Delusions: an unaffordable luxury

A definition of delusion is "A false belief held despite strong evidence against it"; another is "An unshakable belief in something untrue"; another "A belief that is not true : a false idea". Note the similarity between delusion and faith – the latter is the belief in something in spite of a lack of convincing evidence.

Some common delusions that I deal with on these pages concern:

  • Religion: beliefs, with a complete lack of supporting evidence, in spirits or gods;
  • The belief, against all the evidence, that we have an immortal part, a soul that will go on when our bodies die;
  • The belief, against all the evidence, that diviniation can be used to find things, water in particular;
  • The belief, against all the evidence, that wind turbines cause illness;
  • The belief, against all the evidence, that climate change is not happening or is not largely caused by the actions of Mankind (anthropogenic climate change, ACC).
Written 2015/11/09, modified 2087/04/07 – ©
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com

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Climate change is impacting Australia now
Dam fix
Kangaroo Creek dam, South Australia
The wall was raised by four metres and the spillway was being widened by 40 metres due to increasingly heavy flood flows in the Torrens River.
Photo 2017/02/25
In the early twenty-first century our planet is suffering from many serious threats, a number of which could end the current global civilisation or greatly damage the diversity of life on the planet. We need to approach these problems rationally. Delusions such as those listed above, that distract people from rational thought, are luxuries that human society cannot afford.

Related pages on this site:

Belief without evidence and belief against the evidence

The belief in a God or gods is unsupported by any evidence. I cannot point to any evidence that there are no gods. Bertrand Russell compared the belief in god to a hypothetical belief that there is a teapot in orbit around the Sun out beyond Jupiter. We have no evidence for or against either.

The belief that climate change is not happening or that it may be happening but not largely caused by Mankind is a belief opposed to the evidence. There is a huge amount of evidence that anthropogenic climate change is a fact.

A few people believe that wind turbines cause illness. There is a great deal of evidence indicating that they do not and can not. I have argued that it makes just as much sense to believe that street trees cause illness.

However, it is not possible to absolutely prove anything in science, 'science proves nothing', but it can show very good reason for accepting or rejecting many beliefs.

Delusion and faith

Faith has been defined as "strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof" and "firm belief in something for which there is no proof". Religious faith is only a specific form of delusion.

Religion and the definition of delusion

The Free (medical) Dictionary starts its definition of delusion with "A delusion is an unshakable belief in something untrue. These irrational beliefs defy normal reasoning, and remain firm even when overwhelming proof is presented to dispute them." It goes on to specifically exclude "culturally or religiously based beliefs that may be seen as untrue by outsiders".

Others, outside of the medical profession, have tried to confine delusion to this narrow definition too, I suspect simply because they do not want to have the term apply to religious beliefs.

Psychiatric delusion and general delusion

The above definition of delusion is suitable for the psychiatric form of delusion, but delusion certainly exists in the wider world too; why should irrational religious "beliefs that defy normal reasoning and remain firm even when overwhelming proof is presented to dispute them" be excluded from being delusional?

I was brought up to believe in god. At the same time I was taught to not be superstitious. It was only later that I realised that religions and superstitions were indistinguishable and that both were delusional.

Religion and superstition might not fit the medical definition of delusion, but they are delusional by any purely rational definition.