NPTR 16 – Dr. Peter Boghossian – Faith a Cognitive Sickness


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Dr. Peter Boghossian’s main focus is bringing the tools of professional philosophers to people in a wide variety of contexts. Peter has a teaching pedigree spanning more than 20 years and 30 thousand students–in prisons, hospitals, public and private schools, seminaries, colleges and universities, Fortune 100 companies and small businesses. His fundamental objective is to teach people how to think through what often seem to be intractable problems.

Peter’s primary research areas are critical thinking and moral reasoning.  His doctoral research studies, funded by the State of Oregon and supported by the Oregon Department of Corrections, consisted of using the Socratic method to help prison inmates to increase their critical thinking and moral reasoning abilities and to increase their desistance to criminal behavior.  

Peter’s publications can be found in Diálogos, Education Policy Analysis Archives, The Clearing House: Educational Research Controversy and Practices, The Radical Academy; Offender Programs Report, Teaching Philosophy, Corrections Today, Informal Logic, The Skeptic, Journal of Philosophy of Education, Educational Philosophy and Theory, Inside Higher Ed, Essays in Philosophy, Federal Probation Journal, and the Journal of Correctional Education.

His work has been noted on The Huffington Post, The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason, and other media outlets; he was an invited guest on the Lars Larson Show, interviewed for the cover story of the Mercury, and advocated via social media by the Executive Director of the Skeptic Society, Michael Shermer, and bestselling author and head of Project Reason, Sam Harris. 

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  1. Humanity has not evolved enough to cure their human sickness of blind faith due to the culture of mindless greed in politics and business. Slavery is still the vehicle of choice for those in power to maintain their avarice and control over others.
    Most of humanity, indeed all animals to some degree, have intrinsic altruistic tendencies that manifest themselves primarily during times of wide spread human challenges. You can pin point the leaders during these times by noting who does the least yet garners the accolades through deceit and manipulation of the records.

  2. Attacking faith, as an unreliable process, addresses all religions simultaneously and equally.

  3. There are two practical suggestions in this talk, of action that could be taken by us that would have serious consequences for religious individuals and their faith communities.

    1.  Change the definition of the word “delusion” in the Diagnostic Manual (DSM).

    The change would eliminate the free pass that is given by this publication (DSM), to those people who are suffering under the effect of the mind virus that is religion.  There will be a  horrific uproar when this is accomplished. I think we are ready to take on this fight.  Can we organize a letter writing campaign? Let’s have some ideas as to what other action could be taken.  People in the field will know more about this than I do.

    2.  Change the tax laws for religious exemptions.  

    It sounds like this is already set up here in the States.  Something to the effect of, if religious leaders speak out regarding political issues and try to influence their congregations to vote in certain ways then they in danger of losing their tax free benefits.  Is this actually the law here?  If so then it’s not being enforced. 

     I have to think that if all the churches, temples, mosques, and other spiritual/religious groups who are enjoying the financial free ride in this place, were required to pay fair amounts of taxes like every other citizen, then their members would have some hard thinking to do.  It’s expensive to keep these building running.  If the members had to donate the large amounts of money to these organizations that it would take to compensate for the loss of tax free status, then wouldn’t they think twice about keeping a membership there?  It could mean that they would actually wonder why they keep going to that place every Sunday and what are they actually getting for all that money that would now be demanded of them.  Just because their parents and all their ancestors before them plunked their bums down on the benches, and surely they had their reasons for doing so, but they weren’t asked to donate several thousand dollars a year to support the cost of a large drafty building and to pay taxes on a large piece of land and large square footage that these buildings always have. 

    I want people to think long and hard about WHY it’s so important to them to hold a membership in these despicable organizations.  This could start them on the road to that line of questioning. As for how to set about holding these groups to their end of the tax/politics deal, I’m not sure how to go about it.  Rat them out to the Internal Revenue with verifiable evidence?

    Based on Peter Boghossian’s talk here, I’m thinking that if religious people are faced with accepting the label of “delusional” and then having to donate thousands of dollars as a condition of membership to religious organizations, that would result in substantial psychological and financial pain.

  4.  There is enough accumulated knowledge to put an end to religion’s claims but what we lack is the capacity to take it to everyone. Mendacious and manipulating religious and political leaders will maintain the religious systems in order to keep control and there is enough inertia from fearful and ignorant people to vote for them.

  5. “1.  Change the definition of the word “delusion” in the Diagnostic Manual (DSM)”

    It depends on specifically how you want to change it. If you are talking about changing it so that anyone who believes in religion is mentally ill, not only would such a change never get implemented but I wouldn’t be for it anyway. You have to take some consideration of existing culture and norms in your definition of mental illness. If you define mental illness so that the majority of people in the population are mentally ill you’ve made the term meaningless. 

    Also, there is a terrible precedent of governments using psychiatry essentially as a weapon against those with views they don’t agree with (the Soviet Union). I don’t think atheists should be advocating going down that path again.

  6. Perhaps we could use a new term such as relusion. Here is what a DSM5 entry might look like. (BTW it is tongue in cheek!!)

    A Relusion (Or a deligious belief) is a fixed false often belief, held with total certainty, conviction and usually has great personal significance to the individual. It is usually spiritual, bizarre or obscure and held despite evidence to the contrary or a lack of empirical evidence for it at all. A relusion is notably unchallengeable. It is culturally congruent but held with excessive zeal and certainty accompanied by feelings (and sometimes certainty) of moral superiority. People with relusions are impervious to evidence.It is not caused by a mental illness. It is also not explained by the presence of gross cognitive impairment; which if present, only becomes evident when the individual is presented with biological information {especially about Natural Selection, Evolution and Charles Darwin and more recently anything to do with Dawkins.} People with Relusions are not psychiatrically deluded as such as they do not have a loss of capacity to test reality; they just choose to suspend their critical faculties in order to feel happy that there is a deity that is looking after them and controlling their destiny by altering probability in their favor. They frequently believe this faith of deity will alter the laws of physics, biology etc.

    Some still believe in medical diagnosis and treatment with western medicines but fail to see the evidence for these is also imperfect having less length breadth and depth, in many cases, than Natural Selection. However a typical mental picture of someone with a relusion could include the pattern of arguing against biological science evidence using trivial analogy, misquotation, and Argument from personal revelation and ancient texts. Proponents with relusions, use arguments from Authority, usually from biologically lay or inappropriate figures. The Authority /credibility issue also features predominantly in an inverted evidential hierarchy, despite empirical evidence to the contrary. These relusional authority figures are happy to be mendacious, lie and distort evidence if it is in their favor, but are skeptical and doubt evidence from biological science frequently quoting Popper as evidence that biologists cannot prove their side of the story (only); but they do not equally apply it to their argument or belief(s). This is Pathnogmonic! Some unreluded followers of these individuals may initially be convinced by the false logic but may see through the distorted conclusions if presented with evidence .It is also known as Creationist- narcissism with accompanying scientific nihilism i.e. my faith/view is the truth and doesn’t need testing unlike biology.They also hold paranoid beliefs that biological scientists are too scared to argue against the prevailing biological laws (Which in any case are only theories) or skeptics cannot get their papers published if they provide evidence falsifying or are against Natural Selection. This is a projectional defense mechanism preventing overwhelming anxiety, which would occur if they challenged their own views openly, or those within their sect/cult who would subsequently reject them. They thereby feel others ( usually opponents) do this too.

    Sometimes, rarely, Relusions are bizarrely true or self- fulfilling, but not for the reasons the person cites. An example would be the prediction of positive peer recognition subsequent to martyrdom. Some relusions consequently involve the justification and redemption, on religious grounds, for people killing themselves along with other people, often, but not entirely of other faiths.  This is also sometimes wrongly primarily attributed to depression or other mental illness. People with relusions may justify genital mutilation for non- medical purposes. They may believe creation myths (according to their particular culture) carried out by their particular deity(s).If successfully challenged, a person with a relusion will either react angrily or answer the challenge with obscurantist thinking, elliptical arguments, begging the question, magical thinking, trivial analogy, or mantras and quotations from their book or leaders. These may provoke feelings of exasperation and exhaustion in the challenger. Some people with relusions have obsessional thoughts and rituals, which are ego syntonic and not regarded as alien or unpleasant. This is not to be confused with religious compulsive disorder. The aetiology of relusions is thought to be an intolerance of doubt or ambiguity and an often insightless and individually unrecognized desire for the total certainty of their cultures’ myths at any evidential cost. The emotional need for this certainty permits a willing suspension of rationality, self- monitoring and equipoise (counterbalanced open mind). 

