Pages Menu
TwitterRssFacebook
Categories Menu

Posted by on Jul 16, 2013 in Religion, Skepticism | 30 comments

The Difference Between Religion and Delusion

First, a big thank you to phhht on the Panda’s Thumb Bathroom Wall for this… and confusion or mistakes are purely my own.

Let’s play a game of pretend.  Let’s say that we know a woman.  She has no prior history of mental illness and she has no family history of mental illness.  She hasn’t been injured recently and lives a comfortable life.  Except for one thing.  She firmly believes she has two children.

This isn’t a case of “I wish I had”.  She ‘sees’ them.  They exist, but only for her.  You can be having a conversation with her and she’ll suddenly turn and fuss at one of them for hitting the other.  Then she’ll have a quiet talk in the corner with the one who was hit.  She buys them clothes and toys.  She takes them to school every morning.

In her mind, there is no doubt that these children exist.

How can you make her see that they don’t actually exist?

You can’t tell her they were never born.  She can describe the birth pains, the C-section for the second one, the morning sickness.  She describes it the exact same way every time, even years between questions.

You can’t tell her there’s no birth certificates.  She can produce the papers.  You can tell her that they are really advertisements for cable TV, but to her they are birth certificates and social security cards.

You can’t tell her they don’t really exist.  She can see them.

Indeed, she thinks you’re a little nuts because you can’t see the really cute outfit that one of them is wearing and you don’t get excited when she tells you about their first tooth or a goal in a soccer game.

This woman isn’t dangerous.  She has a good job and is a model employee.  Most people just play along with her.  There’s no harm in it.  The teenager across the street loves it because she gets paid $20 an hour to sit in an empty house.  The school district people think she’s crazy, but she’s not dangerous.  She has no record.  She even volunteers for the PTA and helps out in the classrooms (just don’t put her in her kids’ classes).

Other than this one persistent delusion, she’s as normal as anyone else in the world.

I don’t think that there’s anyone reading this who would think that those children actually exist.  They are purely products of this woman’s mind.

Someone, I don’t care who, explain to me the difference between this woman’s children and god.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Someone, I don’t care who, explain to me the difference between this woman’s children and god.

    The woman’s children are not omniscient nor omnipotent. They are not omnibenevolent while also being petty, jealous and rageful. They are not necessarily existent. They did not father themselves.

    • dagor_annon

      Nice one – I got a laugh.

  • im-skeptical

    One big difference is that the woman is alone in her belief. The theist shares his belief with many others, who encourage and reinforce each other. Some of them tell the rest what to believe and provide reasons for believing.

  • SmilodonsRetreat

    Hmm… Perhaps I phrased the question poorly.

    Why is the woman considered delusional for believing in two children that only she can see, while the religious believer is not?

  • Exiled Scot

    When one person sees and talks to an invisible person, we call them delusional: when a million people do the same thing, we call that religion!

  • RexTugwell

    Smilodon, you forgot to mention the most important evidence of all that this woman is delusional: She believes that the house in which she and her children are living came about by the building materials suddenly popping into existence from *nothing and self-assembling themselves into a 3-bedroom, 2 bath structure with running water and 200-amp service (and a 2-car garage). This particular delusion is due to the fact that she doesn’t want to take upon herself the unpleasant yet necessary responsibility of having to pay the mortgage. Hope that helps.

    * For a definition of nothing, consult Lawrence Krauss. On second thought, I don’t think he’s got a clue. Nevermind.

    • SmilodonsRetreat

      Yes, because your common sense is more valuable than his years of training and research and work in the subject.

    • Exiled Scot

      http://www.openculture.com/2012/01/lawrence_krauss_how_everything_comes_from_nothing.html

      I guess believing your invisible friend did it all isn’t so taxing on the brain!
      One day, perhaps you might escape from that bubble you live in and realise that the myths you believe in came from Bronze Age desert dwellers who thought god was angry with them whenever they heard the sound of thunder!

    • The whole truth

      Rex, you apparently believe that a designer-creator-god spoke this universe into existence. How, where, and from what did the designer-creator-god come into existence? Did it come from nothing?

      Also, please describe the designer-creator-god that you believe in.

  • phhht

    Here’s a link to the article which inspired my questions:

    http://mindhacks.com/2013/05/29/photographing-hallucinations/

    • SmilodonsRetreat

      That’s really interesting. Several people in my family have Parkinson’s but I haven’t heard of hallucinations from any of them… not that it’s relevant.

      I did think the associative trigger point about the photographs was especially interesting. Considering how religious people with doubts may express less doubt after a major religious event, therefore reinforcing the already held impressions of love, belonging, a presence, etc.

  • RexTugwell

    I’m not really interested in debating the universe-from-nothing fairy tale with you. What I am interested in is when we can expect the first installment of your promised review of Darwin’s Doubt.

    • SmilodonsRetreat

      Good. Because you are wrong.

      Again, I’m traveling for work this week and the next. I want to give this the attention it deserves. I said I would do this and I will. Please be patient.

      • RexTugwell

        Ha! I’m wrong? You sound like the science is settled and there’s a consensus among physicists that nothing is creative. I won’t waste my time debating your delusion but I’d be happy to suspend my common sense and review his research on nothing. If you’d be so kind as to send along a copy of “A Universe from Nothing [Full of Stuff]”, I can get started. Oh, is there any peer-reviewed research out there on nothing?

