Religious Beliefs as Mental Illness?

Kathleen Taylor, neuroscientist, was quoted today in the Huffington Post as suggesting it might be a good idea to treat religious beliefs as mental illness.

“Someone who has for example become radicalised to a cult ideology — we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance,” Taylor said. “In many ways it could be a very positive thing because there are no doubt beliefs in our society that do a heck of a lot of damage.”

Reading to the bottom of the article, one finds that Taylor voices caution concerning this kind of recommendation, in view of possible abuses. I’ve learned that when an article opens with a lede like this one’s (“…one day religious fundamentalism may be treated as a curable mental illness”), it might be the journalist more than the researcher whose voice we’re hearing.

I don’t know, then, which of them is more to blame, but the suggestion is dangerous.

I agree there are some incredibly damaging religious beliefs. To treat them as “some kind of mental disturbance,” however rather than “a result of pure free will,” is to place the believer’s freedom of will in the hands of others wielding great power on them involuntarily.

The Soviets did this, I’m told.

As for “beliefs in our society that do a heck of a lot of damage,” consider one professor’s view

RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.

The study mentioned there is a widely discredited one by Gregory S. Paul. The philosophy professor responsible for the website seems to affirm Paul’s conclusions regardless.

Consider the Ohio attorney, formerly serving in state government, who writes at length of “Christianity’s Social Harms.”

And consider the much more prominent person who said,

I think that, particularly as somebody who’s now in the public realm and is a student of what brings people together and what drives them apart, there’s an enormous amount of damage done around the world in the name of religion and certainty.

Do you see where Taylor’s (reported) recommendation could take us?

Sure, religious beliefs can be harmful. To use neuroscience to deny freedom of belief, however, would be horrendous.

 

Comments

  1. John Moore

    The HuffPo piece seems like another typical case of mass-media hyperbole. The question will only start to get interesting once psychiatrists are even capable of “curing” religious belief. I’m pretty sure they’re a long way from that point.

    Suppose a psychiatrist could do some technique on anyone and get them to stop believing in God, and suppose it worked every time. Would we then go around systematically eliminating religion from our society? My personal sense is that it would be too much trouble, and you’d really only want to treat the most violent ones. Don’t try to cure something that’s not a problem, after all.

    Probably the tendency to violent terrorism is separable from the tendency to believe in religion.

  2. kimsland

    Its an emotional addictive feeling. Yes addiction can be cured, firstly take away the problem continuously causing it, ie the churches and signs and all that other religious crazy stuff everywhere you look. I also feel that we should try to keep it away from those under 18 (giving them more hope not to get this brain disease).

    I wonder if any feel that may be a bit extreme? But personally I find religion to be dangerous on any level. Basically religious number one viewpoint is belief in a supernatural deity, this is obviously wrong since there is NO proof in such a ridiculous notion, plus it is SO unlikely it is MORE likely that any god would not exist.

    My biggest concern is for children who are told that god is real when it can’t be. 1. The person stating this has no proof 2. The child would believe almost anything! It is obviously wrong for children (adults can decide on false beliefs and waste their life on their own, but NOT children).

    It would be grand if a ‘religious’ person could at least understand this. Possibly it would help religion from its inevitable demise? But to continuously cause outright lie to children is wrong and can easily cause mental illness down the track (why doesn’t jesus help me!!! And that type of false hope).

    Religion is on the way out from modern society (thankfully), and I suppose that we will see more and more fanatical ‘believers’ holding on to the last bit of hope. No proof will overcome this emotional FEELING of believing in something that doesn’t exist. I DO feel sad for all religious people, that’s why I especially don’t want any child affected with this brain numbing myth.

    I continue to find the best approach. Atheists state let science cure them. Comedians use humor (quite effectively). I think parents should keep their children away from religion, but some parents really don’t know any better.

    The facts are already there. Information in abundance. Its time we stand up and say out loud, THERE IS NO GOD.

  3. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    kimsland,

    Thank you for visiting!

    I assume you believe strongly in evidence. Could you please show me the evidence supporting:

    1) Christian belief is strictly “an emotional addictive feeling.” (I don’t disagree that there are feelings involved: it is a whole-person experience. But you seem to think it is nothing more than that, which is an opinion I am quite sure you could not support empirically.)

    2) Religion is on the way out. (Disbelief is on the rise in the U.S., but belief is not decreasing. It’s only the middle ground of nominal or cultural religion that’s decreasing. See the latest polls.)

    3. Raising children to believe in Christ is bad for their mental health (you might want to look into the empirical counter-evidence as you do so.

    4. Christian believers are less rational than atheists (see the counter-evidence on that, too).

    5. “THERE IS NO GOD.” (This is a large question, in fact it is the biggest one of them all. I don’t think it’s possible to do it justice in this comment thread, in view of the fact that, in one way or another, my whole blog is aimed at showing that’s not true: that there is a God and he is good. So if you want to set this one aside, please feel free to do so.)

    So that’s my request and invitation to you: please investigate and see if any of those claims have genuine empirical support behind them.

    Here’s my statement to go along with that invitation: while I’m sure you’re committed to scientific empiricism and rational thinking, I’m also sure you won’t find empirical support for any of these claims. So I challenge you to apply your own standards to these claims, and to see if they hold up.