     Some authors (Dawkins) have proposed possible intoxication with Gerin oil. This substance is allegorical only and is not believed as a counter delusion! Their origin and spread may be viral but there is no empirical evidence of this either. Identical twin studies of individuals reared apart by different families in different cultures would answer the question as to whether the beliefs are inherent (Congenital) or acquired. The best current view is that vulnerability may be inherited, partly or polygeneticly, but the phenomenon or condition is not Mendelian dominant.

  7. Red Dog,

    I certainly do acknowledge your concerns about DSM being used as a way of slapping a nasty label of abnormality on certain groups.  The Gay community comes to mind right away.  I mean, really, what a disaster that was.

    Also sections of that book that have to do with female sexuality have caused us to classify many women as abnormal for certain aspects of our sexuality that are perfectly understandable and in fact perfectly “normal” in the context of evo-biology.  These sections make me very angry!  That’s why I don’t mind agitating for changes to be made.  When that book is incorrect then many people suffer for it.

     I’m willing to take into consideration values and norms of my culture to a certain extent.  But if those would only reflect those of a bunch of white, male, sexually puritanical, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian worldview people who for some reason find themselves in the position to define and publish the parameters of normality for the rest of their society, then that’s where we’ll have a parting of the ways. If religious belief meets the criteria for delusion in every other way except for the part in the parenthesis then letting the free pass stay in the definition is nothing short of accommodationism. 

    Changes are made to the DSM that reflect changes in cultural norms and values.  The whole section that deals with sexual behavior can hardly keep up with changes in our cultural norms.  As the number of “out” Atheists increases, we will reach a critical mass and DSM will have no choice but to change this definition.  I hope it’s sooner rather than later.

    “A false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everyone else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary. The belief is not one ordinarily accepted by other members of the person’s culture or subculture (e.g. it is not an article of religious faith). When a false belief involves a value judgment, it is regarded as a delusion only when the judgment is so extreme as to defy credibility. Delusional conviction occurs on a continuum and can sometimes be inferred from an individual’s behavior. It is often difficult to distinguish between a delusion and an overvalued idea (in which case the individual has an unreasonable belief or idea but does not hold it as firmly as is the case with a delusion).” DSM-IV, p. 765.

  8. paulstjohnsmith, 

    Oh wow. I can see that you’ve put a lot of thought into this.  I say let’s just send your whole comment straight over to the DSM folks.  You’ve done their work for them.

  9. LauriB, I agree with all the things you said about the mis-uses of DSM in the past. It just seems to me that you are advocating we repeat those same mistakes only in a different direction. I have these kinds of arguments with people on this site all the time. Usually it involves people saying things like  “all Christians are sick” and me trying to tell them that I’ve known plenty of Christians who were not only decent but actually pretty cool. What I don’t want is to just turn atheism into the mirror image of theism. They hate us so we hate them back. 

    But back to DSM in particular, DSM should not be a forum for people to work out which world view is correct. The fact that homophobes, sexists, communists, and others have used it in that way in the past is no reason for people who believe in reason to repeat the mistake. DSM should be a manual to help professionals in the mental health field identify and treat people who need help. 

    I always like to talk in specific examples rather than in the abstract as much as possible: By any rational standard I don’t see how you could for example classify my mother as mentally ill just because she is a practicing Catholic. In fact at this stage of her life just about the only joy or companionship she gets out of life besides when I can visit her is through the church. And as sick as the church is I think it would be wrong to start telling mental health professionals that they have to put people like my mom on prozac because she believes the wafer becomes the body of Christ every sunday. 

  10. Well I admit a bit of time. However a delusion should not just be judged purely on its falsity as sometimes, e.g. with delusions of jealousy,they may be true! ( But usually the belief in the deluded person is held for the wrong reasons or is due to bizarre disconnected ideas).

    Also false beliefs,like :-“Columbus was the first person to discover America”  told to children in schools for many years,are not delusional when repeated by a child taught thus. Religions are taught to children by adults they trust and admire. Like persuading people that Columbus was only the first Catholic to be acknowledged as finding the New world, religious beliefs should nowadays only be seen for what they are. Most believers then are not psychiatricly delusional as such. Some are but this should not  be judged on the falsity alone. There are other reasons they hold the religious belief(s) 

    Sometimes the founder of a religion is delusional but persuasive; ( More recently, I would think they are con men out to make money from vulnerable believers). Over valued religious ideas, such as rituals and ways to achieve going to an afterlife,  that are unchallengeable because of cultural brainwashing or emotional blackmail or emotional issues such as fear, should , in my view, be called relusions to distinguish them from ignorance or actual delusions like believing you are Jesus, god or a messiah.

  11. Changing definitions or terminologies will not solve the religiosity of the world. The problem is entirely systemic. Global systems are based on the spiritually emotional thought processes of the the human animal. The thought process of animals, including humanity, are a culmination of various sensory inputs that are emotionally interpreted by the animal brain for immediate reaction to factual data. Without these thought processes most animal species would not survive.

  12. I’m not sold on the idea that faith is a sickness. Yes, it makes great copy and perhaps it has valuable, persuasive power.  But if we call faith a sickness it seems to me that gullibility and aloofness, just to name two traits, could also be called sickness. I don’t think anyone would call the latter sicknesses. Furthermore, children can exhibit what could be called a transient  fantasy-like perspective of reality.  Are they sick?   

    Perhaps faith is better termed a syndrome: a group of symptoms rather than an established condition. I really don’t know. I haven’t thought too much about this but for whatever reason I read this headline and thought I’d throw these first ideas of mine out to the forum for your thoughts.

    Whatever we want to term it, it needs to be accurate if we want to get respected mileage on the claim.


  13. Sorry for the disjointed post but, I’m having difficulty using iPhone for typing. 

    Animal thought process is not conducive to recording reality. It is purely an emotional interpretation of it’s observed environment. Hence, religion. Even our history books were often written through misguided emotional recollections. Religion has served humanity well but, as we all know, it is not a true depiction of reality. 

    The largest problem with the emotional reality of religions and the human mind is that they are used globally by governments and industry to manipulate and enslave the masses for personal power and profit.

    Here is where the system needs a great deal of change. Humanity should be moving toward a secular global democratic government that is “fully” accountable to the majority of the world population. All laws and governments, including present day democracy, are systemically formulated to protect the survival and wealth of the few. That is the reason why Constantine invented Christ in the fourth century.

    The new global government and financial structure should reflect a system that supports human co-operation, equitable distribution of the worlds wealth and the advancement of science and technology that serves all humanity toward our species survival and immortality. Failing that, we can only hope that the human psyche evolves rapidly before we eventually destroy ourselves through greed, fear and stupidity.

  14. To cite the Soviet Union as the only example of misuse of psychiatry as a political tool strikes me as naive.

    Modern Media conglomerates are adept at using in-group / out-group psychology to label even mildly divergent political views as perverse – or even dangerous.

    Gulags are therefore not a fixed requirement for the supression of political debate that would require those in power to actually work for their parasitic living.

    In addition; to say that; “changing the [DSM] so that anyone believes in religion is mentally ill … [if you] define mental illness so the majority of people in the population are mentally ill you’ve made the term meaningless” is a fallacy.

    Why can’t the majority be mentally ill?

    Can the majority have influenza. Can the majority have food poisoning. Are their cases of mass suicide that indicate the majority within isolated groups suffered deadly mental illness – resulting in the ultimate demise of the Group.

    NOTE: all the above are rhetorical questions.


  15. paulstjohnsmith,

    Yes, when children are told things by adults that they trust, this is not a delusion by any definition.  However, when they grow up and have the capacity to consider different explanations for various things that they were told as a child, wouldn’t we find it strange if they refused to do so?  A delusion is a belief that a person holds onto with a monkey grip that is impossible to dislodge, even in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary.  Feelings of jealousy and dumb history lessons have nothing to do with it.

    Founders of religion are either con-artists, or delusional or both.

    I am stumped as to why you feel the need to use your word “relusions” (although I laughed at it above). At some point, reliance on rituals, and belief in an afterlife, that you  mentioned above, can result in behavior that we would view as seriously dysfunctional. We have just finished the month of Ramadan, where Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown.  Nothing to eat or drink during that time.  Remember how long the days are in summer.  People who truly believe that there is a heaven (and they are very specific in their description of this supposed place) and that Allah requires that they jeopardize their health to gain access to that afterlife, tend to get very angry and hostile when challenged with medical facts and reason.  How does this not fit the definition of “delusion” that I pasted above?  If it does fit that definition, then what’s wrong with changing DSM to reflect that? 

