Author Topic: Unification, Maturity, Religion and Mental Illness  (Read 344 times)

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Offline Strawman

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Unification, Maturity, Religion and Mental Illness
« on: June 13, 2013, 05:20:39 AM »
This is such a difficult and sprawling subject  to approach that even devising a suitable title for it is a challenge.  :-\
I don't often post on here but I come on from time to time to ask for advice and try to learn from the discussions. I would like to hear some insights from people who are either still involved in the church or are de-converts; since I have never belonged to a religion it is difficult for me to empathise with the mindset. I've tried to split this into decent sections to make it more bearable because I've rambled on a bit!

My Mistakes
I live in an extremely secular country (The United Kingdom). There were only two people in my class at high school who I knew to be religious (and they were cousins). The internet was my first introduction to religious fanaticism, it was absurd and a little scary to me. I'm embarrassed to say that I reacted by taunting and insulting these people, and wasted a lot of time in abusive arguments with them (I subscribed to VenomFangX on youtube just so I could make fun of him in the comments). Later I found out about people like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and a host of youtube atheist commentators. I grew more mature and got better at arguing.  &)
But I don't want to argue any more.

A Call for Unity
I confronted my hostility towards religion and thought about what I actually want to achieve. I would like to live in a world where people are not delusional, where they accept that they are mortal animals reliant on senses that can be deceived. I want to live in a world where rationality and evidence are held in higher esteem than faith and gut instincts. I realised that to achieve this we need to include everyone in this change. Atheists and Theists treating each other as adversaries doesn't help anyone, we can only prosper and change for the better if we are on the same side.

A Delicate Subject
It's very difficult to talk about religion without offending someone. The trouble is that religious belief is very immature, yet it can be held by mature and educated people who have been taught to quarantine their faith from the logic and reason they apply to the rest of their lives. So how does one tell a rational and mature person that their faith is immature and irrational? How does one extract the cancer of religion from a healthy mind?

Religion & Mental Illness
Yes, I really am trying not to offend theists here! I'm not saying that everyone who has every prayed is bat-shit crazy but I do believe that religion has the potential to cause sufferers of mental illness to go undiagnosed and untreated, and with most mental illnesses they only get worse without treatment. If we even so much as hint that having auditory or visual hallucinations is "normal" (or a blessing!) then we are neglecting people with serious health issues. Thankfully, the stigma attached to mental health issues is gradually depleting and we are realising that a significant proportion of the population suffer with them (around 22%); people who are otherwise fully-functioning human beings. If religious beliefs were treated as the delusions they are this number would be far higher and we would have a healthier population for it.

Mature Atheism
We need to be the mature ones here -- again, that is not to say that the religious are immature -- we have to be respectful of the people behind the belief; we have to be sensitive to their condition and treat it as such. They are not insane, they are not immature or irrational, they need therapy to come to terms with reality.
This all probably sounds patronising and passive aggressive, and to be honest I am snickering at some of it, there is still a "devilish" part of me that finds it amusing that a theist might get offended, but I'm being serious here. It's really hard to be serious about this and not come across as condescending or sarcastic. Religion is so deeply engrained in our cultures that it is difficult to pry it out and look at it for what it really is, even for those who denounce it.

My Strategy
I don't really have one... any tips?
I have decided only one thing so far, and that is to avoid the elephant in the room: god. I don't mean I will not talk about god at all, but I will not say things like "I do not believe in god" any more because that implies that I simply do not accept the existence of god. I will also ignore statements that talk about god as if he is a person in the room; I will even try to avoid calling him "Him" (which I don't appear to be very good at). Thirdly, I will avoid phrases that are directly confrontational, such as: "God does not exist." I don't think it's healthy to keep reinforcing this notion of "god", in either a positive or negative manner.

Apart from that I will attempt to speak rationally and maturely about the subject, without being dismissive or insensitive. I think of it like talking to an adolescent: you know when they are being foolish but ridiculing or patronising them is only going to cause an argument that goes nowhere. We have to be patient and rise above squabbling.
If God exists at all he clearly wishes to reside exclusively in the imagination.

Offline Strawman

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Re: Unification, Maturity, Religion and Mental Illness
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2013, 07:47:25 AM »
Here's an interesting comment I just saw on youtube:
Quote
Where does it say, in true Christianity, where does it say in the Commandments to kill people?
That is the preferred pass time of the Pagan Roman Catholicism and Pagan Islam, and? all the other Pagans.
It would appear, that Pagans and Atheists(closet Pagans) are the problem in this world. Right buddy?
I've never heard this line before that atheists are "closet pagans". It seems everything except this guy's brand of Christianity is Paganism.

Oh, and you want to see what that was in response to?:
Quote
How is existence a belief? Either something exists or it doesn't, existence cannot be influenced by the mind; unless you? are a solipsist and believe the universe to be a figment of your imagination. How is Atheism Paganism? I am not judging you, I haven't said anything aggressive or confrontational at all. You have obviously come across a lot of people who just want to argue and hurl insults.
Yeah... I don't get it either.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2013, 07:49:45 AM by Strawman »
If God exists at all he clearly wishes to reside exclusively in the imagination.

