Why Religious Belief is Not a Delusion

Why Religious Belief is Not a Delusion August 16, 2015

In circles of the secular community it is common to hear the passionate argument that “they” [persons with religious beliefs] are “delusional” and or/have a mental illness.  I’ve already described why religious belief is not a mental illness and we will cover in this article why delusion isn’t an accurate description of all religious beliefs in all people. The term “delusion” can be very murky so we will focus on the medical conceptualization of delusion.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders says “Delusions are fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in light of conflicting evidence […] Delusions are deemed bizarre if they are clearly implausible and not understandable to same-culture peers and do not derive from ordinary life experiences. […]” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The distinction between a delusion and a strongly held idea is sometimes difficult to make and depends in part on the degree of conviction with which the belief is held despite clear or reasonable contradictory evidence regarding its veracity. Although religious beliefs may be false, they are certainly commonly held beliefs in our culture. Additionally, it is vital to note how a delusion is only a delusion if there is sufficient evidence to prove otherwise. Since we cannot know for certain that there is no God, it seems intellectually dishonest to try to categorize such belief as a delusion.

Another case against the idea that religious beliefs are delusions can be found in critical evaluation of how religious concepts are experienced and explained in specific circumstances.  Psychiatrists are often asked to evaluate patients on an emergency basis when governments are concerned that an individual might be dangerous to themselves or others because of mental illness. Patients with belief systems not tied to underlying problems with their neurobiology (i.e. delusional disorders) often say about hearing voices – “that’s just part of my religion… I don’t really hear a voice… it’s like, my conscience; you know… my own voice…” when faced with possibly being hospitalized against their will. People who have genuine delusions will swear to the bitter end that they can use a chip in their brain to communicate with aliens or will go on believing John Lennon intends to marry them decades after he has been killed. Thus, there seems to be a clear distinction in delusions (actual breaks from reality) and willfully having a belief in a higher power. Those beliefs possibly offer some form of comfort to the believer. They are otherwise culturally bound, may lead to improved odds for tribal acceptance and thus health, welfare, and increased odds for reproduction.

We acknowledge that some people with religious beliefs are mentally ill and have psychotic disorders. Ensuring such people get quality medical care is vital to their health and to the welfare of society. It is not accurate, however, to call all religious beliefs delusion as people can believe in God and stand grounded in reality. Religion may involve some false beliefs facilitated by self-deception, but we all engage in self-deception at times as it can be healthy in moderation as a defense mechanism. Asking health care providersto “treat” religious belief sets a scary precedent. Tax funded programs like Medicaid and Medicare would become involved in treating this so called illness. Regulating what people can believe with formal persecution from the government would clearly lead to fascism. Imagine government run clinics where religion (or even atheism) is “treated.” The secular community has an obligation to point out the flaws and problems with religion without using medical terms as quick insults, which end up marginalizing those suffering from legitimate medical conditions and alienates potential religious allies.

I wrote this article with psychiatrist Herbert Harman MD. He completed medical school at The University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA and psychiatric residency training at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (part of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) in Pittsburgh, PA. He has spent the past ten years practicing psychiatry including four years as an active duty military psychiatrist and combat stress consultant as well as three years dedicated to conducting emergency psychiatric evaluations in the civilian world. He has recently moved to Oregon and enjoys dedicating time to supporting secular values and preserving a plural society.


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  • Since we cannot know for certain that there is no Santa Claus, would it be intellectually dishonest to try to categorize such belief as a delusion?

  • As someone who has been struggling with mental illness since childhood, I hate it when atheists say religion is a mental illness. Makes it sound like having a mental illness is something to be ashamed of.

    As far “theism is a delusion,” I think there’s a slight nuance that makes that particular argument not 100% accurate. Most people who believe in a god are ignorant (in the classic sense of the word, meaning “lack of knowledge,” not “stupid”) about how evolution and physics work. Yes, I know a lot of religious people understand evolution and physics, and that’s a good thing. But I’ve met a lot of religious people who honestly believe there is a god because a complete lack of knowledge about evolution, physics, and other sciences. Therefore, it’s not always delusion; most of the time it’s not knowing anything else.

    Does that make sense?

    • Yes it does make sense! If someone is brought up in a very religious community then it’s very understandable that they would share the beliefs of their peers.

      • ElRay

        But that’s still problematic.

        What about the homeless person that is homeless “by choice” because they believe that God/Jesus/The Holy Ghost wants them to live a minimally impacting lifestyle and recycle all the recyclable materials that society discards. Are they deluded? Are they clinically delusional?

        If a religious community kills a child for being “possessed” or allows them to die instead of receiving medical care, are the folks involved not guilty because they share the beliefs of their peers? Is this detachment from reality a delusion? Are they clinically delusional?

        If a Jainist wants to starve themselves to death, or a Heaven’s-Gate-like cult wants to kill themselves because they believe they will be rewarded, are they deluded? Are they clinically delusional?

        What’s the objective standard for a “widely held belief”? Is that number total adherents, or do you allow an exemption for very dense, isolated, but still small pockets?

        • Florian Almagest

          I suspect that religious people (at least the fundamentalist “true believers”; most others may indeed be simply ignorant or lying) are just as ready to classify believers in OTHER religions as delusional as atheists are ready to classify ALL believers in ANY religion as delusional. So I suspect that religious people have no leg to stand on when they criticise atheists for calling believers delusional.

          And no, “delusion” in the sense used here is not necessarily the same as a clinical mental illness. That said, the “collective neurosis” concept would make Freud share the blame heaped on atheists anyway. So I can’t really agree with the criticism of calling religious believers delusional.

    • Tobias 27772

      I can be ignorant of evolution and/or physics without substituting this delusional mythology to take its place. If you believe in a non-existent being then you are delusional.

      • Yeah, but what if you’ve been taught from birth that this delusion is reality? Aye, there’s the rub! (Not saying that religious indoctrination is a good thing, of course. Just saying there are lot of people who have been taught to believe in mythical beings from birth.)

        • Tobias 27772

          Agreed, but that does not make it any less delusional.

        • Retro

          No, the rub is that when you are presented evidence to the contrary or fail to provide any form of evidence of your own, the non-delusional person will stop believing.

          I was brought up in a French-Canadian Catholic family. I out grew the mythology that had been preached to me when I was very young and asking questions that family and church followers could neither answer or in fact tried to get me to stop asking.

          A child following these beliefs can be excused, an adult however, I believe that is a different case.

  • Tobias 27772

    “Delusions are fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in light of conflicting evidence”
    How does this not qualify a belief in a supernatural deity for which there is NO evidence as delusional ??

    • ElRay

      You’re not alone many atheists see that there truly aren’t any differences between an adult that believes modern mythologies are real, despite all the evidence to the contrary, and an adult that believes the Greek Pantheon is real and Zeus has given them a quest, Santa is real or that aliens traveling on comets will take our souls if we kill ourselves, etc. delusions. Yet, by definition, CLINICALLY DELUSIONAL excludes delusions that are “widely held beliefs”.

      Many atheist realize that the reality is that mythological beliefs are delusions, even if they don’t fit the definition of CLINICALLY DELUSIONAL and that adults that refuse to believe reality and stick to their mythological beliefs, despite being educated, are deluded, just as they would be if they refused to believe that their spouse was cheating on them despite the evidence.

      Many atheists realize that the exmption from the definition of CLINICALLY DELUSIONAL is nothing more than an “Appeal to Popularity” fallacy and if fewer christians and more Heaven’s Gate adherents existed, then christianity would be CLINICALLY DELUSIONAL and “aliens traveling on comets will take our souls if we kill ourselves” would not meet the definition of CLINICALLY DELUSIONAL.

      The problem comes in when apologists, overly pedantic fans of psychology, etc. want to mince words and say that adherents of mythological beliefs are not CLINICALLY DELUSIONAL, therefore you cannot call them deluded, their beliefs delusional, etc.. There’s two problems with this, (1) The folks that don’t know the difference between “being deluded” and CLINICALLY DELUSIONAL take the word-mincing to mean that their delusions are actually reality, and (2) The only reason mythological beliefs are not CLINICALLY DELUSIONAL is because CLINICALLY DELUSIONAL is defined to exclude mythological beliefs.

      The last point is like saying emu eggs aren’t eggs because eggs are defined to NOT have green shells. In this case, it doesn’t matter that emu eggs met every practical aspect of eggs, they are BY DEFINITION, not eggs. Religious/mythological beliefs are the same; they meet every practical aspect of delusions, but they don’t meet the CLINICAL definition of a delusion.

      The fact is: Adherents of mythology are deluded because they believe things that are contradicted by reality, and refuse to accept that when educated. Adherents are not CLINICALLY DELUSIONAL, because the definition excludes sufficiently popular/common (i.e. not all) religious/mythological beliefs.

      • Tobias 27772

        I take your point, however, I would give your arguments more weight if I were trying to have someone committed to a mental health facility because they were clinically delusional. However, I am referencing the common use of delusion to mean that one is full of shit and has no evidentary or rational reason to believe in their particular mythology. In common usage as it pertains to most atheist discussions (as discussed in the blog), I think my point stands.

        • ElRay

          Preaching to the choir here. I’m just explaining the position of the apologists, overly pedantic fans of psychology, word-mincers, etc.

          I think insisting that deluded/delusion only be used to mean “diagnosed as clinically delusion” and ignoring the colloquial uses of the words does more harm than good.

          This is NOT equivalent to explaining the difference between “small but statistically significant” vs. “large, but irrelevant” differences and “yes it appears to be going down right now, but over the long term the trend is rising” pedantry that seems to be needed a bit more often.

  • The only people that I dislike (light-heartedly, mind) more than Monday morning quarterbacks are armchair psychologists/psychiatrists. If you’re using the term “delusion” in the dictionary sense of “a belief that is not true”, I guess I can see it. However, if you’re trying to imply more specific medical ideas…you’re just doing a disservice to terms that are very real, and very concrete, and that have very real and concrete effects in people’s lives.

    I also think it does a disservice to those of us that leave religion and say, “Hey, religion was terrible for my mental health.” It almost seems to make it harder for people to take it seriously–especially those still in religious communities–because they think it’s just more hyperbole.

  • staircaseghost

    “The term ‘delusion’ can be very murky so we will focus on the medical conceptualization of delusion.”

    Why?

    • ElRay

      Because if you use the non-medical definition of deluded, delusions, etc. then religious adherents are indeed deluded and experience delusions.

