Is religion based on mental illness and is religious faith mental illness?


If religion is a mental illness then it needs stopping.  You may say it is up to the professionals to decide if any follower needs professional psychological help but nobody can escape noticing that religious faith is functionally insane if not an actual mental illness.  We know sane people who say the most insane things.


Religion being a mental illness demands that it be treated by outspokenness in the hope that the person will grow out of it.  People think we want them medicated or hospitalised.  We want some to get that treatment but for most a straight-taking is enough.  Be careful to listen.  Mental illness and being to blame for what you do for the religion are compatible.  This combination describes most religious people.


If you care about people then admit that if religion is not a mental illness it remains true that it harms the mental health of innocent people and even bad people.


"I think mentally ill people have enough trouble in their minds without having the Devil and God in there" - psychiatric nurse in relation to Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper.


You have no right to blame mental illness for the religious aspects of a person's mental illness.  You cannot know exactly what the illness is doing but that does not give you the right to protect religion by simply just absolving it. The person in front of you is what matters not the religion.



The evidence that religion is good for you is too open to interpretation and why is there not more and better evidence?


# Most religion has not been good for animals or people - eg widow burnings, animal sacrifice etc


# Any group that brings people together will report better mental health for the participants - religion is not necessary


# Religion is a faith community but studies ignore the effects of faith


# It is reasonable to hold that beliefs such as that God uses evil to fix you, that his son died for your sins so you murdered him and that family ties will not exist in Heaven are damaging.  If they are not then that is strange but it does not change the fact that the beliefs are as good as trying to harm.


# It is not just about people in a religious community - what negative effects hit people who are not members?  For example, religion imposes its beliefs on society and schools and governments.  If a belief contains reasonable danger and we have seen examples in a way it does not matter if it is imposed or not.  It is bad.  Bad belief posing as good is a way of imposing.  Good beliefs do not need imposing.  Religion imposes a duty on critics and those outside its fold not to admit or see that the doctrines have a power to harm or degrade. That is why we must rebel.


# The evidence in favour of religious benefit is never that strong and there is a lot of grey so good today means bad tomorrow.


If religion becomes classified as a mental illness by the World Health Organisation (WHO) it will be the more extreme and dysfunctional forms of devotion that will end up on the list.  In 2019, religious fanaticism nearly made it to the list.  What is holding it back is that few want to be helped with their disorder.  It is complicated when they have children. Pragmatism is needed before the classification can happen and we are not there yet.


Some argue that mental illness creates religion in the first place but that does not necessarily mean you are not right in the head if you believe.


Some say you are.


Some say that it depends - if religious faith is too devout and starts ignoring important facts then it is a disorder.  For example, some Christians and Muslims read violent nasty scripture texts as speaking only of peace - that needs to be seen for what it is: a form of psychosis. It is excellent and infallible evidence of mental illness unless they are being dishonest.


If sincere religion is not a mental illness, does that matter if it attracts people with mental illness?  Certainly it does matter!  Only a bad thing can draw in disturbed people.


The argument in depth


Faith should be embracing the truth as your friend. Faith should be a fluid process. Religion has people adopting faith for they fear what it is like to think for yourself and feel alone. If you adopt faith for that reason then your faith is not about truth but about what suits you. It is not about truth but about practicality. Faith that serves as a crutch or a shield to avoid fear only leads to irrationality and self-deception and bigotry.


People often enjoy the escapism provided by religion and religious worship. It makes them feel magic instead of the mundane. They fear the hardness of life and the horrible realities of life in this world. Religion and worship help these evils seem far away and somehow unreal. People fear that reason might prove there is no God and no afterlife and that their loved ones suffer for nothing along the lines of a divine purpose. So religion and worship allows them to escape from reason. If reality and the rational world are scary and seem omnipotent, you will wish that there was some magic that subverts and conquers them. If you are dying, you can get enormous relief by doing magic spells for you feel that something magical will happen to save your life. You want a miracle and you hope for one. Television and cinema and different things provide escapism. People enjoy watching the suffering of characters in movies for it triggers the sense that bad things are fine if they happen to others but not me and so they won't happen to me. If bad things are happening to them, they can feel they are not and that other people thankfully are doing the suffering not them. Religion is evil precisely because it teases out and develops our faculties for escapism and not only that but wants to turn us into escapists all the time.
Religious people tend to assume that faith is beneficial or at least a bit more beneficial than the alternatives. Others say it is not beneficial enough to justify having it. They may even say it is bad. But most assert that faith is something that will never go away. If that is true then it needs to be more open to reason and evidence and correction. A semi-blind faith is better than blind faith. A faith that cares about evidence is more important and useful than one that cares little for it.
The religious person who suffers and pleads with God to help will clutch at straws. The stroke victim for example who expects prayer to work will think that tiny improvements and even temporary ones are proof that it does. Faith is not good if it encourages somebody to be that desperate. It would be deadly if a battered wife overlooked the violence from her husband just because he smiles at her occasionally. It is a degrading victim mentality.