        • SmilodonsRetreat

          No, no, here… let me type it into google for you.

          http://scholar.google.com/scholar?start=30&q=lawrence+krauss&hl=en&as_sdt=0,6

          http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02108013#page-1

          http://arxiv.org/pdf/1004.1035.pdf

          Again, common sense doesn’t mean anything in the real world. Sorry, but it’s true. Accept it. When you get to the point where you can explain every part of these papers to me, then I will consider you an authority on the subject. Until then, I’ll trust the people who can a) do the math, b) know the data, and c) understand that, in science, things change as new data comes in, but we have to accept the best conclusion we can draw at this time.

          • RexTugwell

            Your snarky, passive-aggressive reply is cute but the above links don’t give me what I asked for: peer-reviewed research on nothing! I already know that Krauss is a self-contradicting expert on nothing. I want to hear from other physicists on “NOTHING”. Not our zero-energy universe. Not quantum fluctuations. Not instability of empty space.

            And don’t make appeals to math until you correct your fundamental mathematical mistake here http://www.skepticink.com/smilodonsretreat/2013/02/18/weaknesses-of-evolution-part-1-origins-of-life/

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            Until you can tell me every single possible component that can affect the random probability of a protein forming, then there’s no change to be made. My estimate (which was snark) is just as good as anyone else’s.

            And the zero energy universe is the entire point. If you watched the video (posted for you), read the book, or read the papers, you would understand that.

            It’s really amazing what nothing can do isn’t it?

          • RexTugwell

            Dude, you can’t even calculate a simple permutation. Not only will you not correct your error but you can’t even bring yourself to admit you made one. And you think I’m going to take the time to show you where Krauss’s work is wrong? Your calculation on protein formation was not an estimate. From the context anyone can tell that what you were trying to do was demonstrate the ID argument from probability. Whether the argument was valid or not doesn’t matter; you transposed the base and exponent and your “estimate” was off by 150 orders of magnitude. If I were the one doing that, you’d be inventing new ways to describe my stupidity.

            No, Smilodon, you and your skeptical friends here are not only delusional, you’re in pathological denial – a common defense mechanism. I’m only beating this dead horse because I can’t stand to witness the abuse of reason. Besides, look at all the discussion I’m generating for your not-oft-commented-upon musings.

            Your standard “Until you can …” valediction is merely a transparent way of avoiding having to face the facts.

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            Let me ask you.

            Do you think that any two random amino acids have the exact same probability of forming a chemical bond? yes or no?

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        Having read the first few pages of the prologue, I’m not impressed. Nothing major, but he’s assuming a lot of things which are either not established or known to be false.

        There are systems that generate specified information that are not intelligent. And there are plenty of hypothesized systems (most of which have experimental support) in which both a storage system and a reading/execution system do not have to be developed separately in pre-biotic system to develop life. Indeed, there are cases where the storage system (RNA) can act as its own reading/execution system (ribozymes).

        I’ll do a detailed analysis as I finish each part. I’m afraid that this will develop into a monster of a book.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      RexTugwell: I’m not really interested in debating the universe-from-nothing fairy tale with you.

      RexTugwell: Your snarky, passive-aggressive reply is cute

  • SmilodonsRetreat

    Rex, tell you what. Here’s your chance. Tell us how the universe formed and your evidence that this is so.

    We won’t talk anymore about zero energy, dark matter, or quantum mechanical effects.

    Let’s hear what you think should replace the Big Bang and its success at predicting and explaining the universe as we know it.

    Go.

    • RexTugwell

      You’ll have a hard time proving that I want to replace the Big Bang. You may be confusing me with YECs. In fact, I’m a huge fan of the Big Bang. I love what it teaches us and I love its metaphysical implications. Atheists don’t and that’s why they’ve invented the multiverse.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        Good. One of the implications of the Big Bang is that the universe is flat.

        Atheism has NOTHING to do with this. Christianity has nothing to do with this. The only thing that makes us think that the universe started from nothing is observation and math. That’s all.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        Atheists don’t and that’s why they’ve invented the multiverse.

        This is just the sort of lie apologists tell when they lose an argument over science.

        Why we think there’s a Multiverse, not just our Universe

  • John

    Presumably your querry assumes god [sic] to be an element of ID (which, in your view requires faith to even exist) and, therefore [Ha! Ha!], those who believe in God are just a delusional as the woman who believes she has two children, regardless of the evidence. At the risk of being accused of creating “a distraction”, I will provide you with a detailed answer if you answer the following question:
    If a tree falls in a forest and no one sees or hears it fall, does it exist?

    • SmilodonsRetreat

      Umm.. no. I don’t presume that god is an element of ID. There’s just as much evidence for god being a designer as aliens or time travelling cell-biologists. That is none.

      Does a tree exist? I would say sure, it exists.

      The question is why is the woman delusional and a religious follower not?

  • Torbjörn Larsson

    Good one.

    It is by the way simple to convince her, and everybody else, about her delusions. You agree to a mutual Randi test. Say that you have her agree to confine the children to a room and ask them to do some action – bounce balls or whatever. The total lack of energy difference in the closed system of the room before and after her magical beings enter is the mutually agreed on test for no magical action present, as per classical thermodynamics. If she doesn’t agree, magic is delusional. If she agree and fails the test, magic is delusional.

    This is how we now know the universe is totally lacking in “magic” and was the result of a spontaneous process. It turns out the inflationary standard cosmology universe is flat, so near enough zero energy and contain no extraneous “magic” or isn’t mainly a product of “magic”. In other words, we now all know religion is delusional.

  • Mark Joseph

    Not sure if this is what you are looking for, but one difference between god and this woman’s children is that this woman’s children will never ask her to kill her neighbors for having different children.

  • Stephen Stearman

    Do I have to registra