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Old 19th December 2018, 06:21 AM   #41
Porpoise of Life
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Inversely, 'We decide what's normal and what's not, and you're a deviant, whether what you do and feel actually bothers anyone or not' seems a bit totalitarian.
And it is just as (or more) open to abuse, or being used to promote socially acceptable behavior as the current definition.
I do think it's useful to factor dysfunction and impairment into the definition of a disorder.

And I don't believe that justifies calling everything that causes someone distress (like being discriminated against for being gay) as a disorder.

Also, that Lord Fartbottom, third viscount Poopington has the means to make sure his narcissism (I originally typed schizophrenia, but I don't think any amount of money can make that type of disorder free from distress for the afflicted) doesn't really have negative consequences for himself, does not mean that he can't be diagnosed as someone who displays all the symptoms of a narcissistic personality disorder. It just won't come up, because he'd never seek help.
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Old 19th December 2018, 06:31 AM   #42
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I think the "It becomes a 'problem' when it negatively affects your life" thing is more a good general rule of thumb then some sort of written into the fabric of the universe law or something.

But this leads me back to what I was getting at earlier that if you step back from the whole thing people we say have had their lives "negatively affected" by their beliefs it's almost always people who simply made the mistake of acting how someone who honestly and earnestly believed the things they claim to believe act.

The idea that there's some all powerful deity judging us is... like no big deal. That's insane. If you honestly think there's some super-being that can literally send you to eternal damnation or salvation (or some other form of infinite or near infinite) punishment and you don't do literally nothing outside of spending every waking second trying to make that being happy, that's insane.
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Old 19th December 2018, 07:39 AM   #43
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As far as I can tell, craziness is a human condition, not a religious one.
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Old 19th December 2018, 08:23 AM   #44
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Hello again attempt5001. It's good to see you being prepared to engage in conversation on this thread, most of the faithful tend to shy away from discussions of this kind.

I don't feel distain but empathy for those afflicted with beliefs that cloud their reasoning. I was once so afflicted, (as we so many others on this forum), and experienced tremendous relief when I was fortunate enough to leave it behind.

Social change has been most rapid in the West and one of the results of this has been the dramatic decline in religious observance, in Europe in particular. Don't know if those "groups/people that appear tremendously well-versed in psychology and neurochemistry" become that way with the purpose of "debunking religious claims" or if it is the other way around.

Atheists like Richard Dawkins claim considerable success in relieving people of their faith with his rather confrontational approach, which I don't think he does with malice. Perhaps he feels he's doing good with his approach.

As kellyb says above ^ the claim that religion is like mental illness has been suggested by some. The way it is passed on, from parents to children, is an illustration of this. Interesting the way so many of the faithful, aren't bothered by the fact that they just happened to embrace the faith of their parents, and it was the right one.
Hi Thor2. Threads like this are a good opportunity. My emotional reaction is a pretty good indicator that I have a strong personal bias, which I am keen to explore as you know.

I've been writing my posts very carefully so far, but it's too slow, so I'm going to speed up a bit and may need to re-phrase, clarify. A couple of points for your consideration:

- You claim empathy, but your choice of language suggests otherwise. I don't suggest your wording/intention is mean-spirited, but "..afflicted with beliefs that cloud their judgement" and "experienced tremendous relief" is how you understood your experience with religion. It is a perspective and description that gives you comfort, but it doesn't show empathy towards those whose experience and perspective is different than your own. If not "disdain" it at least suggests "pity", which still carries a tone of superiority. It has the feel of "my experience/perspective is correct, and that of others others is incorrect (insane actually), and if only everyone could see things the way I do, things would be so much better". I know that's not what you're trying to say, but it is conveyed in the premise of the OP and I think that's what triggers some to say it feels "religious" in a sanctimonious superiority kind of way.

- I have read some Dawkins. I appreciate the science and the clarity of the writing very much, but I am dismayed at how much time he commits to school-yard name calling and belittling. I know it comes from a place of genuine frustration and it's understandable, but it is divisive language and unbecoming/unproductive from someone who is a potential leader. Yes, he will have some success convincing some people, but at a cost of increasing the social divide. Yes, social change has resulted in declined religious observance, but it has also resulted in polarization and strained social fabric. I like to think of society as being a bit like a Slinky being dragged along a carpet. Pull it slowly (gradual change) and it's not too much of strain or a gap between the leading and tailing end. Pull it quickly and the strain and gap widen and the slinky risks being damaged and deformed badly. And if the tail end is stuck on something there are two options, keep pulling harder on the leading end until something snaps, or explore the snag and look to gently disentangle. In my opinion, discussions that suggest classifying religious observances/behaviour/thinking as mental illness is like trying to yank on the leading end of the slinky.

- Some of the biggest mental health challenges in western society (and globally I think) pertain to anxiety and depression, particularly among youth. I don't claim this is the direct result of a decline in religion, but I think social change is a cause of stress and removing/changing historical social constructs needs to be done with compassion for those who end up feeling disoriented. For example, some atheists want to tear down religious thinking and practices quite aggressively. Like you, I think most do this because they want to "enlighten" or "set-free" people or groups they feel are trapped in religious mindsets. The trouble is, they often haven't given much thought to what they are offering in exchange. It can be cold-comfort to strip someone of a perspective that gave them peace and hope in a complicated world in exchange for facts and theories they don't have the education to understand. This is not compassionate behaviour in my opinion.

- This is blatant argument from anecdote, but faith and communities of faith have been a tremendous support for me and many I know in times of anxiety and stress, both for words of encouragement and practical actions like sharing time, money, resources etc. I have also experienced some of the psychological strain that indoctrination can put on someone, but it's been a net positive for me and many I know.

- Classifying religion as "madness" is an indictment of pretty much the entire history of human civilization, it's insulting to most of the world's population, it's imprecise to the point of inaccuracy and worst of all, if the goal of the classification is positive discourse and change, it's counter-productive.