Many religions worry mental health professionals. Calvinism encourages the delusion that human nature cannot really do good unless one becomes Christian on steroids. Roman Catholicism encourages the notion that an unChristened baby is estranged from God. Jesus claimed to save us from death and people are still dying and dying horribly.


Religion ignores the discoveries of scholars that the Bible and the Koran are man-made and not God-made after all. Yet the religions say God is their ultimate and chief author.


Also, all who pray try to turn the failures of prayer into successes. For example, if you pray for your cancer tumour to disappear and it doesn't, you will say that if you are dying now from pneumonia that the pneumonia is the answer to your prayer for a cure - dying from pneumonia is the cure. Or you may reason that prayer always works and when it doesn't, the reason is that in some unknown way you didn't pray right - you only seemed to connect with God but you didn't. So prayers are real when they seem to work and not real prayers but simulations when they don't.  If the lunatic sees everything as being made for him the person who prays and sees everything as an answer to prayer is just as disturbed. 


If religion is a delusion then as delusions need to be maintained by further delusions and cause bad thinking habits that lead to more delusions being added on it is vital that religious believers be corrected. They are not islands and society needs to be as delusion free as possible.

Many atheists feel that believers in religion are just guessing though they say they believe. They feel that believers are in fact believing regardless of the evidence against the religion or proof that the religion is wrong. The problem of a religious person being confronted with proof that her sinless religion is in fact corrupt and still claiming to believe is an interesting one. And so is the problem of a believer in an unerring scripture being given proof that it is indeed full of errors still believing in and supporting the scripture. Do these people really believe? Habit can be mistaken for belief. Sometimes it is just hypocritical defiance of the truth and resentment of the truth. Thinking you believe is not the same as really believing. It is more charitable to accuse them of latent unbelief than of being deluded. You would rather be accused of seeing the truth and being not ready to admit it than accused of being a crank who isn't mentally right when capable of delusion. The bigger the doctrine the bigger the delusion. A deluded person who thinks an unseen fairy visits his room for a minute at midnight is not as bad as the nun who thinks she marries God. If religious parents are deluded and raising their children in the faith is important to them then they will be trying to inflict their delusion on the child. This cannot be tolerated.
A religious system that enables and facilitates delusion would need to be pulled down. It;s members should be given incentives and encouragement to leave.
Those who claim that religion like that does not always hurt should admit that even so, it does not help.
So are believers who believe in the face of clear and simple proof that they are wrong deluded? Sometimes they are. The most committed ones such as priests and monks and nuns and the super-pious are definitely deluded. It is their level of devotion that justifies a diagnosis of delusion. However it must be admitted that it is possible that all believers suffer from delusion which may range from slight to severe.
Many nations are very secular and have low percentages of serious mental illness.

Nobody can say it is ever good to believe in God. Those who are made happy by the belief are in delusion and to say this delusion is a good thing is to talk nonsense. These people are being used by the clergy. When you are deluded you might think your delusion is one that makes you cheery but when you are deluded you will never know if you would be happier with another delusion or none. It’s still bad. It’s still degrading. It stops you being yourself and empowering yourself.
Born to Believe, Andrew Newberg MD and Mark Robert Waldman, Free Press, New York, 2006 page 37 says that religious visions and hearing voices should not be regarded as mental illness if these visions and voices make the person happier and healthier. It says that psychosis should only be diagnosed if this person's behaviour is very strange. For example, if a person sees people who are not there but who urge her to leave her abusive husband for her own sake the visions are regarded as being non-pathological. This makes no sense. The person is still divorced from reality and is ill no matter how much good the illness does for her.
The American Psychiatric Association regards a problem as a psychological delusion or disorder if it manifests as an incorrect belief different to what everybody else believes and is believed in defiance of incontrovertible and obvious evidence that it is false. A case would be where the anorexic sees fat on her or his body where there is no fat. Or if a Catholic saw open wounds like Christ's in his hands where there are no wounds. Love is a power and involves emotion and therefore sensory reactions. You need a body to really love. To sense this emotion in a rock would be an illness. You would be insane if you said a rock was in love with you. To sense the love emotion in God is even worse for at least you can see the rock and have adequate verification that the rock exists! At least the rock is physical!

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