A few days ago, in a post on faith healing, American Atheists president Dave Silverman wrote: “We must recognize religion as brainwashing. We must recognize the (hyper) religious as mentally damaged.”

He’s not the first to equate religion with mental illness or “mental damage.” Bill Maher has called religion “a neurological disorder.” Sam Harris wrote in The End of Faith, “it is difficult to imagine a set of beliefs more suggestive of mental illness than those that lie at the heart of many of our religious traditions.” Facebook groups claiming religion is a “mental disorder” or “mental disease” boast hundreds of members, and a list of “7 reasons why religion is a form of mental illness” has been shared on a number of atheist blogs.

It seems clear to me that religion isn’t a form of mental illness, and that calling it one reflects a shallow understanding of both mental illness and religion—or, worse still, a knowing attempt to use mental illness as an insult.

While this discussion is worthy of lengthy consideration, I consulted with two atheist activists and compiled five reasons atheists should avoid this problematic parallel:

1. Even if well-intended, the equation fails

I hope that most atheists who claim religion is a mental illness don’t intend it as an insult, and instead have a confused understanding of mental illness or religion. Either way, the truth is that religion isn’t a form of mental illness.

Atheist and mental health advocate Miri Mogilevsky.

Atheist and mental health advocate Miri Mogilevsky. Photo courtesy Mogilevsky.

“Religion and mental illness are different psychological processes,” said atheist and mental health advocate Miri Mogilevsky in a recent email exchange. “[Religious beliefs may] stem from cognitive processes that are essentially adaptive, such as looking for patterns and feeling like a part of something larger than oneself.”

In The Belief Instinct, Jesse Bering also argues that religious belief is adaptive. Mental illnesses, on the other hand, clearly reflect maladaptive processes.

“People who cannot leave the house without having a panic attack or who feel a compulsion to wash their hands hundreds of times a day are experiencing symptoms that interfere with their ability to go about their lives,” Mogilevsky said. “Except in extreme cases, religion does not operate this way.”

Simply put: You may find religious beliefs irrational, but that doesn’t mean they’re a manifestation of mental illness.

2. Mental illness is not an insult

Surely not all atheists who claim religion is a mental illness do so to insult believers, but some do. This should go without saying, but it’s vital: Mental illness should never be wielded as an insult, particularly because people with mental illness face widespread stigma.

“Equating religion with mental illness is harmful for a number of reasons,” said Mogilevsky, who will soon launch a secular mental health support group. “When done to make fun of or put down religion, it also puts down people struggling with [mental illness].”

Calling religion a form of mental illness as a way to insult believers is not only crude and wrong—it also contributes to a culture that marginalizes people with mental illness and defines them solely by their illness. Atheists, agnostics, and Humanists should actively promote dignity for all people and strive to challenge dehumanization, rather than contribute to it.

3. Religion is often associated with wellbeing

Not only is religion not a form of mental illness—it’s actually associated with wellbeing in the U.S.

Rutgers assistant humanist chaplain David Yaden.

Rutgers assistant humanist chaplain David Yaden. Photo courtesy Yaden.

“Religion is many things—a famously indefinable concept—but for our purposes we can use the word to refer to supernatural belief systems and institutions built around them,” said David Yaden, a researcher at The University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center who works in collaboration with UPenn’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, in a recent email exchange. “If that is our definition, religion absolutely cannot be [categorized] as a mental illness.”

“In fact, empirical evidence sometimes points to the opposite conclusion,” Yaden said, citing the work of Dr. Ken Pargament. “When it comes to facilitating mental health, empirical data demonstrates that religious people have more positive emotion, more meaning in life, more life satisfaction, cope better with trauma, are more physically healthy, are more altruistic and socially connected, and are not diagnosed with mental illness more than other people.”

While there are a number of explanations for these correlations—such as the fact that nonreligious people often lack access to the kinds of resources that religious communities offer—it’s a bit ironic to call religion a mental illness when it is in fact often associated with wellbeing.

4. This parallel distracts us from trying to understand and learn from religion

“Calling religion a mental illness keeps us from asking serious questions about what actually does attract people to religion,” said Mogilevsky, who recently published a lengthy piece challenging atheists who call religion a mental illness. “[It’s] a convenient way to avoid thinking about what we could actually be doing to make the secular community more welcoming and inclusive, and what sorts of resources we are lacking that people can find in religious communities.”

Yaden, who recently began working as an assistant chaplain for the Humanist Chaplaincy at Rutgers, shares this concern.

“Secular society still has a lot to learn from how effective religion can be at fostering mental health,” said Yaden. “And as a society based on secular values, we need to be very careful with what we choose to pathologize. True liberty and freedom include the right to believe what one will without the fear of being labeled ‘ill.’”

Indeed. Atheists would do well to remember this, as this false diagnosis also gets turned back around at us.

5. Atheists and theists share in the challenges of being human

There is a great deal of suffering in the world, and atheists and theists share in it. Rather than making unfair cheap shots—especially at the expense of a marginalized group of people that includes some atheists—we should express compassion for people who have experiences that differ from our own and seek to understand them. And, importantly, we have more in common than it may seem.

“Claiming that religion is a mental illness obscures the fact that we all—yes, atheists too—regularly engage in irrational thinking,” said Mogilevsky. “If thinking irrationally is a mental illness, then we are all mentally ill, and the term loses its meaning. As a survivor of mental illness myself, I think we should save that term for situations in which people are truly suffering and having trouble going about their lives.”

This list is in no way comprehensive. Please share additional thoughts in the comments. If you’re struggling with mental illness and need to speak with someone, click here.

235 Comments

  1. Sorry, but you simply have not succeeded at arguing the first point. The clinical diagnosis of schizophrenia and various other psychoses involves a number of salient factors and symptoms that if demonstrated to hold indicate psychopathology. These include delusions of reference (being referred to by or referring to people or conscious beings that do not exist), auditory and visual hallucinations (including the belief in witnessing miracles and heaing the voices of a god or gods in some way), and general paranoia: including being concerned about being watched or believing one is being watched often. Especially if a person believes they are always being watched.
    All of these symptoms are present in faithist commitments to unreal and fictional divine beings believed in as real. Adult persons that refer to and take themselves to be the objects of attention of non-existent persons – no matter what the nature of the putative person – are ill.
    Adults that hold the paranoid belief that they are part of some worldwide historical conspiracy by supernatural beings to dominate their lives and the lives of everyone else – and to bring about an end to history: are ill.
    Adults that speak into space and believe that they are referring to some real individual or individuals (supernatural persons in this case) are ill, especially when they claim that those persons are as real as you or I, but simply in a different way. The same goes for those that claim to be receiving some kind of divine inspiration or internal voice from one of these being or a spirit of some kind. In any other circumstances – all other conditions held constant – such would all be symptoms of psychosis and a paranoid delusion at best.
    There is no excuse available for faithism or religionism on the basis of cultural norms. Many times in history mankind has made the most progress by overthrowing the greatest and most widely and dearly held assumptions which turned out to be broadly unhealthy. The black plague was caused because people were convinced that cats were creatures somehow influenced by some kind devil personality. We do not think that if many people truly believed in batman or the flying spaghetti monster as real beings – that they could refer to and be heard by and listen to internally – that they would be trustworthy rational beings whose cognitive faculties could be properly relied upon. That the fictional characters are different makes no difference.
    And yes – there are many faithists – and numbers do not make any difference to the fact of the appropriate diagnosis. It does not follow from something being a cultural norm that it is healthy or beneficial to individuals or to society.
    The argument that religion and faithism does some good is vastly flawed. Acid and disease will do some good if applied under the right circumstances the right way (vaccination). There is plenty of evidence that the benefits of faith in terms of any confidence and peace of mind are equally available to the sceptic and non-believer who chooses to approach the facts with the right attitude. The claim that people need faith in religious icons and supernatural entities is habitually based propaganda (and there re many other motivations, but none of them truly about benefitting individuals or societies). It is arguable that every peaceful moment that any religionist has ever experienced could have been secured in a non-religious manner (except for those that thrill to the euphoria of illusion and deception of themselves and others for personal gain, perhaps). More importantly, arguably for every meditative moment, there has been a human sacrifice, a torture, a political sabotage, a hate crime motivated by needless discursive and doctrinal divisions, or someone that has tried to control the outcomes and minds of others with cheap narratives that are epistemically limited. The empathetic scientist (science in the broad sense including the special and to some extent the social) that works hard to figure out what is really going on rather than – well – making shit up – is doing their fellow man the real service.
    Faithists and religionists just are sharing in a complex elaborate sophisticated constructed delusion from which they cannot be swayed by any measure of reason and which remains fixed in the face of a complete lack of evidence and in the face of material demonstrations of its vacuity. For some reason because of its grandness of scope (although science is now rapidly revealing that religious affectation embodies a limited imagination) the delusion is accepted. But this is just silly and inconsistent. Grandiose delusions where the individual is empowered by some god proxy in some manner by fiat are delusions that are conventionally pathological and clinically so. The willful dissimulation that is involved in forgetting it is the one that cannot prove the non-existence of something that is behaving questionably is not some pragmatic maneuver for survival: this is the sign of a mind weakened by pathology adopted and induced, and perhaps just acquired. Faithists most certainly are ill, and convinced faithism is an illness of delusions of reference and grandiose relevance, paranoia, the need to control others, and narcissistic imperatives including the belief of affirmation by the powerful deities (or attracting the displeasure of the same – it does not matter). Like many mentally ill persons faithists are practiced at pretending they are well and have the advantage of corporate agreement and safety in numbers to embolden them. They deserve our help and support, but can be harmful and threatening when challenged. Personally I have borne the brunt of the ire of disaffected faithists on many occasions, and they are not pretty when having a religonised psychotic episode. Most marked is their propensity to passive aggression and clandestine (social) or childish (interpersonal) manifestations of disaffectedness and aggression or aversion in response to criticism: doctrine and dogma are usually called into service, or the demonizing of the opponent as a servant of evil (constructive criticism or appeals to reason are often mislabeled as accusatory or an attack).

    However, if we truly care about them, then we will not continue to pedal the religion as medicine mythos that is put forward by Jamesian Pragmatists and those that benefit from weakening the cognitive capacity or their human fellows by intellectual sabotage, and that have rely upon this for a living and as a way of exerting personal power over others. Such is the approach of the controlling narcissist that cannot accept criticism and the psychopath that will endorse any narrative to secure their ends despite the cost to children. They have been around since at least Socrates time, and it will be pleasing and refreshing to see them gone forever, replaced by peaceful, productive, reasonably satisfied, and rational selves that do not enlist god characters as proxies and justifications for their attitudes and meanness.
    Faiths are a ready made tool for abuse by such individuals. What better way to control the outcomes and behaviour of another but to convince them that they should obey some all powerful omniscent moral agent, and then craft the moral content to suit oneself. Persons who cannot stand forth and make rational judgements unaided by the support of gangs of other people all affirming their beliefs with no regard for evidence, demonstration, reasoned assessment, or scientific appraisal and discourse: such people are limited in their ability to achieve their own agency (although no person is an island and everyone needs help – this is far beyond that) and seek control of others in preference to changing their minds with cognitive application and emotional intelligence.

    Religion is the systematized manifestation and embodiment of dissimulative, narcissistic, controlling, paranoid, delusive (and complexly and grandiosely so) and hallucinatory illness. It is time for us to be rid of it at last, and to be truly free and free to liberate our minds.

    We certainly can understand and learn fro religion, but it’s content and edicts have little to teach us. It’s vast errors are far more informative. Secular society does not need to invent a religion like alternative to religion. This is a mistake. If a definition of madness is doing the same thing and expecting different results, then we need religion or religious like structures like we need alchemy or cancer.

    All people share the challenges of being human. That is simply tautological. It is that religion is in any way a good way of going about it that is an idea that is well past its use-by date. Yaden and other religionist apologists are just wrong. There are some things in the spectrum of human experience and habit that we are simply better without.

    Tit for tat efforts at pathologising more basic and simple approaches to peace and personal satisfaction that do not involves the imposition and adoption of grandiose delusions fail. They fail because they assume – petitio principii – that which they are trying to argue: that religion is necessary for happiness and health. They fail because the yearnings that lead people to faith in frail narratives because of lack and the human condition have other cures: and every rational freethinking person knows it. They do not want to face radical and elegant alternative solutions that retain fellowship but mitigate group think and anti-intellectualism when the mind others, and nature are – even for the religionist – our only real greatest source of inspiration. To be dissatisfied and disaffected with the sufficiency of that is pathological on standard terms.

    • Galen Broaddus

      You literally did not even argue against the first point, which is that religion and mental illness are different in that the former is arguably adaptive and the latter maladaptive. It is also possible to think that religion has a negative influence on society and that it is not a mental illness. Perhaps you should spend more time making sure you understand the position of your interlocutors before you expend such verbosity on the subject.

    • This is by far the most pompous inaccurate piece of verbiage I’ve come across recently. As much as you so desperately want to believe it these people are not ill. The whole point of having faith is believing something on the assumption of its existence, therefore ‘proof’ would make faith unnecessary. Theists have no proof that their gods exist but in the same breath you can say that atheists have no proof that they don’t. You have the stance that since you cannot see it or actively study it that it must not be there. Any which way you try to do it, with scientific terms or not, you are just another atheist calling an entire group of healthy individuals sick. Name-calling at its finest I suppose. If you have the slightest knowledge of true schizophrenia you would see the flaw in your argument. They have an actual disorder in their brain, they are not functioning on a belief willingly and knowingly. Until your side stops trying to prove yourself superior to theists and continue to call names I don’t think an honest debate is possible. It’s childish.

      • This is not about whether God exists or not. It is about a “man made” organisation that herds feeble minded people in order to “milk” them.

      • base of logic :
        If you want say something is real/true, to prove something , you own a burden of proof :
        You HAVE to prove it to convince others and demonstrate its reality.
        You never prove that something doesn’t exist, it makes no sense.
        Like creationnists with evolution, you only show that you do not understand basic logic, thats why your point of view is warped . You think YOUR understanding of a principle is THE principle.
        But it is not. Evolution is not random ,and you can not prove something does not exist. Thats how logic works.
        There is not need to go further:
        No proof , no god for now. Period.

        Until you prove something exists, it does not.
        therefore, if you believe in something that has not be proven to exist , you are just crazy. So it is a mental desease. Period.

        A true atheist is an agnostic : prove me that God exists, and i ll be ok.
        No proof ? It doesn’t ,but i aknowledge the possibility, as tiny as it could be.

        Atheist saying god doesn’t not exist are just another kind of believers (who are probably right ,for the wrong reasons) , which make them as crazy as any other believer)

      • Just so you know, schizophrenia is not a religion, so your point doesn’t even make sense. Of course, Im not disputing that in many cases, religion can and often does contribute to mental illness, religion in and of itself is not a mental illness.

    • J.C. Samuelson

      It may be that Mr. Stedman failed to argue the first point persuasively, but as passionate as your diatribe against religion is, Mr. Long, it is not persuasive either. You are clearly – and perhaps rightly – frustrated at the continued (but arguably diminishing) prominence that religions enjoy, but your argument is long on complaints and short on solutions. Basically an atheistic “Gish gallop” that adds nothing the original post.

      You write as if you’re lecturing someone on the ills of religion, yet clearly have a highly simplistic view of what religion is, the reasons for its appeal to everyday people, and its sources. Even if religion were to be broadly classified as an illness (and your comment is least persuasive on that score), the proper approach is to study it to find root causes & treatments. Telling someone who is ill that they just need to get over it simply doesn’t work and is little more than callous victim-blaming.

      Bottom line: You were so full of your own ideas and complaints you failed utterly to argue against – or even comprehend, it seems – the original post.

    • Robert Hundley

      Bruce, Pardon my brevity, but when you set up a straw man it is easy to knock him down. I consider myself deeply religious, grown out of a reading of Fedor Dostoyveski with the Bible etc, yet I believe nothing you have outlined as religious. Pause a moment & reflect: what was it that kept the grandmothers of Russian teaching the young the meaning of religion, while around them the former Seminarian Joseph Stalin murdered 100 million people to terminate religion? Ditto for Mao’s China. For Pol Pot’s Cambodia. Religion and anti-Religion have to be judged by their fruits, by what their work achieves. Pax.

      • “Religion and anti-Religion have to be judged by their fruits, by what their work achieves”

        You don’t want to go there. Not these days. Not ever. Most of the wars going on in the world right now have a religious element to them. Religion being used to fan the flames of political conflicts, to recruit cannon fodder, to inspire people to commit atrocities that normal sane human conscience would turn away from. Communism and its anti-clerical violence is consigned to the dustbin of history. But the terrors done in God’s name continue on.

