Is religion delusion?

One 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".

When you look into the definition further you find that in common usage the word delusion is often reserved for the more restricted medical/psychiatric use; that is, false beliefs produced by mental illnesses.

In this page I hold that strongly held religious beliefs, those that plainly go against reason and the available evidence, while not being psychotic, should also be called delusional.

This page written 2018/02/18 – ©
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com (David K. Clarke)

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Related pages:
Absurdity of religion
The Bible
Islam's threat
Delusions: unaffordable luxuries
Religions as viruses

While I have for a long time held that religion was delusional, the trigger that caused me to write this page was meeting a person who held that the world (including the Universe) was only around 6000 years old. I will briefly discuss that belief before going on to other reasons to hold that religion is delusional.

What is the evidence for and against the world being as young as this rather than the billions of years old that scientists would have us believe?
Evidence for a young world Evidence for an old world
A literal interpretation of the first book of the Bible
  • Observation: the hills, mountains, rivers, glaciers, ice-caps and plains that we can see around us could not have formed in a period of a few thousand years;
  • Science:
    • The geological sciences take what simple observation (above) shows us further. The formation of features such as hills and rivers is only one branch of geology: geomorphology. There are many other branches of geology that also tell us the world must be old.
    • Astronomy shows us that light travelling at 300,000 km per second would not have had time to reach us from many of the objects that we can see in the night sky in 6000 years.
    • The genetic sciences tell us that the species that we see around us, and humans too, took far longer than 6000 years to evolve.
I could go on.

Of course not all religious people believe that the world is young; Hindus, for example, believe that the world is even older than sciences tell us.

At best only one branch of one religion can be right

This page does not aim at showing that religion is simply wrong (I have covered that elsewhere), it aims to show that religion is delusional, but one very simple line of argument indicating that religion makes no sense is the fact that the world's many religions are incompatible with each other. For example, if an adherent of a particular branch of Christianity is right in his/her beliefs, the followers of all other Christian sects, and all other religions, must be wrong.

Religions are often self-contradictory and are always open to interpretation

All people who follow a religion pick and choose which parts they accept and which they reject. So the religion accepted by one person is not exactly the same as that of any other person. Of course, since the scriptures upon which a religion is based (such as the Bible in the case of Christians) are self-contradictory there is no incontrovertible source of facts that can be referred to.

Islam is plainly open to many hugely differing interpretations; the version of Islam accepted by a member of the Taliban or Isis is very different to that accepted by most Muslims in Western countries.

There is no factual basis for any religion. Religion is no more than a meme that exists in different forms in the minds of those who are religious – to my way of thinking, a strongly held belief that is not supported by evidence, often indeed contradicted by evidence, is delusional.

Fairies at the bottom of the garden

If I was to go around telling people that there were fairies living at the bottom of my garden they would rightly think me delusional. The belief in a God or gods, in the complete lack of any verifiable evidence is equally a delusion.