      Despite being deluded and experiencing delusions, they are not CLINICALLY DELUSIONAL, because unlike being adamant that aliens living on a passing comet will take our souls with them if we kill ourselves, mythologies are “widely held” and “socially indoctrinated” beliefs, therefore they’re exempt from the label CLINICALLY DELUSIONAL.

      • staircaseghost

        That was my suspicion as well. I guess it’s OK to strawman someone as long as it’s done in service of showing how mean and awful and mean those awful mean gnu-atheists are.

      • Skeptical Calvanist

        Even if their beliefs are not widely held or socially indoctrinated, clinically delusional people can only be treated with medical care, while non-clinical delusional people are suffering from cognitive biases and processes that are common to us all. In the non-clinical, trivial sense, we are all delusional (though not all in the same way), theist and atheist alike. This is the nature of having to interpret reality through imperfect sense and imperfect cognitive faculties.

        Quite frankly, using the non-clinical standards, someone like Alvin Plantinga would argue that atheists are delusional because their unable to acknowledge the self evident existence of God. Since what we call reality is constructed in our minds and we view the world through the lenses of different worldviews, unless there is decisive evidence and argument that the religious believer is wrong, I don’t think it’s appropriate to call them delusional because they don’t change their mind to agree with us. Further, most theists are open to revising their beliefs in light of what they consider valid evidence and argument. This is why you won’t find many theists don’t hold the same religious beliefs at 70 as they did at 17. Just because they find the arguments of apologies convincing, or they assume that their side has a response to what you say but they don’t have time to look it up, or they don’t consider themselves smart enough to understand the argument, etc, doesn’t mean that they are unwilling or unable to reviser their believes. It just means that like most pragmatic humans, they only revise deeply held beliefs when they are appropriately convinced that all the people they trusted in their lives are wrong.

        There are some exceptions to what I say above about theists though. I think that some theists like Sye Ten Bruggengate, Van Til, Bahnsen and others in that hold similar presuppositional worldviews are properly considered delusional and deluded because they hold worldviews that render them completely impervious to evidence and argument. They aren’t open to argument and evidence. They have more in common with members of cults than with most religious believers, and on this ground I think it’s save to call them delusional in every sense of he word.

        • rationalobservations?

          Can you answer these questions with non-biblical evidence based answers?

          1) Can you refer to 1st century originated evidence of the life and times of a messiah claimant later Greek scribes employed by the 4th century Romans named “Jesus”?

          2) Can you name a complete bible text that dates prior to the oldest/first 4th century Codex Sinaiticus christer bible and that matches any complete text within the Codex Sinaiticus?

          3) Can you explain the almost endless differences between the oldest/first 4th century Codex Sinaiticus bible and those diverse and different christer bibles that followed it?

          4) Can you explain the confusion and internal contradiction, historical inaccuracies and scientific absurdity that is contained within all the diverse and different versions of christer bibles today?

          5) Can you explain the complete absence from Jewish literature of the Jewish prophesies that the god-man “Jesus” is claimed to have fulfilled?

          6) Can you explain why “Jesus” (according to the legends within bibles) fails to meet the specification of messiah that actually exists within Jewish literature and tradition?

          If you cannot answer those questions, will you as a result deduce (as many of us already have deduced) there is NO authentic, verified and verifiable evidence of the existence, life and times of a god-man 4th century Romans named “Jesus” within confused and internally contradictory legends written by anonymous humans long, long after the time in which those legends are set?

          Are you truly as “open minded” as you claim to be??

          • Skeptical Calvanist

            That’s irrelevant to whether or not religious people are generally delusional. The apologists have convinced many doubting Christians with their arguments. Failing to overcome confirmation bias doesn’t make you delusional in and of itself. It just makes them wrong.

          • rationalobservations?

            If you buy into a delusion, it makes you delusional.

  • ElRay

    Religious beliefs, like all mythological beliefs are indeed delusions; however, the adherents to theses delusions are not CLINICALLY DELUSIONAL because the definition of CLINICALLY DELUSIONAL excludes “widely held” and “socially indoctrinated” beliefs. So, just as young children believe in Santa and are not CLINICALLY DELUSIONAL, adults that believe in mythology, even though it contradicts with reality, are not CLINICALLY DELUSIONAL.

    That said, they are still deluded, because they adhere to beliefs that are contradicted by reality.

    • rationalobservations?

      Those who remain active members of any residual religious business form a rapidly dwindling minority within Europe. Fewer than 6% in most European countries.
      Belief in magic and super-spooks is dismissed by most Europeans as (as Albert Einstein called it:) childish superstition.

      Those who remain active members of any of the 200+ christer cults in the USA are also a dwindling minority according to average church attendance figures. Fewer than 30% are regular and frequent church goers.

      The concept of “widely held beliefs” may be increasingly questionable when it comes to the actual diminishing numbers engaged in the human institutions and meaningless rites and rituals of religion.

      • ElRay

        The “gotcha” is the “widely held beliefs” part. What’s the objective threshold? Is it totally believers? Is it a minimal geographical area? Is it a minimum believer density?

        If the percentages were reversed, would Heaven’s-Gate-Like suicide cults be non-clinically-dellusional, and christianity be clinically-delusional?

        Why is somebody who says “Ra, Zeus & Thor speak to me.” suffering from delusions, but somebody who says, “God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost speak to me.” not?

        That’s what the “don’t call religious (aka modern mythology) adherents delusional, because they aren’t, by definition, clinically delusional” apologists don’t address.

    • Johne Jarske

      Great comment, Elray! I was just preparing myself to reply this article, when I saw your comment! As a skeptic we have to take care of all sort of distortion. The above article is trying to criticise the Richard Dawkins’s words, simply distorting them.

    • Kip

      Great reply. You also highlighted the fact that believing in a heavenly reward of 72 virgins for blowing up 100 innocent children is NO more or less delusional than believing a man walked on water. Something, I’m sure, most christians find almost impossible to accept.

    • Speaking of delusions, the greatest delusion of all is the atheist delusion that everything in existence is solely the result of “vastly improbable” undirected chance cosmic events and unguided “blind” natural processes: For which there exists no “verifiable scientific answer” to this very day. All based on the mindless belief that the unproven “blind faith” atheistic religious assumptions are true. Of course, we all know what we call “vastly improbable” events for which there is “no verifiable scientific answer”. They are called “magic” and “miracles”. The problem for the atheist is that all these “vastly improbable” miracles happening without a miracle worker anywhere to be found in the universe: Which all theists would have to concede is “really miraculous”. Indeed, the atheistic worldview amounts to believing the unbelievable, and thinking the unthinkable. In comparison, the theistic worldview is a mere walk in the park.

      • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

        And that is the trouble, johnny boy, it’s a simple walk in the park. But awe and mystery and nature and animals are all astounding amazing things… it’s just that we don’t see a need to ascribe all the beauty, joy and majesty to a supreme being, any more than we ascribe all the pain, misery, intolerance, bigotry and hatred to a supreme being. We look to ourselves… human beings… for that. And we try to overcome these things by looking within ourselves and seeking forward-thinking answers (be they artistic, rational, logical, poetic). The trouble with the ‘walk in the park’ is that it makes for flabby, un-energetic and out of shape thinking… that resists anything more strenuous or taxing. Some serious mental and moral hard work is required once you remove ‘supreme being’ as an explanation. So enjoy your ‘walk in the park’… but please allow us a more vigorous playground of life.

  • lovesalot

    You have correctly reported what the DSM says about this. You would get an A on the test.

    Some further thoughts: The DSM has, throughout its history of revisions, been a controversial and much-disputed description, written by committee. The various editions have contradicted one another. Homosexuality is no longer a disorder. New disorders have been added to each revision. The DSM has changed as understanding of reality has progressed. The DSM is an ever-changing map of the territory; it is not the territory.

    We are all blinded by our immersion in a culture. The beliefs of cult members (such as followers of Jim Jones) were commonly held within their sub-cultures (the sub-culture of the cult). When does folie a deux become folie a beaucoup?

    Edited for clarity.

    • Crowtalk

      An acquaintance of a friend of mine is on the DSM committee. He says to pay no attention to it.

  • pixeloid

    I think when people say religious people are delusional or mentally ill they’re referring to one type of person in particular: fundamentalists. Fundamentalists truly ARE delusional and dangerous. Their fanaticism combined with their delusional beliefs are a real danger to society, even the ones that don’t become full-blown terrorists.

    • chuckmc29

      Agreed. Fundamentalist snake handlers probably are a good example of delusional. Even though many have been bitten and have died, they believe they will survive with no medical intervention and continue this absurd activity.

      • I really cannot agree with this. God belief and the fallacious and dangerous dogmas that it generates are blatant lies, while the whole concept is a huge hoax on mankind. I cannot and will not be soft on anyone that wants to or needs to continue to promote this hoax on mankind when they do not have to.
        It is everyone’s duty in the 21st century to attain a sufficient level of education to be able to differentiate between fact and fiction.

        • Bryon Miller

          In my response to this post I broke the religious into 3 status positions, liers, ignorant and delusional. The vast majority are liers, next are ignorant and the smallest and least offencive in my opinion are delusional. Liers are knowingly disseminating garbage and are worthy of our contempt. ignorance in this day and age is lazy and inexcusable and also worthy of contempt. The delusional are mentally ill and should be treated as such. They are worthy of our compassion. Chuckmc29’s reference is to the mentally ill and should be treated as delusional and as a danger to themselves and others.

      • Bryon Miller

        Those are prime examples of delusional folk. They are in possession of the facts, poison kills, yet they continue to play with snakes. Delusional.

  • dluch

    if i claimed that i spoke with invisible aliens hovering in a space ship above me and guiding my actions & believed they would swoop me off this planet at any moment – you’d say i was crazy.
    If i had 10 people who were believing the same thing, you’d say it was a cult
    If i had thousands believing this you’d say it was a false religion
    If YOU believed it, you say it was the one – true religion

  • AxePilot

    You say potAto, I say potato! It’s like the “faith” argument…

  • rationalobservations?

    I had to laugh when the author of this article of logic and evidence free diatribe quotes from a medical encyclopedia and thinks that the definition somehow does not apply to those in thrall to one business of religion., or another.

    Quote: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders says “Delusions are fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in light of conflicting evidence […] Delusions are deemed bizarre if they are clearly implausible and not understandable to same-culture peers and do not derive from ordinary life experiences.”

