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If Theism isn't a Delusion, Then What Is It?

#35: Jan. - Mar. 2007 (Non-Fiction)
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Chris OConnor

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If Theism isn't a Delusion, Then What Is It?

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If Theism isn't a Delusion, Then What Is It?From Austin Cline's About.com Guide to Agnosticism / AtheismReligious theists, including Christians, commonly react negatively and defensively if their theism is described as a "delusion." This is understandable because a delusion can be type of, or a symptom of, a mental illness. No one wants to think that of themselves, especially with respect to something so fundamental to their lives. We cannot dismiss the "delusion" label simply because people don't like it, however. Instead, we must look at whether belief in a god fits the standard definition. Read More...Read the comments to the article too. One reader said:Quote:I suspect that this issue wouldn't be coming up if the "deluded" would just keep their "faith" to themselves. By keeping it front and center, and in our "faces" so much of the time, they've made us examine and identify it
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Re: If Theism isn't a Delusion, Then What Is It?

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So the common argument against religion being a delusion is that it's a popular belief, and that it does not always negatively affect people's lives?I don't think either of those were part of the delusion definition.Later
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Re: If Theism isn\'t a Delusion, Then What Is It?

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Frank, that\'s because there isn\'t really a definition for delusion. It means whatever the speaker wants it to mean most of the time.Generally, something is thought of as being a delusion if it is an uncommon perception, which brings into focus the fact that when people speak of reality, they generally speak of a bunch of things the vast majority of people agree about. Full of Porn*http://plainofpillars.blogspot.com
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Re: If Theism isn\'t a Delusion, Then What Is It?

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Quote:NiallFrank, that\'s because there isn\'t really a definition for delusion. It means whatever the speaker wants it to mean most of the time.Generally, something is thought of as being a delusion if it is an uncommon perception, which brings into focus the fact that when people speak of reality, they generally speak of a bunch of things the vast majority of people agree about.I thought it meant...A persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence, especially as a symptom of psychiatric disorder.
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Re: If Theism isn\'t a Delusion, Then What Is It?

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So by that, to say that Copernicus/Galileo's heliocentric model of the universe was delusional in their respective times was a valid stance? So is delusion then measured by a groups ability to marshal evidence in support of an idea? And lack of evidence to support an otherwise correct idea is a delusion?Mr. P. I'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana Boditharta (former booktalk troll)The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.What is all this shit about Angels? Have you heard this? 3 out of 4 people believe in Angels. Are you F****** STUPID? Has everybody lost their mind? - George CarlinI came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy PiperEdited by: misterpessimistic  at: 3/28/07 6:09 pm
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Re: If Theism isn\'t a Delusion, Then What Is It?

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Quote:Mr. PSo by that, to say that Copernicus/Galileo's helicentric model of the universe was delusional in their respective times was a valid stance? So is delusion then measured by a groups ability to marshal evidence in support of an idea? And lack of evidence to support an otherwise correct idea is a delusion?Absolutely especially if the believers are nuts!Later
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Re: If Theism isn\'t a Delusion, Then What Is It?

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Quote:So by that, to say that Copernicus/Galileo's helicentric model of the universe was delusional in their respective times was a valid stance? So is delusion then measured by a groups ability to marshal evidence in support of an idea? And lack of evidence to support an otherwise correct idea is a delusion?Well, it all depends on who is talking and when. A delusion is usually what we consider a false perception. Of course, in order to decide what is a false perception, we have to know what a true perception is. That is pretty difficult, given that we don't have direct access to reality. We have only perceptions. The notion that delusion can somehow be measured by one's ability to find evidence that supports the belief is crude. First, you have to agree upon the criteria of what constitutes evidence. And there in lies the problem. It is about agreement.Now that is not to say that we should not say that Crazy Sally who claims to be a Martian clone of Barbara Bush can not be regarded as delusional in the every day sense. Generally, we tend to agree on the criteria for when it is prudent to regard somebody as delusional. However, we, and by we, I mean humanity, generally do not think that it the criteria we use in a situation the one I just mentioned can be used in every situation. Otherwise, we would be lumping you two fine gents in the same boat as Crazy Sally because you are unable to prove that an objective reality exists or that your perceptions correspond to it. Delusion is just a word. It's not something out there. It's an opinion. Now we can agree upon a practical framework for treating people as though they were delusional, but when it comes down to it, it is an agreement, even when unspoken. It applies where there is agreement. Now you can take the term delusional, and apply the criteria used for judging an individual delusional in one setting in an area where it is not normally used, but don't expect people to accept your findings. That is what you are doing if you use the Crazy Sally criteria when assessing Theism. It amounts to little more than a word game, because few people accept the foundations upon which your judgements are based.I'm leaving it at that, because my time is short and I think that there are threads that interest me more. Full of Porn*http://plainofpillars.blogspot.com
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Re: If Theism isn\'t a Delusion, Then What Is It?

