct and thereby confirming her own belief.
I think us admitting we think theists are delusional is the same as them admitting they believe we're going to Hell.

Nice comparison, Cara!

So, when pressed, I think atheists would or should (however sheepishly) admit they view believers as delusional.

Here is where I disagree, though. I don't think we need be pressed to admit that theists are delusional and when we do, I don't think it need be sheepish. We are ALL delusional in one degree or another. It is part of the human condition and experience that we all share. The difference is that some of us care to reduce our delusions and acquaint ourselves better with reality.
Well, I'm not exactly recommending atheists be sheepish when pressed; I was just thinking they might have the same hesitation to declare they thought Christians were delusional the way (some) Christians hesitate to declare a nonbeliever is going to Hell. I have very boldly told my mother I thought she was delusional! It didn't go over very well, but... you know, I certainly wouldn't be hesitant to tell someone that's what I thought if they really wanted to know.

:)
Fair enough. I may have missed the point of your post; don't be a dick. ;-)

And, yeah, I have called my mother delusional before, too. She feigns headaches and fatigue to avoid any discussion in these areas.
Cupps perplexes me. She has so much respect for religious belief that I have difficuly believing the sincerity of her atheism. In her interview with Bill Maher, she disagrees that teaching children creationism ought to be considered child abuse. What if a parent consistently taught their child that if they didn't clean their room, a hideous beast (that said parent vividly described) would come out of their closet at night and eat them? This teaching gave the trusting child a huge sense of fear and anxiety, particularly about cleanliness. This may be something that this child, growing into adulthood, will continue to carry with them. Most people would not condone this type of parenting style. It's just plain MEAN. Isn't the threat of hellfire and damnation a bit of an ugly threat to teach your child "morals"?

Cupps also wouldn't admit that wars across the globe are generally initiated thanks to religious disputes. She blamed it on land disputes or political reasons. What kind of happy place is her mind? By the end of that little interview, I was beginning to think she was delusional, too, and I was sad that she was up there as a representative for our views.
Cupps also wouldn't admit that wars across the globe are generally initiated thanks to religious disputes. She blamed it on land disputes or political reasons.

Most wars are resource or political disputes, right? I think it is rare that a nation is taken to war for purely ideological reasons. Maybe what Cupp won't admit that I disagree with is the role religion plays in promoting the war to and then exploiting the support of the masses.
Most countries' politics is implicitly tied up in their religions. They are difficult to disentangle. Land disputes are often religiously linked. Wars in other countries are really a combination of these factors, rather than just one or the other.
I guess it's all a matter of where you draw the line on belief. I don't feel that a person who believes in aliens is delusional. I do feel that a person who feels they are able to regularly communicate with aliens is delusional. A person who believes in a god because such a belief gives them comfort is no more delusional than a person who likes to believe that the greater good will always prevail. On the other hand, if you really feel like 'the big guy' is looking over your shoulder right now, then I would have to call that a delusion. I guess that in my opinion it's OK to believe in something just because you want to do so but it crosses the delusional line when you can no longer differentiate between what you want to believe and objective reality.
it crosses the delusional line when you can no longer differentiate between what you want to believe and objective reality....

Heather you are so right. Said in one sentence. I just wonder if any religious denomination would discuss their beliefs as we do on this site.
I think not. Although if they did I think they would refer to their bible and pick out things that to them say of course what they say is the truth.
The definition of psychotic is: unable to differentiate between fantasy and reality.
Excellent point, Heather. It really does come down to a matter of degree. Some theists are more delusional than others. I know of some atheists that are more delusional than many theists. Despite being a hardcore Skeptic, I would never say that I am delusion free. We all have them to one degree or another. But there is a big difference between believing that you are a witty conversationalist at cocktail parties and believing that a god will cure your child of appendicitis.

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