    There is no extant 1st century evidence that supports the confused and contradictory legends within the oldest (4th century originated) christian bible.

    There is no extant 1st century evidence that supports the diverse and different confused and contradictory content of human authored bibles that appear after the first 4th century originated christian bible.

    Lets see: “Delusions are fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in light of conflicting evidence..”

    Sounds like a clear definition of the delusion of religious blind faith??

    • twinbeech2

      Amen!

    • marisapiens

      I am 100% with you.
      One has to laugh in view of attempts such as this, to appease the religious
      fanatics. Why do that? They don’t even have the –let’s call it a courtesy- of calling
      us ‘deluded’ and as such, stop discriminating against anyone who does not believe
      as they do. From holding a public office is one.

  • rodpsteffens

    Freud put it quite acdurately a long time ago: Religion is a collective neurosis, like nazism, communism and other curses human have imposed on themselves. Stop tying to invent a humanistic religion! In theory Buddhism is humanistic, though the practice of the followers is often a different thing (See Thailand). And Buddhism ain’t a religion…

  • “Since we cannot know for certain that there is no God, it seems
    intellectually dishonest to try to categorize such belief as a delusion.”
    Sorry, today with our good knowledge of Quantum Theory which defines actual existence we have learned that we need not concern ourselves with gods. They do not and cannot exist.

  • This article is pure unadulterated bullshit. The latest and best information, which this writer is not aware of shows why gods do not exist, and why it IS delusional, dishonest and many times despicable to try to justify belief.
    There is nothing healthy about believing a lie.

  • Joel Thompson

    Even if we can’t prove that there is no god, we can certainly prove that religion’s other claims are false. This keeps me going back to delusion as a justifiable term for those fundamentally religious. For example, the world is 6 thousand years old, was created in 6 days, involved a talking snake which attributed to the downfall of all creation; god heals people of colds, gets people jobs, etc. These are all beliefs that can be proven false by observation and science.

    • “Even if we can’t prove that there is no god, we can certainly prove that religion’s other claims are false”. Please do! We would all like to see how you do this, and decide how well your claims are substantiated.

  • Tete Rouge

    ‘Since we cannot know for certain that there is no God, it seems intellectually dishonest to try to categorize such belief as a delusion.’
    There is no, zippo, nada, zero, zilch ‘evidence’ to the existence of any gods. NONE. Therefore belief is delusional

    • terrilynnmerritts

      That’s right. I’ll believe in a god when one is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Faith itself is delusional.

    • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

      I tend to agree with you. I’m trying to give at least some of these folks the benefit of the doubt… simply because I want them to leave me alone as well, and let me have my gay marriage to a goat who’s anti-vaccine so my children can all abort their atheist children and bake cakes celebrating the birth of satan’s pod people. Or something like that.

  • Glen Olives

    To be sure, religious belief is not a mental illness; if it were, mental illness would have to be redefined. But to claim that it is not a delusion is at best captious intellectual silliness. Oddly, Facciani accepts that “Delusions are fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in light of conflicting evidence.” And then goes on to argue that this doesn’t apply to believers. Really? Another awkward attempt to square the circle. And an embarrassingly strained one.

  • terrilynnmerritts

    When you are over age 3 and have an imaginary friend/sky daddy you talk to every day, believe old myths are true, and get hysterical if anyone denies the reality of your gullible beliefs, you ARE delusional. If you think the imaginary Jesus is going to come on a white horse in the clouds and take you to a city where you will have a free mansion, walk on streets of gold, and converse with imaginary angelic beings, you, that is a delusion. It doesn’t matter if there are hundreds of millions believing in the same delusion. They are all deluded. The burden of proof is on the affirmative- if you say there is a god and that old myths are true, it is on you to prove it. Otherwise a normal rational person has no reason to believe such nonsense. Dr. Harman and you are wrong.

  • Jeff Ballard

    The author should have focused more on the definition of belief before he went after delusion. I think many self-proclaimed religious believers don’t truly believe, but are either a) hedging their bets for an afterlife, b) going along with the tradition in order to remain a part of their chosen community c) are in a constant internal struggle of trying to believe something because they have been convinced (perhaps by indoctrination) that they should, d) use the religion as justification for their own morals/behavior, or many other reasons. I would not call those people delusional per se. I question the actual amount of believers in the world, who believe in rather than use the religion for their own benefits.

    Having said that, this kind of delusion isn’t necessarily bad for an individual, if it helps them lead an otherwise sane and safe life. I know several people who have risen from rock bottom, claiming that Christ lifted them up and renewed their lives; a comforting and useful allegory for someone who otherwise did not have the self confidence to believe in themselves, even though it was actually them, not Christ, who lifted them up.

    • marisapiens

      @Jeff Ballard. I agree with what you say here about the author
      starting with defining belief 100%. However,
      the clinical definition of delusion would still leave little room to declare as
      valid a belief in something which doesn’t exist.

  • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

    I guess the key words are ‘in moderation’. For the person who likes, desires, requires, or whatever, the belief, it is a cornerstone of their entire personality And It’s a universal trait (even if people hate and kill each other over ‘whose god’ is the ‘right and only one’… that’s pretty maladaptive, ain’t it?), but the universality seems to make it, at the very least, ‘normal’. For those who need an outside reason for moral behaviour, or to make sense of ‘why are we here’ etc., it may serve a good purpose. The problem(s) start when folks insist that those who DON’T believe are wrong, and must do everything the believer’s creed tells them to do. That’s coercion, and maybe delusion. I don’t know. It s*cks, though, and leads to divisiveness that politicians etc. use in a cynical fashion, and less than scrupulous ‘preachers’ use to get money or to fondle little children and then cover it up.

    • Geoff Boulton

      As if the coercion isn’t enough, I would feel distinctly uncomfortable with a Christian fundamentalist as US President. Someone in charge of weapons capable of destroying life as we know it, who believes that the ‘end of the world’ and the ‘second coming of Jesus’ would be a good thing!

      • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

        Yup. Me too. I don’t see why they can’t see the parallels between themselves and those ‘dreaded others’ see picture below, sums it up for me:

        • Geoff Boulton

          There’s none so blind as those that can’t see! Like the picture.

        • Florian Almagest

          Or “The difference between woman and men”, at least that’s what it looks like. Unfortunate implications, anyone?

          I mean, the “women are irrational” meme is hardly extinct in atheist circles. So it would have been a better idea to show a woman on the right, too, wouldn’t it?

          • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

            Well, yeah, that would have been ideal… I just takes my satirical pix where I finds ’em, and time is of the essence, etc. good point… but in a way, I like the turn-around… usually it’s the man with the gun and the bible. Equal opportunity bigotry! yeah!

  • monkE60

    I think mf is arguing semantics here. while he may be technically correct that use of the term “delusional” is incorrect to describe religionists, he misses the fact that words often have broader meaning and application in the common usage. few, if any, people using the term are striving for precise, diagnostic meaning.

    • Geoff Boulton

      Exactly my thought. We can’t know there isn’t a god in the same way that we can’t know that pixies aren’t real. However, all the evidence points to no god and in the case of specific religions, their origins/histories can be traced back showing they are continuations of previous, now not believed, mythologies. Only in a hypothetical ‘absolute’ sense can we make the claim that we can’t discount the possibility of a god existing.

  • Questioner

    We know for certain that there is no God/god because the very definition of a God/god is full of contradictions, conditions that are always false, like a three angled square. So you are just flat out wrong that belief in a God/god is not a delusion and you don’t have a good grasp of what constitutes accurate and reliable evidence.

  • Ken Hill

    Afterall the believers in this god thing will justify creationism by saying that evolution is only a “theory “. Most of us know there are different definitions of theory, as there are different uses of “delusion”. My answers to both definitions are: go and jump off a 10 storey building and on the way down tell yourself that gravity is only a theory, and if I believed in a bloke called Frank who had a son called Brian who possessed the same properties as the god thing, I would be delusional.

  • Russell Manning

    Any belief based on an ism without evidence of its existence or any proof other than faith, which is juvenile, is delusional. Sorry, can’t buy your attempt at examining mental illnesses.

    • Thomas Goodnow

      Ooh, watch out when the skeptical wrecking ball swings back again: this belief you have about beliefs is subject to dismissal as “just your opinion” (or, by your definition, “just your delusion”) in the face of a medical definition of “delusion”. I don’t necessarily disagree with you in the sense that an unsupported belief remains merely an unsupported belief, and will always be weaker than a supported one, but I would veer away from any position that would require me to support every belief I hold about anything or else have it dismissed as “delusional”. No one can go through life justifying and grounding everything they think is true: even Descartes had to stop doubting and go eat breakfast eventually.

    • Fish

      Definition of delusional disorder by WebMD fits. Delusional disorder, previously called paranoid disorder, is a type of serious mental illness
      called a “psychosis” in which a person cannot tell what is real from
      what is imagined. The main feature of this disorder is the presence of
      delusions, which are unshakable beliefs in something untrue.

  • Marvin Gardens

    “Delusions are fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in light of conflicting evidence.” Game over. What a bizarre article. “Since we cannot know for certain that there is no God, it seems
    intellectually dishonest to try to categorize such belief as a delusion.” <- nonsense. You can't prove there's no Spiderman, either. The fact that you cannot prove the 'fixed belief' wrong means the 'fixed belief' is meaningless in the first place.

    • Thomas Goodnow

      It’s a bit simplistic to say, “you can’t prove a negative.” If the idea advanced is logically incoherent internally or in direct contradiction to well-established outside ideas, then you can say, “yes, I can affirm that this thing does not exist.” There are no circles with corners (for sure) and I’m very confident there’s no Spiderman (given what I know of radiation, spiders, materials engineering and the reputed abilities of Spiderman). The reason it’s so difficult to prove “god does not exist” is because god’s properties are so variable. If you presuppose that god is invisible, leaves no trace in the world or impacts it in any way, indeed you can’t prove god’s non-existence (and debates about whether this sort of god “exists” in any meaningful sense are ontological questions, not questions of epistemology). Though I disagree with the author in this, I would also say that the god = spiderman equation probably doesn’t help.

      • Fish

        What is the probability of god? “What is the probability of a cosmic
        scaled, invisible and intangible being that affects the universe with its
        actions yet leaves no determinable trace of itself and only deigns to
        communicate with a small tribe of what could charitably be called desert dwelling savages.”