  16. Red Dog

    I never want to advocate any mistakes in any direction at all.  I brought up those other examples to point out the serious consequences of that DSM book being out of date to the point that it doesn’t reflect our current progressive values.  I don’t want to see any group suffer over those definitions and classifications but I don’t want something to be written in the DSM that is false and only included because we can’t bear to hurt the feelings of some or many people who may react in negative ways.

    Since I think you’re having some issue with the numbers here, just out of curiosity, what percentage would you say we Atheists need to be at here in the States, in order to say that belief in a cosmic dictator who knows what we’re thinking and punishes us, etc. is a delusion?  Would you feel better if we were at 25 percent?  How about 50 or even 75 percent?  Why would truth in definition of a word be based on these types of numbers?

    I wouldn’t want to upset your Mom at all.  I want you to make her happy.  That’s what I’m trying to do with my paternal side of the family. They are Bible literalist Baptists. My in-laws are Muslims.  They are all good people who dote on me.  What are nice Atheists like us to do? Changing that definition won’t affect them one iota.  It’s not like the new version of DSM will come out and then the next day 80 percent of America will be placed on antipsychotic meds you know. 🙂

  17. “It’s not like the new version of DSM will come out and then the next day 80 percent of America will be placed on antipsychotic meds you know”

    Yes, I know. The whole discussion is really just theoretical because there is no way in the world the DSM will be changed this way, not in my life time anyway. 

    Its not just a question of numbers at all its a question of what is reasonable to classify as a mental illness. You can’t just say that if someone believes kooky things then they are mentally ill. By that definition (ok I am back to numbers for a minute) almost everyone would be mentally ill in some way. There isn’t just religion, there is homeopathy, UFOs, astrology,  9/11 conspiracies, climate change deniers, etc. I’m sure there are some atheists on this site who believe in some of those things. 

    The way you convince people these things are wrong is by education and reason not by mandating things via the mental health code. 

    So to answer your question its not an issue of numbers its an issue of asking does that person’s delusions interfere with a normal healthy life? Come to think of it I’m almost talking myself into agreeing with you in some sense. I wouldn’t want to see DSM changed so that anyone who believes in religion is mentally ill but I could definitely see adding one or more categories for specific maladaptive behaviors associated with religion. For example, I don’t know if you’ve read about this sick, sick guy who publishes a book essentially instructing Christian parents how to torture their children (beat them with plumbing materials or something) because its justified in the bible. That guy is definitely mentally ill as are the people who follow him. There was one couple that starved and beat an adopted child to death.  The thing is I would bet that there is already some category in DSM to cover such people but if there isn’t then I agree there should be. But that is quite different than saying everyone who believes in religion is mentally ill. I don’t think I would ever be OK with that regardless of the numbers anymore than I would be OK with saying people are mentally ill if they don’t believe in democracy or if they think the earth is flat. 

  18. “To cite the Soviet Union as the only example of misuse of psychiatry as a political tool strikes me as naive”

    I agree completely.  Sorry, I didn’t at all mean my list to be exhaustive, I was just giving examples and also I felt that the Soviets were an example everyone would agree with, without controversy, but I agree by no means were they the only ones to do that. 

    “Why can’t the majority be mentally ill?”

    If you want to talk about philosophy or psychology in an abstract sense then sure the majority can be classified as mentally ill. But if you want to provide a practical tool for mental health practitioners to use to treat people with mental illness then if your book classifies the majority of the population as mentally ill its going to be pretty useless. See my previous comment though ultimately its not about numbers but about maladaptive behavior. 

    In fact when it comes to the way mental health is actually practiced religion actually plays a major part in most substance abuse programs. And from what I’ve seen (although I haven’t really looked at this stuff in a long time but from what I remember when I worked at a psych hospital a long time ago) the statistics were pretty convincing that acceptance of a “higher power” and coordination of the substance abuse program with religious support was more effective for many patients than programs that don’t use a “higher power”.

  19. There isn’t just religion, there is homeopathy, UFOs, astrology,  9/11 conspiracies, climate change deniers, etc.

    …republicans, libertarians, etc.

  20. As I have mentioned above the falsity or falseness of a belief is not in itself what makes it delusional. Delusions are fixed beliefs that are idiosyncratic, for the main part, and acquired by means and processes that are seen to be bizarre even by the persons own culture or group. The person  with delusions is often identifiably ill  and suffering with other, symptoms such as  hallucinations, and others diagnostic of mania or depression (and frequently also subsequent to  drug abuse). 
    Odd cultural beliefs, that are learnt and held onto by otherwise well and functioning adults for some emotional or personality based  or intrinsic psychological or social reason, do not fit the diagnostic bill. Admittedly it is sometimes hard to tell!!!As yet there are no 100% sensitive or 100% specific tests for delusions such as blood tests,MRI scans or whatever. Identifying opponents politically and calling them deluded is a separate pejorative or ad hominem use of the word delusion(al). Equivocating or switch referencing the word delusion from illness into religion in this  debate, confuses more than it explains. That is why I made up the word “Relusion”.  

  21. A big error in logic here.  It is of the form  All apples are fruit……..therefore all fruit are apples.
    Dr Boghossian has observed that those not believing in global warming are all be people faith.  But that doesn’t mean all people of faith don’t believe in global warming!  MILLIONS of people of faith are very concerned with the environment.  Christians call it being good stewards of the planet.His premise is not actually true, though.  Aren’t there many industrialists who don’t believe in global warming?  There is nothing to equate industrialists with being people of faith.  So not all people who are deluded into thinking there is no global warming problem  are people of faith.

    The same is true on his conclusions on gay marriage.  Many people against gay marriage are people of faith, true.  But almost half the people in mainline churches are in favor of gay marriage. It is a gross error to state that all people of faith are against gay marriage!

    You wouldn’t think a professor of philosophy would make such obvious errors in basic logic. I fear his hatred is clouding his judgement. What is more worrisome, is how misguided arguments such as these can still gain a following.  That would probably be a question for the sociologists or psychologists to wrestle with.

  22. Having scanned the comments here, I didn’t see any mention of OCD. I wouldn’t necessarily call the religious delusional. I figure delusion is, in more formal terms, a symptom of psychosis rather than of a personality disorder. It strikes me that any truly interesting individual has a personality disorder of some kind. I wouldn’t put stock in any neurotypical benchmark.

    Of course, there are some obvious thresholds that separate motivated reasonable folks from monomaniacs, but at the same time there are mitigating factors.

    Me to a religionaut: “My disorder is more fun than yours, so NYAAAH!”

  23. I sympathise.

    My Mother is a Priest, and clearly gains much social benefit from her church.

    We have reached a tacit agreement: We won’t discuss religion.

    My Mother is the main reason I use a pen name here.

    Therein lies the problem. My Mother’s insistence that she be allowed to live a lie forces me to do the same.

    The fact that I love my Mother, and can therefore live with cognitive dissonance, does not alter the fact that my Mother may be suffering delusions to the extent that – all other things being equal – that may qualify her as mentally ill.

    I think it may be a part of that old problem: special consideration given to religion.


  24. The DSM is surely not abstract, but a practical guide?

    My comments were written with that in mind. Just as a manual of infections will describe the symptoms that classify influenza, so the DSM describes delusions – giving a free pass to religious delusions.

    Removing the exception for religion would make the DSM incredibly useful. It would immediately highlight a previously hidden epidemic.

    While it is true that thinking about a higher power has very positive effects in substance abuse cases that need not be a religious dimension. Marcus Brigstocke, the British comedian, talks candidly about this very subject and is well worth looking up.


  25. Sickness, mental illness etc don’t fit the condition; it seems more akin to anorexia, a self- induced mania that contradicts reality via the sufferer’s perception. Despite apparent (to the sane observer) evidence that the anorexic is skeletal and not fat, this fact is invisible to the ‘victim’. Much the same for the religious. 
    The psychiatric profession is having difficulty defining religious mania it seems.

  26. I have always felt Christ was merely a clean-up job to make his revolting father less so! Which is why christians don’t like to mention ‘god’, preferring the ‘saviour’ Jesus…

  27. Religious content to mania or indeed OCD, schizophrenia or depressive disorders is qualitatively and or quantatively different from normally functioning people with religious beliefs. Like heights or weights, the presence of which in themselves are not axiomatically illnesses,  Beliefs (Delusions) must have other dimensions to them (other than their falsity or your opposition to them) in order to be regarded as illness.

