Is Faith a Delusion?

Richard Dawkins redefined faith as a delusion, specifically the Christian faith.

According to Andrew Sims in “Symptoms in the Mind: An Introduction to Descriptive Psychopathology” (2003), religious faith does not fulfil the criteria for delusion because:

  1. Religious faith is not out of keeping with the patients cultural or social background
  2. Religious faith is not held on demonstrably delusional grounds
  3. Religious beliefs are spiritual and abstract, not concrete
  4. Religious beliefs are held with insight
  5. Any bizarre thoughts and actions do not occur in other areas of life
  6. Religious ideas and predominant thinking is a description of content
  7. Faith is a part of their personhood; delusion arises from psychiatric disorder

Sims concludes that faith is not delusional, nor does it cause any other psychiatric condition or symptom. He also concludes that there is evidence that those with religious beliefs are more likely to experience an “inner locus of control” which is associated with better functioning!

The Christian faith is unique because the Christian faith is based on historical evidence.

Atheists such as Richard Dawkins like to compare the Judeo/Christian God with the gods of mythology, but there is no comparison. The well-known Greek and Roman gods and goddesses are similar to modern day superheroes. Some gods are mythological monsters. Some are creatures that mix human features with that of an animal. Ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses operate the same as those in Japan, China, and India. These religions developed a narrative that spanned the empire they conquered.

Islam began in the 6th Century CE when Mohammed reframed the Judeo/Christian faith. They sought to expand their empire to spread their faith. Today Muslims who have converted to the Christian faith say the God of the Quran is not the God of Scripture. So who is the God of Scripture? The New Testament teaches that Jesus is Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

The Christian faith is based on the only historical person who rose from the dead never to die again. Paul wrote, For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles (I Corinthians 15:3-7). The evidence of Jesus in history is attested to not only by his followers who wrote sacred scripture, but also by secular historians who were not believers (Pliny, Josephus, and others).

Unfortunately, the Christian faith has been tweaked by some into what Jesus never intended. People have believed crazy things quoting Scriptures out of context. People have done horrendous things saying what they did was from God.

Fortunately, there are thousands of copies of early manuscripts to study. In fact, there are so many copies, every word of the New Testament can be reconstructed through quotes of the early fathers. There is no mistaking that Jesus taught his followers about God. There is no mistaking that Jesus knew he was God. In addition, there is no mistake that Jesus showed no sign of delusionary or paranoid behavior.

Jesus simplified the heavily weighted Jewish Law into two: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus even taught that we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43).

Jesus performed signs and wonders as prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures. He told the disciples of John the Baptist, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me” (Matthew 11:4-6).

Jesus no longer kept the Sabbath as a day of rest because Jesus was Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). John wrote, For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18).

Jesus forgave sins which infuriated the religious leaders of the day. They accused him of blasphemy. They said only God can forgive sins. By forgiving sins, Jesus was announcing he was God. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7).

Jesus promised eternal life. “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24). Paul wrote, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

In Christ, we have the ability to love our enemies. In Christ, we have the power to overcome the challenges in this world such as disease, depression, and death. In Christ, we have the rest we need to accomplish our tasks. In Christ, we have forgiveness of our sins. In Christ, we have eternal life now and forever.

When I asked Jesus to come into my life, I began to desire to know him more and live in a way that would bring glory to God.

In Him, I have hope. In Him, I have peace. In Him, I have joy everlasting.

If this is delusional, I am thankful to be so.


Andrew Sims, Is Faith Delusional? 2008


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