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Why isnt religious belief considered a mental illness?


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Author Thread
peterpaine
New Member


Joined: 08 Nov 2004
Posts: 4

Post Mon Nov 08, 2004 10:42 pm

Why isnt religious belief considered a mental illness?    Reply with quote  

This is a serious question. This is not troll bait. I do not intend to start a flame war or religious debate.

What I want to know is, why is it that professional psychologists do not consider religious belief some kind of mental illness or delusion?

If someone were to tell me they truly believed in little green gnomes in their garden, which I or they, could not prove or disprove, we would immediately classify this person as having some sort of delusion.

However, when given the same scenario, but replacing the little green gnomes with a god of their choice, not necessarily christian, it is generally accepted and they person is considered perfectly normal. Shocked

Could someone please rationally explain how belief in something unproveable in one case is perfectly acceptable, but a mental issue in another???

Again, keep the religious debates out of this, dont start flame wars, I want a real answer.
  
yellowgreen5
Junior Member


Joined: 12 Jun 2004
Posts: 89

Post Mon Nov 08, 2004 11:06 pm

   Reply with quote  

I've wondered this before, myself! I always wondered why believe that "Jesus" can part the seas and walk on water and drown everyone except Noah, is not considered a delusion. Crazy psychology.
peterpaine
New Member


Joined: 08 Nov 2004
Posts: 4

Post Mon Nov 08, 2004 11:38 pm

   Reply with quote  

After doing some google searches and reading some articles on religion and psychology, it seems there has always been a "tension" between the two.

However, I think it is safe to say that "in general", psychologists do not consider religious people as being mentally ill or delusional.

Lets not talk about specifics here, like jesus,etc, Id like to keep this on track and from exploding into a religious war.

But it always strikes me as funny when a member of one religion thinks a member of another religions views are just fantasy or crazy.


Are religious people simply considered perfectly normal as compared to gnome believers simply because religion is so wide spread in *our* society? I cant seem to find a basis to think otherwise.


It just bothers me that if I give a speach at say a wedding, and mention praying to allah, no one would take notice, however, if I subsitute zeus for allah, or christ, etc, then eye brows would be raised. If I said I prayed to gnomes last night, that would definitely generate some very worrisome looks. People might start whispering that im crazy or something, but how is this any different? None of these ideas are proveable or unproveable and have no basis in science, thus the "tension" between psychology and religion.
gregorymichael
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Joined: 05 Sep 2004
Posts: 677
Location: AUSTRALIA

Post Tue Nov 09, 2004 2:05 am

   Reply with quote  

Hi peterpaine,

I feel it is relevant to consider different nationalities and cultures. For some countries, their 'religion' is a 'way of life' which is practiced in daily life and not simply going to the relative on a Sunday.

'Religion' with a long history (as many are) has dominance and is organised with a core set of values and traditions. The key word here is tradition; so people are deeply rooted in their respective beliefs which have been adopted, are a part of lfe and in many cases because of this are acceptable and considered 'normal.'

Monotheistic religions with a god that is intangible, their lies a high sense of mysticism so I don't think the green gnome theory (and the like) would not stand up in church. One of the newest religions is that of Mormon.

It could be claimed that a considerable percentage of psychologists would be involved in some type of 'recognised' religions.

Hope this helps.

Greg.
Acheron
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Joined: 05 Nov 2004
Posts: 3

Post Tue Nov 09, 2004 7:37 am

   Reply with quote  

Its just one of many idealisms of society. Believing in an acceptable god is normal, but believing in an unconventional one is regarded as crazy. Of course, people labeling it as such also label every other religion, but if it wasnt for ignorance we wouldnt be humans.
Bell
Junior Member


Joined: 26 May 2004
Posts: 31

Post Tue Nov 09, 2004 8:11 am

   Reply with quote  

I think the reason religion is not regarded as a mental illness is that religion is generally not mentally harmful and in most cases is actually psychologically beneficial. Wether god exist is actually irrelevant, believing in something outside of ourselves is an important part of being a human being. We need it because its the way we are built. Ultimately nothing can really be known so i think you really have to decide what you want to believe based on what you think will make you the most psychologically balanced.
megan
Moderator
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Joined: 14 Oct 2004
Posts: 3510

Post Tue Nov 09, 2004 11:32 am

   Reply with quote  

Hi Peterpane
Let me start first of all by asking you if you believe there is such a thing as spirituality. Forget about God for a minute.