  28. Just through reading the comments in this thread I am convinced that all human mental thought processes are purely emotional and solely dependent on the individual interpretation of personal observation, not reality. These emotions are ingrained  into our species DNA at birth and serve to promote the survival of the individual and the species. They also promote the curiosity of the species to seek the truth and purpose behind its existence. However, the more emotional the interpretation, the more impaired that interpretation will be in finding truth. Nature is full of paradox and we have to train our minds to separate emotion from fact; a very difficult thing to do for any species.

    Humanity relies heavily on labeling observances of nature to promote better understanding by others of our personal interpretation of these observances. The truth is that all humans are delusional and will remain so until our species psychologically  evolves toward total enlightenment. I interpret the label “enlightenment” as the awareness of natures psychological and physical functionality within the universe.

    The bottom line is that humanity will always represent factual data through a singular emotional interpretation until the human psyche evolves into total awareness of nature and the universe through science. Until then, let’s accept the universe for what it is and not get bogged down in labels. The universe is evolving just as humanity is evolving and labels will change along with our evolution.

  29.  Surely atheists and FREEthinkers should be the last people to attempt forcefeeding of philosophies on others.  I too doubt the existence of god, but I don’t begrudge others the right to their own opinions.  That’s what the godists do to us.  We should not sink to their level, but gently try to bring them up to ours.

  30.  I don’t think global government is going to happen soon.  First you have to get rid of religion and all the other trappings of nation states.  That will be an uphill battle, as people are frequently rather found of their governments, or they’d throw them off & install something new, but not necessarily better.  Look at the Cuban Revolution in the 20th century, and our own recent Arab Spring.

  31.  I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but I fail to see how religious belief is delusional in that sense.  As I said above, I don’t believe god exists, but others may have what they believe to be valid reasons for feeling he/she/it does.

  32. Well said. Also, I don’t agree that everyone who is a global warming denier is religious. Most are but not all. I remember at least one denier who was an atheist commenting here a long time ago and I’ve met at least one Libertarian Ayn Rand type person in the real world who is an atheist and a denier. Its rare but they are out there. 

  33. Barbara Necker,
    No one is trying to “forcefeed” any one here. There are many people in our society who have wacky or disagreeable thoughts. Others have behaviors that are strange and puzzling to us.  Everyone like this does not get herded into the mental health system against their wills. If someone has thoughts or behaviors that deviate from the norm to some extent, but they are functioning in an acceptable way in society then what in the world is the problem there?  These are not the people that the mental health profession deals with.  They are not on our radar!

    The people who are engaged in the mental health system are there because they have dysfunctional thought processes or any number of issues that are interfering with their daily lives.  The question that is asked of someone who might or might not need the help of  a therapists is – Is this issue interfering with your daily living?  Are your friends and family suffering in any way due to your issue?  If the answer to these questions is yes, then it’s time to get help.  These are the people that we are talking about here.  Not someone’s nice Grammy the devout Catholic and not my poor widowed, spiritual friend who assures me that she’s in communication with her dead husband.  These people are delusional but harmless.

    Not everyone is so benign in their religious delusion though, are they? There is no shortage of people in this world who have harmed others  all because they are under the effects of a severe form of indoctrination.  They hold and ferociously defend a collection of thoughts and the behaviors that go with the thoughts and refuse to make adjustment to these beliefs, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.  What I have just described here is a delusion.  It is cognitive impairment as our video above has reported.  There is no controversy in the profession on this!  The only thing we are considering is whether or not to change one line in the DSM to reflect the truth.  The definitions and guidelines in the diagnostic manual are a very serious matter. Often people need an official, proper diagnosis in order to get insurance companies to pay for therapy.  We need correct diagnoses to get the right meds if that is called for.  And in most cases, the patient and the family and friends all feel relieved when they know what it is that they are dealing with and how they can make accommodations for that patient.  

    Now here in America we have no shortage of people who are making all sorts of trouble because they are laboring under a severe case of religious delusion.  Not all of them need help, but some of them certainly do. If they are a danger to themselves or to others we have the right to restrict their movements in society.  The court has the right to place these people in an institutional setting and force them to receive therapy and that might include medication.

    I find it strange that there is an implication of cruelty on my part just because I want this ambiguous definition to be clarified.  I want to point out that when people who have psychological issues that are serious enough to warrant professional help, the consequences are harsh when they don’t get it.  People fall through the cracks in the system and go on to live their lives in a state of dysfunctional misery which then extends out to their whole family and social network if they have one.  If things get bad enough,  the general public could be adversely affected.  This to me is really the most tragic cruelty of all.

  34. Opinions are emotional and, like sphincters, almost everyone has one. But, they are just opinions not fact. Once science proves an opinion to be true, then it becomes fact. Unlike religion where opinion trumps reality.

  35. You must realize that 90% of humanity does not live in a democracy or, are unlucky enough to live in a democracy where slavery is still pretty much the norm, India eg. Even in America, where we get to elect our dictator every four years, we are blessed from time to time with a George Bush. Yet we do not assemble en-mass to rid our societies of such failures.
    Like the growing population, food shortages and climate chamge, nothing can be resolved overnight. But, we have to move toward global government or severely compromise humanities survival in the universe. Now would be a good time to start.

  36. If they are valid reasons, they should be factual, not opinionated. Otherwise, they may not be factual or valid and therefore, delusional.

  37. Off course it helps. You are just placating one substance abuse with another abuse, the empty promises of religious belief. We are, after all, social animals. Mental health is important but, not at the expense of denying the truth. It may be therapeutic to be delusional but, one cannot exist in a delusion interminably .

  38.  Its interesting how this site is supposed to be devoted to reason and critical thinking yet so many people are dogmatic, absolutely sure of their beliefs, and ready to classify people as mentally ill who don’t agree with them.

    On the subject of substance abuse and religion its something I’ve given a fair amount of thought but unlike you I haven’t any conclusions. As I said I haven’t worked in mental health in a very long time but when I did it was undeniable that belief in a higher power definitely played a role in helping a lot of people get off and stay off their addiction. And its easy to be smug and just call them still deluded but when you see the incredible misery that substance abuse can cause, the incredible difficulty staying clean is, and the way people can turn their lives around once they are clean its not so simple. I remember having a long discussion with a fellow atheist (well he was more of an agnostic) who was a social worker about the topic. He told me that it didn’t matter to him that there was no God, he just wanted to use what worked and from his experience (he had been doing it a lot longer than I had) it was clear that the higher power/God stuff was an important part of the program and worked.

    I certainly don’t believe in God but I’m not so sure about the higher power stuff. There might be some interpretation of it, for example a simple awe at the incredible wonder of the universe, that I could live with.  I also think that once we have a better scientific understanding of religion and human psychology we might find that some type of concept like that is useful for mental health.

  39. You said :”No one is trying to ‘force-feed’ anyone here.”
    Perhaps you should listen to Dr. Boghossian again.  He called for treating faith “like a public health crisis.”  Referring to faith as a “mind toxin” he said that “churches need to be detoxed.”  If that wasn’t enough, he said people of faith “need treatment” and called for “intervention to separate people from their faith.”

    I don’t know about you, but I think that might be referred to as force-feeding.

  40. Agarnier-
    I suppose you are trying to sound profound by referring to the president as a “dictator”, but I don’t think President Obama feels much like a dictator as he fights for his political life.  Just how much has he been able to dictate through Congress?
    Speaking of delusions, what in the world makes you think a global government is the answer to all our problems?  If you think politicians can’t get national governments right, how are they going to manage a global government where the problems would be magnified many times over?  One of the great observations of all time regarding government is “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” A single global government would be a terrible thing.

  41. LaurieB-You said :”No one is trying to ‘force-feed’ anyone here.”
    Perhaps you should listen to Dr. Boghossian again.  He called for treating faith “like a public health crisis.”  Referring to faith as a “mind toxin” he said that “churches need to be detoxed.”  If that wasn’t enough, he said people of faith “need treatment” and called for “intervention to separate people from their faith.”I don’t know about you, but I think that might be referred to as force-feeding.