You asked in your OP how the (presumably sane) faithful distinguish between religious and insane behaviours in those around them. For my part, I don't do this in any context. I know lots of religious and non-religious people who have beliefs/opinions/actions etc. that are very different from mine, but I don't try to categorize people as sane or insane. Like most people, I'll keep an eye out for behaviour that suggest someone is at risk or harming themselves or others, or that suggests they need help or encouragement, but sane/insane is not a helpful context. I try to stay away from starting conversations with "I can't understand how anyone could possibly do/think/say ...". I find that if I'm willing to make the effort to consider someone else's perspective (theoretically, or better-yet in conversation) it is always possible to have some understanding and empathy. It can be uncomfortable to do it, and it's easier to simply "write someone off" as being insane, but I think if we actually want to make things better, we have to do better than that.

Last edited by attempt5001; 19th December 2018 at 08:27 AM. Reason: found some typing errors.
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Old 19th December 2018, 08:38 AM   #45
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Meh, you may as well say most people are mentally ill. We all suffer from delusions of one form or another, the severity of which vary primarily in degree rather than kind.
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Old 19th December 2018, 08:40 AM   #46
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
As far as I can tell, craziness is a human condition, not a religious one.
Notwithstanding my earlier claim of avoiding classifying people as sane/insane, I agree with this and other posts along the same lines.
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Old 19th December 2018, 09:05 AM   #47
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If it helps, I feel a little guilty, but anyone who sincerely believes in magic is mental.
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Old 19th December 2018, 09:06 AM   #48
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"Everybody's irrational about something, so any level/kind of irrationality has to be accepted" is not a good mentality to have.
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Old 19th December 2018, 09:13 AM   #49
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
"Everybody's irrational about something, so any level/kind of irrationality has to be accepted" is not a good mentality to have.
I don't think anyone will disagree with you there JM. I think the argument is that religious and non-religious people alike demonstrate a similarly broad range of irrationality.
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Old 19th December 2018, 09:27 AM   #50
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Huh?
Religious attitude and thinking go far beyond beliefs in gods or supernatural stuff. I've seen people here at the ISF get very pious about Materialism, or even Nihilism (though such devotion isn't nihilistic).

I confess that I'm religious myself. Not that I carry around "sky daddy" and what not, but I do have my own articulations of how meaning and affirmation enter my life. I also carry around my own delusions of who I think I'm supposed to be. God is easy to dismiss compared to one's almighty self.

I agree that investing too much energy in the symbols of a religious culture can get pathological, damaging or wholeness and integrity. but as Humans many of us are going to carry around our icons of Wholeness and even "God" such. The illness is in whether our religion opens our hearts or closes them shut.
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Old 19th December 2018, 09:43 AM   #51
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If someone enjoys mountain climbing, or sailing, or boxing as a hobby, or bungee jumping, or buys a lottery ticket or otherwise gambles at a game where they know over the long term probability dictates they lose and skill can't counterbalance that (unlike some games like poker), or skydiving, or eating rare burgers, or raw cookie dough, or they fail to exercise exactly the amount dictated by researchers as optimum, or fail to eat exactly the calories and proportions of food groups recommended, no matter the occasion, are they insane?

Or is all this and other things - done not out of necessity, but desire - part of the spectrum of normal, sane, behaviour? I think it is. And - not that I think religious belief is exactly a choice, and it may dictate actions for that reason - someone being kind to others, spending of their time and money, attending church or mosque or synagogue or temple, fasting at times, going into the woods to commune with nature, or whatever, in accordance with their innermost motivations, is likewise sane.

If someone is not merely eating too much but is bulimic, or has another eating disorder, yes, it gets into the realm of mental illness. If someone has a mania for exercise so that even when physicians advise them they need to reduce what they're doing and take some time to let their body recover and they refuse and injure themselves further, possibly likewise. Someone who is compulsive gambler and can't control themselves. Etc. But ordinary irrational behaviour is not insane. Not conceding that religious belief or behaviour is irrational, but if from one's atheist worldview it is.

If someone sacrifices their life for others out of love (e.g. parent for a child), I don't think they're insane for that reason. If they do so out of Kantian ethical principles, I don't think they're insane for that reason. Nor are they insane if they sacrifice their life for others out of religiously-dictated moral principles and belief in God and an afterlife.
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Old 19th December 2018, 09:45 AM   #52
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@Apathia
I think the word you're looking for is "ideology", not "religion." The two are not the same thing. One is a sub-category of the other, not just the same thing.

Look, I may be wrong about a lot of things. Some of which may even be important to me. Like, I'm probably still wrong about black holes. I'm probably wrong about what kind of facial hair looks. But as long as it doesn't involve some supernatural Santa (be it personified or the universe itself or karma or whatever) that makes things depend on how good I've been, as opposed to just action and reaction, no, it's not religious.

You don't get to make my NOT collecting stamps the same shelf as those who DO collect stamps, basically. It's that simple. You could find something else I do and say that both that and collecting stamps are, say, hobbies. And you could find something I believe in and file it under ideology, same as religion fits. But you don't get to just put an equals sign and call repairing a car philately too, 'cause they're both hobbies.
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Old 19th December 2018, 01:58 PM   #53
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Originally Posted by epeeist View Post

If someone sacrifices their life for others out of love (e.g. parent for a child), I don't think they're insane for that reason. If they do so out of Kantian ethical principles, I don't think they're insane for that reason. Nor are they insane if they sacrifice their life for others out of religiously-dictated moral principles and belief in God and an afterlife.
What if they sacrifice their life for others because Winston Churchill told them to on the giant invisible telephone?
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Old 19th December 2018, 02:14 PM   #54
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to my mind, anyone can lick any fictional character on their own. until they get on me with that. i have no people in my friend/acquaintances circle who would. there are actually a few who could slip. that would be good bye to them
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Old 19th December 2018, 02:32 PM   #55
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
"Everybody's irrational about something, so any level/kind of irrationality has to be accepted" is not a good mentality to have.
Is anyone arguing that? In may case, I'm saying that everybody is a little irrational, some of us express that as a belief in god.

I suppose they op is really asking where we personally draw the on the crazy not crazy spectrum.

I don't where I do. As the op notes, some examples are obviously crazy, anyone that gets message from a god is either crazy or a liar. I would not say that going to church and believing that you follow the set of rules in your holy book, you will get a pleasant after life is crazy. Believing the world is only 6000 years old is a crazy belief but if you live and socialize with a bunch of people who also do, I wouldn't say you were crazy for believing it necessarily.
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Old 19th December 2018, 02:57 PM   #56
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Originally Posted by attempt5001 View Post
Hi Thor2. Threads like this are a good opportunity. My emotional reaction is a pretty good indicator that I have a strong personal bias, which I am keen to explore as you know.

