Monday, 24 February 2014

Who are the most deluded - the Religious or Atheists?


People are always accusing each other of being dumb, crazy or mastered by wishful thinking - in fact, I personally do it a lot on this blog.

But aside from he said/ she said - what actual objective evidence could there be that somebody's ideas were false, a delusion?

Mostly it is that false ideas do not adequately model or predict reality - so that someone whose ideas are false finds that things based on those false ideas don't work.


So the objective sign of false (potentially) ideas is maladaptive behaviour: but what behaviour counts as maladaptive?

We have to be careful here, because to be adaptive to 'the world' is merely to be 'worldly' - to seek short term happiness, status, pleasure and the rest of it.


When we are talking about very general ideas, such as religions and ideologies - then the category of 'does not work' needs to be independent of those ideas or else the argument becomes circular.

In particular, the truth of ideas cannot be judged by the here and now emotional state of the people who hold them; and neither can it be decided by their popularity, prestige, 'success' or whatever - because that would be to beg the question.

To discover whether ideas are maladaptive (hence probably wrong) I think we need to focus on basic, biological outcomes such as:


Birth rate

This is the most significant. Any society (nation, religion, religious denomination, or atheism) with average chosen fertility below the minimum replacement level - a birth rate less than two per woman, especially in a situation where it is probable that more than two offspring could successfully be raised to the age of sexual maturity) is deluded.

This is the only strictly biologically-valid sign of maladaptive ideas, since a fertility rate less than two is always a sign of severely reduced (negative) 'fitness' - nothing could compensate for sub-replacement group fertility.

This, of course, labels the whole of the West as fundamentally deluded; including almost all of Christianity.

But, within the West, the only groups who choose above replacement fertility are religious. One (or more than one) of these groups might be un-deluded - but all sub-fertile groups are necessarily deluded.


I also suggest the following as probabilistic evidence of delusion:

1. Significant/ increasing rates of deliberate and purposive self-harm, self-mutilation (including tattoos and piercings), and repeated suicidal 'attempts' (parasuicide) are un-biological, maladaptive and evidence of delusion  - and these are especially significant of delusion when these are among women. Those who behave in this aggressive way towards their own bodies are, to that extent, objectively deluded (unless, of course, they explicitly repent, relabel, and repudiate their past behaviour).


2. Focusing exclusively on secondary issues to the exclusion of primary issues.

This is very characteristic of modern society; of Leftism and the Mass Media - and so common in everyday life as to be almost invisible.

(Atheists are very predominately leftist/ liberal/ socialist/ communist/ and in favour of the sexual revolution.)

It includes things like ignoring the issues of food production when talking about agriculture, and ignoring education when talking about schools and universities, and ignoring truth when talking about research and scholarship, and ignoring the production of essential goods and services when talking about economics, and ignoring the prevention and suppression of crime when discussion the police, or ignoring defence when talking of the military.

Instead all attention is focused on secondary issues such as equality, Social Justice, diversity, Fairness, aesthetics, Rights... well, pretty much anything except the primary issue.


How can this be seen? Well it is a matter of responses.

For example, if anybody brings up in public discourse the question of whether a scientist is truthful, or whether a scientific field is honest, or whether modern scientific organization systematically encourages and rewards lying - then this line of enquiry is met by silence, horror, aggression, denial... but never is this issue allowed to become acknowledged as vital to the basic purpose of science.

Because of this exclusion of what is a primary (indispensable) requirement for science, modern science is deluded: objectively deluded - and this is not merely a matter of opinion.

The same with respect to the military and police and medial schools when their recruitment and selection processes focus on factors like sex, class and ethnicity - they are objectively deluded in their attitudes.


There are probably some others.

But the general approach shows that we live in a deluded society (i.e. our secular society is deluded)  - and indeed almost all non-religious people, and most religious people are objectively deluded.

Self-identified atheists in The West are (I would have thought very obviously) among the most deluded people of all (and among the most deluded of any time in human history) since, as a class, they most strongly exhibit the above characteristics.

The fact that Western atheists regard religious people as deluded because they believe things that atheists happen to regard as absurd or silly or dumb or evil is irrelevant - this is just a matter of opinion.

And these are, after all, the opinions of objectively-deluded people - so they must be treated with special caution and scepticism.

Unless atheists could show that religious beliefs are objectively associated with maladaptive outcomes - such as sub-replacement fertility, self-mutilation or inability to perceive primary reality - then these accusations mean nothing - they are just exhaled warm air...



Wm Jas said...

Excellent points overall, but I think you're exaggerating the maladaptive nature of most forms of self-mutilation. Small-scale mutilations such as ear piercing pose virtually no threat to survival; and it is a fact that some forms of self-mutilation (facial piercings among Indian women; circumcision in the Middle East; and, to a lesser extent, tattooing in Austronesian cultures) are associated with religiosity and high fertility rates. Circumcision in particular was a hallmark of the single most stable and long-lived civilization in all of history: that of ancient Egypt.