        • Even “atheist” regimes like Stalin, and today’s North Korea morph into a quasi-religious personality cult. Kim Il Sung is considered “immortal” in North Korean propaganda, even though he is long dead.

        • Wrong.
          Sorry , but most wars have a “real politic” motive behind teh cover.
          the cover is maybe human rights (a belief) , race superiority like nazisme and sionism ( a belief ), communism ( a belief) , capitalism (…another belief ! ) or anything else, truth is : when US invaded Irak ,it was for oil.When Israel slaughtered arabs, it was for more territory. When my country ,France, invaded half of the known world, the other half being held by England, its was for riches.
          All war are done for ressources, land, manpower , money. Even islamist and jewish terrorists who now set our planet on fire do it for more riches and power for their communities. Their communities may be based on belief, the war itself is not.
          The difference is : A true atheist doesnt not attack others, so war is not know by an atheist ,he just defend himself and his loved ones.
          On the opposite, a crazy country like USA will attack everyone, BELIEVING that they are right ,have the right to impose their truth on other and that god is on their side.
          In thruth ,if god exist and is as perfect as said , he pisses on jews , arabs , americans and 99 % of mankind….but atheists XD

          • Exactly…As the Roman Seneca put it. ”Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”
            Lucius Annaeus Seneca
            Once you understand that premise the rest of it falls into place neatly historically.

    • You never came with any proof that they are ill, instead you just did exactly as most atheists, just claims that they are ill without any scientific evidence. You are insulting people who are ACTUALLY mentally ill and makes it to something you can come over during 1 day, but no. I must say that you’re wrong.

    • Oh my stars and garters! I am moved to tears by your comment, comrade! Your erudition and clarity of thought are entirely untainted by confirmation bias, pseudoscientific bullshit, suspect pretheoretical assumptions, logical fallacies or collosal non sequiturs. This is truly a thing of beauty.

      The only fault I can find within your magnum opus is that you do not advocate the next logical steps of (1) using the power of the state to send those affected by the religion virus to state-sponsored reconditing centers, (2) removing their children from them so that they will no longer be subject to religious abuse, and (3) halting the spread of this mental illness by forbidding all religious speech.

      This inconsistent oversight on your part is unfortunate. Please realize that when the revolution is complete, such failure will result in your being lined up against the wall and shot, along with the other useful idiots.

      Great comment!

    • I can refute Stedmans’ claim in one sentence, taken from a dictionary.

      Delusion: “A persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence, especially as a sign of a psychiatric condition.”

      Drugs are available for psychotics, but unfortunately we have nothing to treat delusional people.

    • Giordano Bruno

      Dang, I was going to post 5 succinct responses (critiques) of the 5 points in the article but I suppose that would be superfluous at this point considering your lengthy response. Well done.

    • But don’t some atheists claim to love each other? There’s no way to demonstrate love scientifically without petitio principii; so are all lovers mad? Are you a poet?

    • Randall Shipp

      Blah,blah,blah,blah,blah……….I can’t explain why you have never had a spiritual experience except to explore the possibility that perhaps some people need them as a form of instruction and encouragement and others don’t. I haven’t met too many atheists in person but examples of famous modern atheists, such as Bill Maher, Christopher Hutchins, Hitchens?, exhibit a rare dignity and clarity that is so refreshing. I have met literally hundreds of dangerously delusional Christians, having been one myself for 2 decades, and they have driven me to oppose Christian ideology for a number of years. I’m over that now because I have met many people who call themselves Christians and actually live their lives as close to the real message of Jesus as they can. They have a long way to go and many obstacles to overcome but they mean well. The true message is love, and that is a sacrifice.
      If you are still reading this, here comes the good part……I have much help from Spirit in the form of guides who have actually spoken to me and instantly changed my life in a miraculous way so how could I deny the existence of supernatural benevolent forces? I can’t.

    • Robert Walker

      How do you know that the only beings who exist are the ones we are aware of and can measure with our science?

      We only recently detected the higgs boson – does that mean that e.g. Higgs was mentally ill for suggesting it existed?

      DELIBERATE “MADNESS” IN YOUR SENSE

      I’m a Buddhist myself, in one of the Tibetan traditions – and was taught in a somewhat different way from the way it’s taught in Christianity.

      The Buddhist deities you see so many pictures of are – well is subtle but best way to understand maybe – external representations of internal states common to everyone. Like when you see Buddhist depictions of compassion – though shown as a white figure with four arms bearing various things – which seems a bit strange to us in our culture – it’s meant as a representation of the compassion that anyone can experience.

      By making it external – then that deals with issues such as getting a big ego boost from your compassionate actions – if you think of it as purely internal. And recognizing compassion in others, and that it’s not tied down to you – and that when you are compassionate – then the compassion is not limited by your own capabilities but ripples out in an endless way.

      The visual representations – and visualizations Buddhists do in meditation – some of them – are ones that over the centuries have been found to help people to be more compassionate and open and sensitive. And helps you to link to a long tradition of people who have done similar meditations in the past.

      You can even meet compassion like this directly in meditation – and if you have trained with these representations – might meet a living being in the form you’ve meditated on. And that can be more vivid than meeting a person in real life, so I’ve been told.

      But the most direct “meeting” with compassion is formless, doesn’t have any of this “deity form” – and the others are a kind of intermediate step for those who can’t relate to this compassion without form. Eventually all the forms need to be dropped.

      Then – the thing is – in what way are we ourselves “real”. Not that we don’t exist – but this actual physical body – and our mind and so on – even the whole world – there is something a bit elusive about it also, if you look at it closely in meditation.

      How for instance do you know that you are not dreaming right now? If you can’t absolutely prove that you are not dreaming, then how can you prove that these other forms such as the essence of compassion in the form of a living being do not exist?

      So – all that blurs the apparently obvious distinction between things like people you meet every day – and direct encounters with compassion and wisdom – abstract things to most people’s ways of thinking that you can’t “meet” but seems – that some people can. It’s a sort of direct access to a level of wisdom and compassion everyone has but most are unable to contact and block off.

      All this – it’s not mental illness – it’s a process of working with your mind that’s been developed over many centuries – where you use the same capacities of the mind that can cause problems with people with mental illness – but in a beneficial way – and totally aware of what you are doing and why you are doing it – and in a tradition where this way of working has been used for centuries.

      It can cause problems – and that’s also recognized – and the solutions to those problems. And most people will use only a mild level of this.

      Myself – I don’t even use these visual forms at all except in a very minor way such as e.g. representation of the Buddha which I make offerings to every day. That’s a very common practise amongst Buddhists world wide. As I was taught – it’s a way of welcoming the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha into your life. Somehow – making offerings to this image of the Buddha – and bowing to it – and with the feeling that you are back at the time of the Buddha bowing to the historical Buddha – just touching on that feeling – that then opens you to the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha’s teachings in your life in a more direct way, somehow.

      Another analogy – it’s like reading a poem – or a vivid story. Or even – reading Harry Potter stories – you don’t think that Harry Potter really exists – but can have a vivid experience even so while reading the stories. That vivid experience doesn’t mean you are ill.

      So in the same way you can have vivid experiences while doing the various rituals and practises of religion – not in the hallucination vivid type of way – but similarly vivid to the images you get when you read a book. And those can inspire compassion and wisdom and be beneficial in your life.

      WORKING WITH “DEITIES” AT AN EVEN MORE VIVID “HALUCINATION” KIND OF A LEVEL

      But some Buddhist practitioners – under instruction from a teacher who is in the tradition and qualified to teach – may go beyond this text and poetry type of level of practise – and do advanced practises that involve really vivid encounters with compassion, wisdom, etc often in elaborate forms. It can be more vivid than meeting a real person – like the life we live normally is less real than the experiences you have sometimes in meditation if you do these practises.

      But – none of that is thought of as “essentially real” permanent, forms. And – it can make you go mad if you approach it incorrectly not understanding how it all works. Even if you do understand – because some of the experiences are so vivid – it can push you over the edge into madness and crazy action. And there is also a “crazy wisdom” that looks like madness and is not.

      But all of that is for only a few advanced practitioners with many safeguards, mainly in Tibetan tradition is where I know about it. It looks like deliberate mental illness perhaps but is not because of the way it is done.

      I am not doing practises like this myself – and very few Buddhists do even in the Tibetan traditions. You get teachers who give “blessings” based on this idea – which they may call “initiations” but that’s different. It’s not really doing the complete practise – but rather – making a kind of connection to it which is thought to be beneficial.

      Those who do the real practises here are very very rare. They can only be done working closely with a teacher – because the “otherness” of working with a teacher is part of the whole practise, it’s what makes it work, because you have to drop the idea that the whole thing is something you are doing just by yourself – or it isn’t the genuine practise.

      OTHER RELIGIONS

      This is the Tibetan Buddhist tradition – it works differently in Therevadha Buddhism – where I think they don’t have the “Hallucination” type practises – but still have the poetry – the inspiration for instance from reading stories from the sutras.

      In Christianity – you do have all of these including – mystics who experience meeting various religious figures in real life – that’s quite a bit I think like the tantric practises in Tibetan Buddhism. But – I think perhaps it is worked out most clearly in the Buddhist teachings.

      As for a supreme deity – well – in some Christian traditions like the Quakers – which I was involved in before – then – this is something that is both inside yourself and outside – is very like the Buddhist ideas.

      But – if not – if more “external deity” – still – no atheist can prove that such a being does not exist. How can you say someone is mentally ill for believing something which you can’t prove doesn’t exist? When in science we are continually finding new things which we didn’t know existed before?

      So – what I’m saying here is – things that we call “mental illness” needn’t always be so – they may be beneficial. It doesn’t mean you are ill. It may be done deliberately.

    • @Sarah

      Some of your sources are from biased atheist sites so I find it extremely funny that you post them here to respond to actual academic sources.

      Your other sources ignore the fact that many secular societies are actually worst than religious societies. Let’s look at the evidence:

      http://www.thelocal.se/20090427/19102 (That’s in Sweden where there is a rape epidemic)

      http://www.theguardian.com/journalismcompetition/gender-inequality-in-vietnam (Vietnam’s gender inequality, income inequality and poverty)

      http://www.ibtimes.com/7-problems-chinas-rise-worlds-largest-economy-will-not-solve-1578566 (Seven of China’s biggest problems including their poor human rights issues)

      http://www.pewforum.org/2014/01/14/religious-hostilities-reach-six-year-high/ (That’s on Christians being persecuted in extremist muslim countries and atheist states)

      So please don’t talk about religious people being bad to atheists as it’s the other way around.

      “The sources clearly indicate that North Korea’s government is among the most repressive in the world with respect to religion as well as other civil and political liberties. (The U.S. State Department’s 2012 Report on International Religious Freedom, for example, says that “Genuine freedom of religion does not exist” in North Korea.” ~ Pew Study Research

      So atheist secular societies are actually worst off especially as far as human rights are concerned.

      You’re actually wrong on the depression study. The study by The American Journal of Psychiatry did a study of over 25 countries (not just China) and found that atheists commit suicide more and suffer from more depression. The result showed that religious people were more happier and less likely to commit suicide due to the benefits that religious practice provides.

      http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleid=177228

      “Our study showed a relationship between religious affiliation status and suicide attempts in a clinical sample of depressed inpatients. It seems that the constellation of religious beliefs and lower aggression level, together with a higher threshold for suicidal thoughts in religiously affiliated depressed subjects, reduces risk for suicidal acts.”

      The link between autism and atheism also suggested the reasons why autistic people have difficulty believing in a god because they have “reduced ability to mentalize” hence why we get some atheists who can’t even understand the concept of a god.

      http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psyched/201205/does-autism-lead-atheism

      But I do love how you ignore the original OP who was bitterly attacking religion. Those responses, perhaps, were in response to his aggression but as always, you atheists love to ignore your own bad fruits.

    • Liberate our minds to What exactly? There is no one living whose mind is liberated. Our minds have been formed and set into different perspectives of what we think is right or wrong based on what we have been taught, heard, or what we have experienced.

      So you see someone talking to and older woman rudely and being rough with her, and you immediately think “that is so unfair”. It may be unfair according to you, but what makes you think its unfair according to the person? You can’t help feeling that way because someone somewhere taught you that that is the wrong way to speak to someone whether old or young. and when you do speak with people you consciously try to adhere to that principle you had been taught. That adherence betrays the fact that you do have a religion and the fact that you would stand by what you think is right is evidence that you believe in something bigger than yourself.

      so in essence, everyone is religious. Religious about eating properly, religious about how you relate with strangers, religious about how you treat people at work. Religious in the sense that you adhere to and follow certain principles you believe is the right way to do something. Which is why you bust someone’s chops when they do something that “you” perceive to be outside of those principles.

      So when we talk about others being religious and mind liberation, let us be careful to be sure we’re not asking them to exchange one form of religion for another one dressed as “freethinking” for there is no such thing as a free thinker. For if you believe in anything: one shouldn’t eat meat, exercise is a daily ritual, one should invest, one should get an education, or one shouldn’t believe anything, it remains still that; you DO believe in and adhere to something and that in itself … makes you religious and therefore by your own argument mentally insufficient.

    • All that and more.
      I am surprised to see no reference to personal integrity (such as, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth), and reduction of cognitive dissonance (such as: Is there a Santa Claus?), as a reason for not wanting to be “religious”. For me, that tops the list. If I have missed such references elsewhere (don’t have time to read everything, and sometimes skip paragraphs without noticing) please forgive me.
      Religion is certainly adaptive as a way to get along, so you don’t have to worry about other stressful things so much, and other people trust you to be using the same “rule book” (see Gibbon). So in that sense it is a survival trait. And it has been used as material for great art. But I need to understand the world I live in, and as far as I am concerned, mnemonics for what works go only so far.
      Also, it seems clear to me that a a religion that does not allow to someone to leave it, and will kill you for doing so, does not deserve the name of civilized. Also one that results in people of only one kind in the streets, on the beaches, etc.

    • Cool. So according to you. If you want to cure schizophrenia, all you have to do is destroy the patients belief in God? But how will we cure all those atheists out there with schizophrenia.

  2. Bruce Long’s treatise is about as complete a rebuttal to the apologetics of religion and faith as I have come across is recent history.

    If the original author doesn’t recant his post after digesting that bit of brilliance I think we’ll be witness to the same irrational steadfast rejection of all contrary evidence the faithful adhere to so, faithfully.

  3. Thank you for this article.

    As a Christian I have herd Christianity, religion, and a belief in a god as mental illness.
    I always found this sad and confusing, how many hundreds of millions of people are religious in one form or another?
    say that Christianity, or any other belief system is mental illness is as bad as categorizing members of the LGBTQ community as mentally I’ll (which is despicable and disgusting behavior towards a minority).

    I am a Christian, I struggle with (serious) depression (sometimes), however I am not a Christian because I suffer from depression. I have a chemical imbalance in my brain that makes my serotonin levels go wack.

    I try to respect, and learn from, and be in community with Atheists, yet that is made very difficult when I am called mentally I’ll by a stranger that has never met me.

    • I am also a Christian and I agree with you completely.. I have friends that I love who believe or don’t believe in different things.. I do not call them mentally ill because that’s not only offensive but completely wrong.. It isn’t my place to judge anyone.. I honestly believe that fear causes atheists to say things like this.. The fear of what if it could be true.. And it is a very scary thing .. Not knowing .. But it isn’t an excuse to belittle people who believe in God… And there are many “religious” people who don’t have a relationship with God .. There is a big difference.. May sound crazy or mentally ill but it’s my choice and your choice to believe or not believe.. I believe that you should love and have compassion for everyone (no matter what they choose to believe) .. God bless<3

  4. Chris: Thanks for writing this. I was wondering how your overature of understanding and intellectual empathy would be received by your community. As a Christian pastor, whenever I write or speak on the subject of having empathy for “the other” (whether atheist, Muslim, Hindu, etc.) I find that I often have pushback from the fundamentalist fringe of my religion who accuse me of something like heresy. I was wondering if you would receive equivalent “secular fundamentalist” comments. And behold the first comment was a winner!

    Good to see that in many ways we aren’t so different after all. Good luck on dealing with secular fundies. I’ll get back to work dealing with religious fundies.

  5. 1. The equation fails because you’ve got the wrong equation. Religion isn’t a “mental illness”, “mental illness” is a religion.

    2. Mental illness IS an insult. People face widespread “stigma” because mental illness is an insult. You might call it something else. It isn’t an illness, literally.