    Thaks again for visiting.

  4. bigbird

    Basically religious number one viewpoint is belief in a supernatural deity, this is obviously wrong since there is NO proof in such a ridiculous notion, plus it is SO unlikely it is MORE likely that any god would not exist.

    I would be interested to see your probability calculations on the likelihood of God existing (or not).

  5. BSquibs

    Wow kimsland – that an impressive amount of question begging and unsupported assertion that you managed to cram into one comment.

    But I’ve seen this manner of response before. The author generally has no interest in discussion or even listening. The intent is simple – kick down the door of irrationality, give ’em the twin barrels of “logic” and “reason” and then leave safe in the knowledge that they are so obviously correct that they don’t need to justify anything they said.

    But perhaps kimsland is an exception to my experience.

  6. Ben

    This country was founded on religion and morality. I’ll just reference two quotes from George Washington:

    “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports.”

    “…reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

  7. Bellatori

    “Sure, religious beliefs can be harmful. To use neuroscience to deny freedom of belief, however, would be horrendous.”

    So… as long as it is a religious belief it doesn’t matter if it is harmful?

    I guess that interfering with altar boys is a religious experience so that’s all right then… [/irony]

  8. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Ummm… Bellatori, did you see anyone saying “as long as it is a religious belief”? Did you see anyone recommending harm? Did you see anyone approving harm, or saying “it doesn’t matter”?

    Do you have any opinions on the substantive matter, which is the question of using neuroscience to deny freedom of belief? Would you like someone using such techniques on you?

    In other words, do you have anything relevant or sensible to add to this discussion? If so, by all means feel free to do so. You haven’t so far.

  9. Kendi Kim

    Just one comment about abortion, after this bit addressing the main point. As far as christianity specifically being a psychological issue, I’d have to say that is in line with my way of thinking. I may not go so far as to call it a mental illness, but I would say that it’s perhaps some sort of concern, just as much as low-self-esteem is a psychological concern. I mean, christianity is great for people who have been habituated to having servile dispositions to a superior being, but at the same time who deep down don’t want to be truly degraded into an inferior position, and so instead of elevating an actual person, they elevate an ikon, that is, the mere idea of a perfect someone to be their official “lord” and superior — namely, Jesus. All this, so one can maintain the pleasantly comforting and familiarly servile position of being a slave of Rome while maintaining one’s dignity.

    If one wants to honor their conscience and inner-daimon as the highest authority, then that is fine, but it need not be convoluted with the idealized figure of Jesus. That sort of figure is still iconic, and is still external to the individual, isn’t it now? Actually, I see something beautiful in the pagan stories, and why lose all of that? Is Rome that superior? I think christians should try to get over this inferiority complex.

    So then my comment about abortions:
    Not sure why/how you think religion is conducive to abortion, but I think that religion also PREVENTS abortion.

    As an advocate of abortion (mother’s love is free and all that), I am against those religions that try to PREVENT abortion. As far as I’m concerned, any mother who even thinks about aborting her child, probably shouldn’t have a child anyway, so it’s all for the best.

  10. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    My main question for you regarding your “habituated to having a servile position,” Kendi, is how you could claim to believe something so utterly distanced from all evidence. Do you actually know any Christians? How many? How many evidence behaviors of being habituated to servility? What does that evidence look like?

    How do you define “servile,” both theoretically and operationally? How do you distinguish servility from respect? How do you distinguish it from admiration?

    How do you distinguish servility to a false ikon from worship of a true God? Let me offer this as an answer: behavior is a secondary distinction. The primary distinction is in whether there is a true God or not.

    So then, what is your evidence for your belief that Jesus is “the mere idea of a perfect someone”?

    What does this nonsense about being a slave of Rome mean? If you’re referring to Catholicism, it’s off the mark in a bad way. Even worse, though is the fact that no Protestant Christian would even recognize what in the world you’re talking about there! We don’t give much regard to Rome, you know.

    What is this inferiority complex of which you speak?

    And finally, any mother who thinks about aborting her child already has a child.

  11. Post
    Author
  12. G. Rodrigues

    As far as I’m concerned, any mother who even thinks about aborting her child, probably shouldn’t have a child anyway, so it’s all for the best.

    I have been staring at this for several minutes and am at a loss for words. It is a complete irrationality (how can non-being be better than being? It is not even coherent) and morally vile. And yet, a human being going by the name of Kendi Kim, whom I do not know, uttered it. A she I presume. Asian origin? My father was from India, from the former Portuguese colony city of Goa to be more precise. I try to imagine Kendi’s parents; mixed heritage like me? My mother is fully Portuguese, with a sprinkle of Jewish blood from her grandfather side. Does Kendi have sisters? Brothers? We are four here. My brother. What would possess a human being to say such a horrible thing. I don’t understand. My brother. No, wait. As I was saying, my great-grandfather came from Germany to Portugal. A Jew. Persecutions. Would it be better for him not to be born? How did we get here? I am at a loss for words. What can one say? Put a stone in the mouth and choose silence? “Oh Lord Thou pluckest me out”. I keep writing and deleting. Then I go back. I write one sentence; then I add another. Then I delete everything. And do it all again. I swear I do not understand. What would possess a human being to say such a horrible thing? May God have mercy on us all.

