Well, I guess it is all relative. Heck, even atheists can be delusional. But Tom Rees, reviewing an article at his fine site: Epiphenom, shows that New Agers are wackier than everyone. I particularly enjoyed Tom’s speculation that when folks leave their religions because they just can’t seem to fit in, if they are rational they become atheists but if they are nutty, they become New Agers.
So if New Agers are more crazy than Religious Folks, why do the atheists seem to focus most of their attacks on the poor Religious Folks? After all, Atheists pride themselves in attacking illogical, deluded thinking.
Well, I can think of a few reasons (can you add more?) :
- New Agers aren’t trying to take over the government
- New Agers don’t think you are going to Hell
- New Agers won’t stop their kids from playing with yours
- New Agers aren’t trying to stop science research.
So come on Atheists, fess up. It is not the beliefs of Theists that you dislike, it is what they attempt to do with those beliefs. I actually feel that many religious folks are far from delusional. I feel they only suspend rationality for a few precious beliefs and then turn on rationality to handle all the rest based on those beliefs. It is all very complicated.
Hyper-rationalists feel that, as a commenter on Athiest Nexus wrote, “… [we] want our beliefs to be as accurate as possible — regardless of whether they are comforting or not!”
I am not sure I agree with this. Our beliefs exist in a complex ecological system — the mind. Our beliefs are not isolated entities but come in huge clusters. Let’s say that in a given cluster you have several irrational beliefs but you are not in touch with these beliefs (they are reflexive and unquestioned and unconscious). Now let’s say that in the same cluster you have another irrational belief which you are somewhat in touch with and that this belief is comforting in that it counteracts the negative impacts of the other irrational beliefs. So it you do away with this one belief, you will have unnecessary suffering. Sure it would be nice to fix the whole bunch of them, but mental change rarely happens that way.
Straightening out beliefs is very important when problem solving in a rather scientific way, but otherwise, when we operate on the ecology of our beliefs or on the beliefs of others, we might want to be cautious, slow and gentle with tampering when the belief is comforting and doing no real immediate harm. Accurate is better but happiness sometimes trumps !
Related Post: Web of Beliefs
BTW, I loved this picture from Dawkins’ Coming Out site – unrelated to the post, but wanted to put it up !