    3. Religion is often associated with kookery. That’s why we call some people “religious fanatics”. Case in point, “talking to God.”

    4. The same could be said about Atheism. Fixating on religion and mental illness keeps us from asking the important questions about what attracts people to atheism.

    5. Agreed. There is always a danger that “mental illness” evangelists will eventually come up with an atheist syndrome or a disbelievers disorder.

    • Am confused by your comment “what attracts people to atheism.” Ummm. The same thing that keeps people ‘not attracted to believing in unicorns?’ the statement doesn’t make any sense; atheism shouldn’t even be a term, it’s just the ‘default’ position for people until something pulls them into believing in silly things for no good reason (which then creates the idea that faith is a mental illness)

    • wesley martin

      I can answer number four. Logic and reason draw people to atheism. I wish I would have examined the foundation for my believes sooner. Better late then never.

  6. GEE.. because that eminent psychiatrist and mental health expert Chris Stedman says that religion isn’t a mental illness, and quotes a pair of email exchanges, (seriously.. EMAIL EXCHANGES????.. see, this is why religion and science are completely incompatible), that means it’s not? PULLLESE OF COURSE IT IS… A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning… RELIGION! HELLO!!! Its not meant to be an insult.. all of a sudden the Jesus freaks are sensitive.. WOW.. they can dish it out… and we can understand and learn from religion just like the dinosaurs can understand and learn from comets.. and finally, theists and atheists can share in the challenges of being human as soon as they drop their medieval psycho pathology.

    • Galen Broaddus

      Oh wow. I think you might have broken records for density of wrongness in an Internet comment.

      1. The fact that Stedman isn’t a mental health expert is irrelevant, and to reject the arguments in this piece (many of which aren’t even Stedman’s) for that fact would be an ad hominem argument.
      2. E-mail exchanges are a way of conveying information from other sources.
      3. If you’re going to demand more rigorous methods, then you will have to do better than such stunning arguments from assertion like “PULLLESE OF COURSE IT IS…”
      4. Religion does not generally affect one’s “daily functioning.” My wife has mental illness, and when she has difficulty functioning, it is not even remotely related to the fact that she is religious. (For the record, I’m not religious.)
      5. “Its not meant to be an insult..” Bullshit. Mental illness is incredibly stigmatized, and when people compare religion to a mental illness, it is absolutely going to carry (maybe unintentionally in some cases) the connotation that religious people are fundamentally broken. The truth is that the things that drive religious thinking (religiosity is a related but slightly different beast) are cognitive biases that can be found in everyone in some way, and those biases are the result of processes that are adaptive but not incredibly conducive to rational thinking.
      6. When you suggest that theists and atheists don’t currently share in the challenges of being human, you are coming dangerously close to dehumanizing theists. Stop that. When religion most fails, it often does so because of a lack of empathy, and you are exhibiting the same trait here.

  7. CarlaDelastella

    Having a system of beliefs and practices that isn’t based on empiral evidence is not a sign of mental illness and it isn’t irrational either.

      • CarlaDelastella

        No, that’s not the definition of irrational. Irrational means contrary to ratio, not merely unsupported by empirical evidence.
        If we would only believe those things that are supported by intersubjectively verifiable empirical evidence, then any belief system besides solispism would be irrational, because there is no empirical evidence that other people do have subjective conscious experiences. Why should we even base all our beliefs on intersubjectively verifiable evidence to begin with?
        The belief that we ought to only believe something if there is empirical evidence is in itself unsupported by empirical evidence.

    • It all boils down to one question, if its socially acceptable, does a delusion remain a delusion? Which is actually a symptom of an illness. One symptom in isolation is not enough to diagnose an illness, but you can’t deny the symptom’s presence regardless. Just like people with chronic cough and weight loss may have lung cancer, but if they test negative, it doesn’t mean they never had a cough

  8. Look up the definition of the word “CULT” which is what all religions are, then refute the fact that the members are not brain damaged or brain-washed. Atheists by the way do not claim there is no god, we claim there is NO PROOF of a god ergo there is no reason for religion.

    • Good comment; however I’d like to clarify that even if one were to grant some of the usual arguments in favor of the existence of some sort of supreme being, one could grant that existence, but this does nothing to establish the veracity of the claims made by religion (e.g. Jesus was the son of God, he rose from the dead, God really hates when you masturbate, etc.).

    • Look up the definition of the word ATHEIST. True atheists claim there is no god. Those who claim that one cannot know if there’s a god, or that there is no proof of a god, are AGNOSTIC.

      • “A” means “not”, as in atypical meaning “not typical”. “Atheist” is a broad term that simply means “not theist” or one that does not believe in god or gods. Agnostics are a type of atheist. Believing in god or gods makes you no more mentally ill than believing one’s own self is a god or gods, according to the logic from those defending the video. In fact one only need have faith in it. A person could walk around claiming to be Jesus Christ and hold up in a compound, no physical proof required when all we need is faith… right?

      • I am an agnostic atheist. There are theistic agnostics. I don’t believe there is a god, or supernatural force, but you can’t prove a negative, or disprove a god exists. Skeptical inquiry and the scientific method demand this.

  9. WhatPaleBlueDot

    I had a conversation with David at a conference about this topic. At the time, he was saying that religious people were harmed, injured by the organizations they found themselves in. I believe this is the case. I don’t agree with his assessment to date that religious people are experiencing a mental illness. And I’m disappointed by it.

    I find the comparison ridiculous. There is a difference between even the most acclaimed miracle witness and hallucination. Wanting something to be so, having a cultural mandate that you experience something to be considered acceptable, and experiencing socially mediated ecstasy are not in any way related to delusion, hallucination, or other mental illness.

    • Wrong. A delusion is an erroneous belief that is held in the face of evidence to the contrary. The laws of nature themselves are evidence that contradict the possibility of miracles. If you see a colorless liquid dropping from the face of a stone statue, and you think the statue is genuinely “crying”, you are deluded. <– That is a period.

  10. If you “speak” or otherwise communicate with a person or thing which physically does not exist, you have a mental illness. How many Appalachian idiot “preachers” must die from snake bites before they figure this out?!!!

  11. there are many, many studies regarding this topic (including a recent one here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10943-013-9712-3). i don’t mean to insult anyone by saying that religion is a transmittable mental illness – i say it because it is a fact, and i want to make people aware that in addition to studying the mechanisms that cause it and allow it to spread, we should be looking for effective treatments and, hopefully, one day a cure. i know that many people receive comfort from the idea of a super-powerful ally who looks out for their best interests and will reward them if they have not gotten much out of life, but that’s like saying that it’s okay to eat as much sugar as you like because it tastes good, or to smoke as many cigarettes as you like because the nicotine improves your short-term memory. on the surface, it’s attractive, but both cause more harm than good, and that attraction is precisely what makes all 3 so hard to let go of.

    • Valerie Tarico

      Thank you. Because mental illness gets stigmatized, people react against the stigma and (often intended) insult rather than treating this a serious hypothesis that should be analyzed and explored.

      • J.C. Samuelson

        Hi Valerie,

        We touched very briefly on the psychopathology of religion when we spoke during an interview for an article I was writing just over a year ago. Although we didn’t directly discuss whether religion is a mental illness or not, the impression I had this hypothesis is just that – a hypothesis, in need of further study.

        My question is, would you agree or disagree that religion can, in fact, at this point be broadly categorized as a mental illness? If so, on what basis?

        Since I’m sure you – and many others here – would agree that correlation doesn’t mean causation, isn’t it rash to generalize? Yes, certain religious beliefs & behaviors may lead to the manifestation of some psychiatric symptoms – I would certainly accept that; as a non-professional, how could I not? – but does it follow that religion is the root illness?

        As serious as the study of religion is to psychology, even the abstract for the study linked to in the comment above yours states that: “Belief in a deistic God and one’s overall belief in God were not significantly related to any psychiatric symptoms.” Hardly a ringing endorsement for religion in general as a mental illness, or the source thereof.

        It just seems to me that we don’t do anyone any favors by labeling theists in general as ‘mentally ill’ without adequate justification. It needlessly perpetuates the stigma surrounding mental health, and has tenuous support in the literature that I could find. Most of the studies I’ve seen acknowledge that the link between religion and mental health – positive or negative – is debatable at best.

        This article may also be helpful for anyone intersted in this subject: http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/atheologies/6764/new_research_links_spiritual_not_religious_to_mental_disorder/ – states that

        • J.C. Samuelson

          Oops link messed up: http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/atheologies/6764/new_research_links_spiritual_not_religious_to_mental_disorder/

        • j.c., points noted, and i agree wholeheartedly that correlation is not causation. it may well be that some underlying mechanism makes people more receptive to the religion meme – emotional state, frame of mind, life history, recent events, family environment, etc. and i have known many religious folks who did not seem to lose their ability to distinguish between what they saw as suggestions for how to live and reality. as you read comments on various sites that talk about the whole theist/atheist issue, commenters on both sides often come across as ‘unhinged’. i can’t help but wonder if any of them are like that ‘in real life’. perhaps the anonymity of the web makes it easier to express pent-up thoughts and feelings. or maybe their true source of frustration lies elsewhere. either way, how bad can a world based on realism be?

    • Galen Broaddus

      Even that study, though, doesn’t say that religion is a mental illness; it links certain religious beliefs (specifically, the type of god that is believed in) with psychiatric symptoms, and it even notes that a certain religious belief (in a benevolent god) was negatively correlated with those symptoms.

  12. There are three reasons to hold a particular view:
    1) Rational thought, deductive reasoning applied to facts that are observed and hypothesis formed and theories tested.
    2) Conditioning: which is nothing more than the internalization of a thought, thought patterns or responses through exposure in childhood, repetition or association with fundamental drive or motivation.
    3) Satisfaction of an egocentric need.

    Religion and its supernatural or spiritual tenants have no facts to support them. That leaves religion is an irrational (not rational) belief system that persists on due to the remaining two processes.

    On an individual level, no one should really care if some one succumbs to the irrational (or is mentally ill) yet is happy with it, however, because their religion influences so many others that do not expose this irrationality, we have the right to object to it’s interference in our lives and it’s influence on our own children.

    And what else can you call a view point that has no factual basis yet is held so strongly that even facts and science are ignored or rejected, other than a mental illness or psychological aberration. A classic example is the laughable comparison of The Theory of Evolution with the BELIEF in creationism.

    Think Rationally, Act Thoughtfully.

    • Galen Broaddus

      That’s pretty much a textbook example of a false dilemma. It is perfectly possible to hold an incorrect belief for reasons other than conditioning and wishful thinking, say, if you were drawing conclusions based on incomplete evidence. That’s not to say that conditioning and wishful thinking aren’t part of some religious people’s motivations for believing, but it is woefully inadequate for describing religious belief as a whole.

      And when you equate “mental illness” and “psychological aberration,” it’s pretty damned clear that you’re talking out your ass. Those two things are not the same.

  13. Matthew Bailey

    The use of the term “Mental Illness” to describe Religion, and SPECIFICALLY Pathological Religious beliefs is still just as useful as when it was first made.

    And this is especially the case when applied to the Pathologically Religious (extremists, or others whose beliefs supersede facts of/about the world).

    The term was never meant to be an insult. This is completely irrelevant.

    Telling a schizophrenic person they are mentally ill isn’t meant as an insult, any more than pointing out Pathological Beliefs are a mental illness is an insult.

    Pointing this out is an attempt to get the person to examine their condition so they might correct the illness.

    Looking for meaning in the world is perfectly fine.

    To look for meaning in what is essentially a delusion is not “fine.”

    That religious belief might be correlated with Well-being is irrelevant.

    I ALMOST hate to go here, but Most Nazis found a large sense of well-being in their beliefs derived from Nazism.

    This is called an “Appeal to consequences.”

    “Gee, it would be great if everyone believed that Jerry the Invisible Ghost would give them $5 every evening if they didn’t behave badly that day.”

    Yes, those consequences are wonderful, but they do not made it true, even if a great number of people found confront in the fact they would be rewarded (even though they had not yet discovered $5 being mysteriously delivered to them every evening – maybe they offended Jerry in some fashion during the day).

    The remaining points are irrelevant.

    What meaning can be found in Religion will be found there without the pathological Beliefs, or desire to hold delusional beliefs.

    In fact, it is the willful ignorance in Religion that keeps the Religious from discovering any actual meaning or “Good” in their religion as well.

    When one is not blinded or biased by a delusional ideology, one tends to be able to better see the consequences of a specific belief than one who believes in some form of magic attached to those beliefs.

    the last point is a tautology.

    All humans share the challenge of being human, regardless of their beliefs or mental state.

  14. cPeter Asselin

    As a retired registered nurse, am I allowed to think of religion as a mental illness? I say that if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck…

  15. Bruce, your first point is a bit tenuous. It is too big an assumption to make (as I read it), that the religious and those suffering from forms of psychopathology experience “their illness” equally, to the same degree and that it manifests its effects outwardly to the same degree.

    I’d love to see some kind of statistical trend test (among others) on this topic, although these are difficult to do properly, and I am sadly ignorant on some of the recent literature.

    What you say is not without value or importance, but I’d suggest toning down the embattled approach, and providing a more clear headed, relatable (and especially referenced) rebuttal.

    To give my post context, I am a scientist. I suffer from bi-polar depressive, OCD, and borderline personality disorder. I have found religion rode quite happily on top of this – I mean it exploited my mental illnesses. It helped inform some of the best and worst decisions I have made. However, religion in no way made me ill, nor did it cause me to become ill apriori, nor (I stress!) did it heal me.

    My problems came from a biological predisposition and from trauma as a child. I have been treated using modern medicine, and that has worked for me. My religious affiliations died long before that, not however, as a result of any treatment; not from clever arguments, but from my own sober sadness about the difficulty of life for many many people, Thereafter I gently put religion aside, and went my own way.

    Thank you for listening to me.

  16. I think is kind of an illness, but in a different way. Comparing the brain to a computer, a mental illness would be a hardware problem, religion would be a software with bugs. A buggy software can make a perfectly fine computer to produce erroneous results and give the impression that the hardware is broken. Same way with religion, a normal brain can seem like sick. You can fix it by installing a bug-free software, same way with a brain.

  17. Christopher Rose

    I’d agree that it isn’t fair to equate faithism with mental illness, but it is fair to equate it with a lack of integrity, honesty and truth.

  18. As Sam Harris said “If you believe that saying some magical words, you can convert your pancakes into the body of Elvis, you’re crazy. But change pancakes and Elvis for wafer and Jesus and you’re a Catholic”

  19. simple people told that they will live an afterlife of glory celebrating with many virgins, to believe enough to hijack aircraft and kill thousands of innocent for their so called god? If this isn’t the most hideous mental illness, I don’t know what is. Therefore IMHO, all religious beliefs are just on a sliding scale of this mental illness. Ps. an excellent reply from Bruce Long

  20. Infectious:
    Religions and superstitions in general are not believed voluntarily and so they are infectious like mental diseases.
    A young Jewish,Christian,Muslim or Hindu kid does not choose to believe in hell,damnation ,karma etc. It is enforced.

    Impairing daily life:
    For example, religious women believing that their role is to be housewives otherwise they will burn and be tortured in hell.

    No cure:
    Only help from people who escaped or did not grow up in heavily-superstitious cultures.

    • I am a Christian, and nothing was “enforced” on me–I was raised as an atheist and my parents were drunk and/or stoned all the time, and we had to raise ourselves. Not a healthy atmosphere if you ask me.

  21. Those 5 points fail to prove anything:
    nº1: Doesn’t prove the point.
    nº2: Irrelevant if you don’t say it as an insult.
    nº3: Irrelevant.
    nº4: Irrelevant and presumably false.
    nº5: Irrelevant and pointless.

    Now, I’m not saying that I, personally, categorize religion as a mental illness, but I can see why people do it. They DO have very much in common. The only thing I can say is that that article fails to prove the opposite.

  22. As a child I was sent to Southern Baptist Church where many of the members believed that they spoke directly to god and god told them exactly what to do. One old lady discovered some playboy mags. at a local gas station that my eldest brother had given the owner to leave out for the customers to read. She showed up at his house telling him that god told her that he was receiving these devil mags and that if he did not destroy them and cancel his subscription he would be punished both in this life and in the after life. Speaking to an invisible friend and hearing that invisible friend speak back to you does sound like a mental illness to me. There was a place called “the college” that was an offshoot of the Pentecostal religion were every member had stories of personal visitations from god. Of course they all lived in the dorms and were never allowed more than 5 hours of sleep any night and little protein to eat. Then there are the people who allow their children to die horrible deaths instead of getting medical treatment, or at least pain killers. All of these appear to suffer some form of mental illness.