  13. Kendi Kim

    @Tom Gilson: Well, the evidence that I was thinking of is the Christian’s habit of calling upon a “lord”. Also, I never denied that an aborted child is not a child. I absolutely accept that the unborn child is a child indeed.

    @G. Rodrigues: http://alethessophia.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/particularly-in-commercialized-societies-things-received-for-nothing-are-often-believed-to-be-worthless/
    Tell me what you think. And, a question for you. You were fortunate enough to have been born with loving parents I presume. But, would you still want to have been born if your parents weren’t so loving? I think most people have the habit of thinking about the abortion issue from the perspective of the mother — that is, why a mother would think it is beneficial for her own life to have an abortion.

    I say, consider it from the perspective of the unborn child. Perhaps most people value life more than anything else, and would prefer to be born despite the lack of loving parents. However, consider that I am not addressing those individuals then, who love to cling to life so desperately, but rather I speak to those who have a standard of existence. I am merely suggesting, that perhaps those individuals would find it beneath their dignity to be born to such parents and would prefer death. Then, in that latter case, abortion is what the individual would have wanted, and is beneficial for the individual, not the mother.

    And, so, I say such things.

  14. G. Rodrigues

    @Kendi Kim:

    And, so, I say such things.

    Indeed you do, and I feel sorry for you that you do.

    As far as the content of the claim I have already explained in a parenthesis why it is incoherent; it does not even raise to the dignity of being false, just incoherent.

  15. Melissa

    Kendi Kim,

    I have a good friend who many would consider falling into the “better not to be born” category as you have described it here. Born to a heroine addicted mother, raised in state care (being a combination of group homes and foster care). She is now a mum to two beautiful adult girls, wife, minister to the poor, lonely and outcast in our community. Who are you or any mother to decide that any life is worthless. No life is worthless, no matter what the circumstances into which they are born. We make our lives worthless when we turn from life to death. Don’t swallow the lies of our culture and the criteria on which it deems a life worthy and unworthy, in much of this we are mistaken by our captivity to comfort.

  16. Kendi Kim

    @ Melissa: Again, you think that death somehow means that the life is worthless. You are miscomprehending the perspective.

    Consider those who die for a just cause. It was Augustine who said, “We do not seek peace in order to be at war, but we go to war that we may have peace.”

    Consider that there may be something more important than life. Consider things from the perspective of the individual as you yourself, and not as an outsider looking in. Ask yourself whether you would want to live such a life, and not whether other people would value your life.

    If you answer that you find any sort of life as dignified, then I clearly I am not speaking to you. But if you find that some lives are worth living, and some are not, then I am merely stating the obvious. Not all lives are of the same value, wouldn’t you agree?

  17. Melissa

    Kendi Kim,

    Again, you think that death somehow means that the life is worthless. You are miscomprehending the perspective.

    No, I am responding to your suggestion that some people are better off never being allowed to be born and that it is perfectly fine for us to make those decisions. As such, people who die for a just cause are irrelevant to the discussion.

    If you answer that you find any sort of life as dignified, then I clearly I am not speaking to you. But if you find that some lives are worth living, and some are not, then I am merely stating the obvious. Not all lives are of the same value, wouldn’t you agree?

    I think it’s pretty clear that we do not believe that our circumstances can make life worthless or without dignity, that would be the standard Christian perspective, I would think. Jesus Christ died for all, so no, I do not agree with you that some lives have more value than others. We can choose to live in a manner that is worthy or unworthy of the dignity that we were created with.

  18. Kendi Kim

    Hi Melissa,
    I mean, I can understand and imagine your perspective. The question is, can you imagine the perspective that I am putting forth?

    Just wondering, but did you get to read my thoughts on this issue on my own blog yet? I’d like to hear what you think, after you read that first.

    I never said that it was fine for “us” others to make a decision whether a child would be born or not. If that decision is to be made, it must be a decision made primarily by the mother, after considering the thoughts of the father, and perhaps others that may have an obvious and direct impact on the child’s happiness.

    All I am saying is consider the aspect of life from the child’s perspective, as if it were your own. If you had a choice, would you choose to born more well, or to be born less well? It’s a simple question, and not meant to be complicated.

    As for myself, I’d rather have the better birth if possible, whenever possible. Life seems to be hard enough even with the best sort of start possible. I’m not talking about worth. I’m talking about happiness, and the opportunity to achieve happiness, and most importantly, manifesting the form of the good.

    Finally, I absolutely do think that circumstances do play some role in the dignity that we can manifest in our lives. To think otherwise is false. If circumstances didn’t matter at all, there would be no such things as welfare, police, environmental agencies, public education, etc. The truth is circumstances absolutely do matter, and they contribute to how much and how well an individual is able to lead a dignified life.

    Try reading my blog post, and tell me what you think.
    Before we try to prevent a mother’s maternal instinct to prevent what she perceives to be a bad beginning for her offspring, all I am saying is that we should use her FREE decision as a MEASURE of how well our society is doing in terms of becoming a “good world to live in”. In order to allow this free decision, abortion has to be kept legal, free of stigma, and a safe option. Only then, can we know how well we are doing in terms of making the world a better place to live in. I trust in a mother’s instincts. We need the voices of all mothers, not just one.