  42. You seem to have taken my profound statement even deeper. You have emotionally interpreted my distain for all leadership as a personal slur toward Obama, whom I did not mention. I happen to like Obama as a leader. We agree on the equitable distribution of wealth, that cooperation is the key to a more productive society, that educational, social and health benefits should be equally accessible to all citizens, etc.
    I am hoping that Obama, in his next term, will take the lead in promoting a more global cooperation toward human survival in the universe. Power may corrupt but, corruption prevails only where good men do nothing. World leaders need to serve the majority and to be held more accountable for their political opinions and decisions. Their function is to insure decent living conditions, to provide equal opportunity for personal success to all citizens and to promote the continued survival of humanity throughout the universe.

  43. RedDog, 
    I probably do come across as being dogmatic and I am relatively sure of my beliefs. My intent is not to be combative but, I try to base my opinions and beliefs on proven scientific fact;  apparently, without much tact. Everyone has their personal beliefs but, there is only one truth, one factual reality. If any of my beliefs can be shown to be scientifically unsound, I will cease to believe in them immediately and accept reality.

    I am not trying to make light of mental illness, I am a victim of the disease myself. I believe that most, if not all of humanity, are clinging to sanity by their finger tips. Nature has encoded human emotions into our species DNA for the purpose of interpreting our environment for reproduction and survival. These emotions can also serve to create great distress and confusion in the human psyche if not properly maintained through a healthy physical and mental workout. Some unfortunately, may suffer further  distress through physical injury or genetic defect. 

    We are social animals and require a strong social connection to maintain our sense of self worth. Humanity could not possibly survive without social networking. Social stress is the largest cause of depression, which in turn causes addiction, self loathing and social withdrawal. It is now believed that one in five people suffer some form of depression in their lifetime. Research into mental  health should be heavily promoted and funded until we find a cure for the human condition. To avoid depression we need to balance our mental state with the rigors of evolving reality through control of our emotions. Maybe there will be a pill or procedure to correct these chemical imbalances in the human brain some day.

  44. Agarner-
    Wow, you missed diagnosed that one!  I’m not emotionally tied to the President.  I merely mentioned his name because he happens to be the current president.  One might suggest though that referring to US presidents as “dictators” and how we should have over thrown George Bush is emotionally charged thinking.

    You say you have a “disdain for all leadership.”  Why then do you have such a high view of an imagined world leader?  What you say about a world leader  serving the majority, being accountable, etc., is the same thing that could be written about national leaders.  You have a hope for a better future, but I’ll offer you a 100% money back guarantee that if we did have a global leader as you suggest, then you would have a disdain for that person just as you do now.

  45. You must be Republican (emotional context). You selectively choose excerpts from statements out of context with it’s general theme and emotionally promote them as an attack against your personal beliefs. I never commented that you were emotionally tied to the president. My disdain for leadership stems from the belief that power corrupts.

    Present day systems promote leadership from the top down and make it difficult to serve the immediate requirements of the public at large. The fewer people making important decisions, the more likely that the needs of the majority will not be addressed. Leadership should be constantly monitored and controlled by the majority of the populace. With the inception of computer social networking the concept of holding leaders accountable to the majority, and not just the wealthy few, is now becoming a global reality.

  46. I firmly believe that humanity has not evolved emotionally or psychologically to a point of understanding natures true purpose. Reduced to its simple form, nature insists only that a species or infividual entity strive endlessly toward survival. The present day reality is that nature provides the opportunity for immortality only to the species and not the individual.

  47. The individual (not infividual) entity needs to succumb to humanity’s intrinsic altruistic values and become a functional part of the struggle for the species immortality. Until we become one with nature and realize our true function in the universe, the human psyche will be constantly out of sync with natures purpose. In this respect most, if not all of humanity are suffering from mental illness.

  48. OtherDon,

    Faith = mind toxin

    Churches need to be detoxed

    People of faith need treatment

    Intervention to separate people from their faith

    Faith = public health crisis

     Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall that he gave any specific details in the video about how these goals are to be accomplished.  I’ve already stated above that I agree with him on the assertion that faith is a cognitive impairment. 

    Churches need to be detoxed – I don’t know what he has in mind for this but I stated in my first comment here (sorry there are no comment numbers) that I want religious organizations here in the States to lose their tax free status. Also, let Priests, Pastors, Rabbis and Imams be held responsible for their illegal, imoral and harmful behavior and opinions just like everyone else is! And let’s expose the cruel, barbaric ideas that these devout religious people hold up to the light of day. If religious people really do believe that homosexuality is an abomination and that women are inferior to men and that animals are nothing more than resources for us to use at our convenience, and spare the rod spoil the child, then let them be confronted with these cruelties. Why should we shelter them from criticism?  They always feel free to criticize me for my liberal and progressive views. All of this is what I think of when I read the phrase “Churches need to be detoxed”. 

    People of faith need treatment –  I’ve already explained above that many people who are bumbling along through this life with their well loved delusions of one sort or another, will never end up in treatment for it. Nor should they if their ideas are benign and just silly overall.  The “treatment” that these people need is for those family and friends around them to not enable them in any way when these ideas are expressed. The other type of “treatment” that these people need is for a strong and rigorous public presentation of science as a foundation for decision making.  I want the Government to take a firm hand with this in every way that it can do so.  

    Intervention to separate people from their faith – I mean, come on, you don’t really think he wants to detain 80 percent of the general public for reprogramming, do you?  The changes that I support would probably have the result of separating people from their faith; tax the religious organizations, strong national science  education that refuses to allow mythology in the science classroom, prosecute religious leaders to the full extent of the law for violations, eliminate free passes in diagnosis of mental illness. And one strategy to separate people from their faith is for our public intellectuals to utilize the media and to write books to disseminate humanitarian values and scientific knowledge to the general public.  We don’t have to look very far here, et-hem, check the banner at the top of this page, to see that plenty of people are definitely being separated from their faith in this way!

    Faith = public health crisis- Have you noticed what the Religious Reactionary bunch are trying to accomplish here in the States?  If they ever do accomplish their goals of destroying our reproductive rights then you must admit that we would be plunged into a a very real public health crisis.  People have short memories and/or they are ignorant of the many deaths that happened when desperate women resorted to coat hanger abortions and died and bled out on the tables of ignorant quacks. Also, we have no shortage of health disasters brought on by the anti-vax bunch and the severely delusion parents who let their innocent children die painful deaths because those parents refuse to access medical treatment in lieu of prayers to their imaginary friend in the sky. 

    Seriously, is anything I’ve said here even remotely related to “force feeding”? 

  49. LaurieB,
    I do agree with your concept of government “force feeding” the general public in a rigorous education of proven scientific discovery. Knowledge is power and the more individuals who become empowered, the less chance remains for corruption to occur within the system. We tend to pick on religion because it has become the epitome of all corrupt systems within humanity.

  50. I agree with your other comments a lot but I do think a global government could be a good thing. Yes, there are dangers but to me its one more example of an evolution in humanity. Actually I recommend Steven Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature. Although there are some parts of that book I think are wrong he makes some good points about how humanity is evolving toward solving problems via negotiation rather than war and that is a good thing.

    I don’t expect a true world government any time soon, perhaps never, but I do think having more and more issues resolve in the UN rather than having countries go to war is definitely preferable. Also, I think its going to be a requirement if we want to solve things like global climate change. I think too many Americans are too brain washed in the holy free market and pseudoscience to really address the problem without pressure from the rest of the world in terms of economic sanctions. 

    And I will anticipate your objection that the UN is toothless and corrupt. Yes, it is. Its very much flawed but IMO it is stil better that we have such an imperfect organization, a place where things can be worked out rather than the alternative of having countries go to war with each other. Its kind of like Churchill said about democracy: its terrible except compared to the alternatives 

  51. If maladaptive behavior is a requirement for it to be a delusion, the faith virus still qualifies. As we must never tire of pointing out, we are looking at a potentially species-threatening event.

  52. There’s no such thing as “nature’s true purpose”. I think maybe you’ve caught the faith-virus.

  53. I would not call it faith, more like an educated guess. It is too slow a process for individuals, even generations to detect but, there is an underlying theme evolving around the intelligence of a species that can unlock the laws/secrets of nature and the ability of that species to survive beyond the constraints of its solar system. Call me religious but, there is enough evidence to correlate a purpose to the evolution of a species. There is purpose in the survival of a lifeform.

  54. If for no other purpose an intelligent species that could continue its existence in perpetuity would serve as recorder and historian for the evolution of the universe.

