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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Sorry, I lost the second half of my post. I was saying that I do think making the argument that true beliefs are more beneficial than false ones is important, even though it may prove difficult.

I remember a discussion many years ago about hypothetical societies with selfish and altruistic people in them. In this model, the more altruistic a society was, the more successful. So the most successful societies would be almost completely altruistic. In such a society, selfish individuals would flourish, and by doing so, make the society less altruistic, and less successful.

We discussed a couple possible outcomes in this scenario. One, the selfish societies would ultimately fail against more altruistic ones, or , two, societies would reach some sort of equilibrium, much like we see in preditor/prey populations in the wild.

Anyway, I guess I'm just trying to show that the whole "truth is good" idea is not so simple. But I also have to admit playing the devil's advocate here, because I fundamentally do believe truth is good, and in fact critical to our success as a species at this juncture. Also, from a purely scientific POV, we cannot make that simple assumption, that a true belief is necessarily more adaptive than a delusional one. It may in fact be true, but we have to prove it.
However, even in this case I would argue that although the placebo effect may have short-term benefits for diseases with a psychogenic component, the actual inefficacy of the treatment will produce more harm than good. The false belief becomes harmful if the sugar pill becomes the patient's primary source of treatment and they refuse actual treatment.


Perth's Penelope Dingle, the wife of prominent Perth environmental and nutritional toxicologist Peter Dingle, agreed to be treated with alternative therapies and refused to have surgery to remove the cancer soon after she was diagnosed in 2003.

Instead, she adhered to a strict diet and regular homeopath treatments before becoming so unwell she had to have emergency surgery to remove a bowel obstruction.

By this stage, the cancer had spread and two years later, in 2005, Dingle died from complications of the cancer.

Giving evidence at Dingle's inquest yesterday before West Australian Coroner Alastair Hope, her sister Toni Brown said seeing Dingle in 2003 was like watching "somebody being tortured".
Love the concept... not sure I'd like atheism to be considered "the wolf", though I see why you'd use the title. Unless, of course, you highlighted how superior wolves actually are to sheep! Sheep are clearly mindless followers while wolves are strategic and intelligent. And it would be funny to see a dumb sheep attempting to be a wolf; it would be painfully obvious to the wolves that this particular "wolf" was a fraud, but perhaps it wouldn't be so obvious to the other dumb sheep that the sheep was a fraud.

So yeah... as long as you put wolves in a positive light, I think the title is very effective :D
Good call, Cara; I had not necessarily thought about the negativity implied by painting atheists as "wolves." I guess that I was just so caught up in my own negative perception of theists as "sheep" that I was oblivious to the corresponding negative connotation of "wolf." Hmm...I think that I can make it work so long as I include positive references to the wolves, or maybe just play up the negative aspect of mindless sheep so that the wolves are positive simply by comparison, lol.

Thanks for catching that. :D
"I see Cupp's quest for faith as an utterly predictable prologue to her inevitably forthcoming "How I found Jesus" book, and fundamentally antithetical to the entire position of atheism."

That's exactly what I'e felt about this person since I first saw her, If she's an atheist, then I'm a fish.
I defended her claims that she is an atheist, and still will give her the benefit of doubt, but I must admit that everything I've heard from her so far indicates that this really is just a big play to rake in the money from the religuos.

As for theists being delusional - although I don't like saying it to people's faces, and usually don't on my own accord, if asked I'd never try to pretend that isn't exactly what I think.
As for theists being delusional - although I don't like saying it to people's faces, and usually don't on my own accord, if asked I'd never try to pretend that isn't exactly what I think.

I agree, Jānis, I would be lying if I said that I had no problem calling religious people "delusional" right to their faces. I know many theists personally and I am not sure that I could directly confront their irrational beliefs without irreparably damaging familial relationships. Were I to be directly confronted with the question myself, I am unsure how I would answer if certain family members were present.

However, I do not advertise myself as an atheist. S. E. Cupp is actively marketing herself as an atheist; "the atheist who defends religious" is the cornerstone of her hook to sell her books. Therefore, I feel that she has absolutely no excuse to avoid expressing the truth about the atheistic platform. Atheism holds that religious beliefs--all of which are rooted in the existence of a God--are delusions. If Cupp does not agree with this, then she is not an atheist. If she does agree but simply lacks the backbone to say this in public, then she should not be advertising herself as an atheist.
No. They are all delusional. From the liberal ones all the way to Fred Phelps. Every single one of them is suffering from mental illness and should seek professional psychiatric help immediately. It's time we got off the fence and quit pandering to these willfully ignorant people. It isn't that there might be a god. There is no god. Period. End of story. Move on...
My sentiments too Al
Jonathon Miller stated in an interview 'I do not like to be called an atheist for it is not worth having a name for such a trival notion, the notion of a god, and the idea of letting it have a title is absured, for you do not give a title to those who don't believe in witches'. He then quickly passed on to answering the next question as obviously he felt no more words were needed.
Great quote, Elaine. :)
I agree with Miller's sentiment. It should be absurd to carry a label for what you don't do or don't believe. Where I differ from Miller is that the reality of deeply religious societies do not make it absurd at all. He makes a fallacious argument with the non-belief of witches. Most people do not believe in witches whereas most people do believe in God. That is the difference and it is not a trivial one.

I proudly carry the atheist label because it is useful and not absurd at all given my whereabouts. What is absurd, and maybe Miller would agree and then call me a pedant, is that it is absurd that the label is useful and meaningful.

When belief in God drops to the same level as beleif in witches, I will find the atheist label less meaningful and stick to one that truly defines me; Skeptic.


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