    Our mothers are important to each of us. When our mothers are happy, they take the best care of us. Before we use noises from our mouths to change the world, we have to engage in acts of kindness and make the world a better place to live in. And then, we have to ask mothers to give us their feedback. Is this such a bad place to be in? If the mothers are still having abortions, then the answer is clear and there is more work for us to do to make the world good enough. I think this is the proper position that the world should have, regarding the issue of abortion.

    Thanks for listening Melissa. These are just my thoughts. I know the majority and the mainstream thought is the Christian way, and I appreciate your patience while you’ve listened to my minority viewpoint. Just asking for you to consider another way of thinking, not asking you to change your mind necessarily.

  19. Melissa

    Kendi Kim,

    I never said that it was fine for “us” others to make a decision whether a child would be born or not. If that decision is to be made, it must be a decision made primarily by the mother

    The mother is one of “us”.

    As for seeing another viewpoint, before I was a Christian I adopted the mainstream cultural view of my generation regarding abortion as good depending on your circumstances – a position that I am now deeply ashamed of, especially because I know my motivation was utterly selfish. I just thank God that I was not in a position where I felt I needed to act in accordance with that perverted view of life. I realise this world is full if injustice but we don’t make that better by piling on more of the same.

  20. Kendi Kim

    Okay, if I were to say that “you win”, and abortion is illegal and highly stigmatized…

    Do you have a suggestion for how to take care of all those accidental or unwanted lives? What is your plan for ensuring that every single precious life can and will achieve happiness? Or, is happiness the individual’s responsibility alone, after they are born? And then, is happiness a mere feeling or some psychological perspective of the individual towards their life, or is it something else? What makes a person truly well? Does your version of happiness include material goods like food, health, family and friends, or only those of a spiritual element? If you were to be born as a slave because abortion is illegal, would you still say that life is so precious? Or is it only precious because you have the good things in your life to make it so (education, social opportunities, good family, decent food, etc)?

  21. Kendi Kim

    Also, “us” as in “us OTHERS”, and “us” as in “us the mother and father”, are two completely different classifications of “us”es. (Please excuse that strange invention of a word here. It is the plural “us”.)

    If you are going to say that “us OTHERS” have a right to some say in whether a child is born or not by making it legal or illegal, then “we OTHERS” also have a direct responsibility in providing the best opportunities and support for that child. But, in truth, most of us have no such connection to OTHERS, and when we see a homeless person on the street, we merely pass them by and do not take them into our homes and restore them, as if they were our prodigal sons.

    Secondly, what is considered good enough for me may not be good enough for you, and our standards of goodness vary. What I think may be a good sort of life, may not be to your satisfaction and fulfillment. Perhaps I don’t mind a little dirt on my hands mixed in with my lunch, while you really prefer to take the utmost care of cleaning your hands after using the restrooms and before eating. Would you want a meal prepared by me, and according to my values and standards? Most likely not. In a similar way, though life may be good enough for me, you may have an entirely different perspective about whether this world is good enough or not for a child of yours to be born into. Don’t you think individual mothers are entitled to a similar sort of right to discernment regarding their progeny? I personally would hate to be forced to eat food that I didn’t find meeting my standards. My point is simply that, food itself is not what is good itself. It is “good-food” that is good, not any and all food. Similarly, I tend to find that a “good-life” is what is truly good, and not any and all sorts of lives. Do you disagree?

  22. Melissa

    Kendi Kim,

    I get it. You think it’s perfectly fine for mother’s and father’s to kill their own child if they think the child’s life might not reach the levels of comfort that they think is necessary. Your view is abhorrent and no amount of window dressing will change that. You may just walk past homeless people, I eat with them regularly and count as my sisters in Christ several who have overcome significant challenges due to the circumstances that they were born into. I think that is probably why I find you views as expressed here particularly disturbing. You would advocate terminating children like them to avoid their suffering but you forget that you would also be terminating their beauty.

    The answer to unwanted children is to change our societies attitude to children, life, relationships and sex but supporting abortion only promotes and enables the very attitudes that have caused the problem in the first place.

    Feel free to comment but this will be my last post on the subject, I’ve said everything that needs to be said but I do suggest you rethink your attitude that has reduced the good down to the avoidance of discomfort.

  23. Kendi Kim

    Last post also then for me as well, but I don’t think it’s a simple matter of comfort. Education, social mobility, happiness… these are big matters.

    Also, often, women (or girls, for that matter) simply do not become truly “mothers” until they are actually mothers. It would be ideal if women were more careful with whom they choose to make children with, and if all men were safe to be around sexually, but sometimes, these things don’t always work out perfectly. Sometimes, it takes that moment of conception before a woman’s maternal instincts “kick in”.

    In any case, thank you for making the world a better place. I am sure that with more people like you, there will be no more abortions, even if it were something that was an accessible and safe option for mothers, as a free choice. Keep doing all your good work, and thanks for your discussion and feedback.

  24. Carl

    I am for freedom of belief, but I do think that Christianity is a mental disorder, and people who believe such nonsense need treatment. Christianity is not only harmful to others, but to the Christian as well.

  25. Post
    Author
  26. Carl

    Yes, Tom, I have done my homework on this subject, and I know the harm that is done by religion and the dangers posed. It is an infantile syndrome, and humanity needs to grow up.

  27. Carl

    Tom, methinks thou dost protest too much! LOL Who are you really trying to convince??