  55. That’s ridiculous. Do you actually know many religious people?  For most, virtually all of the religious people I know their faith is either neutral or it actually plays an important role in their lives. It provides them with a set of friends they can (mostly) trust, social gatherings to meet new people, comfort when they are in emotional distress.  Do I think that ultimately they would be better off without faith? Probably but to be honest I’m not sure. I don’t know enough about psychology and religion (from a scientific sense) to say for sure. 

    Perhaps there is something genetic that requires some people to believe in a higher power. Or I’ll even acknowledge (as does Dawkins) that there is a very small probability that I could be wrong and there is a God and I’m the one that is missing something.

    In any case to start trying to decide issues of science, philosophy, and religion by defining the people that don’t agree with me as mentally ill goes against everything I believe in, that people should be free to believe what they want as long as they don’t harm others and that we should change each others minds by rational discussion.

  56. “The individual (not infividual) entity needs to succumb to humanity’s intrinsic altruistic values and become a functional part of the struggle for the species immortality.”

    Why? You don’t provide any justification and that statement is not at all self evident to me, not by a long shot.

    Not only that but its dangerous. You could, in fact people have, justified all sorts of oppression with an argument like that. For example:

    Soviet Union: Citizen you are standing in the way of the people’s revolution (which is required to further altruistic values and the immortality of the species) so you must be sent to re-education camp. 

    Nazis: Jews are genetically inferior (unable to succumb to intrinsic altruistic values) and must be exterminated in order for humanity to progress (struggle for the species immortality)

  57. This whole “religion is a mental illness” argument is fundamentally flawed. From the stand point of the religious they could easily say the same about atheists. They have said the same. Imagine if when you went to a therapist the first thing she did was ask you if you were an atheist and if you said yes she said you had to convert to a religion in order to get treatment.

    Imagine the opposite. Religion is considered a mental illness and the first thing a therapist tells a patient, someone who may be coming with substance abuse, or schizophrenia, or trauma from assault or rape, imagine the therapist first tells them they have to give up their faith. Its absurd. 

  58. We should try to keep our rebuttles within the realm of reality and common sense. I am sure that people could justify all sorts of oppression with an argument that grass is green.
    But, any leadership of a society that is involved in democratic altruistic values would defy those values by suggesting any oppression against its citizens and, at this stage of human evolution, such a society would not tolerate such oppression.

    In simpler terms humanity has evolved technologically within the capability of space travel. At the present rate, the human population will be over ten billion within fifty years. Food production is not expanding fast enough to provide adequate supplies for the expanding population. We are polluting the planet with high levels of toxic waste. If we cannot find a way for humanity to cooperate and explore new horizons the survival of the species looks bleak at best. We will most likely be extinct long before our sun novas. What a pitiful waste of a marvelous experiment in nature and evolution. Life will go on as usual in the universe. We just won’t be here to enjoy and record natures wonders.

  59. To be clear, by species-threatening event I meant global warming. The religious and
    the AGW-deniers (which are exceedingly often one and the same) suffer from the
    same cognitive dissonance, which causes them to confuse what they want to be
    true with what is actually true. The delusion is that faith, or introspection
    or whatever, is a valid method to discern facts about reality. The danger comes
    from unreliable processes of reasoning, not religion in and of itself, but when
    everyone use reliable processes of reasoning to come to their conclusions about
    reality (and this must be our goal), it will no longer be possible for religion
    to exist.

  60. Red Dog,
    Finally we agree on something. Everyone should have the choice to believe in whatever they wish as long as those beliefs do not disadvantage the basic human rights of the faithful & others.  Those basic human rights should be revisited, updated and applied to all citizens of the world under UN global sanction. Any religion or government failing to abide by these basic human rights would be investigated by a UN tribunal and visited by UN peace keeping forces if necessary.  I am always open to rational discussion.

    I also agree that people should not be expected to give up their faith on the basis of insanity, or any basis for that matter. Maybe all global religions should be relabeled as non-profit organizations offering social rehabilitation.

  61. A Note to Agarnier-
    You really should stop attempting to tell people they are emotionally this or that.  First, it is very condescending (You know what is going on in someone’s head better than they do, after only reading a few sentences they typed online).  Second, it hurts your credibility when you are wrong, as you have been today.

    It isn’t even needed.  Just say what you want to say and leave out the amateur analysis.

  62. If the process is too slow to detect, how do you know about it? I think you should present your evidence to someone who knows about these things, and if it turns out that most experts in biology and other generally smart people remain unconvinced, you should at least consider revising your firm belief. We all need to try hard and resist the faith-virus.

  63. OrherDon
    You are 100% correct. I should not be condescending and I am generally more emotional than most. I should be looking for points that are agreeable to both our points of view, otherwise I should withdraw from the conversation. As I said before, I may rely on fact but, I’m short on tact.
    The point I was trying to put forward for your consideration was that emotions make up a huge portion of the human thought process. Even highly astute individuals may have difficulty recalling some details of events that happened in their presence. People only relate what they personally experienced and may not encompass all of the details of the particular event. When unsure of particular details, people either interject their emotional belief of what transpired plus any details observed at the scene after the incident or, admit that they are not sure. Two people observing the same event may describe it differently. Eye witness testimony may not be reliable in a lot of cases.

  64. Do you really think that mixing religious arguments with global warming denying will help?  Yes, a lot of people who don’t believe in climate change are also religious. Are they going to be more or less likely to believe in climate change if you start linking it with being an atheist? 

    Many religious people also believe in global warming. There is no reason to conflate the two. There is a mountain of scientific evidence supporting global warming. That is what we should focus on. 

    In fact linking the two, saying that not only do people need to believe in global warming but they also need to abandon their religion plays right into the hands of the most extreme paranoid deniers who see global warming as a conspiracy developed by atheist scientist. 

  65. The general accepted theory of our evolution begins with the big bang about 13 billions years ago. Our solar system was formed about 4 billion years ago and the earth cooled from a spinning ball of burning gas into the mantled earth we know today consisting of water, air and lifeforms. Noticeable changes in physical & psychological human traits happen over hundreds, even thousands of years of evolution. So, I would have to say, that is a relatively long period of time. Would you agree or disagree?

  66. I always thought liberals were known for being against prejudice.  It appears though that when you evolve into a progressive liberal that judging people based on labels is perfectly fine!   Well, as long as you can put it in terms of mental health, that is.

    Where was all this talk of dangerously delusional people when Martin Luther King and many other clergy (of all races) led the fight for civil rights?  Did the poor, sick and dying of India think Mother Theresa was a public health menace?  Many Christians were leaders of the anti-war movements of every era.  Nobody but the pro-war people thought they were delusional.  When friends of mine go in to do prison ministry the inmates they work with think of them as saints, not psychopaths.  In many cities the first hospitals were founded by Christians.  Were they public health menaces then?

    Folks, you are taking the worst examples of what some people of faith have done and broadly painting everyone of faith with the same brush.  I am part of one of the more liberal denominations and live in one of its most liberal regions of the country.  The folks here would find this dumb stuff the very radical right have done to be horrendous.  They would want nothing to do with them!   So all of your arguments of Christians don’t believe in global warming so they are dangerously delusional just don’t hold up.  My regional church body is solidly behind gay marriage, too.   So they aren’t dangerous there, either.  Pro-choice, too, sorry to disappoint you.

    Christians have done dumb stuff.  Americans have done dumb stuff.  College educated people have done dumb stuff.  People who haven’t graduated high school have done dumb stuff.  You can’t paint everybody of a certain label with the same brush!  This is prejudice (pre-judging people) plain and simple.

    And this delusion talk.  My goodness.  Untold millions of people have been touched by faith in God.  You haven’t.  That doesn’t mean because you haven’t experienced what these untold millions of people have experienced that they are all delusional.  

    You probably are not aware that many Christians see the creation narrative as a parable.  A story that tells a spiritual truth.  We don’t all resist science, but see science as telling us more about the complex universe God created (over billions of years).  Science is also necessary to learn how to be better stewards of the planet.  The narrative by the way is only the first 3-4 pages in the Bible which is well over a 1,000 pages.  It was written to a people thousands of years before people ever heard of microorganisms, the world was still flat, the sun was a thing is the sky that gave us heat and hid at night.  The people had been slaves for 400 years so there was no education.  There weren’t even words for most of the things in science we all take for granted, like “solar system”.  God spoke to these people in a short story.  Lot’s of Christians understand that.  We aren’t all subject to delusions there.  

    I am really saddened at all this prejudice held by supposedly enlightened people.