I've been writing my posts very carefully so far, but it's too slow, so I'm going to speed up a bit and may need to re-phrase, clarify. A couple of points for your consideration:
Once again thanks for your involvement.


Quote:
- You claim empathy, but your choice of language suggests otherwise. I don't suggest your wording/intention is mean-spirited, but "..afflicted with beliefs that cloud their judgement" and "experienced tremendous relief" is how you understood your experience with religion. It is a perspective and description that gives you comfort, but it doesn't show empathy towards those whose experience and perspective is different than your own. If not "disdain" it at least suggests "pity", which still carries a tone of superiority. It has the feel of "my experience/perspective is correct, and that of others others is incorrect (insane actually), and if only everyone could see things the way I do, things would be so much better". I know that's not what you're trying to say, but it is conveyed in the premise of the OP and I think that's what triggers some to say it feels "religious" in a sanctimonious superiority kind of way.
Can't see how my choice of language suggest anything other than empathy sorry. As I said to arth ^ I don't regard those affected by mental illness in any sort of derogatory way, any more than if they were suffering from chickenpox.

I honestly cannot understand how folk, afflicted by religion, manage to cope without feeling debilitating anxiety. There are certain fundamental beliefs one must accept if one is to call oneself a Christian for example. The belief that Jesus died on the cross for our sins so we could be saved is the foundation stone of Christianity - is it not?

Given the above it must be asked "What am I to be saved from." Some modern day Christians tend to play down the Hell thing, but the forgoing question is still there, so the faithful must deal with it. If they do the question may hang over them "Am I saved." Wouldn't this cause anxiety?

Quote:
- I have read some Dawkins. I appreciate the science and the clarity of the writing very much, but I am dismayed at how much time he commits to school-yard name calling and belittling. I know it comes from a place of genuine frustration and it's understandable, but it is divisive language and unbecoming/unproductive from someone who is a potential leader. Yes, he will have some success convincing some people, but at a cost of increasing the social divide. Yes, social change has resulted in declined religious observance, but it has also resulted in polarization and strained social fabric. I like to think of society as being a bit like a Slinky being dragged along a carpet. Pull it slowly (gradual change) and it's not too much of strain or a gap between the leading and tailing end. Pull it quickly and the strain and gap widen and the slinky risks being damaged and deformed badly. And if the tail end is stuck on something there are two options, keep pulling harder on the leading end until something snaps, or explore the snag and look to gently disentangle. In my opinion, discussions that suggest classifying religious observances/behaviour/thinking as mental illness is like trying to yank on the leading end of the slinky.
Don't know if I would describe Dawkins utterances as "school-yard name calling and belittling" but I can understand his frustration when trying to reason with the faithful. The other three of the Horsemen were known to lose their cool at times in this situation.

Quote:
- Some of the biggest mental health challenges in western society (and globally I think) pertain to anxiety and depression, particularly among youth. I don't claim this is the direct result of a decline in religion, but I think social change is a cause of stress and removing/changing historical social constructs needs to be done with compassion for those who end up feeling disoriented. For example, some atheists want to tear down religious thinking and practices quite aggressively. Like you, I think most do this because they want to "enlighten" or "set-free" people or groups they feel are trapped in religious mindsets. The trouble is, they often haven't given much thought to what they are offering in exchange. It can be cold-comfort to strip someone of a perspective that gave them peace and hope in a complicated world in exchange for facts and theories they don't have the education to understand. This is not compassionate behaviour in my opinion.

It may be drawing a long bow to suggest the decline in religion is responsible for growing mental health issues in youth. indeed is there a growth? Perhaps it's just a growing awareness of these issues.

Yes I am guilty of being one of those that wish to "tear down religious thinking and practices quite aggressively", but my main motivation is the removal of religious influence over the lives of others. I think many of the religious individually are quite accepting of homosexuality, abortion, and so on, but they attend and thereby prop up churches that are strongly opposed, and boy do they use their influence!

Quote:
- This is blatant argument from anecdote, but faith and communities of faith have been a tremendous support for me and many I know in times of anxiety and stress, both for words of encouragement and practical actions like sharing time, money, resources etc. I have also experienced some of the psychological strain that indoctrination can put on someone, but it's been a net positive for me and many I know.
OK if you feel that way. However you cannot compare your experiences to those you may have had if you were outside your religious circle. I have experienced all you have outlined from non religious friends.

Quote:
- Classifying religion as "madness" is an indictment of pretty much the entire history of human civilization, it's insulting to most of the world's population, it's imprecise to the point of inaccuracy and worst of all, if the goal of the classification is positive discourse and change, it's counter-productive.
I can quote you many examples of this madness in human civilisation that I feel sure you would have no argument with. I don't think I need to do that. Frank expression of opinion is often abrasive but sometimes necessary.

Quote:
You asked in your OP how the (presumably sane) faithful distinguish between religious and insane behaviours in those around them. For my part, I don't do this in any context. I know lots of religious and non-religious people who have beliefs/opinions/actions etc. that are very different from mine, but I don't try to categorize people as sane or insane. Like most people, I'll keep an eye out for behaviour that suggest someone is at risk or harming themselves or others, or that suggests they need help or encouragement, but sane/insane is not a helpful context. I try to stay away from starting conversations with "I can't understand how anyone could possibly do/think/say ...". I find that if I'm willing to make the effort to consider someone else's perspective (theoretically, or better-yet in conversation) it is always possible to have some understanding and empathy. It can be uncomfortable to do it, and it's easier to simply "write someone off" as being insane, but I think if we actually want to make things better, we have to do better than that.
I think you may be reading too much into this.

The point I was making in the OP was that most would agree the father and mother of the baby we're insane. What did they have in common? Strong religious belief. They may have both been insane for other reasons I suppose and just happened to find each other ...... maybe?

Read an account about a find made in South America recently that tore at my heart. The bodies of hundreds of children were found in a common tomb, the children had been sacrificed in a religious ritual it was deduced. It was evident the hearts of the children were removed.