  28. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Carl: what does the psychological and social research say about the life outcomes, the physical and social health, of believers? What does it say about their economic outcomes? Their relational outcomes? Their life satisfaction indices? Their rate of substance abuse?

    Sources?

    I’m just curious what homework you’ve done, and how you’ve come to a conclusion so drastically different from the research consensus.

  29. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    You’re the one laughing and insulting others, while accusing them of being infantile.

    Who am I trying to convince? Why, you, obviously. I already know what the research says.

    Now, do you really want to do your homework? You could start here: https://www.thinkingchristian.net/spirituality-and-life-outcomes/

    I haven’t kept that particular page up to date in recent years, though I did have this article published:

    http://www.breakpoint.org/component/content/article/71-features/1490-childs-play-from-dawkins

    And I could have included:

    http://www.baylorisr.org/wp-content/uploads/levin_religion_mental_health.pdf

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2136801?uid=3739840&uid=2460338175&uid=2460337935&uid=2&uid=4&uid=83&uid=63&uid=3739256&sid=21102535150517

    http://www.psychology.hku.hk/ftbcstudies/refbase/docs/hill/2003/29_Hill+Pargament2003.pdf

    http://www.researchgate.net/publication/227636810_Religious_orientation_and_psychological_wellbeing_The_role_of_the_frequency_of_personal_prayer/file/d912f50c39568881fb.pdf

    http://www.aiias.edu/ict/vol_19/19cc_001-015.pdf

    http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2006/08/religious.aspx

    http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2013/03/religion-spirituality.aspx

    http://www.psychosocial.com/IJPR_11/Positive_Effects_of_Religiousness_Yeung_Jerf.html

    http://www.spiritualityandhealth.duke.edu/resources/pdfs/RFP%20Background%20pdf.pdf

    http://www.healthcarechaplaincy.org/userimages/Research/published_articles/Brief%20Review%20of%20Relig%20Beliefs.pdf

    http://www.colorado.edu/ibs/pop/boardman/articles/2001–Ellison,_etal_Social-Forces.pdf

    http://medind.nic.in/jak/t08/i2/jakt08i2p345.pdf

    http://www.unc.edu/peplab/publications/Fredrickson%202002%20religion_health.pdf

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11076445

    http://spirituality.ucla.edu/docs/news/release_health.pdf

    http://pb.rcpsych.org/content/34/2/63.full

    Read those, Carl, and then report back: in what way is Christianity harmful? What evidence is there that it correlates with infantilism?

    I’m trying to convince you. And I’m trying to do it through empirical data. Do you or do you not think empirical data ought to carry significant weight in this determination?

  30. Carl

    Tom,

    You can find someone who claims to have done a study and therefore puts forth their own bias. I’m not impressed. There have been studies done as far back as Josiah Morse that show the harmful aspects of religion: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=josiah%20morse. My background is in Religious Studies, and I was pastor of a church for over 10 years. I saw firsthand the detrimental effects of religion upon people, especially at their most vulnerable moments. There are always people like you to support this pathology, but it doesn’t change the truth of the matter.

  31. BillT

    Wow! Josiah Morse! There’s a name not to forget. Great research from the 1920s. Good thing science hasn’t discovered anything since then.

  32. Carl

    That was my point, Bult. This info has been around for a very long time. Religion, especially Judeo-Christianity, goes hand in hand with psychological pathology. It is part of the infantile mind. That info is nothing new. It has been known and addressed for over a century!

  33. SteveK

    My background is in Religious Studies, and I was pastor of a church for over 10 years.

    How were you cured of your psychological pathology? Don’t tell me….you cured yourself.

  34. Carl

    Hi Steve,

    I was one of the lucky ones that broke through the horrible conditioning and brainwashing of religious indoctrination. Most people are never willing or able to do that. I’m still in touch with friends from seminary days, and even though they either have serious doubts or totally reject the claims of religion, they remain with their churches because it’s their livelihood or they don’t know what else they would do. Most are very unhappy, but they continue to lead others down the same dark path. I couldn’t do that. One difference for me was the fact that I was in grade school before I ever attended church, whereas many of my friends were exposed to religion from their earliest memories. They were also from church families, but my parents didn’t attend church. So, I was more apt to question things that many Christians just accept, and I was willing to read literature that others, due to their brainwashing, would fear and disregard. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t an easy transition, but I’m certainly glad that I don’t carry such nonsense around with me any longer. I see what it has done to others, and how it has made them delusional, and I feel thankful to have escaped it. No doubt, religion has some positive effects on those who can’t function otherwise, just as a drug might help a person who is mentally unstable, and sometimes the drug can cause a person to behave more appropriately, but the fact remains that as long as one needs the drug, the disease is still present and threatening. I don’t mean for that to sound harsh, but when you tell an alcoholic that he has a problem, you are doing him a favor, even though he may deny that he is an alcoholic — or he may even claim that the alcohol is good for him and that he needs it for his pain. It’s the same with religion.

  35. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Carl,

    I’ve probably read much of the same literature that you say Christians “would fear and disregard.”

    I still doubt you’ve read any literature that would support your claim of Christians being infantile or delusional. I’d be interested specifically to hear you expand on this “infantile” claim: what do you mean by it?