  67.  I have never had the misfortune to have been indoctrinated with any religion, and have spent 62 years as a completely faith-free human.  I have spent most of those years trying to understand what makes religious people tick, since they have had a huge effect on my life, my education, my societies (in 3 countries), my marriage, my solely heterosexual relationships, my friendships, my social standing, my recreation. my career, my politics, etc.

    I have spent countless hours reading, listening to & viewing different points of view, including ‘the’ bible & ‘the’ quoran.  My understanding of this universe, science, physics, geology, biology, life, evolution, philosophy, etc has greatly expanded my comprehension of what reality is, and generally how we got to where humanity is now.

    I recently read 2 books – available from RDFRS – by Dr Darrel Ray, that have shown me ways to view religion and faith that I had not really seen before.  I recommend these to you, and anyone else who believes in any kind of god, as ways to understand why “progressive liberal” non-theists may come across as “prejudiced” towards those who profess Faith in any creator deity.

    The books – ‘The God Virus’ and ‘Sex & God’ very clearly discuss how religions have developed and evolved to infect humans – for the benefit of the religions, and not often to the benefit of those infected.

    Different people have different definitions of faith, and some are more infected than others, while still being carriers and vectors for these dangerous mind-altering plagues.

    Your local version of Christianity may not follow some of the dictates of your strain of the faith virus, because your group has developed new ways of interpreting the ‘Revealed Word’ that go against some of the written requirements of your God.

    You say “It appears though that when you evolve into a progressive liberal that judging people based on labels is perfectly fine!”   It appears to me that religious people do that all the time, and that prejudice is a basic requirement for members of all the various faiths.

    This Post is called ‘Faith is a Cognitive Sickness’, and that can be seen as being infected by a virus, or delusional, ‘relusional’ (per paulstjohnsmith above), dysfunctional, indoctrinated, mentally damaged, blinkered, imprisoned by fear & guilt & shame, etc.

    I hope you, and others, will have the open-mindedness to read books like this, to see where these beliefs come from – and who they actually benefit – so you can understand why some anti-theists try to help you, or at least stop you from infecting us and trying to control us against our will, and against our best interests….


  68. People  can always find books and articles that say what they want to hear.  Libraries are full of books that say different things.

    For several years I have focused on reading material supporting a naturalist’s (Non-God) viewpoint.  That is why I read this article called “Faith as a Cognitive Sickness”.  I’ll add the virus book to my list.  It’s hard to read everything and still have a family and work life.  I subscribed to a Socialist newspaper once in college to see how  they thought and landed up on an FBI list.I’ve read a couple of Dawkins’ books and have been amazed at how weak his arguments were.  My favorite was when he used the fact that sand will form wave patterns on the bottom of a lake as signs that non-living molecules could self-organize to form life.    

    BTW- When it is pointed out that you are exhibiting a prejudice…….”Oh yea, well you people were prejudice first” is not a very progressive, more highly evolved response.   

  69. MacAthiest,
    Well said fellow countryman and, without predjudice. Let’s save humanity through peaceful enlightenment. Next stop, habitating the universe.

  70. But I’m not mixing religious arguments with global warming. I’m not saying anyone should belive anything particular or need to abandon anything particular. I’m saying  everyone should use processes of reasoning that is most likely to align their beliefs about the world with the actual facts about the world.

    Listen,unreliable processes of reasoning are very dangerous. Do you not agree? It’s the reason some people want to deny women the right to abortion and contraceptives and education and driver licenses. It’s the reason some people want to kill other people for abandoning their faith. It’s the reason some people want to deny gay people the right to marry, or even the right to live. It’s the reason some people spend fortunes on herbal remedies for cancer. And it’s the reason some people deny the fact of global warming.

    If we want to survive and thrive, it’s extremely important that a majority of us uses reliable processes of reasoning when we form our beliefs about reality. Yes, there are mountains of evidence supporting global warming, but that won’t help us with the people who don’t value the scientific method.

    Now, as it happens, faith-based reasoning is highly unreliable. We need to stop using it. Then religion will probably go away, and that’s a good thing, but this isn’t about religion; it’s about what makes religion and AGW-denial and other crazy beliefs possible.

  71. Evolution begins with the first life forms, not the big bang, but I’ll agree with the rest, for the sake of your argument.

  72. And this delusion talk. My goodness. Untold millions of people have been touched
    by faith in God.  You haven’t.  That doesn’t mean because you haven’t experienced what these untold millions of people have experienced that they are all delusional. 

    This is straightforward. My dictionary defines delusion as “a fixed, false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact”.  Belief in god is a fixed, false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact. So belief in god is a delusion. Personal emotional experience is NOT a reliable guide to facts about external reality. This has been proven.

  73. OtherDon,
    As a passing point of interest, how did you interpret Dawkins’ correlation between wave patterns in sand and the formation of life? Did you understand the concept of comparing one observation in nature with those that are not so easily observed or, did you just dismiss it as mystic mumbo jumbo?
    The predjudice of religion is still killing people globally as I type this message. That’s bad! But, not all predjudice is bad. I am pointedly predjudiced against sickness and death and I personally believe it to be a good thing.

  74. So, I assume you do not agree that all matter in the universe evolves. We do not know precisely when life, as we know it began on earth so, how can you be sure when life began in the universe. Probably long before our solar system was formed I would wager.

  75. Life probably existed long before the observed period of our big bang. Some postulate the occurences of many big bangs throughout eternity.

  76. When individuals read a book it usually encompasses the purposes of self education or entertainment. I am pleased that you read and are well entertained but, if you do not make the effort to comprehend the content of the text it must be construed that it was entertaining and not informative.
    Some books are strictly for entertainment, such as fairy tales, some picture books, some children’s books and, off course, religious doctrine.

  77. Perhaps I misunderstood you. I started into this discussion because people said that the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of mental disorders) should be revised so that anyone who is religious is considered mentally ill. As someone who has both worked in the mental health field, has a loved one who has mental illness, and has seen a shrink a few times myself I think that is a ridiculous idea. 

    If you are just saying that faith is bad, irrational, etc. then of course I agree with you. 

  78. If you want to talk about the universe evolving, I guess that’s okay, as long as you realize it’s not the same thing as the Theory of Evolution, which is about life. There could be a series of big bangs, but I don’t know if it makes sense to say they happened “before” or “after”our big bang; they exist in seperate timelines. There could be life in the universe before earth, but that’s just speculation on your part.

  79. LaurieB, not sure if you are still following this but I wanted to mention one point to see what your response is. As I thought more about the issue: should the DSM be revised so that all religious people are considered mentally ill an argument occurred to me that I wish I had used in the first place.

    Imagine what this would mean in practice. As I said I always like to deal in specifics. My adopted daughter came from a very conservative Jewish family and environment. One of her friends had severe problems with anorexia, she had to be hospitalized and it was so bad it was life threatening. Now imagine if this girl had gone to a therapist for help and the therapist asked her “so are you religious?” “Oh you are? and not just religious you have irrational views that won’t let you turn lights on or off on the Sabbath? Well yes, I can treat your Anorexia but we also have to cure you of your irrational Fundamentalist Judaism as well” 

    Her parents were skeptical of the mental health system as it was, can you imagine their reaction to this? Now generalize this, people go in for help with OCD, Substance abuse, Bipolar disorder, thoughts of suicide,… and are told that their faith is also a mental illness. As I said in an earlier comment the whole idea is absurd. 

  80. “If you want to talk about the universe evolving, I guess that’s okay”

    I don’t agree.  When we say species evolve it has a distinct meaning different from just saying they change. They evolve to be better adapted to their environment which gives the appearance of design.  There is nothing similar for matter or the universe in general. That is what makes life and Darwin’s theory so amazing, he was able to explain the appearance of design without invoking a designer. The universe in general just changes its really a misuse of the term to say it evolves. 

  81. I understand your concern about not wanting to spread the expansion of our knowledge to a point that does not aid our present predicament; and any theory, based scientifically or not, is just speculation. However, speculations based on science are more apt to be correct.
    I propose for your consideration that during the same timeline of our big bang, other solar systems are in existance or, once existed in our universe. If this is a distinct possibility, then other solar systems may now, or may have once contained life. The fact that we are here strongly supports this theory. If you are in agreement with this theory you will agree, the possibility exists that other life forms are inhabiting other solar systems. They may have been around long before we arrived and may still exist.

  82. Red Dog

    Yes, I’m still following.  