    • kiljoy616

      Its the other way around. Prove there is one. If not then the believe is just someones mental disorder or stupidity. Sorry but for those who got over the delusion we see believers exactly what they are delusional or at least mentally challenged. Dangerously mentally challenged.

      • Kip

        Which is, ironically, the same way mainstream believers see those who believe in Thor, Zeus, etc.

      • It’s dead simple to prove that God exists: Because there is no other answer for the existence and structure of world that surround you. For reasons I have all ready detailed that remain unrefuted. So,if you do have another sustainable answer that is philosophically and scientifically sound tell us what it is.

        • Florian Almagest

          Argument from ignorance/incredulity. Yawn. I’m sorry for you. You should really seek mental health assistence. Seriously.

        • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

          sure there is… plenty of other ‘answers’… we just don’t know them all, yet or if ever. the trouble with religious folks is that they stop at ‘god created it’. there’s no where to go from there. If we accept that, yeah, that would be nice, but let’s see what else it could be, then we make discoveries that can be tested. So let’s say, god (through man, the great ‘interpreter’ [not!]) tells us the earth is flat, and the sun revolves around the earth. So we’d best stay away from trying to go ‘around’ anything. In fact, the priests will put you in jail and/or threaten to kill you if you dare suggest the earth is round, or that the earth revolves around the sun. So no dares try anything new or questioning. But some do. some refuse to accept ‘no other answer but god’… so they study, think for themselves, defy the priests and the religion(s) of the day… and find WOW, the earth is round, it revolves around the sun. And on and on it is possible to go, once you have no more need for this all-knowing (and know-nothing-else-but) concept to stop interfering with the quest for knowledge. Don’t eat of the tree of knowledge, and then blame the woman for doing so. We were set up from the beginning not to think for ourselves by these stories, and set up in a very patriarchal way at that! So much stigma and intolerance flow from the ‘only god (as, always, interpreted by man i.e., male) worldview… mental illnesses, now understood in light of the brain’s chemistry and social conditioning and genetics, not god punishing you or your parents for some transgression. So, result… no banning and shaming these folks onto a (literal) ship of fools. You see, there isn’t a need to have ALL THE ANSWERS to everything. that is what life is about… I think some people don’t like to ‘not know’ ‘for sure’ about why we’re here and what happens when we die, and all that. They can’t abide any chaos. I say, embrace the chaos and work with it to progressively understand things…like, no, that’s not some god’ ruining your crops because of masturbation or abortion or homosexuality. or thunder is god bowling in the sky. Or that two of each went on a biiiiig ark (including the tse-tse fly and mosquitos, etc.) and suddenly there’s thousands of creatures with all that inbreeding (impossible). So, end of my treatise as to why it’s not even important to have a ‘supreme’ being with all the answers. In fact, I would argue, it’s dangerous, as all these various ‘supremes’ have to be interpreted by male/man. No thanks. Not too trustworthy, and history and the TV today show us over and over again. End.

    • Let me cut to the chase. The universe exists and there is no known cause within the universe and natural world. So, the only logical, philosophical and scientific option is the necessary existence of a transcendent creative cause beyond the universe – end of story. Discerning this self-evident reality seems to be beyond the grasp of you and others. Somewhat like fish denying the existence of water.

      • Florian Almagest

        Go away, first-cause-troll. You have been amply refuted around here. You’re a classic example for a delusional believer (unless you’re ignorant or lying, which I think we are justified to exclude).

        • “amply refuted’, you say. Where exactly? Lots of claims and assertions, but no refutation anywhere to be seen. So, perhaps you could explain exactly where and how I was refuted, or do so yourself . We can then all see whether your assertion is sustainable, or whether it is you who is the troll.

          • Florian Almagest

            OK, to put it in the nicest and simplest possible terms:

            Your argument is illogical because your premise is wrong.

            Not everything has a cause.

            If there is no creator, the universe is without a cause.

            If there is a creator, the creator is without a cause.

            Unless the creator had a cause themselves, but what was the cause of this cause?

            This is the problem of infinite regression (“it’s turtles all the way down”).

            The appeal to supernaturalism doesn’t work (“so the universe must have a cause because it’s natural, but the creator need none because they’re supernatural”) because the existence of anything supernatural has not been proven and is extremely implausible.

            See:

            http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2007/01/defining-supernatural.html

            http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.de/2013/07/testing-supernatural.html

            See also: The invisible dragon in your garage, Russell’s teapot, etc.

            This is all Atheism 101, so people are understandably bored and annoyed by having to explain it to you again and again.

            Your turn.

          • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

            Actually, I like the creator/cause argument you’ve laid out… nothing wrong with going back to basics! One might argue the statement “not everything has a cause’ to be open for debate. Who’s to say that everything DOES have a cause… we just haven’t discovered it yet (like, say, why are the red pox marks showing up all over my skin?? It’s god, punishing me, like Job… or…”something to do with why the cow pox girls who tend to the cows don’t get the red pox…hmmm., let’s look into the cause). But as a child brought up in a no-religion household, I always wondered if there is no end to the universe… but there has to be, doesn’t there, and my sister and I would go mental trying to make sense of no beginning, no end, from whence it came, etc….( fun on a rainy sunday). So same thing… from whence did this creator come… and who created it… what, no one? Just like ‘shazaaam… magic!” Nah. That’s just a fairy tale. I get more interested in trying to figure out what holding the belief in all powerful, supreme being offers to the people who cling to it, live by it, insist it is the ONLY possiblity. I’m interested in how and what, like drugs, it provides that, if taken away, would lead to some very serious withdrawals.

          • Florian Almagest

            For the question “What came before the Big Bang?” or “What caused the Big Bang?” (two distinct questions), the usual analogy is “What is north of the North Pole?” The question can be stated, but it cannot be answered because it is logically incoherent. The Big Bang is defined as the beginning of our universe, and thus also of time. That said, it is even misleading, according to my understanding, to imagine that the Big Bang happened in an empty void and made a particle (more correctly, singularity) pop up which then grew and grew and expanded in an enormous explosion. We can only go back to a moment a miniscule fraction of a second after the Big Bang, i. e., after the start of the inflation. It does not mean that there was nothing before. It does not even mean that there was nothing besides. For all we know and understand (which is not much), the Universe has always been there, and will always been there. Truly a world without end, to borrow a biblical turn of phrase.

          • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

            Thanks for the reply. What do you think of Neil’s 8-minute animation of big bang:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KYTJ8tBoZ8

          • Florian Almagest

            Yeah, well, since I’m not a physicist, nor even thoroughly trained in any natural science, I cannot pretend to know better than Neil, so I must defer to his better understanding of the math, the theories and their interpretation. My understanding is that the Unified Field is the source of the singularity which, with the start of the expansion (the “Big Bang”), developped into the Universe familiar to us. So you might say that at the beginning, there was the Unified Field, of which the singularity was part. Perhaps other regions or points in the Unified Field “banged” to form other universes. Or they branched away from ours into dimensions invisible to us. Or both. I’m not sure. My grasp of the matter simply does not suffice, so the basis for my speculation is slim.

        • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

          F.A. Be nice, now. Here is a person whose mind absolutely BOGGLES at a no-god explained universe. To this person, no god = madness, chaos (with chaos being a bad thing), we’ll never have all the answers = unsatisfactory, and there is no one ‘out there’ looking after us and/or there for us after our bodies die = terrifying, shades of childhood panic nightmares… so that, ‘it simply can;’t be ‘nothing’…. it just CAN’T! The void, down in the zero, the ego’s inability to picture itself simply ‘not there’ once physically dead. And perhaps a lack of imagination, but that might be untrue, since some amazing art, architecture, etc., have been created in the ‘name of god’. Folks didn’t realize that they WERE THEIR OWN INSPIRATION and didn’t need to ascribe these things to something greater than themselves. So, F.A., he is holding dear to the one thing that makes sense to him of all the craziness. No randomness for him, please. It’s scary. Of course, he will beam calmly at you and say ‘fine, you’ll see…. later” (reminds me of pod people who’ve been taken over). But his entire personality is built on the need for daddy to never let him down, to love him always, and protect and nurture him even after death. It’s a sweet dream… no wonder folks are loathe to give it up.

          • Florian Almagest

            Yes, I saw he deserves our pity more than indignation. It’s the classic religious believers’ hybris: if I don’t understand it, it can’t be true. But I know that I do not know and I do not understand a lot of things. In fact, I understand only very little. I thought this humility is what believers preach, but then, many of them do not practice it.

      • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

        No, no no. It is not only NOT logical, it is a flawed logic. There is no need for a superior, transcendent creature in my worldview, nor in the worldview of many others. Why? Well, I can only speak for myself, but i actually find it far easier to believe in chemical interactions, electricity, light, time=space continuums, and not knowing why. Far more interesting to me. No need to have simple answers, which to me, ‘god’ is one. I like John Lennon’s capsulizaton ” god is a concept by which we measure our pain.”

      • Bryon Miller

        Absolutely the most childish, uninformed argument ever. Presupposition is never and has never been an answer to anything. Your idiotic argument is, thank goodness, going and going away faster all the time. Magic man done it is never the answer and arguing with children is never productive.

  • bpuharic

    So the fact we can prove the Christian god does not exist is not a delusion even though a delusion is holding onto a false belief in spite of contravening evidence?

    Kind of renders the whole meaning of ‘delusion’…well, delusional.

  • Chelonia Testudines

    So believing that a 2000 year old tortured dead Jew can save my invisible soul is not a delusion? Is it just pure idiocy? Or calculated bullshit? Is it organized mass hysteria? The fact some weakminded people find solace in their crazy conceptions doesn’t impress me. Junkies use heroin to feel better – is that OK, too?

    • Ray Roth

      It’s really the same thing, isn’t it?

  • Thomas Goodnow

    It’s nice to see someone withing the atheist/skeptic community reigning in statement that, to the outside world, just tend to look like little more than propaganda:. “Religion is delusion” and “religion is a mental illness” makes atheists look silly while simultaneously reinforcing in-group think that feeds on itself. It also has the added effect of making them look both insensitive and ignorant in regards to actual mental illness. Finally, it shows a disturbing lack of historical awareness of the history of this sort of idea: it was common in the USSR to institutionalize people as mentally ill when their religious beliefs were inconvenient to the regime but couldn’t be easily characterized as overtly criminal (and get them sent to the gulag). Thank you for bringing some reason (ahem) to an often over-heated topic.