Is this evidence of group insanity?
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Old 19th December 2018, 03:37 PM   #57
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Originally Posted by Apathia View Post
Religious attitude and thinking go far beyond beliefs in gods or supernatural stuff. I've seen people here at the ISF get very pious about Materialism, or even Nihilism (though such devotion isn't nihilistic).

I confess that I'm religious myself. Not that I carry around "sky daddy" and what not, but I do have my own articulations of how meaning and affirmation enter my life. I also carry around my own delusions of who I think I'm supposed to be. God is easy to dismiss compared to one's almighty self.

I agree that investing too much energy in the symbols of a religious culture can get pathological, damaging or wholeness and integrity. but as Humans many of us are going to carry around our icons of Wholeness and even "God" such. The illness is in whether our religion opens our hearts or closes them shut.

Once again I am puzzled by your post.

You describe yourself as religious. Would you explain how your religiosity manifests itself? Does it have its roots in Christianity or some other recognised world religion? Your "almighty self" ..... that's a bit heavy.
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Old 19th December 2018, 06:32 PM   #58
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
You don't get to make my NOT collecting stamps the same shelf as those who DO collect stamps, basically. It's that simple.
Of course I wasn't talking about Atheism as simply the lack of a belief in a God. You're right that I'm talking about people who get quite committed to an ideological position. And commitment to an ideological position, especially when it becomes an essential part of your personal narrative and identity is quite religious.

As in my case one could get a bit too religious about avoiding ideology.

And of those who do have a commitment to an ideology (for example identify themselves as "Brights,"), having such a commitment is not a reason they should be commited. In the end ideology is a very Human thing, and not a madness, even when it's elaborate to the extent of having beliefs in gods.
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Old 19th December 2018, 06:59 PM   #59
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Once again I am puzzled by your post.

You describe yourself as religious. Would you explain how your religiosity manifests itself? Does it have its roots in Christianity or some other recognised world religion? Your "almighty self" ..... that's a bit heavy.
First the "heavy" thing: that we make of ourselves something so heavy as to be some kind of transcendental ego even when we don't believe in the superstitious soul. We take our precious selves much to seriously as the center of all that's important.

I take a lot from Buddhism, but I have to remind myself that should I meet the Buddha on the road, I'd better attack him first before he attacks me.

As I said in another post, we Humans are ideological creatures. We will (if we have thoughtful minds instead of indolent ones) articulate for ourselves what we believe about reality and our relationship to it. This is the root of our religious content.

For myself, it's not simply that I lack a belief in a theistic God, but that the scope of my relationship with reality is such that God is way too trivial and no better than the proverbial golden calf. I have a theological stance about the matter. If you get me talking about it, you are going to say, "Hey, I didn't realize you were so religious!"

But yes, I'm sane. That sanity comes from a certain acknowledgement that I'm speaking from an anthropomorphic place with all the limitations of our scale in the Universe. So I keep my beliefs at a provisional, agnostical, and functional place. I'm not expecting anyone to put things the same way I do. And I'm not assuming anyone is mentally deficient of mentally ill because they hold religious beliefs. (I will say that Fundamentalists who carry on jihads, crusades, and inquisitions, are not spiritually healthy but have embraced hatred.)
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Old 19th December 2018, 07:23 PM   #60
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
I've always thought that definition is nothing but a tarting up of "in Britain if you are upper-class you are eccentric, if lower class you are mad".

What that definition does is say that a mental illness depends on whether you have the means via influence, power, social status, money and so on to force society to enable your illness or not.

I'd rather a definition that doesn't depend on a person's or organisation's influence to decide if something is a mental illness or not but on some form of objective criteria.

Let me give you an example, many homosexual people - even today in slightly more tolerant countries like the UK or Australia - will experience anguish at times or even lifelong because their sexuality "causes significant distress or impairment of personal function", by your definition homosexuality should again be classified as a mental illness.
Not so much. The complete definition in the DSM-5 runs as follows:

Quote:
A mental disorder is a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual's cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning. Mental disorders are usually associated with significant distress in social, occupational, or other important activities. An expectable or culturally approved response to a common stressor or loss, such as the death of a loved one, is not a mental disorder. Socially deviant behavior (e.g., political, religious, or sexual) and conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are not mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict results from a dysfunction in the individual, as described above.
So if, for example, a person's homosexuality causes them to experience significant depression or anxiety, then that person would have a mental disorder. But the disorder would be the depression or anxiety, not the homosexuality.
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Old 19th December 2018, 08:58 PM   #61
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Once again thanks for your involvement.
My pleasure. As usual, you raise some good points for thought.


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Can't see how my choice of language suggest anything other than empathy sorry. As I said to arth ^ I don't regard those affected by mental illness in any sort of derogatory way, any more than if they were suffering from chickenpox.

I honestly cannot understand how folk, afflicted by religion, manage to cope without feeling debilitating anxiety. There are certain fundamental beliefs one must accept if one is to call oneself a Christian for example. The belief that Jesus died on the cross for our sins so we could be saved is the foundation stone of Christianity - is it not?
I think it's wording like that highlighted above that feels non-empathetic to me (and perhaps arth as well). I think most (probably all) religious people would object to the word "affliction" and you, being an intelligent person, presumably know that. I appreciate that it's a word that fits well from your perspective and experience, but if you know it's likely to cause offence, yet choose to use it anyway, it makes your empathy difficult to perceive. (I'll accept though that being clear and forthright is paramount in a forum like this.)

Quote:
Given the above it must be asked "What am I to be saved from." Some modern day Christians tend to play down the Hell thing, but the forgoing question is still there, so the faithful must deal with it. If they do the question may hang over them "Am I saved." Wouldn't this cause anxiety?
Agreed both that Christ's sacrifice (and that there was some purpose to it) are foundational to Christianity. I suppose the question of "am I saved?" can cause some anxiety, though I think Christians largely take assurance in that respect. I think the greater source of anxiety is trying to cope with people you love (or a society you live in) who don't share your faith. This anxiety can definitely lead to problematic behaviour.

As you know, my thinking on the subject is in flux. I think it's worth noting that the imagery attributed to Christ's teaching is that of being "left out of the party", rather than "hellfire and brimstone", but either way, these are very abstract ideas.