  23. Re: “In The Belief Instinct, Jesse Bering also argues that religious belief is adaptive. Mental illnesses, on the other hand, clearly reflect maladaptive processes.”

    I’d say passing laws to legalize discrimination of gays in the name of Jesus, is maladaptive. I’d say strapping bombs on oneself and killing people in order to gain 72 houris in Paradise, is maladaptive. I’d say burning witches, heretics, and torturing people into converting to one’s deity, is maladaptive.

    But hey, what can I possibly know about such sacred things? After all, I’m just a cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen, and can’t be expected to realize how wonderfully adaptive those behaviors … and others … are.

  24. Patience Virtue

    Thank you, Chris. It is high time atheists quit trying to score cheap points and recognize that their words contribute directly to the emotional and self-harm faced by those of us with mental illness. There are plenty of us who are mentally ill and are NOT religious. What are we too you? The same as the religious? And I suppose the religious are “as bad as those [mentally ill] people?”

    And to all the commentators, starting with Bruce, who are disputing this article; argue all day long about your “studies” that “prove” how religion is like mental illness. But you know what, YOU have decided being right is more important than caring for your fellow skeptics and humans with mental illness. I hope you can’t sleep at night, because you jerks cause so much pain to so many of us. YOU are just like the cruel religious bullies, because you are willing to inflict pain since being “right” and “winning” the debate is the only thing that matters to you.

    If you can’t think of a way to win against the theists that doesn’t involve invoking stigma, you just aren’t as good a debater as you think you are. And you’re an abuser to boot. Skeptics with mental illness are not less human, our opinions are not less valuable, are insights or not less worthy because of our illness.

    • You don’t seem to understand basic logic. Saying religion is a mental illness is not the same as saying everyone who is mentally ill is also religious. No one said anything about mental illness being a bad thing, just that religion basically has the exact symptoms as other mental illnesses. If you read the statement “religious belief is like a mental illness” without assuming anyone is trying to insult anyone else, you might actually be able to engage with it on a useful level.

      -And to all the commentators, starting with Bruce, who are disputing this article
      Yes, we should be more like religious people – just accept everything, don’t argue, don’t concern ourselves with silly things like facts.

      -argue all day long about your “studies” that “prove” how religion is like mental illness
      Silly proofs. Such a stupid thing to base your decisions on. Blind belief makes so much more sense.

      -YOU have decided being right is more important than caring for your fellow skeptics and humans with mental illness.
      No, no one has said that we’re not caring. We’re even caring about religious people, enough to try to help them out of their delusion.

      -because you jerks cause so much pain to so many of us
      I am sorry that pain has been caused to you, truly I am. But from reading your post, the pain has been caused by yourself. You are reading things into comments that simply aren’t there. Out of the comments here I’ve read, no-one has said anything bad about mentally ill people.

      -because you are willing to inflict pain since being “right” and “winning” the debate is the only thing that matters to you
      Is a dentist cruel because he is causing you pain to get your rotting tooth out? Is a therapist cruel because he asks you tough questions that make you uncomfortable? Is the teacher cruel because he forces you to do homework?

      -If you can’t think of a way to win against the theists that doesn’t involve invoking stigma
      Once again, you are the one assuming there is stigma. If I see a man having sex with another man, and I consider him homosexual, that doesn’t mean I think it’s a bad thing – it just means I am able to look at the facts and draw a conclusion, something religious people seem to often be unable to do.

      -Skeptics with mental illness are not less human, our opinions are not less valuable, are insights or not less worthy because of our illness.
      And no one is saying that. However, arguments and decisions based on religious beliefs are nonsensical, and sometimes dangerous, and THAT is the issue that all these vocal atheists are trying to do something about.

  25. Sorry, but I must disagree. In at least some cases (i.e. people who are truly religious rather than nominally religious), religious belief is mental illness. People who are extremely religious will do things that they would not otherwise do. Kindhearted people will cut parts of their baby’s genitalia off, because God said it was a good idea. These people are often good folks who wouldn’t intentionally harm someone else, but if God wants them to do something, their behavior becomes yes, maladaptive. They will shun their own family for not reinforcing their delusions. They will deny their children medical care. Or, they’ll hold exorcisms for medical conditions such as epilepsy and autism, sometimes killing the child in the course of the exorcism. They cannot make decisions on their own without consulting an imaginary friend. They are plagued with guilt, poor self esteem, and a sense of sinfullness/unworthiness, and make great sacrifices, in lifestyle, financially and socially, not to mention time, in order to feed this delusion. They organize in mobs and hate on other people who are not like them, sometimes killing those other people. They believe in thought crime- your body and your mind are not your own. You cannot even touch your own body without it being considered a sin, nor can you experience simple biological drives and reactions (having an erection after seeing a beautiful woman) without that being sin. I agree that mental illness should never be used as an insult, neither should we ridicule religiously delusional people as being mentally ill, but this is a serious societal problem and should be recognized, honestly, for what it is.

    • Patience Virtue

      People will do all of those things for *social* conditioning too. Without any religion. People have circumcised their children because “everyone else does.” People have tried to “cure” autism because “everyone else says it’s a horrible disease that should be cured.” People are social animals, and we are VERY vulnerable to social pressure. That’s the real power of religion. Not “mental illness.” Stop stigmatizing and stop bullying and LISTEN to your fellow skeptics who are being seriously hurt by words like yours.

      • patience, you raise some very good points: we don’t know what we don’t know, and so identify ‘bad religion’ by the ‘symptoms’ we sometimes see at the extreme fringes. it may well be that religion and any negative effects are at least partially a result of social conditioning. we certainly know (at least i think we do) that religion is a ‘learned’ thing; we are not born with it. i apologize if calling these ‘symptoms’ (for want of a better word) a mental illness hurts you; i don’t think anyone here means to do that. i personally don’t have the clinical background to know what else to call it. ‘destructive social adaptation’?

  26. Also- IMHO, the bible was written by people who were mentally ill to a diagnosable degree. I mean, come on: Abraham nearly killed his only son because the voice told him to. Moses was talking to a burning bush! Ezekiel was clearly hallucinating. King Saul wasn’t wired very tightly, seems like he may have had bipolar episodes. I think that there wasn’t an awareness of mental illness, and schizophrenics and people with other serious mental disorders were regarded as prophets and mystics.

    • Patience Virtue

      Now you’re assuming the book is true. Which is it? Tall tales, myths, etc, are not considered to be “evidence” of anything, let along mental illness. And how *dare* you throw us with mental illness under the bus just to score points off of religious people. Just mean, petty, bullying, that’s all it is.

  27. Patience Virtue

    Would also like to point out that social/cultural conditioning (often how religions are passed on) is different from a mental illness. But do carry on, all you armchair psychiatrists. Oh, no, wait, you’re just bullies who would like to respect the body of science when it suits your purpose to embarrass the religious, but then throw psychiatry and medicine to the wind when it doesn’t serve your purpose in being a jerk to the already vulnerable and stigmatized mentally ill.

  28. I have mental illness. I’m not throwing anyone under the bus. I also have suffered under people with extreme religious delusions, and trust me, SUFFER is an accurate word for it. So, tell me: if I rock or stim to calm myself down, because that’s what autistics like me do, my rocking or stimming is a “maladaptive bahvior” even though it isn’t hurting anyone or infringing upon them. It’s also a “maladapative behavior” if direct eye contact is painful or unpleasant for me. But if someone like my mom spends HOURS talking to god every day and writing down what he says to her and making her decisions based on what he said to her, and telling other people what god wants for them in their lives, THAT’S not maladaptive? Why not? My vocal tics, which are generally quiet and can be controlled somewhat, are maladaptive, but it is NOT maladaptive when people start “speaking in tongues”, loudly, and imagining that this is a spiritual, prophetic experience, and that people who cannot “speak in tongues” are “less spiritual”? I don’t think it’s an insult to call a spade a spade. My mom is probably schizo-affective or something of that nature. OR…it could be that religion is an avenue whereby mental illness is expressed, rather than a diagnosis in its own right, but when people are religious and the mental illness is expressed in that way, it tends to get ignored or overlooked.

  29. This article is stupid.

    1. The first point simply cites SOME speculation that religions may be “adaptive”. All this would mean, if true, is that some features of religion may have enhanced the genetic fitness of our ancestors.

    This does not in any way tell us whether or not it is good for us now. And these claims are pretty controversial, lack strong empirical support, and there are alternative theories that are arguably empirically and theoretically more plausible (for instance, Richerson & Boyd’s account of in “Not by Genes Alone) that provide good reasons to think that religion is *maladaptive* and that this is consistent with evolution.

    It simply isn’t a “truth” that religion isn’t a mental illness. The notion of mental illness is often being used loosely and may allude to the idea of memetic viruses that do harm to their hosts. Religion COULD be a “memetic virus”, and nothing this silly article says shows otherwise. It merely cites one book by one author – and, for the record, I don’t find Bering’s case particularly plausible.

    2. This is a pretty good point. Something shouldn’t be equated with mental illness and then used as an insult, insofar as this implies that implies that people should be insulted for having mental illnesses. However, claims that religions are mind viruses or mental illnesses need not use this claim as an insult.

    They can use it to give people a hard time about defending the disease/mind virus. Imagine a form of cancer that made its victims love it – there’s something to be said for giving those people a hard time, if it actually helped prevent the cancer from spreading.

    3. So? This is nebulous to the point of meaninglessness. Something could be a disease even if it had some positive effects some of the time. For instance, carrying a recessive allele for sickle cell anemia may confer a resistance to malaria. Does that mean we should want more sickle cell anemia genes floating around?

    4. Reason #4 is question begging. One of the reasons why religion isn’t a disease is because mistakenly talking about it as a disease distracts us from other issues? Sorry, but this argument assumes from the outset that there isn’t something to be said for calling religions illnesses.

    5. Vague tripe.

    All in all, these five reasons involve question begging, vague nonsense, and speculation. This is pretty embarrassing. Perhaps faitheism is a spinoff mental virus that religions exploit to defend themselves against the people that should be help bringing them down – humanists and atheists who should know better. Instead, we have a bunch of addled apologists defending the ceaseless fonts of ignorance, bigotry, bad epistemology, and anti-progress sentiments of religion. Faitheism is a problem, and I hope more atheists get on board not only with vocally opposing religion, but vocally opposing those members of our community that protect it.

  30. Whenever I see an Atheist claim that religious people are delusional I want to say to them “congratulations, you’ve read the title of a Richard Dawkins book”
    Now, if you actually read even the first chapter of that book it’s obvious that he doesn’t understand religion, religious people, or what being delusional means.
    Great article, ever Atheist should read it.

    • Amii the Amused

      Way to expose your dismissive nature, thanks. I’ve never read Dawkins’ work (though I have seen him debate), I have no clue what the first chapter of any of his books address, nor do I understand why you think it’s relevant to malign him in an article that has nothing to do with him or his writing, where he does not appear to have entered the discussion in comments. On top of all that you don’t even provide evidence to your assertion that he doesn’t understand the things you say he doesn’t understand.

      The amusing part of this worst-comment-in-the-thread is that you are recommending Dawkins’ books even though you clearly do not like his work: “Now, if you actually read…”

  31. “Except in extreme cases, religion does not operate this way.” Well I think we can all agree that faith-healing parents who kill their children would count as an extreme case, which was what David Silverman was talking about.

    I think you should include the full David Silverman quote and not just a snippet:

    “I know this will be an unpopular post, but faith-healing parents who kill their child do not deserve jail time. They are good people who love their kids and did what they thought was right to help save them. These parents are victims of the brainwashing they received, usually as children, and as a result are mentally deficient. They deserve admission to a mental health institution for as long as it takes to rid them of the religious poison that was inflicted on them, and certainly should have all other children taken away until such time as they are deemed sane.

    We must recognize religion as brainwashing. We must recognize the (hyper) religious as mentally damaged. We must take responsibility as a society, because we permit this to happen as a society.”

  32. It’s interesting to see how many people hold on to beliefs without any evidence to support them. In this case, it’s the belief that religion is a mental illness. It’s quite clear reading the posts that this is not based on any kind of objective evidence or research. It’s not something that could be rebutted by the presentation of evidence. It’s pure faith.

    There have been societies which have used spurious claims of mental illness to persecute people. Those societies were not a paradise for all – they were hellholes. This is not a harmless belief system that is being put forward. It’s potentially extremely dangerous.

  33. Thanks for trying, Chris. I appreciate your efforts, your encouragements to us all to be not so quick and easy to “diss and dismiss” each other. And I always show up to see you in Eugene. Please come again soon!

    I’ve been in campus ministry now for almost 2o years, and Jesus is sweeter to me now than ever before! I cannot argue for any religion or any other religion’s gods, because Jesus claims to be the Truth. When he opens your eyes, you never want to go back to fumbling in the dark. People who don’t know him will do their best to try to describe the experience any number of ways.

    I believe most everybody is doing the best they can with what they’ve got; this is not about who’s smarter (I’m so thankful knowing God doesn’t require a PhD!) But for those who uphold human reasoning as our only and ultimate reliable guide of truth and reality, in other words, as “god”, please consider what God says about where reason ought to lead us, not to the conclusion that we are gods ourselves, but that we are created by God, but fallen – sinners: “Come, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins be as scarlet…” Yet with him there is forgiveness and grace, “…they shall be as white as snow.”

    Even as a campus minister I feel I am only “one step ahead of the dogs” (and, in fact, I’m admittedly suspending judgment on a number of issues and arguments atheists and secularists bring forth in their “no holds barred” attack on faith in Jesus and the Bible, deferring to my personal experience of God’s faithfulness to my family and me). (And, please, forgive the crude expression; I’m not meaning to call non-believers “dogs”!)

    I have come to the conclusion that most believers suffer not from too much Jesus, but from not enough of him, and of wrestling with God, the Bible, and life; we suffer from not enough thinking with our “renewed” minds. Christians of the not-too-distant past ruled in the areas of science and philosophy – robustly; most of us now are just not yet up for the challenge and so are falling behind intellectually, getting “pwned”, as they say, having our lunches eaten.

    Jesus is either the truth who sets us free, or he’s not. And it is important to know that the Christian faith is grounded in historical events; it is not the (completely baseless) “blind faith” some want to make it out to be.

    The notion that faith in Christ is some kind of illness is not new. For me it just underscores our world’s inability to understand it in human terms or overcome it. An old Russian proverb says, “Those infected with the disease called Christianity can never be cured.”

  34. Yes comrades, of course religious people are mentally ill! All rational, freethinking, and sexually liberated people know this because we are experts on all of the relevant literature, except the literature that disagrees with our pretheoretical assumptions. The author of this article is most likely an undercover agent of Opus Dei attempting to subvert the atheist revolution with sinister attempts to divide the movement! Everyone knows that since all atheists are rational, there can be no disagreement about religion whatsoever.

    But take heart! The revolution marches on, and we are its noble foot-soldiers. Who will act as the saviors of society if not enlightened, affluent, western white atheists like us? We have a duty to humanity!

    I propose the following program of social cleansing to rid the earth once and for all of the religion virus.

    (1) Immediately send all pastors, priests, imams, Sunday School teachers, televangelists, Republicans, and those sweet old ladies that serve the food at after-church potluck dinners to government gulags for reconditioning. Wait, did I say gulags? I meant “reconditioning centers”. Wait, no! I mean mental hospitals! Yes, that’s it. Send all religious leaders to mental hospitals so they can be treated with utter compassion by atheist psychiatrists who only have their best interests in mind. Which, of course, means taking whatever extreme measures are necessary to rid them of these harmful delusions about gods and spirits. Because, as I have already mentioned, we (being the experts on the nature of reality itself) have a moral duty to oppose people with different worldviews than our own with all available means. We must not tolerate a society where people believe differently than we do! We’ve got all the facts, remember?

    (2) Immediately remove all children from religious homes and place them under the loving care of the state, where they will receive the most compassionate form of mental health care from atheists who want nothing more than to separate them from their nefarious parents who are attempting to fill their impressionable heads with anti-social ideas like forgiveness, sacrificial love, the transcendent value of human beings, and the ultimate brotherhood of all humanity. Only when enlightened mental health professionals get their claws – hands! I mean hands! – into these children can such vile concepts be replaced by more reasonable, positive, and encouraging ideas, like the reducibility of human consciousness to firing neurons, the reducibility of love, beauty, and “meaning” to firing neurons, the reducibility of the illusion of “free will” to firing neurons, and the ultimate fate of all humanity, which is to disappear forever from the stage of the universe back into darkness as if we were never here to begin with. That’s progress!