    • Chelonia Testudines

      Believing in invisible beings with magical powers – with absolutely no evidence of proof is indeed a mental illness. This is the kind of behavior we’d expect from ignorant tribesmen thousands of years ago. Perhaps religionists have failed to evolve a certain portion of their brain – which we could then agree is not a mental illness, but a physical and developmental defect.

      • Dave Andrews

        Agreed

        “we cannot know for certain that there is no God”

        Nor we cannot know for certain there is an almighty sky friend. This is another article trying to justify what is pure religious BS and fantasy. The lines will be long when the clinics first open.

        Imagine government run clinics where religion (or even atheism) is “treated.”
        A treatment for atheism? Now that’s funny.

        “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

        Aldous Huxley

        • Ray Roth

          Yup. Huxley was a brilliant individual. As someone once said, being an atheist is like being a non-stamp collector. We don’t actually CALL people who don’t collect stamps non-stamp collectors, yet we have believers telling us to give them proof that what THEY believe is wrong when it is THEY who make the claim. It’s like asking a non-stamp collector for proof that he doesn’t collect stamps.

          • Thomas Goodnow

            Though as many have pointed out, there is no Patheos non-stamp-collector community, nor has anyone written books, formed organizations, and solicited funds to support non-stamp collecting. Getting atheists to agree on anything is certainly like herding cats, but as long as theism exists, presumably atheism will remain a “thing.”

        • Thomas Goodnow

          Yikes. No imagination necessary, it has been and is being done. ISIS has an active program of “treatment” for atheism (perhaps it could be rebranded as “assisted suicide”?), and as I mentioned, the USSR was long in the business of “treating” religion. No end of atrocities are and have been justified in the name of “treatment” (e.g. indeterminate sentences in state hospitals for criminal offenses now determined to be “mental illness”). Too much of a liberal to follow Hitchens down this path, thank you.

      • kiljoy616

        Bravo.

      • Ray Roth

        Totally agree. There’s something missing in the belfry. Responding to reward and punishment is typically something dogs do. The more evolved species were given a more complex brain. You’d think they would USE it. Most believers, I believe, believe out of fear.

        • Fish

          Yup, fear is it…save their ass at all cost.

        • Thomas Goodnow

          “Most believers, I believe, believe out of fear”. Some do, no doubt, but most that I’ve met believe because it fills existential, psychological or social needs that are quite a bit higher up Maslow’s hierarchy than fear, even fear of death. As many atheists have pointed out, you’re only going to fear death if you have a pre-existing commitment to concepts like eternal punishment, as opposed to simply fading into non-existence.
          (Responding to reward and punishment is something dogs do, but people do it, too, and I’m not sure why this should be a source of embarrassment or shame; perhaps if it’s overriding instincts toward altruism or virtue, but this is not always or even frequently so.)

        • Chelonia Testudines

          Yes- christians are among the most fearful people there are. They are unable to perform morally correct deeds without punishment and fear to encourage proper behavior. Because they are so fundamentally weak, they assume everyone else is – and assume everyone else is motivated by fear and not by reason.

      • Well, there’s no evidence that a religious person’s brain has evolved any differently than a non-believer’s brain; so your comment makes no sense- given that people are indoctrinated into religion in (usually) childhood, and all human brains evolved for believing in agency, to believe authority during childhood, etc.
        Why would you think that being religious is a mental illness? Is it a mental illness in more secular countries, such as Denmark, Finland, etc? Is non-belief a mental illness or is it a crime in the Middle East?
        What is the definition of a mental illness; does being religious adhere to that definition?

        • Chelonia Testudines

          Mental illness includes hearing voices in your head, seeing things that don’t exist, and believing things that have no proof.

          • I feel a bit “icky” having to quasi-debate an alternate viewpoint with a fellow atheist, but I’ll attempt to educate only briefly, then I’m disengaging from this subject.
            If you wish to learn information skeptically in order to formulate an educated opinion, you can do that on your own. If not, then I think that perhaps you’re engaging in fixed beliefs yourself, and may be unwilling to alter your perspective regardless of the evidence.

            Here’s a reasonable starting source for information on the topic:
            https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions

        • [quote]
          Well, there’s no evidence that a religious person’s brain has evolved any differently than a non-believer’s brain;
          [/quote]

          That isn’t true at all. It may not be labeled as such. But if you consider that the overwhelming majority of people in screwed up cult like religions (such as Southern Baptists) are conservative and then look to see if there are any differences between conservative and “normal” brains you will find a plethora of such evidence.

          [quote]http://2012election.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004818
          In the 16 peer-reviewed scientific studies summarized below, researchers found that liberals and conservatives have different brain structures, different physiological responses to stimuli, and activate different neural mechanisms when confronted with similar situations. Each entry below cites the source document. The studies are arranged from most recent to oldest. We included all the peer-reviewed studies on this subject that we could find. If you know about others, please contact us with details.
          [/quote]

          As it happens I am aware of several others. I guess I’ll have to bring them up to date.

          • “Well, there’s no evidence that a religious person’s brain has
            evolved any differently than a non-believer’s brain;[/quote]
            That isn’t true at all.”

            Wow. I’m stunned. So, you’re saying that someone who believes in a god or gods brain has actually evolved differently than those of us who don’t somehow? And you came to this conclusion after reviewing 16 peer reviewed studies. Gee.

            That’s quite an amazingly bold assertion- and is up there with posing the existence of a supreme being.
            Nice chatting with you.

          • Actually I misspoke. I didn’t mean to say that the problem is one of evolution. But conservative brains most definitely do develop differently from liberal brains. Conservatives have been found to have larger amydalas (fear centers aka lizard brains) than liberals while their anterior singulet cortexes (higher thinking regions) are smaller.

            Scientists are not sure if these physical differences cause conservatives to think differently or if the way conservatives think (or rather fail to think) causes their amygdalas to hypertrophy while their higher thinking regions atrophy.

            So while it would not be accurate to say that “someone who believes in a god or gods (generally speaking a conservative) brain has actually EVOLVED differently than those of us who don’t (generally speaking a liberal)” it would be true to say that they DEVELOP differently.

          • Bryon Miller

            To say that the brains of the religious evolved differently than those of the non-religious is to misunderstand evolution badly. Evolution does not happen on the individual level, it occurs on the species level. Our brains are not different anatomical, they are different in the way our brains are wired and that wiring occurs post conception not at conception. Our minds are different not our brains. Religiosity is based upon nurture not nature. Yes there is probably an evolutionary benefit provided by religious belief and that benefit is probably attributed to being social animals with religion being a side effect of that sociality. Religion itself is not evolutionary, it is memetic. Dawkins goes into deep detail on this subject in almost all of his books.

          • I didn’t read what you were originally responding to so it seems that I miscommunicated. It was not my intent to lay the blame for the brain differences on evolution.

            However, there are definitely differences between liberal and conservative brains. Brain differences show up in early childhood.

            [quote]
            https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200612/the-ideological-animal
            In 1969, Berkeley professors Jack and Jeanne Block embarked on a study of childhood personality, asking nursery school teachers to rate children’s temperaments. They weren’t even thinking about political orientation.

            Twenty years later, they decided to compare the subjects’ childhood personalities with their political preferences as adults. They found arresting patterns. As kids, liberals had developed close relationships with peers and were rated by their teachers as self-reliant, energetic, impulsive, and resilient. People who were conservative at age 23 had been described by their teachers as easily victimized, easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited, and vulnerable at age 3. The reason for the difference, the Blocks hypothesized, was that insecure kids most needed the reassurance of tradition and authority, and they found it in conservative politics.

            [/quote]

            And it does result in a physically different development.

            [quote]
            https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-human-beast/201104/conservatives-big-fear-brain-study-finds
            Peering inside the brain with MRI scans, researchers at University College London found that self-described conservative students had a larger amygdala than liberals. The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure deep in the brain that is active during states of fear and anxiety. Liberals had more gray matter at least in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region of the brain that
            helps people cope with complexity. The results are not that surprising as they fit in with conclusions from [more than 90] other studies.

            [/quote]

      • Thomas Goodnow

        There is little to no evidence that evolution works this quickly to any appreciable extent (changing the broad characteristics of a complex organism), leaving us with essentially the same faculties as Lothar of the Hill People. Add to this the fact that the overwhelming majority of humans have been religious, and have successfully become the dominant species on this planet, leaves evolutionary arguments against religious belief without much standing. You can argue against religion, sure, but I doubt Darwin or Gould will be in your corner. Dawkins obviously would be, but his reasons have more to do with metanarratives about Progress and the Ascent of Man than with evolutionary science proper in this case.
        I suppose you could argue that non-religious species (ants and other arthropods, gram-positive and spore-forming bacteria) are actually numerically superior to us, and likely to survive any nuclear holocaust or environmental disaster we put on ourselves. This is a tad nihilistic for your typical armchair atheist, however.

        • Chelonia Testudines

          Social evolution occurs much more quickly than physical evolution. In one generation we have a whole group of people who walk around with phones in front of their faces. Religion is a social contamination that waxes and wanes with different societies and times.I don’t care what stupid fairy tale you believe in – as long as you keep its polluting effects away from my laws and society.

          • Thomas Goodnow

            Fair enough. I don’t think social evolution has nearly the pedigree of biological evolution proper, and owes more to late 19th century views on the Upward Ascent of Man than to Darwin per se, as EO Wilson among others has pointed out. The social utility of religion I don’t think is much in doubt.outside of New Atheist circles. In this vein, Terry Eagleton has written an amusing little tract “Reason, Faith, and Revolution” that ought to be required reading for all atheists who are setting out to Change the World. For instance, he notes that regimes based purely on reason and science have never existed and will probably never exist for the simple reason that humans are not purely rational creatures. I suppose it’s a nice thought.