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Don't know if I would describe Dawkins utterances as "school-yard name calling and belittling" but I can understand his frustration when trying to reason with the faithful. The other three of the Horsemen were known to lose their cool at times in this situation.
I've only read "the greatest show on earth", so maybe he does better in his other books, but I would hold him to the same standard I suggested to you earlier in this response. No question he knows he's being offensive and chooses to be so anyway. For me it demonstrates an immaturity and bias that risks weakening his position. It will also prevent many Christians from getting past chapter one, which I think is a shame. It preventing me from recommending the book to several people I think would have otherwise benefitted from considering his arguments.


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It may be drawing a long bow to suggest the decline in religion is responsible for growing mental health issues in youth. indeed is there a growth? Perhaps it's just a growing awareness of these issues.
There were some stats presented in a short course I took recently suggesting pretty strongly that either there is a growth, or a decline in coping ability, or some combination. I tried to be clear though that I was not suggesting decline in religion was it's cause, rather a rapidly changing landscape (including social, environmental, financial, political, familial, religious, etc.).

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Yes I am guilty of being one of those that wish to "tear down religious thinking and practices quite aggressively", but my main motivation is the removal of religious influence over the lives of others. I think many of the religious individually are quite accepting of homosexuality, abortion, and so on, but they attend and thereby prop up churches that are strongly opposed, and boy do they use their influence!
Totally fair point and I appreciate the insight to your personal perspective and motivation. I think the political influence of the organized church is more strongly felt in America than Canada, so I hadn't given enough weight to this perspective. I'll be more aware of this moving forward. Thanks.


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OK if you feel that way. However you cannot compare your experiences to those you may have had if you were outside your religious circle. I have experienced all you have outlined from non religious friends.
Agreed, and I have also experienced all these things from non-religious friends and neighbours (and even strangers). I can only say that my experience with religion (or faith and a Christian community at least; I feel like we might be using the word "religion" differently) has been of net benefit to my own mental health.


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I can quote you many examples of this madness in human civilisation that I feel sure you would have no argument with. I don't think I need to do that. Frank expression of opinion is often abrasive but sometimes necessary.
Agreed regarding the last point, though if the goal is change, it's a challenging line to walk. I do applaud you for trying though, as I can see and appreciate you are doing here.

Regarding the first point, I know what you mean, and I don't disagree, but I would only add that "madness" is highly dependent on context (historical, societal, personal etc.), which can be exceedingly hard (almost impossible in a historical context) to understand.

Quote:
I think you may be reading too much into this.

The point I was making in the OP was that most would agree the father and mother of the baby we're insane. What did they have in common? Strong religious belief. They may have both been insane for other reasons I suppose and just happened to find each other ...... maybe?

Read an account about a find made in South America recently that tore at my heart. The bodies of hundreds of children were found in a common tomb, the children had been sacrificed in a religious ritual it was deduced. It was evident the hearts of the children were removed.

Is this evidence of group insanity?
The Spartans come to find when I hear of something like this. Never minding that though, can I ask you whether you are comfortable with the terms "good" and "evil"? I think maybe that some of discord is our choice of terminology. I might use the word evil when you would use insane, but our hearts are very much in same place, hurting terribly to hear of travesties like this.

Thanks again for the discussion.

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Old 19th December 2018, 10:58 PM   #62
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Many people get to religion simply by believing things they were told by trusted sources (often not falsifiable things) and sustained through community. Hardly grounds for being described as insanity or mental illness.
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Old 20th December 2018, 03:41 AM   #63
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Originally Posted by Egg View Post
Many people get to religion simply by believing things they were told by trusted sources (often not falsifiable things) and sustained through community. Hardly grounds for being described as insanity or mental illness.
To an extent I agree with you, after all we don't consider a young child mentally ill because they believe in Santa Claus.

However someone who for example believes they hear God speaking to them (and I've heard a lot of preachers make this claim and they aren't meaning metaphorically, you can find plenty of examples on YouTube) and they are being honest is to me exactly the same as anyone else who has the symptom of hearing non-real voices, for example someone with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

That it is acceptable in our society for that kind of mental illness to be treated as not a mental illness is I think a failing of society to care for the unwell.

As a curious contradiction in standards: society is quite happy to say someone is mentally ill if they claim to hear God and God instructs them to do something society doesn't condone or holds abhorrent.
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Old 20th December 2018, 04:37 AM   #64
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What Darat said, but it goes beyond even just hearing voices. Several theologians claim basically delusions of reference, where they find secret messages about Jesus in sentence fragments in the OT. Most tellingly, even ones where other such people don't find a reference. Sure, they could be faking it, to fit in with the crowd, but what they are faking is a very common symptom of schizophrenia, and you have to wonder how many ARE just faking it.

That some (holy) ghost is telling them how to read such fragments right is built right into Xianity.

Some, even Paul himself, make claims consistent with Cotard syndrome, another thing that is a symptom of schizophrenia.

And basically I don't think it's all that productive to teach people to fake schizophrenia, and provide a cover screen for schizophrenia, as long as it's about God. As Darat was saying, those people need treatment, not encouragement. Especially since schizophrenia doesn't stay put, so to speak, but gets slowly worse over time, if left untreated. It's not like encouraging someone to, dunno, ignore a cold or something. It's something that can eventually end up with them unable to take care of themselves.
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Old 20th December 2018, 05:45 AM   #65
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I first want to say, attempt5001 - thank you for your very frank and sincere responses. If more faithful were like you, I would be much more willing to have religious discussions/debates.

Thor2, I too get the impression that there is a little bit of anger mixed in with your empathy for religious folks. I may recognize it because I have it myself. My first instinct is to label them all mental. Examples like religions where people deny themselves or their children healthcare and allow people to die based on nothing other than beliefs. Half of my family are Jehovah's Witnesses so I have seen first hand the no blood at hospitals nonsense. How can that be labeled anything other than "crazy"? How about people forced to stay in horrible or abusive marriages because of religion or priests telling them they have to?

But then there are people who have faith but also common sense. And yes, some peoples lives are better because of religion guiding them. So this is honestly a tough question for me. I keep bouncing back and forth on how I think on the topic.

