|"Well, you're cray cray!" (source)|
Chris Stedman has published a thought-provoking and no doubt controversial post in the Religious News Service.
5 reasons atheists shouldn’t call religion a mental illness
It seems clear to me that religion isn’t a form of mental illness, and that calling it one reflects a shallow understanding of both mental illness and religion—or, worse still, a knowing attempt to use mental illness as an insult.Go read it, a couple of times. Like me, you could very well get annoyed at it. Now read it again.
I cannot say I agree with all of it, but I am still thinking it over. It's quite thought-provoking.
Anyway, my first reaction -- like most atheists, I think -- was to angrily dismiss all this as some kind of underhanded attempt to shield religion. When I see people behaving in a completely
I also felt like a very solid rhetorical tool was being threatened; that perhaps we were being asked to banish the obvious in some act of political correctness.
The article referred to a Facebook post by American Atheists president David Silverman, whom I greatly admire. He is talking about a recent horrible act of religiously-motivated criminal negligence by Christian faith-healer parents that left their second child dead.
We must recognize religion as brainwashing. We must recognize the (hyper) religious as mentally damaged. We must take responsibility as a society, because we permit this to happen as a society.I completely agree with David and, if I hadn't read Stedman's article, the assignment of mentally damaged to the parents as being somehow inaccurate or even harmful to others with legitimate mental illness would have never even crossed my mind.
I thought about it though. Do mentally ill people out there deserve to be lumped in with people who are so deluded that they believe a magical man in the sky will come down and save their children from illness? Don't they have a hard enough time already without extra stigma?
Now take this excellent point by Sam Harris:
If you think that saying a few Latin words over your pancakes is going to turn them into the body of Elvis Presley, you have lost you mind, but you think more or less the same thing about a cracker and the body of Jesus, you are just a Catholic.You see, I agree with this and I think it's a powerful demonstration of the sort of blind pass faith and religion get in our society.
Now, I don't think Chris Stedman is saying we should dispose of such arguments. You can take that last argument and substitute been deluded.
It all comes down to how accurate we wish to be when we throw around terms like crazy or mentally ill and I would be the first to admit that I sling these around like a pro. Basically, it means we should always do our best to think before we speak.
I'll cut to the point. I know people who suffer or have suffered with mental illness. I think it's much more common than people realize and I believe there is still a stigma associated with it. Some of these people do not believe in God or religion.
Furthermore, I myself believed in this religion stuff. Was I mentally ill? I would answer no (well at least not for that reason!). I was deluded, brain-washed and indoctrinated.
Now, some strong religious beliefs might cause enough trauma to result in some mental illness - PTSD for example. However, these are not the result of all religious beliefs. They can flow out of religious beliefs.
Don't get me wrong, please. This doesn't get religion off the hook. I still think it's dreadful and virus-like, impedes progress and, when implemented, can cause great harm. I just find myself agreeing with Chris here. It's not a mental illness (although it can trigger mental illness). And faith in particular, when understood as believing something for which there is no evidence, is delusional and can be dangerous, but it is not an illness.
After I thought about this, I came to this compromise when it comes to what I say or write. I will not use terms like mentally ill or mentally damaged unless I really mean it in the clinical sense of the word.
When it comes to terms like crazy or cray cray or insane or nutty or fruit-loops, I think these have enough grounding in colloquial speech that they can be kept. I am not diagnosing someone with a medical condition. I'll have no problem calling inanimate objects these things but will still think twice before using the terms to describe individuals or a group of people. If at all possible, I'll reserve these terms for the beliefs or ideas these people may have - their delusions.
The same goes for terms like lost your mind. It's not in the same league as armchair diagnosing someone as mentally ill.
I'm not getting all preachy here. This is just for me. It's a little editorial meta.
What did you think of this article?