    Do you mind letting us know what seminary you attended?

  36. Carl

    Why do you ask, Tom, about which seminary I attended? The next words from you would be mocking the school. However, my degrees in Religious Studies and Philosophy are from a State University. I know your game. Christians are vicious, and they will use words to kill, just like their mythical god-man said. If you haven’t read psychologists who point out that religion is infantile, then you haven’t read the literature that I have read. I’m not giving you a reading list, because your mind is already made up, and you would only dismiss it as unworthy of your high learning. I don’t have any more time now for this discussion, but I think you have proven my point, for you are certainly an example of all that I have said about Christianity.

  37. David P

    Carl

    Before you go, can you give some hints as to what questions made you rethink your beliefs? Is it possible do you think for someone outside to help or does it have to be driven from inside? I’m an atheist and would like to help people.

  38. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Wow.

    Carl, who on this thread has been using vicious language? Really, now: look at the thread for negatively emotion-laden language, and for who has been bringing it here.

    I’ve read psychologists who point out that religion is infantile. Freud was the pioneer in this, of course. You’re actually in my field when you talk about this. The thing is, I don’t think their opinions hold up to scrutiny — especially Freud’s.

    I’d like to have a discussion about this, actually. That’s why I asked. It’s not because I’m not familiar with the literature, it’s because I’m trying to engage with you as a person on a topic you brought up for discussion.

    If you choose not to do that, it’s your option. I’ll leave this for other readers: please read through what I’ve written here, and discern for yourselves whether Carl has any evidence-based reason for predicting I would mock him.

    And finally, Carl, you say, “I know your game. Christians are vicious, and they will use words to kill.” I don’t think you really know me at all. How could you? We’ve only exchanged a few words on a blog, and nothing I’ve done here has had any threat attached to it.

    Do you think it’s possible that what you’re doing here is a prima facie instance of stereotyping? Do you believe stereotyping is fair and just?

  39. Carl

    Tom,

    Experience can cause one to be overly suspicious, and for good reason. If you note that one crow is black, and crow two is black, and a long list of crows are black (and you’ve never seen even one white one), you soon conclude that all crows are black. It is not that my list is too short, for I’ve been exposed to a lot of crows. Personally, my experience was not so negative because of my position, but I watched for years all the gossip, backbiting, hate-mongering, and power struggles. At that time, I thought it must be worse outside the church, and I was fortunate not to be there, but later I found that the opposite was actually true.
    Now before you accuse me of leaving the church because of a bad experience, let me assure you that was not the case. I was very lucky to have gained the position I had at the age I was at the time. I went through a couple stages. I came to a place where I no longer believed the dogma, but I felt that I could continue with the church for the good that it did, but as time went on, I began to see the dark side of Christianity, which is (and always has been) at its heart. I was living my life with people who were delusional, believing in the ridiculous, and given to bouts of attacking others who thought differently. I was especially offended that religion caused people to dismiss science to various degrees and claim that the writings of Iron Age shysters should be trusted to provide real knowledge, or that their savage morality should be accepted as our modern ethics. I listened as Christians testified to their spirituality and how pleasing they were to their god, and yet I was in a position to know better. I looked for a white crow and couldn’t find even one. From my close-up observation, I concluded if Christianity is not a pathology, I don’t know what is, and I could no longer be responsible for spreading a lie that damaged adults, but children even more.
    I know all the claims that religion makes, but the same could be said for any other drug. The very fact that one needs a drug is evidence of a pathology. I walked away from Christianity, and I’ve never been sorry. Now that is not to say that the study of religious texts doesn’t remain a fascination for me, and I spend a lot of time studying religion, but from a completely different perspective. Instead of being “born again,” as religion suggest, I think humanity needs to grow up.
    Also, when I left the church, it was not nearly as offensive as it has become, and Christians were more subdued than now. The church seems to be much more militant these days, and Christians engage in a higher degree of hate-mongering. So, forgive me if I pre-judged you, but I’m still waiting to see a white crow.

  40. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Carl, this is begging the question big-time:

    I know all the claims that religion makes, but the same could be said for any other drug. The very fact that one needs a drug is evidence of a pathology.

    In fact, so is a lot of what you wrote here.

    You are “offended that religion caused people to dismiss science to various degrees.” Did you notice all the scientific sources I listed in comment 33, which you dismissed completely?

    Do you realize that your sample of Christian behavior is skewed, and therefore unscientific? It’s completely unlike that which I’ve experienced around me. I’ve seen dozens and dozens of “white crows,” as you put it. So you are drawing an unscientific conclusion: a false one, actually, according to genuine science.

    Two important questions now:

    Are you comfortable with your own dismissal of scientific conclusions and scientific approaches to drawing conclusions?

    And in your unscientific manner you have indeed pre-judged me: drawing conclusions contrary to evidence. I’ll certainly forgive you: will you change your mind about your judgment on me?

  41. Carl

    No, Tom, I haven’t changed my mind. I still haven’t seen a white crow. You claim that your experience is different, but you haven’t shown me a white crow. Do you have an example of one that I might know??

  42. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    We’re talking about personal relationships, Carl. I know dozens of them, but you’d need to meet them and spend time with them.

    But we’re also talking about your non-scientific prejudging in total violation of your own principles. I thought you might not want to remain in that particular position. Apparently you do. I’m sad for you.