    (3) Immediately outlaw the preaching of hateful religious messages. Which is, of course all of them. We know that all religion is really the same, right? The Islamic head-chopper is really no different than the nun patiently caring for the patient dying of AIDS, and the message of Westboro Baptist Church is really no different than Martin Luther King Jr’s appeal to theology in his ‘Letter from a Birmingham jail.’ They’re all the same, really! So they must all be equally opposed. Free speech, you say? Remember, we have established beyond a shadow of a doubt that religion is mental illness, despite what most mental health professionals themselves would say (tools of the religious establishment, all of them!). Would you not stand up and righteously oppose the efforts of a madman attempting to inject everyone he meets with a poison that would give them cancer? Why then will you not do the same when the cancer is religion and the poison is religious free speech!

    Comrades, these proposals are just a start. Sometimes my compassion for religious people weighs so heavily on my heart that I fear it will break into pieces. But with the right interventionist plan, we can stop the madness before it spreads to future generations.

    Also, I’m sponsoring a Bible-burning tonight at 9 PM in the main square of the gulag – I mean mental hospital! I hope to see you all there!

  35. I think many commenters on this article are not very well educated on religion. All these references to miracles, suicide bombers, anti- marriage equality, and the like–you are talking about a subset of fundamentalist believers who do not represent Religion as a whole. This is forgivable, since people who do and say extreme things in the name of their religion make the headlines. But you should know that by focusing on those individuals, you obscure the vast numbers of progressive religious people who don’t believe any of that, and are just as embarrassed by extremists in their own tradition as I am by Sam Harris.

    Let me introduce myself. I was a founding member and president of my college’s Secular Student Alliance chapter. I do not believe in a personal god, I do not believe in miracles, and I do not believe in anything supernatural whatsoever. I am a humanist and a naturalist through and through. I also go to church almost every Sunday. Humanism and religion are not incompatible. Many people, both religious and atheist, seem to assume that one MUST believe in the literal truth of the Bible (or other holy text) in order to be truly Christian/Muslim/etc. I don’t believe in the literal truth of the Bible one bit, but it’s still important to me as part of my culture. I enjoy talking to my fellow Christians (among whom I’m not the only atheist) about what the Bible has to say about turning a critical eye to the assumptions of the past, avoiding hypocrisy in thought and action, and the transformative power of love. I don’t need to believe Jesus was the literal son of God, or even that he existed, in order to find his teachings compelling. I’m not saying biblical literalism isn’t important to some Christians, because obviously it is. But there are many Christians who aren’t biblical literalists, and I don’t think we’re any less religious than they are. Are we still mentally ill?

    Theology, like any other discipline, has come an awful long way since the Middle Ages, and I think many commenters would be surprised by what many “faithists” as you call them actually believe, by what they even mean when they talk about “god.” This is why interfaith dialogue (that includes nontheists) is essential–we all need to dismantle our assumptions about what other people believe and how it affects their lives before making such an ignorant generalization as “religion is mental illness.”

  36. Phillip Gauthier

    This topic can be argued validly from many points of view indefinitely simply due to the fact that the term “Mental illness” is no longer solidly defined itself. The definition has expanded due to various reasons both clinical and economic, and in my opinion at least vastly over applied. Part of the main argument is how do we define what is abnormal and what are natural variations in the way people think and behave. Just because something has a negative impact of society does not mean its abnormal or even non-beneficial to an individual. After all violent aggressive behavior to the point of murder is seen as abnormal in today’s society, but certainly has been beneficial to some tribal histories of history. As a social species we have evolved to benefit from certain diversities of ability and behavior, the range of both has varied over time. So what is an illness? An illness is an acute unexpected change that negatively impacts an individual normal progression, if it occurs in a dependent social species as we are, in some cases a negative social impact could also be considered a negative individual impact. Certainly unexpectedly killing other needed members of your own tribe for no reason was always bad, and such a behavior unless acute would have been naturally selected out. The issue with religion is that it does like it or not have both individual and social benefits. We are self aware limited lifetime creatures who evolved a drive for self and family preservation which have obvious benefits. Knowing that your going to die and cease to exist is a contradiction and all contradictions are mentally stressful which itself is harmful, thus its natural to want to believe in an after life. This has also been beneficial to some societies because it allows individuals to overcome self preservation and engage more readily in self sacrifice. There is also a basic need to explain our environment for the purposes of prediction and protection, or at least trust others that can or we believe can provide this prediction for us. This lowers environmental fear stress thus believe in deities in the absence of scientific understanding is also both natural and stress relieving.
    We are simply lucky enough to be born into a time where science has provided a better more accurate process of prediction and some of us are capable of understanding it to the point of believe over those that appear powerful but we know are wrong or fake.
    The more turbulence a society the greater the need to at least believe its predictable, that’s why religion flourishes much more readily in those environments even if scientific knowledge us provided. Emotional stress over the loss of a love one, which happen more often in said places, also benefits from the lowered stress of believing they are in a “better place”.
    Thus by this perspective religion is not a mental illness, simply a different frame of reference introduced to or engaged in in order to lower the stress of certain mental conflicts.

    • Atheists are mentally ill.

      All research and evidence leads to the conclusion of these facts:

      +Atheists are deeply depressed.
      +Atheists have the higher suicide rate out of any belief system.
      +Atheists suffer from social anxiety and negative perception (confidence issues).
      +Atheists have an irrational hatred and obsession with religion leading to more social problems.
      +There are no mental health benefits of atheism. It is devoid of rational thinking and mental protection.

      Sources:

      onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-6237.2008.00520.x/abstract (The Association of Suicide Rates with Individual-Level Suicide Attitudes: A Cross-National Analysis)

      iasp.info/pdf/papers/Bertolote.pdf (A global perspective in the epidemiology of suicide)

      pub.uni-bielefeld.de/publication/2050070 (Atheists, Agnostics, and Apostates)

      link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10943-011-9541-1# (Psychological Distress Among Religious Nonbelievers: A Systematic Review)

      There is also a link between atheism and autism.

      http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psyched/201205/does-autism-lead-atheism

      Many atheists certainly seem to be mentally ill themselves with the way they dehumanize religious people for believing differently than them. They are rash in their judgement, have a persecution complex and live under the delusion that all religions are evil. Many have embarked on irrational crusades against religion too.

      • Walker Bristol

        Setting aside how relevant or accurate your sources are: in what world woulda correlation between some trait and mental illness mean that trait = mental illness

  37. In 2009, Gregory Paul was motivated by the question, “What theological, social and economic arrangement produces the best possible societal conditions?” He concluded:
    1. Large populations abandon theism when social and economic conditions are benign, refuting the hypotheses that religious belief and practice are the normal human mental state; the popularity of nontheism is a response to superior conditions.
    2. Religion is a psychological mechanism for coping with the high levels of anxiety produced by dysfunctional social and especially economic environments.

    Paul’s other claims argue against the idea that, “Religion is often associated with wellbeing.” For example, Paul concludes: “Conservative religious ideology contributes to societal dysfunction, and religious prosociality and charity are less effective at improving societal conditions than are secular government programs.” When you see how much time, money and energy is spent in the U.S debating same-sex marriage, birth control and the teaching of evolution INSTEAD OF debating poverty, climate change and renewable energy policies, it’s hard to find fault with Paul’s claim.

    Last but not least, as Paul puts it, “The socioeconomic security hypothesis is not a universal theory. It does not necessarily deal with casual supernaturalism, the competition between sects, the suppression or promotion of non/theistic opinions via government coercion, or the retention of religious devotion in a significant minority of persons who benefit from secure, prosperous personal circumstances. These problems, like all aspects of the religion/secularism puzzle, require further research.”
    Paul’s paper is here: http://www.epjournal.net/articles/the-chronic-dependence-of-popular-religiosity-upon-dysfunctional-psychosociological-conditions/

    • A summary plot of Paul’s results, “Societal Success vs. Belief in the Supernatural” is here: http://www.slideshare.net/jerseyguy/chart-societal-successvsbeliefinsuprnatural

    • Excellent points, comrade! All those poor people of the world sure are stupid aren’t they? I’m glad us rich western white guys have figured out the truth.

      And by the way, although certain subversive characters within the revolution (like Jerry Coyne at http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/06/26/genetic-determinism-not-so-fast/) have pointed out that the entire field of evolutionary psychology is bullshit pseudo-science, I am glad to see you carrying the torch. Anything for the revolution, amirite?

      Carry on comrade!

  38. “It seems clear to me that religion isn’t a form of mental illness, and that calling it one reflects a shallow understanding of both mental illness and religion…”

    I stopped reading here because I find incredibly egregious that the author would suggest the two people mentioned prior to this statement (Harris and Silverman) have a shallow understanding of both mental illness and religion. A neuroscientist and the president of the biggest secular and atheist activist group in the world.

    That it is opined by the author that their views should be trumped by “Mental health activist” Miri Mogilevsky, an FTB blogger and holder of just a Bachelors degree in Psychology is, to me, unforgivably amateur.

    • Also, near as I can tell, the author lacks the educational credentials necessary to make the statement,

      “It seems clear to me that religion isn’t a form of mental illness”

      Clear to you? You have a BA and a Masters as a religious scholar. You know a lot about faith, Mr. Stedman, but that doesn’t mean we should trust your opinions on the way the mind works, does it?

    • Neuroscientists don’t have clinical training, so that’s irrelevant.

      American Atheists isn’t even close to “the biggest secular and atheist activist group in the world.” It’s not even close to the biggest in the U.S. It’s membership is in the low 4-figures. Contrast that with the British Humanist Association (30,000 members) and Americans United for Separation of Church And State (75,000).

      There is no reason at all to think that Dave Silverman is somehow an expert on religion.

      • 1. Your first statement blows my mind. Irrelevant because you say so, huh? Goodness, the arrogance of some if you internet folk is astounding.

        2. You’re right, I should have said “one of”, I thought I had.

        3. I didn’t call Silverman an expert on religion, I said it was absurd to suggest he had a shallow understanding of it.

        • 1. Neuroscientists dont have training or expertise in mental illness, so the fact that Sam Harris has a neuroscience PhD speaks exactly nothing to whether he knows anything about mental illness. It’s not because I say so, its because that’s the case.

          2. It’s not even one of. It’s not even close. That’s the point. It’s a tiny group that only seems relevant because it gets media appearances from their shitty billboards.

          3. Why would it be so egregious such that an article becomes unreadable after suggesting that the president of an atheist org has a shallow understanding of religion.

          • 1. I won’t further discuss this point. If you’re wrong, which I believe you are, there’s nothing I can do to change your mind. If I’m wrong, which I know (of course) that I’m not, there’s nothing you can do to change mine. I couldn’t overstate my closeness to the field of neuroscience and you suggestion that neuroscientists don’t understand mental illness (didactic vs clinical experience or not) is impossibly uninformed.

            2. I encourage you to find Silverman’s presentation on the impact their organization has had on this country. It used tediously collected and thoroughly analyzed data that proves this point wrong. Also, you seem to have some personal disdain for AA judging by the way you formed this point. Please remove that from your responses, I’m not interested in how you feel about AA, this isn’t a discussion about feelings. Is it?

            3. It’s egregious for two reasons:
            a. It’s borderline conspiratorial to think someone who presides over an organization like AA could have gotten there without knowing quite a lot about religion.
            b. I know David personally and have firsthand experience with exactly how well versed he is in the matter.

  39. The article makes a distinction between adaptive and maladaptive behavior. Couldn’t we argue that a religious belief that prevents a person from perceiving reality, such as what drives a person to emotionally embrace creationism and deny evolution, is maladaptive and therefore a mental illness? Even so, the author is right that if this is a mental illness, then we should have pity and compassion towards these people, not scorn – except for the snake oil peddling creationists who I think actually know the truth and just do it for power or profit.

  40. Notice how the people who chastise us for saying religion is a mental illness are the same ones slandering us for our ‘phobia’ of Islam. If we’re truly concerned about not deriding people’s beliefs as a mental disease, the shoe is on the other foot.

    • Dillon, the burden of proof is on those that say “religion is a mental illness.” This is the “Sagan Standard” I quoted before, and a tenant of “scientific inquiry 1A”. Suck it up, take your hits, and come up with some extraordinary evidence.

      • I’ll credit Sam Harris for this example:
        If I wake up tomorrow morning believing that saying a few Latin words over my pancakes could turn them into the body of Elvis Presley, I think you, I, and even Chris Stedman would agree I had lost my mind.
        But if I believe more or less the same thing about crackers and the body of Jesus, according to Stedman, I’m a perfectly sane human being. If this isn’t a double standard, I don’t know what is.
        There’s your extraordinary evidence.

          • There is plenty of peer reviewed literature indicating that religions today are maladaptive belief systems perpetuated by their own interest as memetic or cultural replicators (much like viruses or diseases). Read Breaking the Spell or Not By Genes Alone, just to name two books I’ve recently read. This is a serious hypothesis, and you can’t just dismiss it out of some ridiculous sense of political correctness. I confess I’m having a hard time taking you seriously at this point.

        • Galen Broaddus

          There is no reason to think that the Elvis-pancake believer is mentally ill merely by that one example, and no good mental health worker would make a judgment like that based on one wildly wrong and irrational belief. Believing wildly wrong things is kind of what most humans do, religious or not. (I mean, how many Cubs fans are there out there who begin each season thinking, “This is going to be our year”? Why is no one looking to treat them for mental illness? Why the double standard?)

          • If there were a single person in the world who, just today, decided to embrace Greek mythology wholeheartedly as literally true; everything from Sirens to Zeus, who believed that seven headed dragons exist and that people can occasionally be born by cutting off someone’s testicles and hurling them into the ocean, we would think there was something mentally wrong with this person. And please don’t bullshit me by pretending otherwise.
            These beliefs are no less silly or patently false than those of many surviving religions in the world today.

          • My apologies for the language; that might have been a bit harsh. But tell me honestly that it’s normal behavior for sane individuals to spontaneously acquire beliefs about transforming food into human flesh for consumption.

  41. I think a more constructive argument against religion is on hypocritical grounds. Believers in the super natural are also heavily relying on logical reasoning (science) in their daily lives. Religion requires selective utilization of reason. The other obvious hypocrisy is that fully accepting the narrative of one religion requires the rejection of another’s.

  42. Atheists are mentally ill.

    All research and evidence leads to the conclusion of these facts:

    +Atheists are deeply depressed.
    +Atheists have the higher suicide rate out of any belief system.
    +Atheists suffer from social anxiety and negative perception (confidence issues).
    +Atheists have an irrational hatred and obsession with religion leading to more social problems.
    +There are no mental health benefits of atheism. It is devoid of rational thinking and mental protection.

    Sources:

    onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-6237.2008.00520.x/abstract (The Association of Suicide Rates with Individual-Level Suicide Attitudes: A Cross-National Analysis)

    iasp.info/pdf/papers/Bertolote.pdf (A global perspective in the epidemiology of suicide)

    pub.uni-bielefeld.de/publication/2050070 (Atheists, Agnostics, and Apostates)

    link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10943-011-9541-1# (Psychological Distress Among Religious Nonbelievers: A Systematic Review)

    There is also a link between atheism and autism.

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psyched/201205/does-autism-lead-atheism

    Many atheists certainly seem to be mentally ill themselves with the way they dehumanize religious people for believing differently than them. They are rash in their judgement, have a persecution complex and live under the delusion that all religions are evil. Many have embarked on irrational crusades against religion too.

  43. Considering the site this article is posted on, the article nearly discredits itself. This is nearly as bad as the “research” done that shows fracking is not harmful. Research which is industry funded, may I add.

    • Walker Bristol

      “RNS does not endorse or promote any particular religion, creed or set of beliefs or non-beliefs. We are a secular organization committed to an ongoing conversation about the role of religion in public life.” <– what exactly do you think RNS is besides a religious literacy nonprofit run out of a journalism school? What is the "religion industry" that could fund "research" into whether religion and mental illness are the same?

  44. Jonathan J. Turner

    Asst Chaplain Stedman -

    So this is your flock; you would be their shepherd; they would know your voice!

    May I lay before you all the beginning first paragraph of Santayana’s “The Life of Reason,” volume 3. To facilitate pondering the many ideas in this paragraph, I have taken the liberty of breaking out its individual sentences.