Offline neopagan

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Re: Unification, Maturity, Religion and Mental Illness
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2013, 09:26:24 AM »
If there's a 12 step "chip" for deconversion, I'd be eligible for my sixth month one at this point, so I'm a fairly new deconvert from what I'd call a mild fundamentalist viewpoint (for 30+ years).

You are in a unique position in the secular UK, since that's nowhere near what the US is like.  Lots of "religious" people here with a heavy emphasis on xianity.  In my former life, I rarely ever encountered an atheist, let alone one who could articulate why he held such a viewpoint.  The ones I encountered were more of the shrug the shoulders type who were just "not religious."

As a closeted atheist who still attends church with my family (it's not something I cannot discuss with my spouse at this point, but working on that), I am pursuing a strategy similar to what you've described,  Mainly, I do not engage in the "religious banter" among believers.  I don't profess atheism, but neither do I go on about praying, answered prayers, praising god for the rain we just had, or talking about my personal devotion times.  A few times, due to my lack of response, I've been pressed by friends on it - I will give the following exchange recently as an example:
    xian friend: Have you been reading anything in particular in the bible lately?
    yrs truly: as a matter of fact, I've read a lot more of the bible over the past saveral months than
                   I had for years.
    xf: excellent, obviously god has pricked your heart to dive into his word
    yt: I wouldn't say that, it's been more a process of me taking a deeper look at what the bible
         actually says, as opposed to being told what it means by the church - I'm asking different
         questions now and getting better answers
    xf: great, I'm sure god is opening his word to you   
    yt: I'm finding answers for sure, mainly I realized xianity makes up their own answers
         having nothing to do with what their book says
    xf: well, I'll pray for you as you study god's word
    yt: I'm not studying the bible, I'm reading it. I realized studying it means something different
          to xians than the word really means.
    xf: well, whatever works, as long as you are in the word
    yt: I'm not sure what that means, but I'm all but done with my reading - rarely need to go back
         to it any longer, I get the general idea.  Besides, I read it cover to cover years ago.
    xf: (uncomfortable but unwilling to go further) ok, man, I'll pray for you if you have doubts
    yt: no doubts, but let me know if you want to talk about it more
    xf: no, I'm good... see ya

I can guarantee, if I'd challenged this fellow, he'd have been offended despite knowing him for years.  Try poking a hole in someone's deity and they can get testy.  Even my wife, when I've expressed the slightest doubts, has gotten very hostile very quickly.  It's somewhat strange to me now on the outside looking in... Xians don't want to hear an atheist viewpoint (at least here in the US) but they LOVE to evangelize and seek out missionary opportunities and expect to be respected and treated kindly. 

BTW, "my" church has it's sights on Wales now as a missionary opportunity (already set up camp in Brussels).  Look out UK!
If xian hell really exists, the stench of the burning billions of us should be a constant, putrid reminder to the handful of heavenward xians how loving your god is.  - neopagan

Offline Strawman

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Re: Unification, Maturity, Religion and Mental Illness
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2013, 09:38:07 AM »
Interesting. Do you think my description of religious faith as a mental illness is accurate? In that it is something that damages the mental health of a person and requires some sort of therapy to recover from? It is not simply something that can be argued out of someone.
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Offline neopagan

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Re: Unification, Maturity, Religion and Mental Illness
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2013, 10:39:04 AM »
Interesting. Do you think my description of religious faith as a mental illness is accurate? In that it is something that damages the mental health of a person and requires some sort of therapy to recover from? It is not simply something that can be argued out of someone.

I'm not sure I'd say it's a mental illness per se, maybe more of a delusion one holds onto without any critical thought of why they do such things. I see it as almost a product of the religious upbringing here in the US - you are born into a family who passes on their faith.  You may veer off the Baptist course and into a Presbyterian, Lutheran, or even Roman Catholic viewpoint, but it's practically hard-wired into you to stay the theistic course.  Almost like eating... you just do it and only later do you start questioning what specifically you are putting into your body.

I was in most every area a rational, highly skeptical person; however, for some reason I haven't quite figured out - I exempted religion from that analysis.  I'd had doubts about bible tales, prayer, hell, and even fears about "jeezus' return," but I ignored or stashed them away as "my" problem, not an inherent issue with the belief system.   

I didn't need thereapy, nor did someone have to argue it out of me - I came to the decsisions on my own.  There wasn't a big conflict or turning point I can single out - more like a slow emergence from a fog...  If anything, I'm more frustrated or "embarrassed" I even believed such nonsense for so long without questioning it.  Another thing, here in xian circles, athesits are not understood as freethinkers, rationalists, etc - they are viewed and understood as god hating, self absorbed "fools" who live under a delusion and have never critically evaluated god's word.  Interesting huh?
If xian hell really exists, the stench of the burning billions of us should be a constant, putrid reminder to the handful of heavenward xians how loving your god is.  - neopagan