  • Bryon Miller

    I am an atheist and I don’t think religious people are delusional. I say this because I don’t think most people that espouse a religious belief do actually believe what they say they do. Let me qualify this a bit. I think those who are fully indoctrinated, lack much if any education in science, science history or quite frankly their own religious dogma, are true believers. These people are not delusional because they don’t know anything other than what they have been told. These people are discouraged from if not outright barred from learning anything that would conflict with that belief structure. They become delusional when they make extraordinary claims and continue to hold them despite contradicting evidence. I don’t think most people that claim to be religious actually believe what they say. I think it is more likely they say they do for cultural and social reasons. This is mostly a leap of faith of my own in that I can not prove this without diving deep into the psyche of individual persons and basically getting them to admit it. My rational reason for thinking this is based upon behavior. A true believer would never pick and chose what they need or want to follow and what to reject. They would be forced by doctrine to carry out atrocious deeds and support atrocities carried out by others. Finally, I don’t think that one can actually chose to believe something. You either do or you don’t. To say you do while knowing you don’t is a lie, not a delusion. To say you do while knowing you do without contradicting information is not delusional it is ignorance. Saying you do while actually thinking you do in spite of contradictory information that you know is reality is a delusion. This leaves religious people standing in one of three status positions. They are liers, ignorant, or delusional, none of which is a desirable status to have. Of these three possible positions delusional is the least threatening of them and frighteningly, the only one we lock people up for.

    • Ray Roth

      Religious people typically like to convince others that they believe, while deep down hiding harboring thoughts of serious doubt. But they don’t dare voice these doubts because “god might find out”. THAT is delusional. If there actually is a god and he’s all-knowing, he WILL know. In that case, this person is screwed, so they might as well convert to atheism. See how I did that?

      • Bryon Miller

        No… thats just lying. Delusion is a psychological condition lying is just lying. Mostly they lie out of fear or they lie for their own benefit. Either way it’s a lie based on reason which is the opposite of a delusion. The reason is based upon the very real and justified fear of social rejection of friends, family and peers. That fear is understandable and legitimate. But it is still a lie.

  • rubaxter

    So, is ripping out hearts to a Mayan god delusional? Is performing child sacrifice to YHWH delusional?

    You’re hiding behind the fact that your familiar with these delusions and they are therefore OK.

  • kiljoy616

    In circles of the secular community it is common to hear the passionate argument that “they” [persons with religious beliefs] are “delusional”

    No not delusional, its a mental disorder that can become violent and prone to delusions of grander.

    • Thank you. After reading through the comments, I am dismayed at the ignorance, and vitriol as a result of said lack of comprehension from well over 2/3 of what I’ve seen. Simply spouting opinions on terms such as “mental illness”, “delusion”, and numerous others, quite inaccurately, and coming to grand conclusions (incorrectly) was not what I expected when I saw the title of the article.

      It was a nice change to see your comment amidst the sea of mis-information.

      • Fish

        It’s my opinion and I am entitled to it…Ha!

  • Ray Roth

    A delusion is an erroneous belief held in the face of evidence to the contrary. It would seem to me that if one believes in something, they should provide evidence for it. A book isn’t “evidence”! If they can’t, then it’s as close to a delusion as you can get. SO, I believe you haven’t made your case, Matthew!

    • Delusion is not “the erroneous belief held in the face of evidence to the contrary.” Please try googling.
      A delusion is a medical term, not a philosophical one.

  • Hominin

    One can indeed show a god does not exist if the definition of it entails a contradiction within the description. A god cannot both be “all-merciful” and leave non-believers a “painful chastisement.” A god cannot know what s/he will do 5 minutes from now and still have the power to alter his or her course of action. A god that does not know what s/he will do from now 5 minutes into the future cannot be omniscient. A god that cannot change his or her course of action cannot be all-powerful. Thus, any god that is both omniscient and omnipotent is impossible and is indeed a delusion. Q.E.D.

  • Atlantic Canuck

    Your case has NOT been made. Just because lots of people believe the same delusion doesn’t make it less delusional. Saying you can’t prove there isn’t a god is getting old. I could make up anything and claim it exists because you can’t prove it doesn’t… that doesn’t make what I made up, real.

  • Ronvent

    Facciani… your piece rests on this shaky foundation: ” Additionally, it is vital to note how a delusion is only a delusion if there is sufficient evidence to prove otherwise. Since we cannot know for certain that there is no God, it seems intellectually dishonest to try to categorize such belief as a delusion.” This is the same red herring in a new wrapper. I cannot know for certain, for example, that there isn’t a little green man talking to my patient. I don’t care how many people he brings to my office to support his claim, there is no magic number of adherents that would make his claim a “certainly commonly held belief…in our culture. ” That there are organizations that have been very successful in perpetuating their nonsense is surely the case, but it does nothing to add to the validity or “sense” of their message.

    • Exactly right. While it may not delusional to beleive in a God in very general terms, it is certainly delusional to beleive in the mainstream religious versions of God, or that the bible or Koran is the word of God. Not to mention the many crazy rituals practised in the name of religion which are clearly based upon delusions.

      Science has proven without doubt that much of what religious people hold dear is incorrect. Therefore if they go on believing in things that are patently false, is this not delusional?

      • Fish

        Round and round it goes!

  • People who say that atheists can’t prove that there is not a god use that argument because they think it takes them one step closer to what they really want What they want is to convince you that THEIR (invariably christian) god might be real. But christianity can be disproved logically, morally, historically, scientifically and probably other ways as well. They would realize that if they didn’t start with their minds already made up.

    [quote]
    The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders says “Delusions are fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in light of conflicting evidence […] Delusions are deemed bizarre if they are clearly implausible and not understandable to same-culture peers and do not derive from ordinary life experiences. […]” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
    [/quote]

    This definition was specifically written so as not to offend religious nuts. Therefore it is not an honest definition. An honest definition would not make that exception so as not to offend people who are clearly delusional.

    • That’s not entirely accurate. If you review the DSM (original through the current guidelines over time), it’s based upon the evidence that has been available, and one can generalize to a cross-cultural level. In the example provided, if a Hindu from India residing in the US, were a non-believer, yet began hearing the voice of Shiva, their differential diagnosis may differ from a Hindu believer with similar symptoms. Similar to any branch of neurology, immunology, oncology, OB-GYN, and so forth, a patient’s cultural (and religious) reference may play a role in their diagnosis and treatment regimen.

      • So if the crazy voice saying crazy things in your head in a predominantly christian culture claims to be Jesus that’s OK. But if the same crazy voice, saying the same crazy things, in the same culture claims to be Shiva, and you are not Hindu, then that’s a delusion.

        I disagree.

        • In secular places such as Denmark, etc, people who express religious beliefs are not considered mentally ill; however generally, religious people are also not nearly as taken with the fervor and associated issues that they are in more religious nations and
          cultures such as the US, with respect to what’s considered behaviourally acceptable.

          I feel a bit “icky” having to quasi-debate an alternate viewpoint with a fellow atheist, but I’ll attempt to educate only briefly, then I’m disengaging from this subject.

          If you wish to learn information skeptically in order to formulate an educated opinion, you can do that on your own. If not, then I think that perhaps you’re engaging in fixed beliefs yourself, and may be unwilling to alter your perspective regardless of the evidence.

          Here’s a reasonable starting source for information on the topic:
          https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions

      • al kimeea

        So, Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the West is different from hodgkin’s lymphoma in the East due to differences in culture? Seems wrong. Sure, the diagnosis & treatment could vary IF the culture rejects science based medicine.

        For example, a coworker is convinced mental illness is demonic requiring prayer, or in the case of deadly cancers at Mama Theresa’s clinics, you get to suffer the obliterating pain of a terminal illness on a cot in a common ward because it will bring one closer to baby jebus.

  • Peder Nales

    To believe that a person rose from the dead without any proof is by definition a delusion.

    • Your statement is very problematic. People that are dead do not rise from the dead, ever. If one understands the biological nature of human life even if someone said it happened and offered “proof” you cannot believe it or you are negating all that we know about biology and even physics..
      One might investigate it some but certainly withhold any actual belief that it happened as stated.

      • lorasinger

        Death isn’t instantaneous even when the person is said to have been so. Death occurs in stages until the person reaches a point where there is absolutely no turning back and at that point the person is dead and most certainly not return and all this takes place much sooner than three days.

  • Religious beliefs within a culture on their own are not in themselves, indicative of mental illness.

    However, there are mental illnesses that are characterized by religious preoccupations, or bona fide delusions of grandeur of a religious nature, such as believing that one is Jesus Christ or the Dalai Lama for example.

    I’ve treated patients suffering with symptoms as above, and several other religiously related manifestations that differ from non-illness, cultural religiosity, and that may have been an interesting distinction to include in the article, in my opinion. Otherwise, within the allotted word count, well done.

    • Fish

      In a secular/atheist society, would religious belief be considered delusional?

      • In secular places such as Denmark, etc, people who express religious beliefs are not considered mentally ill; however generally, religious people are also not nearly as taken with the fervor and associated issues that they are in more religious nations and cultures such as the US, with respect to what’s considered behaviourally acceptable.

  • Fish

    Christians believe the big lie, that there is an afterlife. Simply say Jesus is your savior or eat his flesh and drink his blood and you are in. However, what most Christians forget is that everyone’s body and soul, (Atheists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus etc) go into the grave and on the last day, Jesus will raise them up and judge them. The good go to heaven the bad go to hell. Perhaps that is why every generation of Christians believes Jesus is coming back in their life time. That is a delusion, isn’t it. Just wonder about the Muslims, will Allah have preference but I think Muslims go to Paradise immediately so Jesus misses the opportunity to get even with them. At least suicide bombers do go to Paradise immediately to collect their allotted number virgins. I’d say religions are delusional.

    • lorasinger

      Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet and their belief in end times bringing Jesus and Mohammed back together as a twosome.

  • Fish

    This sums it up quite well…Ha!

  • al kimeea

    Religion is learned behaviour. Nobody is born a believer of this or any other nonsense much less any knowledge of actual things. Family and society convince people of the veracity of the fantastic claims of the religion industry, just like some are convinced of the inherent inferiority of others with higher concentrations of melanin.

    The pressure to believe is so great, it leads many to embrace the religious delusion even though they weren’t raised with it. This pressure almost snared this precocious child until I read The Holey Book of Christianity in its entirety in Sunday School thus breaking the spell.

    Is it a delusion? Not per se, but very, very similar. A pseudo delusion say, but very often with harmful results even to many people that aren’t mentally ill like the woman in BC some years back who killed the neighbour boy to save humanity because Yaweh told her to.

    Many people who have unlearned religion bear mental scars for life (some requiring professional help) and often are shunned by their loved ones.

    Of course, those shunning are merely following the teachings of Jebus – if you aren’t with us, you’re against us (Chimpy Mcflightsuit).