    I’m not quite sure what to do with your request, “forgive me if I pre-judged you,” in view of the fact you seem committed to not giving up that position.

    This blog is for people who will treat one another as fellow human beings, as individuals and not as stereotypes, with respect and not with prejudice, in accord with what I call the Starbucks standard (see further under the discussion policies, above the combox). You’re welcome to stay if you’ll participate in that manner.

  43. SteveK

    Carl,

    I was living my life with people who were delusional, believing in the ridiculous, and given to bouts of attacking others who thought differently.

    You mean people who believe their life has value and purpose when factually it does not according to their worldview reality, who believe that human beings ought to live a certain way when factually there isn’t any such requirement according to their worldview reality, who attack others who don’t agree with their delusions about factual reality according to their worldview?

    Yeah, some naturalists are that way.

  44. Carl

    Simply putting your own words in my mouth and then making a haughty remark is not a real argument, is it, Steve? This is the attitude that I explained to Tom that gives me a rather negative opinion of Christians. I’m not talking about a “worldview” at all, for we basically share that because of the culture we all experience. However, I don’t think that creating imaginary friends is an adult activity, nor should we teach children about a god who may condemn them to an eternal torture chamber for failing to please him, or that an ancient Mystery Drama is a historical event. Nor should children be exposed to a book about a god who destroyed the whole world in a fit of genocide, or a man having children with his own daughters, or a law code that supports selling one’s daughter into slavery as a means of paying a debt, or a god that demands centuries of needless animal slaughter to appease his silly wrath, or that one’s salvation depends upon a human sacrifice. This nonsense is barbaric, and it is to those things and many others like them that I object. So, please Steve, if you want to respond to what I say, that’s one thing, but creating a straw man is another. You know better.

  45. SteveK

    Carl,

    Simply putting your own words in my mouth and then making a haughty remark is not a real argument, is it, Steve?

    I wasn’t intending to put words in your mouth. I intended to put the worldview reality of many naturalists into words so that you can see that you haven’t really escaped the pathology, it’s just a different strain. You are still living among the so-called pathologically deluded, according to your own definition of that. What will you do with the people I described?

  46. Carl

    Tom,

    Do you mean to tell me that the only “real” Christians you can give me as an example are people that you know personally? Are there no Christians that you recognize on the world scale? How do you feel about Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson, Cardinal Mahoney or perhaps you could suggest a few Catholic priests? It shouldn’t be difficult to find some we both know out of the millions of Christians. Just one white crow??

  47. Carl

    We’re all damaged goods, Steve. Humanity as a whole is degenerate. That is a fact of history as well as current events. However, the answer for us is not to be found in mythology, Iron Age moral codes, or the modern religion business. It is not to be achieved through infantile behavior such as creating an imaginary friend that can be used to threaten and degrade your enemies. Christianity has had 2,000 years to make a difference in the world, and humanity remains vicious, violent, and cruel. The history of Christianity is not different than the history of the world in general. The church has engaged in genocide, war, torture of heretics, burnings, Crusades, sexism, homophobia, animal holocaust, hate-mongering, superstition, the list is endless. Christianity has set human progress back a thousand years. It was called the Dark Ages. If it had been up to the Christian church, that is where we would still be. Humanity needs to grow up and leave behind childish things such as religion.

  48. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Sure (re: #51). Steve Douglass (president of Cru). John Stonestreet. Josh McDowell. Mike Licona. Alex McFarland. Guillermo Gonzalez. Jay Richards. Rob Koons. Kelly Kullberg. David Marshall. Greg Koukl. Frank Turek. Tom Woodward. William Lane Craig.

    But what good is a list like this? You know these people, if at all, from a distance, without real personal knowledge, and probably with a media taint in many cases.

    Anyway: are you done stereotyping? Remember who this blog is for, as I wrote last time. (I’m done with you stereotyping here.)

  49. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Seeing #52, I’m also getting a little weary of your insistent misinformation. This last post amounts to an argumentum ad fragenblitzen, which is a nice rhetorical strategy but no way to come to a common understanding.

  50. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Just one example: the so-called Dark Ages weren’t that dark, they lasted 400 years, not a thousand, they were the result of barbarian conquest, not Christianity, and guess who led us out of it? (See Hannam’s The Genesis of Science for one good source.)

  51. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Interesting: “degenerate” (your word) implies having fallen or become degraded from some better place or situation. See Blaise Pascal on that.

  52. SteveK

    Carl,

    We’re all damaged goods, Steve. Humanity as a whole is degenerate.

    What factual standard are you using to determine that humans are damaged and degenerate?

    However, the answer for us is not to be found in mythology,

    I agree with you. Just note that it’s also not found in the beliefs I described above either, yet many find it there. What should be done?

    It is not to be achieved through infantile behavior such as creating an imaginary friend that can be used to threaten and degrade your enemies.

    I agree that creating imaginary realities isn’t a good thing to do. Truth remains supreme and we should abide by it.

    So what do you suggest we do with all the naturalists who imagine that their life actually has value, that they are more valuable than, say, a chicken? Clearly that distinction is an imaginary, man-made, construct on their part – or is it?

    Help me understand your thinking here, Carl. If it’s okay to create the imaginary reality that your life has value, and live as if it’s true, what’s the harm in creating an imaginary friend and living as if that were true?

