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Current time: August 16, 2022, 7:03 pm

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When is a Religious Belief Delusional?
#1
When is a Religious Belief Delusional?
From the tail end of another thread…

Quote:Whether or not a theist's perceptions of God represent a "delusion" (in the sense of being a firmly maintained yet irrational belief) was the conversation I was interested in having.

So I say, lets have that conversation.

Let me first say that, as a Christian, this is very difficult conversation to not take personally. ‘Delusion’ has a very negative connotation, even when used colloquially. For many Christians, and I suppose believers in general, their religious convictions are central to their identity and serve as the core around which their values and principles develop. Having it maligned is perceived as dismissive and disrespectful.

At the same time, sincere and thoughtful believers are very much aware that there are seriously disturbed people who truly believe supernatural entities have directed them to do dangerous and/or heinous acts (a mother drowning her three children in a bathtub because she thought they were demons, comes to mind). For a non-believer, to lump mainstream Christians in with people who are clearly mentally ill and failing to acknowledge various safe guards (that are by no means infallible) built into religious traditions, is at best IMHO thoughtless and at worst offensive and provocative.

So for the purposes of this conversation, I will assume that ‘delusion’ is being used moderately by atheists, not indicative of actual mental illness, but rather as something that hinders reasoning. As such, what criteria must be met for a belief to qualify as a delusion? Some I have heard some of the following proposed and with which I agree:

- Unquestionable certainty.
- Resistance to scrutiny.
- Contrary to what is demonstrably false.

That said, the devil is in the details. My initial question to atheists is this. How do you justify the claim that all religious beliefs, or those most commonly held, satisfy the above criteria (or others you may propose that are not listed)?

For believers, I also raise the issue of how one can examine one’s own beliefs and those of others to avoid the above criteria. I alluded to safe-guards commonly found within religious traditions. Some of those are as follows:

- The predictions of a prophet must be 100% accurate.
- If someone feels called by God to a specific course of action and it violates Scripture then it didn’t come from God.
- If a personal revelation contradicts the clear teaching of the tradition it is not valid.
- To the extent that the ‘inspired’ behavior seems extreme or overtly dangerous the more clearly it should align with Scriptural teachings. For example, missionary work can be very dangerous and may require great personal sacrifice and yet it is very clearly justified by the Great Commission.
- Is the belief motivated by sincere love and concern for others or does it appear grounded in fear or deny the humanity of others?

That’s all I have for now but I think it sufficient.

(Full disclosure, I will be away most of Labor Day weekend and will not directly participate initially. Nevertheless, I am very interested in what people have to say and seeing where the discussion leads in the first few days. In other word, don’t be surprised if I appear to have dropped-out entirely.)
<insert profound quote here>
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#2
RE: When is a Religious Belief Delusional?
Always.

It isn't that most of our 7 billion are bad people, it is simply that most humans get sold the mythology of their parents long before they can form adult critical thinking skills. Our species was not handed our behaviors from a sky wizard. There is no man in a cape battling a guy with a pitchfork over the neurons in one's brain trying to get us to do good or bad.

God belief is nothing more than our species own projections of our qualities in the form of non existent beings.
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#3
RE: When is a Religious Belief Delusional?
Another bullshit thread by Wooter filled with snark and empty babbling 

Yawn  Dodgy
Seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy -- myself.

Inuit Proverb

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#4
RE: When is a Religious Belief Delusional?
It almost has to be delusional by definition, or else it wouldn’t be called religious. It would just be a regular belief that would be expected to correlate with reality and have evidence behind it.
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#5
RE: When is a Religious Belief Delusional?
When it exceeds the boundaries of rational justification, contravenes evidence to the contrary, and is strongly preferred over any reality in which it would be false..by those afflicted.
I am the Infantry. I am my country’s strength in war, her deterrent in peace. I am the heart of the fight… wherever, whenever. I carry America’s faith and honor against her enemies. I am the Queen of Battle. I am what my country expects me to be, the best trained Soldier in the world. In the race for victory, I am swift, determined, and courageous, armed with a fierce will to win. Never will I fail my country’s trust. Always I fight on…through the foe, to the objective, to triumph overall. If necessary, I will fight to my death. By my steadfast courage, I have won more than 200 years of freedom. I yield not to weakness, to hunger, to cowardice, to fatigue, to superior odds, For I am mentally tough, physically strong, and morally straight. I forsake not, my country, my mission, my comrades, my sacred duty. I am relentless. I am always there, now and forever. I AM THE INFANTRY! FOLLOW ME!
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#6
RE: When is a Religious Belief Delusional?
I don't really use that term that much myself, because it does tend to be associated with mental illness. I don't think that most Theists are mentally ill or that their beliefs are the equivalent to mental illness except in the most extreme cases.