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Old 20th December 2018, 08:17 AM   #66
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
...
However someone who for example believes they hear God speaking to them (and I've heard a lot of preachers make this claim and they aren't meaning metaphorically, you can find plenty of examples on YouTube) and they are being honest is to me exactly the same as anyone else who has the symptom of hearing non-real voices, for example someone with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. ...
Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
What Darat said, but it goes beyond even just hearing voices. Several theologians claim basically delusions of reference, where they find secret messages about Jesus in sentence fragments in the OT. Most tellingly, even ones where other such people don't find a reference.
No argument that some religious people make some pretty outrageous claims, but it's worth distinguishing between someone saying "I 'heard' God say" (akin to "I could 'hear' my mother's voice saying 'if you keep making that face it'll freeze in that position'") as opposed to an auditory hallucination, which is a very different thing. And delusions of reference are probably as prevalent in science as in religion, no? It can be easy and tempting to 'see' trends in data that don't stand up to third party scrutiny.

I think it's worth noting that most religious leaders/people often try to articulate things they don't understand and defy explanation, so the words are inevitably going to be a poor fit. That said, I agree there are many that deliberately use exaggerated or dishonest terms in order to manipulate.
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Old 20th December 2018, 08:37 AM   #67
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Originally Posted by kali1137 View Post
I first want to say, attempt5001 - thank you for your very frank and sincere responses. If more faithful were like you, I would be much more willing to have religious discussions/debates.

Thor2, I too get the impression that there is a little bit of anger mixed in with your empathy for religious folks. I may recognize it because I have it myself. My first instinct is to label them all mental. Examples like religions where people deny themselves or their children healthcare and allow people to die based on nothing other than beliefs. Half of my family are Jehovah's Witnesses so I have seen first hand the no blood at hospitals nonsense. How can that be labeled anything other than "crazy"? How about people forced to stay in horrible or abusive marriages because of religion or priests telling them they have to?

But then there are people who have faith but also common sense. And yes, some peoples lives are better because of religion guiding them. So this is honestly a tough question for me. I keep bouncing back and forth on how I think on the topic.
Thanks Kali. That's really kind of you and I appreciate it. I understand the anger and frustration side too. I'm trying to "balance" rather than "bounce", but I know what you mean and wish you the best as you work out your thoughts and feelings on it too.
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Old 20th December 2018, 08:49 AM   #68
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Originally Posted by Egg View Post
Many people get to religion simply by believing things they were told by trusted sources (often not falsifiable things) and sustained through community. Hardly grounds for being described as insanity or mental illness.
Agreed and nicely put. I think the expectation (or at least hope) that every individual critically examine and address the biases of his/her upbringing (ideally by their early 20s at the latest) is an admirable idea, but extremely unrealistic. No doubt this it's "second nature" to a group of skeptics, but that's why I keep "harping on" about empathy, the need to be reasonable about expectations of pace of change, and considerate as to how to achieve it without exacerbating social rifts. I'm really encouraged when I see fora like this used to broaden and challenge thinking, rather than to create silos. We have enough of those already, no?
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Old 20th December 2018, 01:57 PM   #69
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Originally Posted by attempt5001 View Post
My pleasure. As usual, you raise some good points for thought.




I think it's wording like that highlighted above that feels non-empathetic to me (and perhaps arth as well). I think most (probably all) religious people would object to the word "affliction" and you, being an intelligent person, presumably know that. I appreciate that it's a word that fits well from your perspective and experience, but if you know it's likely to cause offence, yet choose to use it anyway, it makes your empathy difficult to perceive. (I'll accept though that being clear and forthright is paramount in a forum like this.)
Yes it is I think, and although you might find it objectionable that I use a word like "affliction", I can't in honesty find another that describes accurately what my perception is and will not cause offence. I can say someone may be afflicted with a variety of medical conditions and my saying so does not suggest I have no empathy with them.

To be frank the degree of affliction is very broad and those with a mild dose can, and do, function quite well. Even those more severely effected can seem to function well until you challenge the faith itself. My nephew is one of these. He claims Jesus is as real to him as his mother and talks of his "relationship" with him. Jesus tells him he can cure illnesses, (such as homosexuality), by driving the offending demons out.


Quote:
Agreed both that Christ's sacrifice (and that there was some purpose to it) are foundational to Christianity. I suppose the question of "am I saved?" can cause some anxiety, though I think Christians largely take assurance in that respect. I think the greater source of anxiety is trying to cope with people you love (or a society you live in) who don't share your faith. This anxiety can definitely lead to problematic behaviour.

As you know, my thinking on the subject is in flux. I think it's worth noting that the imagery attributed to Christ's teaching is that of being "left out of the party", rather than "hellfire and brimstone", but either way, these are very abstract ideas.
The ideas are not so abstract too many unfortunately. I admit I struggle with the apparent casual way some modern day Christians, deal with the "being saved" notion given it is pivotal to Christian faith. If you are comfortable with your take on it then good luck. Many a preacher has found Hell to be a most effective weapon when wielded from the pulpit.

Quote:
I've only read "the greatest show on earth", so maybe he does better in his other books, but I would hold him to the same standard I suggested to you earlier in this response. No question he knows he's being offensive and chooses to be so anyway. For me it demonstrates an immaturity and bias that risks weakening his position. It will also prevent many Christians from getting past chapter one, which I think is a shame. It preventing me from recommending the book to several people I think would have otherwise benefitted from considering his arguments.
Sometimes it can be difficult to be frank in a discussion if one skirts around an issue rather than meet it head on. Immaturity?

Quote:
There were some stats presented in a short course I took recently suggesting pretty strongly that either there is a growth, or a decline in coping ability, or some combination. I tried to be clear though that I was not suggesting decline in religion was it's cause, rather a rapidly changing landscape (including social, environmental, financial, political, familial, religious, etc.).
Difficult to get clear detail about trends like this and finding cause is much more difficult to establish.

Quote:
Totally fair point and I appreciate the insight to your personal perspective and motivation. I think the political influence of the organized church is more strongly felt in America than Canada, so I hadn't given enough weight to this perspective. I'll be more aware of this moving forward. Thanks.
A point that is missed by many I think. Well done.

Quote:
Agreed, and I have also experienced all these things from non-religious friends and neighbours (and even strangers). I can only say that my experience with religion (or faith and a Christian community at least; I feel like we might be using the word "religion" differently) has been of net benefit to my own mental health.
Interesting comment and good for you if you have this positive feel about it. I guess you may wonder how your mental health may have been if there was no religious infusion in your youth.