  53. Carl

    You are asking for a philosophical treatise, Steve, on the meaning or value of life. I would suggest you spend a little time reading Sartre and then see if your questions aren’t answered.

  54. Post
    Author
  55. SteveK

    I’m not talking about philosophy, Carl. I’m talking about what people believe to be true about reality. It’s true that many naturalists don’t have any philosophical foundation. Some think philosophy is a complete waste of time.

    So take a look at my questions in #57 again in light of this. What should be done with these deluded people?

    You point to Sartre as if that is the one true philosophy. What about those that adopt a philosophy that leads them to think meaning and value of life can be found in God? You seem to think that adherence to Sartre is valuable, while adherence to some other philosophy is harmful.

    What factual measure are you basing this distinction upon?

  56. Post
    Author
  57. SteveK

    I really find it interesting that people like Carl wage war against (as they see it) one form of mental illness (religion) while they settle in comfortably and make friends with people who are equally as ill (according to their own definition).

    Many people say that life has no objective meaning, but they chose to live as if it does because it makes life more interesting, enjoyable, etc. If the factual truth is that people can create their own meaning for their own lives then why do religious people get labeled as going about that in the wrong way?

    This is what I’ve never understood about people like Carl.

  58. robert matthew

    I am so glad that you believe that you are going to heaven when you die.I am so thankful that I am not a coward like you who cannot accept the reality that human beings will die eventually.You have wasted a whole lot of time on this stupidity and it makes me extremely depressed.I am so sorry to tell you that the world is not going to end and your not going to live forever.Why can’t you let go of this nonsense and it seems to me that at some point that you would realize how stupid it is.

  59. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Robert, have you ever considered for yourself whether you approve of stereotyping, prejudice, and bigotry? I thought you must have; and I’m quite sure you wouldn’t want to practice any of those.

    But you have spoken to us here, whom you do not know, and called us cowards. You seem to think that the reason we follow Christ is because we “cannot accept the reality that human beings will die.”

    I don’t know where you got that preconception from, but it’s false. To apply it to someone you do not know is bigoted, prejudiced, stereotyping.

    I suggest you think about that. I don’t think you really want to be that way.

    I suggest you hang around here for a while and find out the real reasons we believe what we believe. We’re real people: don’t dehumanize us with these charges of cowardice and stupidity. Interact with us as real human beings. You’ll find your prejudices and stereotypes don’t fit us.

  60. Post
    Author
  61. bigbird

    You have wasted a whole lot of time on this stupidity and it makes me extremely depressed.

    It is ironic on a thread like this that the musings of a few Christians completely unknown to you apparently make you “extremely depressed”. I hope that’s not actually the case.

  62. pete25

    Why anyone would be religious is hard to define, often it is simply the way they were brought up or the influence of those around them and not having a questioning mind.
    I have met many people who believe that the bible is the word of god and that every word in it is true and when questioned it is quite obvious that they have never studied it in detail – full of complete contradictions, mis-translations, made up stories by victors in conflicts – even in the King James version some jokes put in by the panel doing the translation and re-writing it to make it appear more poetical and certainly very little historical accuracy. Living your life in a good way is great, not that all religions preach that, but actually believing that there is an invisible, supernatural, all powerful being living up in the sky is completely irrational and just plain bonkers! why would you do that??

  63. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    pete25:

    I’ve studied the Bible (it’s a proper noun in this context, by the way) in great detail. I have an extremely questioning mind.

    You have a stereotyped view of Christians. You could stand to question your own view of Christians. What on earth led you to believe we’re not questioners??? Sure, you can find some who aren’t. I could find some atheists who don’t question much. As far as I can see you might be one, because you’ve swallowed a whole lot of lies. You have considerable misinformation concerning the Bible, its history, and its translation, and you have a distorted view of how Christians view God (also a proper noun in this context, by the way: I hope they taught you about these things in school!).

    Irrational? Who? No, really, who? Bonkers? Do you have any idea how heavily the mental health effects of spirituality have been studied, and how consistently positive the association is between mental health and religious practice?

    The reason I am “religious” is because I’ve studied, I’ve investigated, I’ve opened up this blog for debate and conversation with atheists and skeptics for almost nine years now, and I am convinced that the message of Jesus Christ is both good and true.

    The reasons you’ve given here for not being religious are all demonstrably false.

    Who’s irrational now?

    At least give up your stereotyping, okay? You may not believe in God, but I’m sure you also don’t believe in practicing bigotry, and you could take the time to consider whether Christians might not be so uniformly nutso after all. Opening your eyes to reality would do you some good.

  64. pete25

    Not my view of all Christians at all, simply that i have met and worked with several people that insist that every word of the Bible is the literal truth and will not consider any possibility that this may not be so.
    I believe the message of Jesus Christ is both good and true whether you are religious or not and i do believe that a real belief in any beneficent God could be of a great comfort to many.
    The Bible is fascinating, but my points are valid for those who take it literally, there are many contradictions between different books describing the same events and some are written from the point of view of the Jewish people at the time rather than being accurate accounts of real historical events, of course there is still a great deal that is based on fact and it tells us so much about life at the time.
    Fundamentalism is a bad thing on all sides and yes, i’m sorry for the tone of my post.

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