    George Santayana, “Reason in Religion”
    Volume three of “The Life of Reason” (New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1905)

    Chapter 1
    HOW RELIGION MAY BE AN EMBODIMENT OF REASON

    Experience has repeatedly confirmed that well-known maxim of Bacon’s, that “a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.”

    In every age the most comprehensive thinkers have found in the religion of their time and country something they could accept, interpreting and illustrating that religion so as to give it depth and universal application. Even the heretics and atheists, if they have had profundity, turn out after a while to be forerunners of some new orthodoxy.

    What they rebel against is a religion alien to their nature; they are atheists only by accident, and relatively to a convention which inwardly offends them, but they yearn mightily in their own souls after the religious acceptance of a world interpreted in their own fashion.

    So it appears in the end that their atheism and loud protestation were in fact the hastier part of their thought, since what emboldened them to deny the poor world’s faith was that they were too impatient to understand it.

    Indeed, the enlightenment common to young wits and worm-eaten old satirists, who plume themselves on detecting the scientific ineptitude of religion—something which the blindest half see—is not nearly enlightened enough: it points to notorious facts incompatible with religious tenets literally taken, but it leaves unexplored the habits of thought from which those tenets sprang, their original meaning, and their true function.

    Such studies would bring the sceptic face to face with the mystery and pathos of mortal existence.

    They would make him understand why religion is so profoundly moving and in a sense so profoundly just.

    There must needs be something humane and necessary in an influence that has become the most general sanction of virtue, the chief occasion for art and philosophy, and the source, perhaps, of the best human happiness.

    If nothing, as Hooker said, is “so malapert as a splenetic religion,” a sour irreligion is almost as perverse.

    • Galen Broaddus

      Given that atheists and agnostics consistently display more depth of knowledge about religion than the religious, I think it’s fair to say that Bacon’s hypothesis has failed.

      • Jonathan J. Turner

        Santayana continues into the second paragraph of “Reason in Religion” with this:

        At the same time, when Bacon penned the sage epigram we have quoted he forgot to add that the God to whom depth in philosophy brings back men’s minds is far from being the same from whom a little philosophy estranges them.

  45. Let’s demolish these ideas one at a time, shall we?

    1. There are several forms of mental illness that are a way of dealing with the environment, and as such, are actually adaptive, or were at an earlier stage in life. PTSD springs to mind as an immediate example, as does multiple personality disorder. Both helped the person at the time the trauma happened, and were functional reactions in the environment in which the trauma happened, they are ONLY maladaptive when the person moves to another environment.

    2. Mental illness is not an insult – but for people to behave as if they have a mental illness when they do NOT is insulting to mentally ill people, which is PRECISELY what the religious are doing. They are mimicking the behavior and beliefs of someone who is mentally ill, without the excuse of a disordered mind behind it, which is normally viewed as MAKING FUN OF PEOPLE.

    3. Religion is associated with well-being. Actually, that’s false. Studies show that prayer and meditation are equally efficacious in promoting well-being. You do not have to be religious in order to meditate.

    4. It keeps us from understanding and learning from religion. Well, why should we learn from religion when we have modern, evidence-based understandings for illness, for our behavior, and for just about everything else under the sun and around us in the universe? Religion does not tell us how the universe began with any accuracy, it doesn’t tell us about our origins as a species. All religion tells us is the sort of myths that our ancestors believed in, which may, perhaps, tell us something about our psychology when it is studied in a scientific manner.

    5. We do both share the challenges of being human. But the old adage in the nonbelieving community that 2 hands working to help others do more than 1,000 hands clasped together in prayer still holds true.

    As a person who is an Atheist AND who has struggled with mental illness since I was an adolescent, this is what I can see as the problems with your statements, Mr. Stedman. I am Autistic, which is an underlying neurobiological difference, but because of the way I was treated by my fellow humans growing up, I have Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD, all of which are classified as mental illnesses.

    I have had hallucinations, but they were not from mental illness, technically speaking, they were due to a form of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. Many of those hallucinations were religious in nature, and I learned from them to NOT trust only the evidence of my own senses, but to ask other people to find out if an experience of mine had actually happened or not. I know firsthand how our minds can trick us.

    So yes, as a person who is mentally ill, I feel that religious people are MOCKING people like me by acting as if they have a problem that they do not have. I am mentally ill, secondary to my treatment as a person with a neurobiological difference, not stupid. Your post, Mr. Stedman, only succeeded in demeaning the religious, the Atheists, AND the mentally ill.

  46. I read Miri’s piece yesterday, and another thought that occurred to me at that time (and I believe you allude to a similar idea briefly in #1) is that *some* religious belief arguably is a form of mental illness, and by classifying *all* religious belief that way, we take away an important distinguisher.

    The vast majority of religious people, while their faith may affect their actions in powerful ways, retain a sort of “secular check” on what they do in the name of faith. If the Pope pulled a Heaven’s Gate tomorrow, for example, I am pretty sure that the vast majority of Catholics would not castrate and then kill themselves. They would find some way to retain their faith while also behaving in a way that their secular minds tell them is obviously the way to go.

    I would argue that the loss of that “secular check”, so to speak, is a form of mental illness — and it’s a form that most believers don’t have. Their faith may trump their better judgment in minor ways, but they are still thinking about the consequences.

  47. “more altruistic” among their own. I worked security once beside a church picnic, they thought I was religious, so nice, so polite, so kind to the children ie. I put up with them playing near me and never got angry at them for pushing their boundaries (kids will be kids). They offered me food and drinks and some came to talk to me, it took 5 minutes to stop that when they found out I was an atheist, to the point where a parent ran out of the crowd to drag her kid away from playing near me. I went from that nice guy people should make feel appreciated to a freaking disease in under 5 minutes… I never did get that burger I was promised.

    It’s not that I hate religion as an atheist, it’s that I hate how people use it as an excuse to hate that has me so distasteful of it.

    Religion (or non-religion) are not mental illness. This is just hatred on both sides. Both sides have mental illness, both sides are people

    In my experience (particularly christians) scream discrimination, superiority and hate from one side of their mouths while demanding everyone love and tolerate their neighbours… Guess what, I’ve seen more “love and tolerance” from the brony community than the religious community and I’m not sure if I should be amused by this or terrified.

  48. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/02/26/after-long-battle-to-form-high-school-atheist-group-student-bows-out-after-numerous-threats-and-verbal-attacks/

    There is only one way to classify the hate here, it is a psychological disorder, it is a parent inflicted brain trauma.

    -Brent

  49. Not really on point, but what’s this shit about autistic people not understanding emotions enough to be religious? I’m autistic and a practicing Lutheran. I know autistic people across the religious spectrum. That’s nonsense.

    Speaking of nonsense and back to the point, those of you arguing over if religion really is a mental illness or not missed the other really good point on the article.

    Even if being religious is a mental illness – WHO CARES? That’s not an insult, and if it was, examine the logic of what you’re trying to do by calling religious people out on it. Are you trying to insult them? If so, why are you hurting people you know are disabled? If not, what are you pointing it out for at all? If you cared about their well-being, you’d get your nose out of their business and let them do as they do like any decent person would.

    Either way, the atheist logic failure is self-evident.

    It shouldn’t have to be pointed out that religion, while proven to be harmful and relevantly harmful today, has also proven to be neutral and beneficial too. Anyone without a biased thinking can objectively conclude that religion as a problem that needs to be solved needs to look at individual offenders and narrow connections between them. If religion was a problem that needed to be solved, 100% of religious people would be doing things that are harmful, not the pathetically low % number it is now.

    Yeah yeah “talking to people who aren’t there means you have problems”, who doesn’t? Name one person on Earth who doesn’t have a syndrome or tick or obsession or phobia or irrationality or something you would call crazy. You can’t do it. That’s the business of the individual, not yours, and it only becomes your business if that person is using religious to swing an axe as someone’s face.

    Maybe atheists need to stop confusing academic imperfections, things that are wrong on paper, with problems that require solving – or at least get off their fat asses and go to a gym, or pop those pimples on their faces, shave that beard off the back of their neck, cut off those skin tags and do all the other trivial things they’d need to do to practice the unrealistic standard of objective perfection they preach with that nonsense.

    It’s only fair, right?

  50. Wow all I see are a bunch of people slamming others for not believing what they believe in. That’s pretty typical and I’m not surprised by it at all. Enjoy being Christians.

  51. Well Dillon, you don’t have to take me seriously, just take the scientific method seriously. Now do your “peer reviewed” “books” reflect a scientific consensus? You know the answer to that Dillon, it’s a big fat stinking “No, there is no scientific consensus among psychologists and psychiatrists that religion is a mental illness”. And where are the abstracts online for these “peer reviewed books”?

  52. What makes you think that calling religion a mental illness is supposed to be an insult ? While the social connotations of such an evaluation might infact be seen as derogatory, the underlying observation cannot just be waved away.

    As “Bruce Long” so laboriously layed out, the huge overlap of religious beliefs and a schizoid mindset are astonishing. I won’t rephrase all that has been said before, but what strikes me most, is the obvious dissonance between the set of beliefs religious folks so loudly profess, and the principles by which they govern their own lives on a day-to-day basis.

    It’s easy to dismiss this discrepancy as “hypocrisy” but I don’t think that would be an accurate description, since the typical element of deceipt towards the outside goes towards the inside of a believer’s mind just as far. It looks like they’re running 2 entirely different operating systems simultaneously, without one of them ever being aware of the other. And whenever they’re on a course to collision, usually induced by remote input (people pointing out the dissonances), the believer’s reasoning will immediately switch to being as erratic and refracting as neccessary, in order to avoid the collision – a process which outsider observers frequently describe as “going full retard”.

    Whatever you ultimately make of that observation, it warrants the view that our evolved brains are still pretty poorly wired.

    (BTW: Holy Mother of all noodles. I’ve seen many bad commentariats, but this pit of bottomless stupidity takes the trophy. The best bit has to be “Tom’s” list of alleged proof that there is a reciprocal causal effect of atheism and mental illness (which of course none of links show), while at the same time not only lamenting how atheists portray religious folks as mentally ill, but insisting that atheists themselves are mentally ill for portraying religious folks as mentally ill. How Tom manages to tie shoes before he leaves the house, is indeed one of the great mysteries of this universe. This is the gold standard of idiocy *Mhhh*KISS*).

  53. why can’t atheists just leave us religious people alone? we are not bothering them maybe they could stop bothering us and trying to convert our kids. that way we can all focus on the muslim problem

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/02/26/after-long-battle-to-form-high-school-atheist-group-student-bows-out-after-numerous-threats-and-verbal-attacks/#sthash.3AOCF3Oq.dpuf

    • “we are not bothering them”
      ^
      This is not just false, it’s the opposite of true. More and more people are waking up to the fact that even in the 21st century, religious politicians and public figures are still trying to force their religious beliefs on us, and that it’s the moderates who provide the protective cloak under which the radicals are hiding so successfully. And we’re sick to death of it. We will speak up loudly, and we’ll be very clear about why we oppose you.

      For the moosles – it’s true that leftist appeasers are giving these savages too much leeway, but that’s eventually going to change as well. Even the greatest masochist can only suffer so much. Your role in this ? You can let your leaders keep on playing petty games with the freedom and progress in our own societies, or you can force them to form a no-nonsense alliance against the enemies of civilisation. Entirely your choice.

      Have a nice day.

  54. One reason I am not Christian:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/02/26/after-long-battle-to-form-high-school-atheist-group-student-bows-out-after-numerous-threats-and-verbal-attacks/

    I would love to see all people treat each other better. I want to treat Christians with respect and love and kindness but when I see them acting in ways that are so un Christ like it is very hard for me to continue to be nice and does make me want to say that they are mentall ill rather than think they are just mean.

  55. stevenjohnson

    Oh, my!

    “1. Even if well-intended, the equation fails.” The distinction between adaptive religion and maladaptive mental illness is a profoundly shocking endorsement of religion as an instrument of conformity. Witchhunting can be adaptive. Believing in crusades can be maladaptive. The tacit assumption of therapy as something that adjust the patient to society, period, is not one decent people should endorse. Sometimes it is society that should be adjusted, not the patient.

    “2. Mental illness is not an insult.” The people who think it is will think the same whenever it is used of clinically certified mentally ill people too. If this is an argument at all, it is an argument for never using the term mentally ill. Otherwise it is an equivocation on what mentall illness is. This objection is repeated below.

    “3. Religion is often associated with wellbeing.” A dubious empirical statement. Given the conformism of this person, I suspect that being ostracized for being an unbeliever would lead to personal problems that this guy would blame on …the atheist. In any event, I know of no study that defines both “religion” and “wellbeing” yet demonstrates the alleged correlation. And I have no idea how religious persection of Jews in the past, or the neglect of medical care for children by Christian Scientists or the refusal of blood transfusion by Jehovah’s Witnesses fit with this claim.

    “4. This parallel distracts us from trying to understand and learn from religion.” Maybe. But I don’t really think there’s much reason to think that practically everyone is quite familiar with “religion,” and has learned a lot. There’s a joke that there’s nothing like really studying the Bible to lose your faith. That’s why there are no more Puritans. The important thing is to understand why sometimes people “learn” such awful things from religion. I think equivocating between “religion” and real, specific religions is a huge factor in preventing clear thinking on this issue. And I think turning “religion” into some arbitrary set of personality traits, rather than a term for a huge variety of social institutions confounds understanding even more.

    “5. Atheists and theists share in the challenges of being human.” This is the same in substance as #2. It just adds that even if religion is irrational, “all of us regularly engage in irrational thinking…” The tacit assumption is that mental illness is defined by irrational thinking, This contradicts #1, but it is obvious this is not a good faith argument. The bad faith argument is that “we” share a trait with the religious, therefore we don’t want to make a criticism of religion that applies to us. The notion that “religion” might be a concrete social institution that causes problems in thinking rationally, i.e., inflicts mental illness upon its victims, is simply inconceivable. “Religion” might not be in fact such an institution but it is deeply reactionary to rule such a criticism out of court. “There are only sick people, not a sick society.” This is blaming the victim.

    I think the true lesson we should take to heart is that we should be talking carefully about what we mean by “religion” and “mental illness.” Even if you define both as irrationality, which strikes me as rather odd, though, the notion that you shouldn’t call religion ‘irrational” because it pisses people off is cowardly and censorious in a bad way. I’m afraid that’s the only argument left in the OP.

    • stevenjohnson

      In the second sentence of #4, “not to think” was supposed to changed to “to doubt,” to avoid a double negative. Well, the “not” was dropped but the “doubt” didn’t replace the “think.” If any reads this, my apologies.

  56. Everyone should read Moral Tribes. If we value culture modifying evolved psychological tendencies, then we need to supersede the us-others dichotomy. Otherwise, atheists are not progressive, just another self-righteous demoninzing-the-enemy tribe. We need to care about those who are religious and find common cause, not damn them.

    As progressive thinkers, atheists should emphasize the uncertanty of our knowledge rather than promote another -ism as the repository of truth. I’m rereading Origin of Species and continue to be impressed with Darwin’s humility in the face of the complexity of the universe.

    Finally, delusions as used by mental-health professionals include a lack of social confirmation of one’s beliefs. Only beliefs held by a small sect (the world will end on a certain date) are likely to be considered delusional by the larger community. Otherwise, everyone in a culture, or even all humanity, is delusional before the times a belief (flat earth) is falsified and widely rejected.

  57. religion is full of errors and problems. LGBT people are the happiest people in the planet they accept and are amazing towards everyone (well nearly). there has been loads of offense about them saying “They are sin, go to hell” i have heard so many stories about how religious people bully them.

    Not only that but centuries ago people would burn epileptics because they thought they was witches and demons.

    Science is the only way to live, otherwise we wouldn’t have doctors. we would all be extinct by now if we all believe in a myth.

  58. My mother in law has psychotic episodes and when they start manifesting themselves above her prescriptions ability to control the psychosis she fixates on her husbands madness and illness in her deluded opinion and on Jesus.

    Religion is not a mental illness but the mentally ill can become obsessively centred around religious experiences.

    The posts by people trying to say those that have no religion are more susceptible to mental illness is a red herring and those that claim philosophy proves anything are barmy.

    I weep for the level of crazies both religious and non-religious.

    Life give us strength to be the best humans we can be.

  59. Being glued to a belief, sure won’t lead to truth. Being in touch with truth means being in touch with reality. Thus being glued to a belief means being detached from truth thus detached from reality.

    If one is to relate to God, then connecting to truth obviously becomes a major component. However, I have yet to meet a religious person who does not place their religious beliefs at the top of the ladder instead. In doing so, the truth is thrown out the window since truth is not placed as top priority.