    • lorasinger

      “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders says “Delusions are fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in light of conflicting evidence ”
      ….
      A fundamentalist will tell you that he has a “personal relationship” with Jesus”. This can certainly be a fixed belief not amenable to change in the light of conflicting evidence. That evidence is based on the beliefs of Jesus and the Jews of his time. That evidence contradicts the entire basis of Christianity. Jesus would have known that a man does not become a god, nor does God become a man, that human sacrifice was forbidden, and that every person must atone for their own sins. In spite of that, the fundamentalist will go right on and proclaim his “relationship with Jesus” in no different than a mental patient who claimed that when he was working around his back yard, a skeleton lady kept popping out of the ground and annoying him. He had a personal relationship with the skeleton lady, it seems.

      • al kimeea

        It isn’t just fundies who claim to know doG. In any case, religionists refusal to recognize their lack of evidence for, or any contrary to, their deity is more stubborn than delusional. They could change their minds, but some combination of arrogance, narcissism, very earnest emotional attachment and fear of not pleasing the deity or social ostracism prevents the epiphany.

        I don’t think paranoid schizophrenics have that luxury with their delusions. That people thus afflicted often have religious delusions, or Napoleonic etc., is due to their having learned of of these things before their malady took hold.

        People who take hallucinogens and see religious imagery during their chemically induced delusions are predisposed due to the overwhelming pervasiveness of religion in society.

    • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

      Yes, I once asked a born again xtian ‘do you think you would have been a muslim if born in X, a buddhist if born in Y, hindu if born in Z? And are these people, their beliefs and their god(s) ‘the wrong ones’, whereas yours is the ‘right’; one’. She said “I don’t know the answer to that, but I think everything is pre-ordained and I was born here, and born to be a Christian, for a reason”. Slip-slidin’ outta there. Typical circular with no where left to go. You can see how blaming the ‘victim’ i.e., ‘not like me’, is so easy with that kind of mind-set.

  • Bryon Miller

    Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.

    Lucius Annaeus Seneca

    Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/luciusanna118600.html#jegkSkcSc26RTjsu.99

    This quote lays out religious belief beautifully. The relevant portions being, common people and rulers as I don’t think anyone here would argue the wise being delusional. This whole discussion is why I love our community of the wise so very much and wonderfully puts into high contrast the difference between the secular community and the religious community. We discuss our differences with constructive and mostly reasoned arguments. A discussion of this sort would never occur within the religious community. They would march in lockstep with one commonly held position.
    With that being said, It is disconcerting that many here are basing their arguments not on defined and understood concepts of what it is to be “delusional”. Many of those who argue counter to the original argument are doing so based upon personal intuition or from a sense of false understanding, neither of which are based upon scientific reason. It is important when making this type of argument to concede to authoritative reason based upon scientific methodology and to avoid personal opinion. Based upon the scientifically understood definition of what it is to be “delusional”, Matthew is indeed correct. Does this mean that the accepted definition of delusion can not change? No, of course not, but no one here arguing counter is doing so from a position of authority and as such you are arguing from a position of personal incredulity.
    If you are one of those who think Matthew was arguing against the hypothesis presented by Prof. Dawkins in the “God Delusion”, you are thinking so erroneously. Dawkins never does define the religious as delusional on mass and in fact gives many of the same arguments. The book is mostly an argument for the rationality of the scientific method and against the rationality apologetic argumentation. It was designed as an information resource for those ignorant and as a guide for us to use against ignorance. This becomes evident in the appendix where a list of secular resources is found for those who want to leave the religious community. This was done not because he thinks the religious are delusional but because he knows they are not and can be “saved” so to speak. I am of the opinion that the title was chosen not as a description of it contents but rather as a provocation. Provocator is a word with negative connotations but is not necessarily a negative thing to be. They inspire discussion and argument which is always a good thing.

  • Freethinker

    Given the fact that most of religious content comes from sources such as hearing voices in your head, out from the sky, talking snakes, burning bushes etc, points to a source we know in medical terms like schizophrenia, paranoid delusions, drug, trauma, starvation induced hallucinations etc. The interpretation of course is that it was ‘divine’ in origin which is what you would expect from primitive desert dwellers who worshiped things like the sun, rain, thunder etc just prior to adopting a unified thing to prostrate yourself in front of. Given the absurd nature of religious beliefs and the source of those beliefs there is a very good case for those who accept these contradictory absurdities – entirely unsupported by facts and shown by both science and history – to be in fact themselves mentally unstable.
    Some people are just crazy enough to believe anything as long as it is drilled into them from childhood or forced upon them in societies or tribes which have laws in place against the mere questioning of the sky daddy concept. Believing in a god is simply taking your childhood belief in Santa and carrying it all the way to adulthood while convincing themselves that it is more “true”. Worshiping a single god is also a lot more convenient and time effective then the thousands of other ‘gods’ that came before him. Just the fact alone that he is seen as a “he” is enough to question the sanity of the believers. Why not “she” or at least an “it”. And for the Judeo Christian folk why no mention of anything in all of their holy writings outside of a narrow 500 mile radius? It apparently doesn’t around even an iota of suspicion in the true believers. Crazy is as crazy does.

    • If religiosity is a mental illness (and similar to schizophrenia, as you suggest), why are people able to de-convert? Are schizophrenic patients or those who suffer with other mental illnesses able to be somehow reasoned out of their illnesses? If so, how does that reasoning alone and without medications alter their specific neuro-receptors, such as dopamine subtypes in specified brain areas (as in schizophrenia), etc?

      • Freethinker

        Can you give an example of any of the people who have heard the voices in their head or had hallucinatory visions and were deemed “divinely informed” as you put it “de-converting”?

        I am not suggesting all religious people have serious mental illnesses only those who are specifically mentioned in the holy texts. The problem is that it is their ramblings and ravings that form much of the insanity and contradictions that religions contain. The followers follow those who often were not of sound minds to begin with. However I do think that a delusion is very much a part of those who are rabidly religious as they are able to refute indisputable facts of science and/or history with blind faith based beliefs. Ken Ham is a good example……as are most of the current GOP nominees for presidency.

        • Obviously, no one can speak for “holy texts”, which are man made, and made up. I’m speaking about genuine mental illness, that is evidence based.

          Please educate yourself on general mental illness. Here’s a good start, albeit by no means a substitute for more in-depth study on the topic.

          I’d recommend being a bit more skeptical about your own beliefs on the subject matter as opposed to holding to a fixed belief; there is far more to people raised within a culture believing in talking ghosts of their ancestors, gods, the dead raised after three days, etc, etc, versus an excess of dopamine causing according to Hoyle delusions and hallucinations that one can diagnose by a variety of means: https://www.nami.org/

        • Bryon Miller

          To answer your question, yes. Can I give names? No, not off the top of my head but anyone whose delusions are controlled with drugs or other brain chemical balancing methods. As for Ken Ham and probably all politicians, I don’t think they are delusional, I think they are liars. They use the religious to their own ends and if you extrapolate to the logical conclusion, those ends will be financial ones. Greed is the controlling factor nearly across the board whether it’s greed for financial gain or greed for one’s just reward in heaven, it’s still greed.

        • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

          Joan of Arc. j And look what happened to her! Poor Joan.Oh yeah… Scott Walker and the blood of christ. Save us all! Spooky stuff.

  • Religious content has never had anything to do with ‘hearing voices’ out of your head, or out of the sky, or talking snakes, or burning bushes etc. It has everything to do with the the origin and nature of existence: The cosmos, life, the DNA double helix; genetic coding of breathtaking complexity; consciousness, language, conscience; sense of good and evil, just and unjust; and every other human characteristic. None of which have a VERIFIABLE empirical scientific answer to the very day. And for good reason: Because everything in existence is dependent on an external cause “beyond” the universe to explain its existence, without exception. This includes our running down dying universe. Which cannot sustain itself and is undergoing radiometric “decay” and heading toward maximum entropy and heat death So, if you have a testable, verifiable scientific answer for any of of the above or know of anything in the universe that is “self-existing” or has “self creating capabilities” I suggest you contact the scientific community and Nobel Committee. As you will be instantly famous, and a big juicy Nobel prize awaits you. However, I need to point out that if not you don’t have anything with “creative capabilities” within the godless universe, the only remaining option you have left apart from God is the bazaar notion that everything in existence is solely the result of “vastly improbable” undirected chance events; for which there exists no “verifiable scientific answer”, to this very day. . And we have a name for “vastly improbable ” events for which there is no verifiable scientific answer.. We call such events “magic” or “miracles”. As G.K. Chesterton pointed out, when people foolishly reject God they don’t believe nothing, they believe almost anything.Thus, you believe the universe created “itself” from a quantum vacuum that “came from nothing out of nowhere”: That dead matter brought itself to “life”: That consciousness came from non-consciousness: That reason came from non-reason: That intelligence came from no intelligence: And that a monkey like prehuman animal one day “started talking and singing”. And you believe that all these amazing wonders happened “without a miracle worker” anywhere in sight. Which all God conscious religious people would have to concede is “Really Miraculous” .In truth you are truly a person of “blind faith”who believes the unbelievable. So, if any of you know of anything in the universe that does not depend on an external cause to account for its existence, this is your big moment! thegodreality.org

    • Karen the rock whisperer

      Just an FYI: “bazaar” is an open marketplace; “bizarre” is a notion that you can’t stomach.

      For the rest of your argument, it’s the old “I don’t understand it (or I don’t believe humans understand it), therefore God Did It” routine that most of us find to be a tiresome non sequitur. Your characterization of much of the science you attempt to represent is childishly inaccurate. Go study.

      • Yes, thanks for the spell check. No, the argument is not that “God did it” because I can’t understand it. The argument is that nothing exists in the natural world that has “creative capabilities ” to produce a cosmos in which everything in existence is dependent on an external cause beyond the universe. Meaning, God becomes a scientific and philosophical necessity to explain why anything exists. The only alternative is an “infinite” regress of “dependent” causes, and no preceding cause with the capacity to bring itself or anything else into existence. Not ever! Forever! And thus nothing would be here for us to have this conversation. The only scientific and philosophical resolution to this existential crisis is the “necessary” existence of a “self-existing” first cause – in the beginning God.