That being said, if you get real technical about it, all supernatural belief is delusional. You are literally deluding yourself about the natural world to one degree or another.

I'd probably use softer language myself and simply say that they were wrong about the natural world. I can't know the motives of every atheist who uses the word deluded, but I'd imagine that it's either used to piss off Theists with strong language or used simply because it's in the Atheist sphere of thought as something to say about the is.

I mean, if you use it in a strict sense as basically synonym for being wrong, we are all deluded about something.
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#7
RE: When is a Religious Belief Delusional?
Meh, fuck em, a compulsion to use softer language is just another example of undue deference to a tradition that has been browbeating the shit out of people (and worse) since it's inception.

I suppose I could coddle believers, like fragile children...but I'm not sure that's an instance of showing respect.
I am the Infantry. I am my country’s strength in war, her deterrent in peace. I am the heart of the fight… wherever, whenever. I carry America’s faith and honor against her enemies. I am the Queen of Battle. I am what my country expects me to be, the best trained Soldier in the world. In the race for victory, I am swift, determined, and courageous, armed with a fierce will to win. Never will I fail my country’s trust. Always I fight on…through the foe, to the objective, to triumph overall. If necessary, I will fight to my death. By my steadfast courage, I have won more than 200 years of freedom. I yield not to weakness, to hunger, to cowardice, to fatigue, to superior odds, For I am mentally tough, physically strong, and morally straight. I forsake not, my country, my mission, my comrades, my sacred duty. I am relentless. I am always there, now and forever. I AM THE INFANTRY! FOLLOW ME!
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#8
RE: When is a Religious Belief Delusional?
Quote:- Unquestionable certainty.
- Resistance to scrutiny.
- Contrary to what is demonstrably false.

That said, the devil is in the details. My initial question to atheists is this. How do you justify the claim that all religious beliefs, or those most commonly held, satisfy the above criteria (or others you may propose that are not listed)?

I have had conversations with theists (real life as well as online) in which I was told, in so many words, 'I don't care what your evidence is - God is real to me.'  This strikes me as satisfying the three criteria list: If a person avows to hold to a belief irrespective of evidence presented, that particular person is delusional in their religious belief.

Let's take, by way of example, possibly the common core belief of all varieties of Christianity, and well as more than a few other religions: God loves us and wants us to be happy. 

Unquestionable Certainty  I don't think it is unfair to say that people who hold this belief hold it with unquestionable certainty.  If fact, it they doubted that God loved them, or were to even admit that possibility that God didn't love them, they would likely abandon their religion, or even abandon religion in toto.

Resistance to Scrutiny  No one likes having their core beliefs questioned, that's pretty plain. But if you asked someone to justify how they know God loves them, they'll almost always give an answer that shows they haven't examined this belief closely ('I feel His love in my heart' or 'God loves me because God IS love'), or they'll get upset with you for even asking the question (I've had this experience more than once).
Contrary To What Is Demonstrably False  I think you may have misworded this one.  I'm going to assume you meant 'Contrary to what is demonstrably true'.  A lot of claimed miracles (weeping/bleeding statues, spontaneous stigmata, the blood of St Januarius, etc) have been demonstrated to be deliberate frauds, or to at least have more prosaic explanation that Divine intervention. Yet people still believe in them.

Boru
‘Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson
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#9
RE: When is a Religious Belief Delusional?
To the degree that the believer insists that their belief in the divine is on the same level as or even stronger than their belief in the solidity of the surface on which they stand, they are basically engaging in self hypnosis to willfully install and elevate a belief which cannot earn its place in the usual manner. They are deliberately deluding themselves.

On the other hand, a believer who recognizes they have insufficient means to convince an intelligent, fair minded third person but chooses to believe anyway for reasons they can articulate is certainly not delusional.
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#10
RE: When is a Religious Belief Delusional?
OP: To you most of the religious are not delusional because their beliefs and actions comply with the belief system. When the occasional believer is identified that does not comply with the belief system (i.e. Jim Jones/extreme example, Joseph Smith/less extreme) you then consider them delusional also.

Since atheists do not hold your belief system we have no choice to consider it anything other than delusion. You communicate with an invisible being (for which there is not concrete evidence) that created everything and watches over the creation all the while directing actions, proclaiming judgement's and imposing rewards/punishments. 

Religion is not considered delusional by most of society (at least in the US). That appears to be changing over time, even some beliefs within religions themselves.
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