I agree that the explosion of interest in self-mutilation in the modern West is a symptom that something has gone terribly wrong -- but it is only in its cultural context that it can be seen as such. The problem is not self-mutilation in se, but self-mutilation divorced from any cultural or religious meaning. A modern Westerner's tattoos and piercings are not a sign of religious commitment, the transition to manhood, group membership, or anything like that. (When they do signify group membership, it is membership in a criminal gang.) They are, for the most part, inflicted arbitrarily, in the spirit of why-the-hell-not, or in an attempt to "express one's individuality" (i.e., the opposite of commitment or group membership).

David Baker said...

As someone who admits to being deluded very often I can rarely find the confidence to even attempt to explain to atheist friends that they are also deluded. To my (probably autistic) eyes many Christians hold onto all sorts of comforting delusions about themselves and the world. And as someone of at best average IQ I have always held the delusion of being more well informed etc than most. Recently I have realised this to be untrue. Funnily enough this hasn't increased my happiness! Just as elements of the DE are so proud of their "seeing through" the delusion of liberalism they then invest themselves in multiple other compensating beliefs.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - What! Me exaggerate?

"Small-scale mutilations such as ear piercing "

Yes, but they aren't necessarily significantly mutilating - although some are.

There is a question of degree - obviously barely-significant degrees of self-mutilation are... barely-significant. (Easily swamped in effect by other things.)

" associated with religiosity and high fertility rates" No. You should notice that I always talk about CHOSEN fertility.

High birth rates purely as a by-product of sexual activity in societies with no knowledge or means of controlling fertility is neither here nor there.

When I read the accounts of scarification among Australian Aborigines it strikes me as a profoundly unhealthy (and indeed maladaptive) feature of those societies - it seems like pretty much a kind of ritualized torture

This source

Described elsewhere how the women got their scarified back 'decorations' - which amounted to be held down, screaming with pain etc.

David Baker said...

Several adults at my anglican church have tatooed chi-rho symbols on arms or even back of the neck. Can't say I find it appealing on a woman but then I am an old fart.

Bruce Charlton said...

@DB - Just because someone says they are a Christian or attends church...

The majority of people (especially leaders) in the majority of self-identified Christian churches/ denominations are anti-Christian, apostate, Christian-subversive fifth columnists.

You need to be clear about this, and use your discernment about these matters.

Real Christians are rare in the West: very rare.

George said...

We have an interesting situation where the liberals have taken important roles in the church. The liberals outside the church then point at how the liberals in the church are deluding themselves with false beliefs. The liberals in the church then use this as an excuse to push the church more to the left, so that nothing in the church has any meaning.

Those who hold on to the central meaning as the most important element are attacked from within and without by those who think all that matters are the seemingly progressive elements as evaluated by modern liberalism (e.g. money for the poor), and that all the rest should be discarded or considered pointless - as nothing more than entertaining delusions for simple people.

Bruce Charlton said...

@G - Yes, that is how it seems to work. Leftists on both sides. I have experienced this myself, when working as a part-time bureaucrat in the National Health Service. The NHS funds pressure groups (and 'independent' research) - which then 'pressure' the bureaucrats and give them an excuse to do what they want to do anyway.

David Baker said...

You often have a situation where the older congregation is used as a source of funds to subvert its own influence. They are complicit with this as they would rather pay than engage in the embarrassing matter of explaining what they have never thought deeply about.So we fund trips to Rwanda for retired doctors and engineers but have absolutely no plan to engage with unchurched children in our own town. For pointing this out one is labelled " unhelpful".

Adam G. said...

I wholeheartedly endorse this post, although I also agree with Wm. Jas. first comment.

JP said...


"Small-scale" mutilations may not be maladaptive in themselves, but one can readily observe that they go hand-in-hand with other maladaptive behaviors.

The two people who have most vehemently insisted to me that "a few tattoos are no big deal" are my two childless, atheistic female relatives. I don't want to make too much of that, but it seemed to me they were as deluded about the tattoos as about everything else.

George said...

Tattoos are certainly vulgar... but more than just that, they are (these days, in general) an advertisement of degeneracy. Either prideful or cooperative.

Also curious is their example of a present phenomenon: a great diversity of symbol and show, pattern, variety that is all totally and intrinsically empty. I don't mean just fashion, but everything - the architecture, the art, the public discourse. Dead symbolism.

Bruce Charlton said...

@W - I have no intention of defending as right everything Christians have ever done - that would be silly!

You can probably work out for yourself the kind of thing that would have to happen for the population of the earth as a whole to decline, but for birthrates of those in a position to expect to raise more than two children to remain above replacement level.