Quote:
Agreed regarding the last point, though if the goal is change, it's a challenging line to walk. I do applaud you for trying though, as I can see and appreciate you are doing here.

Regarding the first point, I know what you mean, and I don't disagree, but I would only add that "madness" is highly dependent on context (historical, societal, personal etc.), which can be exceedingly hard (almost impossible in a historical context) to understand.
Don't know about madness being dependent on context so much, although I think some leaders have the ability to instil madness in their following, which may be contradictory to my original premiss.

Quote:
The Spartans come to find when I hear of something like this. Never minding that though, can I ask you whether you are comfortable with the terms "good" and "evil"? I think maybe that some of discord is our choice of terminology. I might use the word evil when you would use insane, but our hearts are very much in same place, hurting terribly to hear of travesties like this.

Thanks again for the discussion.
The terms "good" and "evil" do strike a cord but not in relation to the slaughter of the children I spoke of.

The priests and parents of the children most likely thought they were doing a great service with this sacrifice, for the benefit of the community as a whole. Religion makes good people do bad things at times.

Thanks to you also and I wish you well on your journey.
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Old 20th December 2018, 03:19 PM   #70
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If we applied some DSM checklist on someone with religious beliefs, I'm sure we could diagnose them as having some disorder or other. But assessing mental health is much more than ticking off boxes. It is a matter of assessing someone's mental state in the context of the society and culture they live in and how their thinking, perception, etc allows them to fit in to that society and culture. It is the lack of being able to function in society and culture that should define mental illness.

Having religious ideas in a culture and society in which such ideas are accepted is not mental illness. It's when those religious ideas conflict with the values, taboos and mores of a socio-cultural context that a mental illness might be diagnosable. So, the example given where parents killed a child because they viewed that child as "demonic" or whatever conflicts with our taboos against killing your own children (or anyone else for that matter). Thus, those people are mentally ill. But in cultures where there are valid religious grounds for killing people, say honor killings in the middle east, those people are acting within their sociocultural value system so you can't say they are mentally ill. Closer to home, consider the classification of homosexuals as mentally ill until the 70's. Before then, gay people were mentally ill and it wasn't very controversial to say so because, socioculturally, homosexuality was viewed as taboo.

In short, why don't we leave the diagnosing to professionals and just try to be nice to each other, regardless of what we think of each other's beliefs? What are you hoping to accomplish by labelling religious belief as mentally ill?
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Old 20th December 2018, 04:53 PM   #71
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
If we applied some DSM checklist on someone with religious beliefs, I'm sure we could diagnose them as having some disorder or other. But assessing mental health is much more than ticking off boxes. It is a matter of assessing someone's mental state in the context of the society and culture they live in and how their thinking, perception, etc allows them to fit in to that society and culture. It is the lack of being able to function in society and culture that should define mental illness.
It does. I posted the DSM definition of mental illness a few posts back.
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Old 20th December 2018, 06:14 PM   #72
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
It does. I posted the DSM definition of mental illness a few posts back.


I kinda skipped through the thread and posted my thoughts on the OP. But yes, exactly.


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Old 20th December 2018, 07:37 PM   #73
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I like to offer hypotheticals we can (theoretically) all be on the same side of instead of bitching past each other and getting nowhere.

Since 'tis the season, imagine meeting a grown man who earnestly believes in Santa Claus. The North Pole, the reindeer, the chimney, ho ho ho, all of it. He still writes his letter to Santa just as he's done every year since he was a boy, and honestly knows that Santa will get it and that he is on the Nice List. Is he delusional for his beliefs? "Mad!?"
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Old 20th December 2018, 09:21 PM   #74
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Listen one of the most common demonizations of atheist/skeptics/whatnot is that we stereotype religious people as either crazy or stupid.

Let me be blunt here. I wish I could do that. Do you have any idea how much easier my life with be if I could just write off religion as crazy and/or stupid?

No what I have to do is create a worldview were demonstratively not crazy or stupid people believe objectively crazy or stupid things. And that kind of compartmentalization is a lot harder to wrap your head around than a simple "Well they're a crazy/stupid, case close" *wipes hands.*

So no. I don't think religious people in general are crazy or stupid.
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Old 20th December 2018, 10:15 PM   #75
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Originally Posted by Beelzebuddy View Post
I like to offer hypotheticals we can (theoretically) all be on the same side of instead of bitching past each other and getting nowhere.

Since 'tis the season, imagine meeting a grown man who earnestly believes in Santa Claus. The North Pole, the reindeer, the chimney, ho ho ho, all of it. He still writes his letter to Santa just as he's done every year since he was a boy, and honestly knows that Santa will get it and that he is on the Nice List. Is he delusional for his beliefs? "Mad!?"
Well . . . is he? What say you?

I say obviously delusional and "mad" in relation to his supernatural Santa beliefs, but not necessarily delusional and "mad" per se.
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Old 20th December 2018, 10:33 PM   #76
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Originally Posted by Beelzebuddy View Post
I like to offer hypotheticals we can (theoretically) all be on the same side of instead of bitching past each other and getting nowhere.

Since 'tis the season, imagine meeting a grown man who earnestly believes in Santa Claus. The North Pole, the reindeer, the chimney, ho ho ho, all of it. He still writes his letter to Santa just as he's done every year since he was a boy, and honestly knows that Santa will get it and that he is on the Nice List. Is he delusional for his beliefs? "Mad!?"
Does his belief in Santa Claus cause a significant negative impact on his quality of life? If not, it does not qualify as a mental disorder. Simple as that.
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Old 20th December 2018, 11:05 PM   #77
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Does his belief in Santa Claus cause a significant negative impact on the quality of life of others? Do they spend time considering what to say or do when they're around him in order to avoid offending his Clausian sentiments? Does it make them cringe and feel embarrassed on his behalf when he tries to persuade them that Santa is real?
Does he notice how the attitude of others to his beliefs affect them and consequently him? Does he care? Is it a negative impact on his life that some people would rather avoid having to deal with him than pretend that his delusion is not a delusion?