    One is only dependent upon a belief if one is located at a distance from the truth in the first place. If you are located at a distance from the truth, you are certainly not directly connected to the truth, thus you are located within the zone of less than truth. If you stick to your beliefs, then you stick to being located at a distance from the truth.

    Thus the believers will only accept a certain measure of the truth, meaning the percentage of the truth that can still be seen when being located at a distance from it. Thus if truth is presented directly to a believer in the here and now, hence the absence of distance, the truth will be spat at, flogged, scourged, and crucified, as was demonstrated approximately 2,000 years ago.

    In turn, one can obviously not speak truths directly to believers. One must therefore speak to them indirectly. One must speak to them via parables.

    Thus if true proof of the existence of God is presented in the here and now to believers, they will flog it, scourge it, and crucify it in an instant by whatever means.

    As an example, recall the “Bible Code” concept and its eventual rejection.

    How many code languages are there that can exist? Is it just one? Were all countries limited to only one common top secret spy code language during World War II?

    Obviously, the number of possible code languages is greater than one. In fact, the number is virtually infinite. Therefore the number of possible ways to encode information within the Bible, is virtually infinite.

    Thus if one specific code language was actually applied to the Bible, then the remaining massive number of possible code languages would immediately be identified as false Bible Code languages.

    Thus if a false Bible Code language was studied and later identified as rubbish, one would obviously not say that “Bible Codes” are rubbish, unless one was incredibly intellectually impaired. But this is what took place despite the fact that Infinity minus one, clearly does not equal zero.

    See http://www.outersecrets.com/real/biblecode2a.htm , and click on “Watch/Listen” and sit back and listen to the True Bible Code basic introduction.

    But once the false Bible Codes were identified as trash, so were the true Bible Codes. Thus again, mental illness does seem to pop up. False and true are not one in the same, yet believers are convinced of it.

  60. I don’t know of any Atheists personally who believe religious people to be suffering from mental illness simply because they believe in something like a God or Goddess, luck charm, Astrology or whatever it is for the given person of faith.

    Perhaps there have been a couple Atheists, I am not aware of stating it to be mental illness who happen to be well known people but they are not majority. We Atheists simply believe Evolution gave humans that center in the brain which can easily be manipulated now in many studies conducted for humans to not jump off mountains or go into lifelong depressions once abstract thought formed and realization of death of friends and loved ones took place. We know they had to cope somehow with all that suddenly realizing reality of death and their own mortality. Just like the fight or flight area which was really needed at one time and now just is leftover and causes panic attacks in many human animals, the religious area is still left over because Evolution is great at adding new things but slow in taking old useless things away however; it is starting to slowly change now that in the States, more than 50% of those aged 16-25 are Atheistic and by the end of the century nearly all will be at all ages.

    It’s not mental illness. It was something really needed at one time before greater intellect came along and this does not mean those who have a faith are dumb. They are simply still using something in the brain not needed and they feel good with it so as long as they are not harming anyone or trying to push that nonsense on others there is no problem. I think it is kind of cute sort of like an adult who believes in the Easter Bunny. I get a kick out of people like that who think there is an afterlife and a God, Goddess, charms, spells, astrology etc.. After all, most of these well-meaning people have no idea they can be turned into an Atheist for a few minutes and Atheists can have deep religious experiences all induce by brain stimulation from studies just a few years ago where people are of course given back what they came in with.

    It is not mental illness for most. It is just old Evolution hanging around for that given area but the truth is this is all there is per life and once it is over, it is just as it was before we were created by our parents. We go back to that normal state called out of existence where there is no Hell, no Heaven, no nothing so no pain of course but very good reason to make this a great life and to do positive things. After all; evil is fantasy so there is positivism and negativity and some pretty bad people out there but just as many good people.

    Godisimaginary.com is a great site to get down to earth and into reality more. Just think of all the wars over the years and limbs lost in them and prayers that went out yet not a single limb grew back through prayer. No one has ever been dead for a day and come back to life because once that good ol brain is dead, that chemistry that makes us who we are is dry so that mind, body and that pretend soul is gone forever. The soul is part of the mind but science proves it’s not in the frontal lobe where the bulk of the mind is. The soul aka religious area is further back and through stimulation becomes active or through other means inactive. There are doctors willing to make it inactive permanently for those who would like and others short term to prove to those with faith it really is all in the mind so there is zero chance of a God, after life and great news no bad guy or everlasting Hell HOWEVER; we still need to control the masses imo and if everyone knew this who were not ready, it could cause a major problem for the rest of us.

    In summary; having a faith is not mental illness and we Atheists never thought it was. That being true it is also true that everyone is born an Atheist not a Christian or Muslim. No one would believe in a god these days unless someone told them there was one. We have far too much entertainment with the Net and other things to distract people from loss of loved ones than the need to think there is a Santa who brings gifts or whatever is the idea of the day.

  61. “Religion is associate with well-being”

    Slavery was associated with well-being and prosperity. Homosexuality associated with the gravest of evils. Women are associated with the downfall of humanity. Atheism is associated with evil.

    None of these things are in line with reality. Your argument, like the rest of the arguments here, are fluff. Religion is delusion and promotes ignorance over reason. In one of his books, Peter Boghossian gives two definitions for “faith.” The first is the dictionary definition which is belief without evidence or proof. The second is, “pretending to know things you don’t know.”

    Contextual examples:
    “I’m having a crisis of faith.”
    “I’m having a crisis of pretending to know things I don’t know.”

    “Life has no meaning without faith.”
    “Life has no meaning without pretending to know things I don’t know.”

    “If everyone abandoned their faith, society’s morality would devolve.”
    “If everyone stopped pretending to know things they don’t know, society’s morality would devolve.”

    Religion has been proven, extensively, to be strictly a social construct with no basis in reality outside of the individual and collective imaginations of the believers. Supernatural/religious claims are consistently contradictory to what we know about the world through modern science because religion isn’t based in reality. No proof has ever been given for any supernatural claim made by any religion, ever.

    If you’re going to tell my children that they’ll burn in hell or any equivalent thereof unless they believe what you’re hawking at them, you better come with proof of your claims. Atheists know that there is no and never will be any proof for religious claims, so we cut out the middle chunk and go straight to challenging irrational beliefs. Religion has had thousands of years to back up its supernatural claims and it’s never been able to do so because all supernatural claims are bogus.

  62. Let me show you what happens when you pick any of a number of mental “disorders” and apply your terribad, bible-college-grade “logic” and writing skills to it:

    1. Even if poorly intended, the equation works nicely
    …Nevermind, passing on this one. You’re not a math student; stay away from equations.

    2. Schizophrenia is not an insult
    Nope. Sure isn’t.

    3. Schizophrenia is often associated with intelligence and effectiveness
    Yep. Sure is. …You can pick a number of mental disorders and list a bunch of things they’re good at. It doesn’t make them any less delusional.

    4. This parallel distracts us from trying to understand and learn from schizophrenia
    This isn’t true either. You can’t accurately assess a problem until you acknowledge it as such.

    5. Atheists and people with schizophrenia share in the challenges of being human
    Uh…sure, but…

    Why don’t you just come out and say it? “Don’t call Christians or Muslims crazy or question their beliefs, because a lot of them will TRY TO KILL YOU.”

    • Great Retort Newt. I would add one more very fine detail though, CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS DONT HAVE BELIEFS – THEY HAVE DELUSIONS. (ASK A RELIGIOUS PERSON WHAT REASON THEY HAVE TO BELIEVE GOD IS REAL AND THEY WILL INSULT AND PRETEND BUT THEY WILL NEVER EVER GIVE A SINGLE REASON.) Because simply, there are ZERO REASONS to think fiction fantasy cult book super nature make believe is real. Use reason because a belief without it, is DELUSION according to the words definition. In otherwords, keep up the good work newt and remember, a DELUSION is not the same as A BELIEF. BELIEFS HAVE REASONS TO BE BELIEVED, NONE EXIST TO BELIEVE GOD IS REAL. NOT ONE.

  63. You can use the term you prefer for persons that believe in fables.
    That’s the whole point of the thing.
    I don’t despise people believing that a god exists or can exist, but people that allow to be teased and caged by stupid old superstitions have surely something less than people that can see reality clearly.

    Don’t even bother to answer this: I don’t care about opinions of people that can’t get off their cognitive dissonance and are thus unable to discuss proficiently.

  64. the only way a capitalist can handle schooling
    is if it really is owned through the govt very first.
    and then influencing? the federal government in a way that destroys
    edu. capitalists Are not evil they may be individuals only acting on self interest.

    if every single person who acts on self interest was evil
    we would all be to some extent evil. when resources including food/water is scarce all
    of us act with self interest for your cause of self preservation.
    as is actually a capitalist/mompop business owner actin on self preservation.

  65. No one believes God is real. U have to have a reason if u want a belief. Without reason a belief becomes known as a DELUSION by definition of the word. There is NO REASON to think God has done anything. RELIGIOUS PEOPLE DONT THINK THEY NEED ANY REASON TO BELIEVE THINGS. THATS CALLED DELUSION. ReLigious have no reasoning. Religious leaders have reason – its to manipulate you with ur unreasoned faithfulness. You havent a REASON in the world to think God is real. Dont forget. Honesty is a virtue that far exceeds faith. be honest and dont forget to reason!!!!! Use reason. And always have a reason to believe something before you believe it. Dont be blindly faithful to a cult for NO REASONS like all the religious circular non-reasoning dopes.
    The question isnt is god real? The question is can u reason? Or has a cult brainwashed you incapable and faithful to them without it? The only difference between a cult and a religion, is that a religion had tax exempt status. GRAB A DICTIONARY!!!! Delusion is a term LOOK IT UP! Any belief believed WITHOUT ANY SUPPORTIVE REASONS IS A DELUSION. THERE IS ZERO REASONS TI THINK GID IS REAL.

  66. This was a beautiful article that not only made the point that we should stop insulting one another for having different beliefs but it was also a wonderful defense for those who struggle with mental illness. A majority of the comments are very sad and suggest that we are unwilling to accept even the most recent good advice we are handed.

  67. Yes, “Mental illness” should not be wielded as an insult and does add to the stigma. That said, if wielded as both an insult and an observation that the religious are a genuine cause of consternation at the same time, that’s something else. Fr. Peter Carota says on his blog that “All people who sin are mentally ill”.(http://www.traditionalcatholicpriest.com/2013/09/19/funerals-holy-communion-heaven-hell-and-purgatory/) and in doing so he insults the mentally ill, increases the stigma, tries and fails to put himself beyond suspicion and drives people out of his faith who have mentally ill relatives and thus understand about neurochemical imbalances and medication. Plus “Religiosity” is officially a symptom to watch out for in many different psychiatric conditions, look it up. Calling the religious mentally ill doesn’t seem like such a stretch after all.

  68. Religious thought take place in the same region of the brain that people have seizures, the temporal lobe. Temporal lobe epilepsy, grand mal seizures. There is a neurological origin. Psychosis is a serious mental disorder characterized by hallucinations, delusions and thought disorders, which sounds like religious thinking to me. Great article about this below….

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1032067/pdf/jnnpsyc00553-0001.pdf

    Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 1987;50:659-664
    Occasional historical review
    St Paul and temporal lobe epilepsy
    D LANDSBOROUGH
    Formerly of Chang-hua Christian Hospital, Taiwan
    SUMMARY Evidence is offered to suggest a neurological origin for Paul’s ecstatic visions. Paul’sphysical state at the time of his conversion is discussed and related to these ecstatic experiences. It is postulated that both were manifestations of temporal lobe epilepsy.

  69. Sorry, religion is not maladaptive? Shutting everything down 5 times a day for prayers, fasting for 21 hours because that’s sunrise to sunset in Greenland, refusing transfusions when you’re bleeding all over the place, refusing to eat taboo but harmless foods even when starving … I could go on and on. Yes, some people do compartmentalize and cherry-pick, but people who do the aforementioned (which Silverman did qualify as being “hyper” religious) definitely have at least a severe IQ deficiency. Religion itself is not adaptive — it happens because the adaptive need to see patterns and follow the herd that worked so well in the Pleistocene went out of control as men developed the faculties and technologies to play trans-generational Chinese Whispers.

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  71. They readily suckle one another’s cubs, enabling one to survive when lactation fails or
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    this is one trippy film. As soon as he was able, he scampered
    down the streets to the workshop.

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  73. Sources:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-6237.2008.00520.x/abstract (The Association of Suicide Rates with Individual-Level Suicide Attitudes: A Cross-National Analysis)

    https://iasp.info/pdf/papers/Bertolote.pdf (A global perspective in the epidemiology of suicide) http://pub.uni-bielefeld.de/publication/2050070Â (Atheists, Agnostics, and Apostates)

    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10943-011-9541-1# (Psychological Distress Among Religious Nonbelievers: A Systematic Review)

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11302358 (Religious attendance increases survival by improving and maintaining good health behaviors, mental health, and social relationships)

  74. Galen Broaddus

    As generalized statements about atheists, many of those are false. For instance, atheists with a strong sense of certainty tend to fare about as well as confidently religious people in terms of depression. In any case, linking atheism to poor mental health – something which one of your sources explicitly says should not be done, by the way – as though the relationship is causal is a textbook post hoc fallacy, and given how atheists are stigmatized as immoral in many societies, it’s not really strange to see atheists thus suffering from more mental illness when their whole lives they’ve been told that atheists are evil and untrustworthy.

    And your last paragraph is so wrong that it isn’t even wrong. The first sentence is as much a non sequitur as most of the things that some atheists have used to link religion to mental illness, and moreover, many of the claims you make against atheists are much more thoroughly demonstrated by religious people (including your amusingly ironic use of the word “crusade”). Do try harder.

  75. Tom, let’s examine some of your claims, shall we?

    “Atheists are deeply depressed.”

    According to an international study published by Psychological Medicine in October 2013, religious believers were found to have higher rates of depression than atheists. The study you posted only analyzed the country of China and those places where religious practices are shunned and/or banned. Find me a study that observes atheists and their suicide rate in democratic countries with freedom of religion. In the study I posted, Christians in the United Kingdom were three times more likely to be depressed than atheists. Also, if atheists are deeply depressed, then why are irreligious countries so happy and prosperous?

    http://tinyurl.com/plu84mm
    http://tinyurl.com/7x7ew82 (PDF file)

    “Atheists have the higher suicide rate out of any belief system.”

    The study you posted claimed, “persons residing in nations with relatively high suicide rates are more approving of suicide than their counterparts.” You jumped to the conclusion that this means atheists have a higher suicide rate, which is not evident in the study. Religiously unaffiliated does not equal atheist.

    “Atheists suffer from social anxiety and negative perception.”

    Did you miss this part of the abstract from the study you posted? “We found one well-documented source of distress for nonbelievers: negative perceptions by others.” You can see the same links when it comes to LGBT mental health. Atheists are highly maligned and mistrusted, especially in the United States. Having to live with that stigma does not encourage happiness in an individual.

    “Atheists have an irrational hatred and obsession with religion leading to more social problems.”

    Seeing that you provided nothing to support this erroneous line, I’ll ignore it. But I will show you this – religious believers are happier in secular societies. The same cannot be said of the non-religious in religious societies. Maybe if religious people treated atheists with more kindness, you wouldn’t run into such bitterness?

    http://tinyurl.com/kt3f74u

    “There are no mental health benefits of atheism. It is devoid of rational thinking and mental protection.”

    Once again, you’ve provided nothing to support this argument. Attending church provides a social group, which makes people happier. It’s not necessarily the religion. For example, a study in Scotland showed that men who socialized at the pub got a boost in mental health.

    http://tinyurl.com/klllxwy

    “There is also a link between atheism and autism.”

    In other words, people with neurotypical brains are more likely to believe in a higher power. You’ve failed to point out how being on the autism spectrum is a bad thing. For example, people with Asperger’s Syndrome are more logical and highly intelligent – and both of these factors make people more irreligious.

    http://tinyurl.com/lrts4uy
    http://tinyurl.com/kcta85k

    “Many atheists certainly seem to be mentally ill themselves with the way they dehumanize religious people for believing differently than them. They are rash in their judgement, have a persecution complex and live under the delusion that all religions are evil. Many have embarked on irrational crusades against religion too.”

    Yeah… you lost me here. You sound like a very angry person. You claim to be dehumanized as a religious person, yet used an entire post to slander atheists.