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Quote:given that we don't have direct access to realityWhat is 'direct access' then? I would say our senses are pretty direct. I am a little tired of the totally made up assumption that somehow, we are so isolated from reality and that our senses are just not good enough!!That is just a way to obfuscate any real inquiry into the world around us. It slaps doubt upon anything we can possibly present as evidence and keeps the door wide open for superstitious and religious ways. I'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana Boditharta (former booktalk troll)The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.What is all this shit about Angels? Have you heard this? 3 out of 4 people believe in Angels. Are you F****** STUPID? Has everybody lost their mind? - George CarlinI came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper
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Re: If Theism isn\'t a Delusion, Then What Is It?

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Quote:NiallIt applies where there is agreement. Now you can take the term delusional, and apply the criteria used for judging an individual delusional in one setting in an area where it is not normally used, but don't expect people to accept your findings. That is what you are doing if you use the Crazy Sally criteria when assessing Theism.So we are back to the "it's a common belief so it's not delusional" defense, even though the criteria is the same as crazy sally's. It seems like the only ones playing slippery word games around here are the theists.Later
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Re: If Theism isn\'t a Delusion, Then What Is It?

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misterpessimistic: What is 'direct access' then?In terms of the 4000 year old debate over epistemology, direct access is a requirement for knowing a thing as it is, not as it appears. All of our senses are indirect. Sight doesn't encompass the thing itself, but rather interprets the light reflected from an object. That involves several levels of removal from the object itself. For instance, if light is reflected from an object in an unaccustomed way (unaccustomed, that is, to us), then it may result in a distorted perception of the thing -- as with the foreshortening of an image viewed through water.Another level of removal rests with the actual mechanism of our sensory organs. The eye receives images by use of a photo-sensitive chemical that reacts by producing a chemical signal to the brain. That signal can go wrong in a number of ways, and even when it's functioning properly, there are limitations to what it can receive and translate. Moreover, biologically speaking, it's a very specific tool -- not only is it only geared for one form of perception (you can't hear with your eye), but it's only geared for particular applications of that perception (eg. we can't see infrared, even though it's a visual phenomenon).And at a third remove, all of our visual perceptions are conditioned at the cognitive level. We only see a chair because we've been culturally conditioned to recognize a thing as a chair. It's easy to see that at work with a cultural artifact like a chair, but it's debatable whether or not we'd intuitively arrive at a category like, say, red. In fact, other cultures categorize color in different ways, such that they'd find our distinction between green and blue difficult to understand without a great deal of practice.Those are three levels of remove operative in every visual observation we make. That doesn't mean that sight is useless, but keeping these things in mind does check our hubris to some degree.I am a little tired of the totally made up assumption that somehow, we are so isolated from reality and that our senses are just not good enough!!They're patently not good enough for some tasks, and I think you'd recognize as much if you thought about it. If they were good enough, we wouldn't have had to extend our senses with the objects of scientific technology, like the microscope or the x-ray. And while those tools have been incredibly useful, we'd do well to remember that they put our senses at a further remove. If the naked eye is indirect to a power of three (because of the three removes I listed above) then an observation made through a microscope is indirect to a power of four. That's four levels at which things could go wrong.The question implicit in this whole thread -- and to some degree, in this forum as a whole -- is whether or not there are some things that our senses, even extended by our tools, are insufficient to perceive with any confidence.It slaps doubt upon anything we can possibly present as evidence and keeps the door wide open for superstitious and religious ways.I'd say it's healthy to maintain some doubt. Without that doubt, the thing you consider knowledge moves closer and closer to being religion in its own right. I'm perfectly content in supposing that modern science is right about the evolutionary origin of humanity, but I don't hold it as certain beyond a doubt. And on a more personal level, I feel pretty safe in assuming that the floor of my second story apartment is as solid as it looks, but I still leave room for doubt on the matter.
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