It is very difficult to perceive of anything when you only believe what you can see feel touch and taste as having any validity. What about human qualities like courage, intelligence, love and kindness. They are not material qualities but they exist.

Some believe that the mere fact that we are here, the wonder of human life, the universe and the perfect order of how that continues. Some people believe that there is a supreme intelligence where good is maintained and originates. Human kind has drifted of course and of course, doesnt live up to what they really are or could/shoud be and I am not saying that I have all the answers, I certainly dont.

I do not consider myself mad by any means, but I believe that there is an innate goodness and spirituality about people and that we are all bound by this common thread, I believe that this goodness, beauty and order is governed and supported by an omnipotent goodness (alright then God!) Believing in little green men is hardly comparable

People of faith are not always following blindly, people often see results from prayer "feel" a presence and a love. I personally feel as certain that people are innately good (although very muc strayed!) and that there is a God that is good as I feel certain of my own existence. To me this is "logical"
megan
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Joined: 14 Oct 2004
Posts: 3510

Post Tue Nov 09, 2004 11:35 am

   Reply with quote  

I think faith and religion are not the same thing - hence the attrocities carried out in the name of religion (with is really politics!) If people go around killing in the name of God - then I agree - its madness!
giss32
New Member


Joined: 09 Nov 2004
Posts: 3

Post Tue Nov 09, 2004 9:21 pm

yea    Reply with quote  

I don't believe it is a mental illness, but then again I think it is. Religion has been part of us people as far back as, I don't know, more then 2,000 years ago. Having a religion is believing in something, and doing the practices based on that religion. I consider the religions, Christian and Catholic as normal. But I don't view the Muslim or Islamic religion as normal. Like the people with 9/11, they said Allah told them to, so that they could be with him. Now I really don't know for sure if they would really be with Allah, but I do think certain religions affect people in bad ways. So yea to me, some people should be considered mentally ill and others as normal. But then this question comes up.... What are the Islamic or whatever they are, think of us, do they think we are normal?
Bell
Junior Member


Joined: 26 May 2004
Posts: 31

Post Tue Nov 09, 2004 10:24 pm

   Reply with quote  

I would be careful about generalising an entire religion. It would appear Western and middle eastern religions have been fighting for a long time. I'd say there are extremists on both sides of the fence. There are probably many groups in the west that follow a very skewed version of the mainstream faith and use their beliefs to justify killings. The same as exist in the east. There is a bit of a propaganda war going on at the moment and it's important not to get caught up in it. If 7 fanatical Christians bombed a major building in the middle east would we say those 7 are representative of all Christians? Also another thing to remember. Religion ultimately is a mechanism for dealing with death. We live in extremely high luxury compared to the rest of the world and can generally expect long lives. As such religion is not so important to us. In poorer countries where your surrounded by death, religion is the only way you can get by and function. It's the only way you can deal with the fact that you or someone you care about can die at any time. It isn't madness, it's probably the only thing they have to prevent it. Believing in things that can't be proved is not madness, because nothing can be proved beyond all doubt. Madness is an instability of the mind where your thought patterns are inconsistent. Where your belief structure contains paradoxes. The best way to remove paradoxes is to except life as it comes and not to have too many preconceived ideas. Try not to think things must be a certain way. The more preconceived ideas you have the more you open yourself up to paradoxes. If you believe in god because it makes you feel good and not because you think god must exist then there is no paradox, no contradiction, no madness. I'd say the only madness of religion is it's attempts to explain and define god. Those who believe in god through choice rather than logic are probably the most sane. I'd say the most sane people in the world are those who merly accept life and enjoy the time they have without need of explanation. If you can achive such a state the existence of god is essentially irrelivant.
peterpaine
New Member


Joined: 08 Nov 2004
Posts: 4

Post Wed Nov 10, 2004 12:07 am

   Reply with quote  

Some interesting points have been made, and many that are not related to the core question Smile

Let me ask a thought provoking question and we can discuss it further.