Notice that I'm not arguing that Christians are crazy. Unlike people who are mentally ill, they know that God isn't really real. They don't really expect God to protect them in traffic even when they ask him to do so in their prayers. Their ideas are crazy, but their attitude to them is different from the attitudes of real crazies to their delusions.
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Old 20th December 2018, 11:11 PM   #78
arthwollipot
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Originally Posted by dann View Post
Does his belief in Santa Claus cause a significant negative impact on the quality of life of others? Do they spend time considering what to say or do when they're around him in order to avoid offending his Clausian sentiments? Does it make them cringe and feel embarrassed on his behalf when he tries to persuade them that Santa is real?
Does he notice how the attitude of others to his beliefs affect them and consequently him? Does he care? Is it a negative impact on his life that some people would rather avoid having to deal with him than pretend that his delusion is not a delusion?
We don't have enough information in this particular hypothetical, which of course is the problem with all hypothetical scenarios. If there are enough diagnostic criteria met, then he will be diagnosed with a mental disorder. The definition I posted is pretty detailed, and no, the effect on others does not, in general, figure in to the diagnosis. That having been said, social isolation (for example) can have a significant negative impact on someone's quality of life.
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Old 21st December 2018, 01:53 AM   #79
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Originally Posted by attempt5001 View Post
No argument that some religious people make some pretty outrageous claims, but it's worth distinguishing between someone saying "I 'heard' God say" (akin to "I could 'hear' my mother's voice saying 'if you keep making that face it'll freeze in that position'") as opposed to an auditory hallucination, which is a very different thing.
Well, I'm not saying that all religious people have hallucinations, but the devil is in the details of the phrasing. If anyone actually claimed they 'heard' (as in literally using the word 'heard') their mom say something, that would really be claiming a delusion or hallucination. Use that phrasing too often, and people will start thinking you might need to see a psychiatrist, if it's about mom. Not so much when it's about God.

Also, the phrasing about mom (or your math teacher, or your old parish minister, or whatever) has a different MEANING. The message there is that you heard them say that particular thing often enough, that you instinctively expect to hear that when you do a certain thing. It's really claiming a learned reflex.

If someone's trying to say the same about God, that's actually a more disturbing message. I mean, it would be claiming that they heard God say that hundreds of times when they do a particular thing, so they formed that association. That just moved it from a one time hallucination to a regular occurrence.

Originally Posted by attempt5001 View Post
And delusions of reference are probably as prevalent in science as in religion, no? It can be easy and tempting to 'see' trends in data that don't stand up to third party scrutiny.
Not really, no, unless you claim that only you (or a select number of special people, a la the Xian holy ghost claim) can see the hidden meaning in that data. In which case, sure, a scientist can be schizophrenic too. But then he'd be told to get treatment, not to start preaching.

It doesn't reflect much on science itself, though, because that's not how science works. If you just see hidden trends, you're just another crackpot or some "media pundit", not a scientist. To actually be science, you have to show the MATHS for that. Which is rather independent of how you personally feel about it or what patterns you personally see.

Originally Posted by attempt5001 View Post
I think it's worth noting that most religious leaders/people often try to articulate things they don't understand and defy explanation, so the words are inevitably going to be a poor fit. That said, I agree there are many that deliberately use exaggerated or dishonest terms in order to manipulate.
I think most people are better with words, though, than you give them credit. They don't suddenly stop knowing the difference between, say, "feel" and "heard" when it's about God. Might be just wishful thinking on my part, though.
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Last edited by HansMustermann; 21st December 2018 at 01:55 AM.
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Old 21st December 2018, 09:08 AM   #80
attempt5001
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Well, I'm not saying that all religious people have hallucinations, but the devil is in the details of the phrasing. If anyone actually claimed they 'heard' (as in literally using the word 'heard') their mom say something, that would really be claiming a delusion or hallucination. Use that phrasing too often, and people will start thinking you might need to see a psychiatrist, if it's about mom. Not so much when it's about God.
Fair point, and gets to the root of your question of why "God talk" gets a pass. I think the answer is fairly obvious though that it's because we live in a society where religion is prevalent (especially historically, but still today). Lots of people have what they describe as religious experiences as well and there's a vernacular that's pretty common (though imprecise) for describing it. Of course, there's money and power involved, so inevitably there is abuse. I think the use, and abuse of the vernacular are both part of sane (though not always admirable) human nature/societal norms.

Quote:
Also, the phrasing about mom (or your math teacher, or your old parish minister, or whatever) has a different MEANING. The message there is that you heard them say that particular thing often enough, that you instinctively expect to hear that when you do a certain thing. It's really claiming a learned reflex.

If someone's trying to say the same about God, that's actually a more disturbing message. I mean, it would be claiming that they heard God say that hundreds of times when they do a particular thing, so they formed that association. That just moved it from a one time hallucination to a regular occurrence.
Yes, but let's say someone is reading the "parable of the good Samaritan" and then quietly contemplating it afterwards and it dawns on them that they should be more supportive of refugees, they might express that revelation as "I heard God say I should support immigration". It's not a precise way of expressing what happened, but it's a vernacular that would be understood in their religious community. It would get a harsh response from a skeptical audience with good reason, but it hardly constitutes mental illness.



Quote:
Not really, no, unless you claim that only you (or a select number of special people, a la the Xian holy ghost claim) can see the hidden meaning in that data. In which case, sure, a scientist can be schizophrenic too. But then he'd be told to get treatment, not to start preaching.

It doesn't reflect much on science itself, though, because that's not how science works. If you just see hidden trends, you're just another crackpot or some "media pundit", not a scientist. To actually be science, you have to show the MATHS for that. Which is rather independent of how you personally feel about it or what patterns you personally see.
Right, science has important critical feedback and control mechanisms to counter this and to help scientists develop better skills for objectively evaluating their own work, whereas religious groups often do not. But many scientists who avoid/ignore critical feedback fall into the same pitfalls, but are still not mad.



Quote:
I think most people are better with words, though, than you give them credit. They don't suddenly stop knowing the difference between, say, "feel" and "heard" when it's about God. Might be just wishful thinking on my part, though.
I agree that particularly leaders (in any context) need to be more diligent about the language they use. I think most of the general population though, struggle genuinely to express themselves clearly most of the time.

Thanks for the good thoughts and perspective.

Last edited by attempt5001; 21st December 2018 at 09:58 AM. Reason: removed a redundant bit
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