    While I’m at it, I suggest you read “Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment” by Phil Zuckerman. In case you’re not interested in reading, here’s a summary of it – lower crimes rates, lower divorce rates, safer sex, highest levels of happiness, highest levels of altruism, highly educated, less likely to be racist, nationalistic, racist, anti-Semitic, dogmatic, ethnocentric, authoritarian and supportive of LGBT and gender equality. Did I miss anything?

    http://tinyurl.com/3lelmzp

  76. I can’t help but be against any point of view which tries to categorise people in this way. Being an atheist does not equate to having anything in common with other atheists; it is an opinion on the world. You might as well research the amount of autistic people who prefer scrambled eggs to boiled eggs. Is there a correlation between autism and scrambled egg? Perhaps. You can find almost any correlation if you look hard enough. Does it mean that there is a real cause-and-effect link? Absolutely not. That is one thing that you can not infer from a correlation, however meaningless.

    You are also falling into the ’2′ trap: mental illness is not an insult.

    Atheists don’t have a hatred of religion. Some people (who perhaps have too much time on their hand) who happen to be atheists hate religion. There are plenty of people with a variety of belief systems who hate other people who fall into a perceived category (homophobes, sexists, racists, ect.) Saying that atheists hate religion is like saying that Americans are racist because the KKK happened there. In short, it’s generalising to the point of ignorance.

  77. Any issues Atheists (or Non-Religious, aka Understanders) have can be directly attributed to religions relentless assault on their life. Atheists are actively oppressed and are viewed and treated as second class citizens, which causes the conditions and complications you listed. Dealing with religious people in society is like beating your head against a brick wall, and they have no choice but to interact in order to live. You show a sincere lack of comprehension in social dynamics and how it impacts people. People like yourself are a detriment to the human race, you hold us all back from progress and that is truly depressing.

  78. Many atheists (Christians) certainly seem to be mentally ill themselves with the way they dehumanize religious (atheist) people for believing (not believing) differently than them. They (Christians) are rash in their judgment, have a persecution complex and live under the delusion that all religions (other than their own) are evil. Many have embarked on irrational crusades against (other) religion(s) too.

  79. 1- I’m not deeply depressed. My life is, frankly, awesome! I get to work with animals all day, and help them find new homes.

    2- Somehow, I doubt this.

    3- I do not suffer from social anxiety at all, and I’m an out atheist to my family, friends, coworkers, and anyone who tries to tell me “the good news”.

    4- No I don’t, and no we don’t in general. Though I admit, being asked what is preventing me from going on a murder spree gets pretty damned annoying after a while.

    5- There certainly was for me. I lost the abject terror that I would do some minor thing that made God angry and cause him to light me on fire for eternity. When I was a child I would cry myself to sleep while desperately praying for forgiveness. I have gained a new appreciation for family and friends, because I know they and I are temporary. I love them all the more fiercely now.

  80. Your references are not all that reliable… I’ve checked all of the ones I can (without having to pay for subscriptions)… and made some notes for you.

    1) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-6237.2008.00520.x/abstract#sthash.d47JBvt0.dpuf

    Requires paid membership to read the article… the abstract has no relevant data.

    2) iasp.info/pdf/papers/Bertolote.pdf (A global perspective in the epidemiology of suicide)

    The relevant snippet.

    At 25.6, the total suicide rate is markedly highest in Atheist
    countries (e.g. China)

    China is also communist. Which is likely to have a lot more to do with their suicide rate. They are also considered “Atheist” simply because the government legislates it. Not because they don’t have any religion. Officially they are all Atheist but in reality they practice dozens of different religions. If they had a breakdown of athiests per country or split it by west and east. You could use it as an example, but given… technically there are no christians in china (according to their government… you cannot make a comparison between chinese athiests and chinese christians). Comparing chinese athiests with american christians is like comparing apples and oranges. If their data includes their entire population as “athiest” that skews all of their statistics enormously.

    3) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10943-011-9541-1#

    This is religious media with a religious motive it’s clearly biased. Apart from that you have to pay $39.95 to read the full article. An abstract is not a reference.

    4) pub.uni-bielefeld.de/publication/2050070#sthash.d47JBvt0.dpuf

    Was published by the Faculty for History, Philosophy, and Theology, University of Bielefeld/Germany. It is not scientific in the slightest, it is a theological paper. It is chock full of supposition. A tip for beginners, if a sentence contains “might be” or “may be”. Then you should consider it an opinion, not fact.

    5) http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psyched/201205/does-autism-lead-atheism#sthash.d47JBvt0.dpuf

    If you read the article fully you will note that they say that almost all “autistic” people are “atheists” not that being an “atheist” makes you autistic. The link has more to do with the fact that “autistic” people have little to no empathy, meaning they are immune to peer-group-pressure and other socially manipulative behaviors. And thus don’t understand why they are being asked to believe in something completely illogical. Autism in many cases manifests in pure analytical thinking, which is entirely objective, and actually a fantastic endorsement for the fact that the belief in Christianity is folly.

    Tom, because you are emotionally charged by the “offense” that this article suggests to you. You have gone looking for facts, and found things that you believe are real information. However you have either interpreted things incorrectly or created meaning where there was none.

    I would also suggest that committing suicide i a deadly sin, and thus if you “actually believe” in all that crap that you are less likely to do so simply for that fact. Atheists don’t believe in eternal damnation, which is of course absurd, and know that if they want to end their life (and any relative suffering) they can do so whenever they want. Whereas a christian will suffer decades of unbearable pain in order to secure themselves a seat in heaven. Don’t you think thats just a little mental ? Christians are raised in an environment of obedience. This conditioning restricts not just the ability to think critically but many will never learn to exercise their freedom of thought, as they get older the brain remains hard-wired in such a way that it is uncomfortable and cumbersome to attempt to think critically.

    Reference: http://tinyurl.com/k4evjkw

    I think “mental damage” is actually the best way to describe the brainwashing that the church conducts. Yes it is brainwashing. They use the exact same techniques used to wartime brainwashing. Which are:

    1) Destabilize their sense of self
    2) Get the person to re-interpret their worldview and accept a new version of reality
    3) Develop a dependance on the Organization,

    One and two are not necessary if a child is raised in the church they simply enter into the church indoctrination of Sunday school, bible study, morning prayers, gods prayer at school assembly, grace at every meal, religious education classes, Sunday Service etc… Repetition is the most effective form of brainwashing. Its how we learn facts also, our brain is wired to record things more permanently if we are exposed to it more frequently.

    Having your head filled with knowledge that has no basis in reality could in my opinion be termed as “damage”, if it is inflicted on a child who doesn’t get a choice in the matter. Possibly a better term though is “abuse”.

    reference: http://www.uky.edu/~aubel2/eng104/paranoia/pdf/singer.pdf

    But of course “motive” is the most important thing to consider… It’s quite absurd to hear Christians saying atheists are mentally ill. And atheists saying Christians are mentally ill. It’s all irrelevant in my opinion. Christians are victims of the “church” (the organization). Which is structured such that they raise children to be obedient to the church then harvest donations from the on a weekly basis.. This income is essential to cover the living expenses of all of the ministers/priests/etc… of who are also victims, because they in turn are running the collection facilities. Selling “good feelings” and “faith” and “a sense of community”.. Which are all real things. But talking about being a good person isn’t the same thing as being a good person. And giving money to the church isn’t the same thing as charity. Most of the money goes to paying for church staff so they can pay rent/food/luxury items/holidays/childrens school fees/etc.. Whatever is in excess to that goes to the head office to put towards building more churches ensuring an expansion to the potential income generation. Churches rarely if ever give money to people who are not part of their own “flock”. They wouldn’t want to assist an opposing religion to gain a foothold on them.

    The real bad guys are the guys at the head office, who orchestrate the whole thing. They set the curriculum.. and change it as they see fit based on retaining and increasing membership numbers. The formula they are using has been carefully developed over hundreds of years and they have an “answer” for everything. It is difficult for a simple minded person to compete. They are bombarded with “information” so much that they cannot differentiate reality from fiction. And that is the poison that infects our species.

    Having said that… I wouldn’t want it any other way :P

  81. Tom, the question is whether religion is a mental illness; trying to argue that the absence of a mental illness not only doesnt answer the question (it avoids it), it actually adds weight to the argument that religion IS a mental illness, so your post was counter productive.

    To address the separate question that you raised feel free to make a separate thread, and I will point out the logical fallacies in the “evidence” provided – it is pretty simple – as a google would have shown.

  82. Posting all those links makes you look intellectual doesn’t it. Many of those studies have a focus that does not let you draw the conclusions you want but they do look very pretty all posted like that.

    In 45+ years as an atheist, my entire life, my moments of depression are normally associated with theists and their stupidity.

    I would address the range of false, unsupported claims in your closing statement but I just can’t be bothered with delusional state of mind, not my job, see a professional.

  83. That’s a good idea Tom. Acting like a sheep will keep us well. I’d rather experience all the associated problems you mention and think for myself thanks.

  84. Yes, there is a link between autism and atheism. It’s been found that many autistic people are atheists. This explains why many atheists (who might be suffering from autism) are quiet in real life (due to the obvious social difficulties and interactions of being autistic) but very vocal on the internet letting their frustration out on immaterial concepts that they are unable to understand.

    Autistic people do not view emotions and other immaterial concepts such as the prime-mover (which is fully established in philosophy and logic) the same way as regular people which explains why many become atheists as they unable to perceive God as a immaterial being and instead see him as a”sky-daddy” which is a juvenile view of the prime-mover that the great philosopher Aristotle argued for in Ancient Greece whose argument continues to this day.

    Bruce’s long winded post filled with misinformation is further evidence of this link between autism, perception and atheism.

  85. Yeah, atheists often reject logical principles such as causality especially with their assertions that the universe proceeded from nothing.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matthew-hutson/autism-atheism_b_1557098.html

    “One outcome of the ability to mentalize is the ability to think teleologically — to see the purpose of objects or events. (Rocks and rainstorms have no purpose, but shovels and showering do.) I found one blog post by a woman with Asperger’s syndrome who wrote of her childhood, “The world I perceived was a random, self-sufficient system. It wasn’t built; it grew. (When I was little, I thought houses and roads were some kind of large plant that grew out of the ground; if you had told me people made them I would’ve been thunderstruck).” She didn’t get that some things were created for a reason.”

    Incidentally this explains many atheists’ world-views who deny the scientific principle of causality because it’s an immaterial concept which they cannot understand. It’s no surprise then, that they would also deny religion and God, two other concepts which are not physical.

  86. Tom,

    You are clearly a religious madman. Please report to your nearest reconditioning facility immediately where compassionate atheist health professionals will use state-certified methods of extreme rationality to help cleanse your diseased mind of such harmful religious tendencies.

  87. Hear, Hear! Love your reply! I wish I was as articulate as you. I’m NOT being sarcastic. I concur with all of your points. I especially like your answer to the depression we are supposed to be suffering from. I, myself, am suffering from depression because of how I am treated by even family members in the name of religion and self justification for elitism and ego’s. I have a service business and have learned I cannot be open with many of my clients about my non-theism. If they find out, or even suspect, they fire me. I can relate to every one of the points with something that has or is happening in my life that is because of my non-beliefs.

  88. @Sarah

    Some of your sources are from biased atheist sites so I find it extremely funny that you post them here to respond to actual academic sources.

    Your other sources ignore the fact that many secular societies are actually worst than religious societies. Let’s look at the evidence:

    http://www.thelocal.se/20090427/19102 (That’s in Sweden where there is a rape epidemic)

    http://www.theguardian.com/journalismcompetition/gender-inequality-in-vietnam (Vietnam’s gender inequality, income inequality and poverty)

    http://www.ibtimes.com/7-problems-chinas-rise-worlds-largest-economy-will-not-solve-1578566 (Seven of China’s biggest problems including their poor human rights issues)

    http://www.pewforum.org/2014/01/14/religious-hostilities-reach-six-year-high/ (That’s on Christians being persecuted in extremist muslim countries and atheist states)

    So please don’t talk about religious people being bad to atheists as it’s the other way around.

    “The sources clearly indicate that North Korea’s government is among the most repressive in the world with respect to religion as well as other civil and political liberties. (The U.S. State Department’s 2012 Report on International Religious Freedom, for example, says that “Genuine freedom of religion does not exist” in North Korea.” ~ Pew Study Research

    So atheist secular societies are actually worst off especially as far as human rights are concerned.

    You’re actually wrong on the depression study. The study by The American Journal of Psychiatry did a study of over 25 countries (not just China) and found that atheists commit suicide more and suffer from more depression. The result showed that religious people were more happier and less likely to commit suicide due to the benefits that religious practice provides.

    http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleid=177228

    “Our study showed a relationship between religious affiliation status and suicide attempts in a clinical sample of depressed inpatients. It seems that the constellation of religious beliefs and lower aggression level, together with a higher threshold for suicidal thoughts in religiously affiliated depressed subjects, reduces risk for suicidal acts.”

    The link between autism and atheism also suggested the reasons why autistic people have difficulty believing in a god because they have “reduced ability to mentalize” hence why we get some atheists who can’t even understand the concept of a god.

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psyched/201205/does-autism-lead-atheism

    But I do love how you ignore the original OP who was bitterly attacking religion. Those responses, perhaps, were in response to his aggression but as always, you atheists love to ignore your own bad fruits.

  89. You’re joking right Sarah? Over 700 studies have shown that religion leads to better mental health as well as less delinquency and criminal activity.

    “Religion and spirituality unquestionably have a place in the treatment of many mental health patients. More than 700 studies have investigated the relationship of religion and mental health, with nearly 500 demonstrating a positive association between the two. Various investigations have shown religious involvement to be positively correlated with well-being, happiness, life satisfaction, hope, optimism, purpose and meaning in life, higher self-esteem, greater social support and less loneliness, lower rates of suicide and fewer positive attitudes toward suicide, less anxiety, less psychosis and fewer psychotic tendencies, lower rates of alcohol and drug use/abuse, less delinquency and criminal activity, and greater marital stability and satisfaction.”

    http://tinyurl.com/ovca8sy ~ Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services.

    Indeed, the atheist countries and states have the highest suicide rates.

    http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-statistics.html

    So much for secular societies being more happier. Heh.

  90. @Samson

    I just how atheists ignore the facts proposed against them. The top atheist countries (North Korea, China and Vietnam) are not surprisingly the worst countries to live in when it comes to human rights.

    But if atheists really hate religion so much then maybe they should move to those countries and live in their “utopia” where there is no religion.

  91. thats some bullshit christians do not oppress atheists especially here in the U.S. where atheists are leading the attack on our culture and way of life. don’t even act like your a second class citizen. if an atheist stands up on stage and says religious people are idiots he will be applauded as a rebel who fights those stupid christians however if a christian stands up on stage and even talks about God or heaven forbid say something bad about atheists he is automatically listed as a right wing, nut bag, idiot, who shouldn’t even be allowed to speak.

  92. Please explain how the statements are false. The sources have produced the results that explicit atheistic belief is damaging to the individual (as if the vile hatred we observe from atheists wasn’t enough to allow us to conclude that they’re not mentally sound people).

    So try again Galen. This time with an actual refutation backed with evidence.

  93. Religion has long been linked to good mental health, less criminal activity and protection from drugs and alcohol. This is from more than 700 studies according to the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services.

    http://www.healio.com/psychiatry/journals/jpn/%7B4df97454-8c93-4ed0-9b95-627107e0d1b1%7D/religion-and-spirituality-can-it-adversely-affect-mental-health-treatment#x02793695-20110503-05-bibr7

    “Religion and spirituality unquestionably have a place in the treatment of many mental health patients. More than 700 studies have investigated the relationship of religion and mental health, with nearly 500 demonstrating a positive association between the two. Various investigations have shown religious involvement to be positively correlated with well-being, happiness, life satisfaction, hope, optimism, purpose and meaning in life, higher self-esteem, greater social support and less loneliness, lower rates of suicide and fewer positive attitudes toward suicide, less anxiety, less psychosis and fewer psychotic tendencies, lower rates of alcohol and drug use/abuse, less delinquency and criminal activity, and greater marital stability and satisfaction.”

    So any atheist abiding by the myth that religion is damaging clearly hasn’t done their research.

  94. Also, atheist countries and states have the highest suicide rates.

    http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-statistics.html

    So much for secular societies being more happier. Heh.

  1. […] I am a Christian fundamentalist. I would like to point out that I am not ashamed of this term even though it is widely used as a pejorative. Christian fundamentalism is a belief system. It's not a cognitive impairment or a mood disorder. If fundamentalism qua fundamentalism was insane, it would prevent people from being functional members of society. But fundamentalists are in all kinds of careers and they have families and so on. 5 Reasons Atheists Shouldn't Call Religion a Mental Illness. […]

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