If a friend told you that he spoke to a little invisible man that lived in his mouth every day, held entire conversations with him, got great advice from this little man, and he really really helped him get by in life. In other words, this little invisible man in his mouth brought him great joy and truly assisted him getting by during hard hard times, would you consider him just a bit crazy??? Or would this be "normal" because its ok to believe in pretend entities as long as it helps you? What if the little invisible man in his mouth had convinced him of a wonderful after life which brought your friend peace and a way to avoid the psychological pain associated with dealing with the idea of his own death or his relatives? How is this different than worshipping an unproveable god that provides the same unsubstantiated benefits? Why would society look at him as a bit nutz, but look at your typical american who worships god as "normal" ???

Is this really nothing more than cultural norms doing battle???

Arent psychologists very aware of cultural differences and therefore would see there is no difference between these unproveable entities?

It seems to me that psychologists dont put "culturally popular gods" in the same basket as little green men for 2 reasons:

1) They themselves are biased because of their own culturally centric beliefs
2) It would be politically incorrect to do so

Thoughts?
Ginny
Full Member


Joined: 11 Sep 2004
Posts: 115
Location: Chicago, Illinois USA

Post Wed Nov 10, 2004 12:44 am

Psychology & Religion    Reply with quote  

I just saw a program on tv last night about psychology of religion. It primarily focused on cults though. It stated that certain religions-mainly the group of people in charge of the cult- influence the followers thinking through their teachings. It also stated that it is not just the lost or uninteligent that get sucked in. The program basically focused on "dangerous" cults like Jonestown (the mass suicide).
see http://www.religioustolerance.org/dc_jones.htm

I think most of us find some comfort in some sort of spiritual connection, don't you?

I was taught in my social science World Religion class that most known religions have some sort of creation story and an afterlife. Because we, as humans desire an explaination for creation and hope that our exsistance does not end with death. Also the human experience (struggle) makes us hope that there is something greater than ourselves that we can pray to, worship, and have faith in. Whether that be some form of God/gods, astrology, reincarnation or gnomes. It is part of the human experience and if that is madness--so be it.
megan
Moderator
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Post Wed Nov 10, 2004 3:53 am

   Reply with quote  

quote
If a friend told you that he spoke to a little invisible man that lived in his mouth every day, held entire conversations with him, got great advice from this little man, and he really really helped him get by in life. In other words, this little invisible man in his mouth brought him great joy and truly assisted him getting by during hard hard times, would you consider him just a bit crazy??? Or would this be "normal" because its ok to believe in pretend entities as long as it helps you? What if the little invisible man in his mouth had convinced him of a wonderful after life which brought your friend peace and a way to avoid the psychological pain associated with dealing with the idea of his own death or his relatives? How is this different than worshipping an unproveable god that provides the same unsubstantiated benefits? Why would society look at him as a bit nutz, but look at your typical american who worships god as "normal" ???
unquote

but believing in a little green man in your mouth really isnt the same as beliving in a universal creator, an intelligence in all things and the maker of all. Believing in an intelligence behind the beauty of the universe and the innate goodness of man is hardly the same as believing in a little entity that lives in your mouth! now that is nuts.

Again I would say that why is it impossible to conceive of anything that you cannot see or touch materially?

What you are really saying is that the universe and people in are entirely material and there is nothing else to them. Then I can see why anything above and beyond that could be conceived as "mad". Personally to limit your outlook in that way is just not seeing past the end of your nose and is not so much mad but sad!
Seraph Clear
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Joined: 10 Nov 2004
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Post Wed Nov 10, 2004 7:01 am

   Reply with quote  

Great thread!

As Megan said
quote:
people often see results from prayer "feel" a presence and a love.


And as PeterP said you can also feel that from the little man in your mouth! Pretty funny by the way Smile

And to continue the quoting trend - As Bell said -
quote:
religion is not generally harmful and in most cases is actually psychologically beneficial.


What I think needs to be looked at is what we do based on Religion. If God or the little man or whomever says "Go kill someone" we should look at that as a negative action. If our choice of belief helps us to find who we are and to live a "better" life than I think it should be accepted as positive.

That being said, Religion in general is our socialization and therefore accepted. We don't need to weed out every aspect of a person to find what ails them.
Michael Lank
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Joined: 22 Feb 2004
Posts: 5816
Location: Lewes, UK

Post Wed Nov 10, 2004 8:13 am

   Reply with quote  

One way to consider religions is the role that they play for some people in meeting one or more of the Basic Human Needs.

What is considered acceptable or normal for religion certainly seems to vary with different cultures and at different times.
  

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