        • Bryon Miller

          The argument from incredulity is not an argument, it is a wish upon a star. I can’t believe A so B. It is an amazingly Lazy argument and one that has been destroyed time and time again. Infinite regression is the whole point of your argument. You violate your own rules by saying there must be a first cause but not allowing there to be a first cause for your first cause. This is a non sequitur by definition. You claim to be an attorney? God becomes a philosophical and scientific necessity? Why? Because you can’t think of anything else? That’s not an argument that’s just lazy. Karen is right, that argument is tiresome and easily destroyed. Bertrand Russell destroyed it in 1927 and John Stewart Mills did before him. To be sure, the argument from first cause is a powerful argument to the simple minded. Are you simple minded? I don’t think so. So what is your excuse? Why does there have to be a first cause anyway? Because you can’t think of anything else? Just because you can’t imagine anything else does in no way give your argument validity. I can’t think of anything else either but that does not imply god, it implies ignorance of the true nature of the universe, nothing more. If there is a god, the only viable way to determine that is through the scientific method and not wishful thinking.

          • I repeat, the scientific world knows that everything in the natural world is dependent on an external cause to explain is existence, without exception. And this includes our running down dying universe itself. Which cannot explain or sustain itself, and is undergoing radiometric decay and increasing entropy; loss of order. genetic information and usable energy.

            So, rather than making more unsupported generalizing and grand assertions we need you to provide us with philosophical and scientific resolutions (chapter and verse) to the issues raised, seeing you claim to know what is simple or tiresome: Resolutions that are consistent with the Principle of Causation or the Principle of Sufficient Reason. So, let’s see what you really have and how sustainable it is.

            The Principle of Causation or the Principle of Sufficient Reason affirms that if everything in the natural world is dependent on an external cause to explain its existence. And thus the only logical, philosophical and scientific option is the necessary existence of an external transcendent cause beyond the universe: If that transcendent cause is itself “infinitely” dependent on a prior cause that is “infinitely” unable to bring itself into existence; than the only logical, philosophical and scientific option is the necessary existence of a “self-existing” first cause. Namely, in the beginning God.

            Neither Mills, Hume nor Russell, or anyone else, has provided a sustainable alternative answer for this reality. Nor have you. In regard to the resolution of the infinite dependent regress dilemma, Hume and Russell have nothing to offer. Hume and Russell merely made assertions that have no sustainable logical, philosophical or scientific basis. Hume merely said, “every motion is caused by another, so no more need be said”. And all Russell could ultimately say was that the universe is “just there, and that’s all” (Russell, 175). Thus, neither Hume nor Russell had a sufficient reason or explanation as to why everything exists rather than not exists. In short, they had no answer to the chicken and the egg problem: Because neither the chicken nor the egg were able to bring themselves into existence. It’s turtles “all the way down”, they say, but no prior turtle would ever have the ability to create itself and bring itself into existence. Not ever! Forever! Meaning, no turtles, no chickens, no eggs, no cosmos and no life. It’s a simple as that!

            So, let’s see how you resolve the infinite dependent regress issue, if you can. If you can’t, I suggest atheists, agnostics and other “no God” advocates among you stop living in denial as I did for so many years. Join the real world and see reality it for what it really is.

          • MarquisDeMoo

            No Byron is right, your argument is from ignorance and it is your hold on reality which is in question. You do not know whether there was a first cause and if there was what it was. You are right that Hume and Russell have no explanation (that is the ignorance). That you might need an explanation does not mean that there is one or in that you might not be able to imagine an alternative does not prove a god. Yes a god is a possible explanation but in that you have to suspend your own demand for causality to justify it, it is a complication and as such less likely than it was always thus or an infinite regression even.
            Furthermore even if it was a god that designed the Cosmos I defy you to get from this super being to the petty, fallible deities with such appalling foresight postulated by any of the theologies past or present on this obscure planet.

        • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

          No. this is a circle. There is no where to go with this. You’re a programmer, aren’t you? Ever encountered an ‘endless loop’? How do you check for it? How do you fix it. Better yet, WHY do you fix it???

    • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

      Oh sure it has! Come on… you can’t deny history. Joan of Arc… the passion of the various saints… all religions are thoroughly LITTERED with mystical accounts. Wouldn’t be much of a read without ’em.

  • Karen the rock whisperer

    Religion generally involves believing some narrative that has holes big enough to drive a planet through. This might, or might not (depending on the details of the narrative) negatively affect the believer’s life. You can declare that this is not a delusion, but it sure as hell is an unhelpful belief system that is rationally unjustifiable.

    OTOH, such belief systems are not limited to religion. My mother lived by a complex set of rules that often baffled me; much of our conflict during my teenage years consisted of her making some arcane pronouncement and me demanding to know why. “Why” usually boiled down to: her mother, or some other influential woman in her life, did it that way, or she’d read some obscure article that made some wild claim and believed it. So I couldn’t wear jeans as a teenager, because jeans give you yeast infections. Laundry couldn’t be hung out on Sunday, because it would offend the Protestant neighbors (Mom was Catholic). Women shouldn’t use bath sheets because it was unfeminine. Bath towels were more petite and thus appropriate for women. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

    While I rejected Catholicism in my late teens, it didn’t bother me terribly that my mother was so devout; it was mostly harmless and gave her comfort. But the Byzantine set of rules she constructed for daily living that limited her life, absolutely drove me nuts at times. But my point is that we all of us have non-rational thought processes and non-rational responses to things, it’s just that some of us have a LOT more than others. Whether you call these things delusions or not, they aren’t helpful. I don’t see religion as being anything different than incorrect secular beliefs, BS that needs challenging.

    I also object to religion being considered mental illness. Lack of rationality is not indicative of mental illness; my mother wasn’t mentally ill. I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but I know when I was depressed, I could rationally work through evidence for a conclusion — say, that I was a valued coworker and employee — and know that was a rational result, and also know that I was scum and nobody could possibly stand to work with me or value my contributions. I was perfectly aware that the latter wasn’t rational, but also capital-T True. That is totally different from believing that someone died on a cross for my sins, a murky mixture of theology and history that isn’t obviously false on the face of it.

    • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

      I too have experienced depression and know about irrational beliefs. I would rather give up my favourite foods forever than have to rely on prayer and spiritual healing instead of SSRI’s that chemically correct an imbalance in my brain, and have allowed to move along… I would no more tell a diabetic to forego her insulin and instead pray for healing … which is why the potential for forward-movement to problems with science is so much appealing to me than magical thinking and religion.

  • So, tell me Karen, can you name “anything” within the universe or natural world that is NOT dependent on an “external cause” to account for it’s existence.. Anything that is “self-existing” with the “creative capabilities” to produce a completely unified and structured universe, and all else in existence, including life and consciousness. So, let’s all see what you have! And tell me exactly why any specific statement I made is wrong, rather than making mere assertions.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing a brief insight into your background. I can well understand your skepticism as I myself am by nature a skeptic. I too rejected Catholicism and was thrown out of a Catholic school because of my irreligious attitude and conduct. And never gave God or religion a single thought until as an adult I developed a passion for science and became involved in IT and Systems Design, and writing computer coding. And quickly realized that the evidence for God’s existence surrounded me on every side, and at every level: Because an intelligent “effect” always demands an “intelligent cause” I realized the universe and all else was far too complex to have happened by “undirected” cosmic chance or unguided “blind” natural selection; And far too “unified” to have been created by a committee. As a subsequent Law school graduate I evaluate religious and secular worldviews using the principles of evidence used in the courts of law. And discovered that the historical evidence in support of Jesus Christ, and the resurrection, was streets ahead of anything else out there: The tombs of all the other religious founders are still occupied. So, no point backing a loser. I am not into any particular religion or denomination, but do public and church lectures, along with media interviews and other stuff. While many of my family are still committed Catholics, they accept that I no longer regard the church as valid. Thanks for your input. thegodreality.org

    • Bryon Miller

      You come to this discussion from a position of falsity to begin with. You are attempting to place to burden of proof upon the wrong side of the argument but with your claim to come from a legalistic background, it is not surprising albeit disconcerting. You are attempting the equivalent of shifting the burden of proof on to the defendant of the case where the prosecution is the side making the extraordinary claim. You are the one making the remarkable assertion that an all knowing, all powerful and everlasting intelligence is the cause of all existence and by definition a miracle which is also by definition extraordinary. This is a claim that you will never be able to support which is why you need to shift the burden of proof. You claim the discovery of evidence to the historical existence of Christ and the resurrection? Produce these items and I guarantee not only a Nobel for you but also a claim to the throne of the earth but, you can’t so you can forget that. Your whole argument boils down to incredulity. You can’t believe that the universe and everything in it could be explained by any other means than a god designer. Well im sorry thats just lazy. Just because something can’t be determined now, does not mean that it won’t be explainable in the future. This has been shown to be the facts countless times throughout history. The Earth is flat; false. the Sun orbits the Earth; false. the Sun is smaller than the Earth; false. The Earth is the center of the Universe; false. The stars are just lights in the sky; false. The world is only 6,000 years old; not just false but absolutely stupid. Shall I continue?
      The argument from first cause is easily disposed of by the simple question of “who made god”. You will then argue that god is supernatural and beyond the physical limitations of his creation. This is a non sequitur and you lose the argument as it violates your original argument. If anything can exist without a first cause then it may as well be the world itself. Your argument dissolves like a sand castle beneath a titlewave. First cause is do to a lack of imagination, nothing more. Would you care to try again? In any case, your whole argument has nothing to do with the discussion to begin with and you do yourself no favors by making your case. You seem to have at least a rudimentary understanding of the evidence you argue against for no good reason other than an emotional connection to your argument. This is by definition a delusion but I don’t think you are delusional. What I think you are is a liar. You have a rational reason to hold your position in the face of overwhelming evidence although I have no knowledge of what the reason may be. I won’t try to speculate as to why you feel the need to express a belief in something that i’m sure upon self reflection, you will find you don’t actually believe. Your not ignorant of the scientific evidence against your belief, so you don’t have that to fall back on. This leaves but two options, you are either a liar or you are delusional. You decide which. I have given you my opinion.

      • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

        He’s an IT coder… all those 0 and 1 make a person crazy? I don;’t know. Maybe the futility of the daily grind of his job causes him to seek some sort of meaning … beats me. I’ve tried to understand why people won’t let go of the magical thinking… what underlying fears, etc.

    • Hillary Allen (aka Canuck)

      Wow, I’ve HEARD about IT folks and coders getting all religious! Do you still have to work with assembler? that would make anybody believe in the existence of hell. Well, good for you, whatever works. Ultimately, golden rule works for me. Be kind to each other, do the best you can each day, give back, and love someone(s) whole-heartedly. Don’t fear death. Fear pain,.