    Right, I can see that you’re worried about what this change would mean in practice and I think you are worried that our moderately religious population would suffer discrimination because of it. Do I have that right? I’m not as enamored of “specifics” as you are but I think you mean well and are honestly concerned about the consequences of such a change in our definition.

    You gave an example of someone who accesses therapy because of a very serious problem and the fact that the therapist inquired about the patient’s level of religiosity is unacceptable to you.  

    Ok, look, I hope there isn’t a therapist who is so downright blunt as to phrase anything in such a way as you put it above. 🙂
    But would you be willing to consider that anorexia is a very stubborn and dangerous issue which remains incompletely understood at this time and that a therapist might possibly come to the conclusion that if a young female is in a state of complete indoctrination in a religious sense, then maybe this is a person who will also hold onto other types of ideas too, in an rigid and defiant way.  I haven’t looked into this particular issue for quite a while, but the last time I read through the literature there was quite a serious suspicion of anorexic girls having mothers who are excessively controlling. If that girl came from a religion that seeks to control all aspects of her gender identity and sexuality and her family is piling on with extreme pressure on top of it, then of course this is very relevant information for a therapist!   I couldn’t help but think of that when you mentioned that she came out of a fundamentalist religious home.  As I said, I’m not up to date on this issue currently.  I’m just thinking that a patient’s level of religiosity is not irrelevant in a therapeutic setting.  However, that therapist in your example would no doubt collect all the relevant information on the case that he/she could and this goes without saying.  Anorexia is quite a complicated problem. 

    I should say here that my degree is in Psychology, but that is Experimental Psych, not Clinical Psych.  You would be better informed if someone from Clinical Psych comes on here.  Sometimes the two branches of Psych can be slightly out of joint on certain issues. This could explain why I may appear to be something of a hard-ass on matters of truth in definition and Statistical significance, etc.  Certainly my friends who are in Clinical Psych become quite exasperated with me when I point out to them that they are doing their patients no favors at all when they fail to align their therapeutic models with the empirically proven scientific truth from the fields of Evolutionary Biology, Anthropology and Psychology.  End of disclaimer. 🙂

    Ok, now if we can move back to a more general view of the system, your third paragraph lists off a number of issues that, if I understand your meaning, you think they should be dealt with in therapy but with no mention of religion coming into the picture. Do I have that right?

    I can’t think of how religion would interact with bipolar, but OCD-the whole ritual thing sounds pretty familiar doesn’t it? And suicide is absolutely intertwined with religion. What I think is a very interesting topic is the relationship between substance abuse therapy and religion.  This is a subject that deserves a thread here all unto itself.  Here is where we see very clearly a difference of opinion between many Clinical Psych people and the Experimental Psych bunch.  The program that we must both be thinking of is Alcoholics Anonymous.  This program has a heavy element of Theism built in.  I’ve had some dealings with the program as a support person and I have serious reservations about it. I am willing to look the other way on this because of several of what you call “specific cases” of people who are close to me.  

    However, there is no doubt that their statistics absolutely suck.  Now just personally, when it becomes apparent to me that a person or organization or an entity of any type has statistics that suck, I become extremely disappointed and downcast and I have a very hard time recovering from this sad state.  🙁  
    (The Experimental Psych bunch are especially prone to this particular affliction.)

    You asked me about what this change would mean in practice.  On a general basic level, It would mean very little to the great majority of the population.  If they have no contact with mental health practitioners and if they don’t read this thread on this website, then why would it occur to them that they’ve been insulted at all?  Even if they do perceive that I’ve insulted them, they have built in defense mechanisms that exist as a subroutine in their religion program that was installed in their brain.  This whole line of thinking will roll off them like water off a ducks back.  Don’t believe me?  Just read that post up above.  I rest my case.


  83. The word “evolve”must already have existed when Darwin came up with his theory. It means to develop gradually. Coincidentally, when I looked it up just now (at, I found this explanation: ” To undergo change and development, as the structures of the universe. ” But it has a very specific meaning in biology, of course.

  84. We know there’re trillions of solar systems in the universe, and some of them may even contain life. These are not novel ideas.

  85. Well off course! It has a very specific meaning in geology also. We are biological now but, where did the biological duplicating molecule evolve from? Maybe it evolved through a process similar to waves forming in sand at the bottom of lake? Remember, we all evolved from a burning spinning mass of matter and gases. Everything in the universe is evolving. Nothing is exactly the same as it was a second ago and, unless we get stuck in a repeating time loop, it will never be exactly the same again. We are all in this together and by “all” I mean the universe because, everything is effected by everything else.

  86. Darwin’s theory of evolution covered more than biology. It studied geology and environmental conditions as well.

  87. I was just elaborating on my speculation that life may exist on other planets!! I thought you had challenged that speculation in an earlier post.

  88. What is it about you that makes you constantly get things wrong?  I’m not reading for entertainment!!!!  For crying out loud.   It ain’t entertaining trying to get through a lot of this stuff.  Just because I disagreed with it doesn’t mean I didn’t understand it.  Fairy tales and picture books????  There you go with your condescending again.

    And about your war remark.  Most wars are about one people trying to dominate another, economics, power, and my people vs your people, along with a very healthy dose of “you killed my uncle, brother, father, so I’m going to kill you.  Religion is just a cover story.

    The weakness of the sand argument making waves on a rock included a variety of points not the least of which that it was a temporary condition wiped out by one real good strong wave.  Another is that is a unique situation creating one unique pattern.  For life to form there would need to be a number of molecules forming and the conditions to create them are mutually exclusive.  The conditions creating a lipid bi-layer (or other wall) are not the same as the conditions needed for nucleic acids, etc.   A huge problem with any attempt at doing experiments to see how life may have begun is they all take place in test tubes.  The world never was a perfect pristine test tube!  There would have always been other molecules getting in the way of what the scientist wanted to happen.  The other thing I love is with their theories they speak as if it is a manifest destiny that molecules want to duplicate themselves.  

    Fairy tales and picture books??????   I’m about done talking with you. 

  89. Oh everybody loves it when you can pull out a dictionary.  It is a false belief as far as you are concerned.  That doesn’t actually make it a false belief.  

    Yea, yea, I know you all want to jump at that remark.  Get over it.

    Just think of all the things science thought was true just 50 years ago that aren’t considered true now.  I grew up being taught electrons, protons and neutrons were the smallest things in the universe (I am ever so much older than 20).   How much of what we think is true today will be proved wrong 50 years form now?   Yes, we are progressing, but they can’t even agree on what is good to eat, and humans have been eating for a lot of years now.

    Theoretical physicists in their Theory of Everything think there are 11 dimensions to the universe.  We can only measure 4 of them.  That leaves 7 dimensions for lots of things to happen that we can’t measure or use our 4-dimensional science on.  They assume there are other universes co-existing with ours but that would have different physical laws.  That kind of leaves open the possibility of the heaven that you assume people just invented in their minds a couple of thousand years ago.  Other universes could be in the very same space as ours.  So there really could be a spiritual world co-existing with our physical world and our 4-dimensional science would never see it.  

    Now, if there is a God who created the 11 dimensional universe, He wouldn’t be limited to 4 dimensions like we are, so knowing the past, present and future would not be a problem for him.  No more difficult then for us to rewind a movie we were watching on  a DVD.  He probably could also manipulate the 4 dimensional world in ways we couldn’t understand.  So miracles might not really be miracles in 11 dimensions.  Think of yourself as being a “person” in an oil painting frozen in just 2 dimensions.  When the painter existing in our 4 dimensions added a dab of paint onto the 2 dimensional painting you exist in it would seem like a miracle.

    Then look at the Big Bang.  So much to say there.  I’ll just point out that as the cosmologist go back in time in their models, all physical matter is burned up and even all the forms of energy that we know of would not exist but have been a “pure” energy unknown to our science.  And think of the amount of energy!  When you look at all the energy ever produced by all the stars and all the matter in the universe with all the billions of galaxies, then multiply that times the speed of light squared.  That would need something like an infinite amount of energy to produce, an energy the physicists describe as a “pure” energy.  Sounds like God, to me!

    And who would think that ignorant delusional people that had been slaves for 400 years could have thought up all this stuff thousands of years before people even knew about the solar system.

    Dr. B, whose article is what all these comments are supposed to be about (not evolving our life forms out to other universes or what ever they are talking about), bases a lot of his work on Socrates.  I think Socrates was of the belief the only wise people are the ones who know they don’t know much.

    So don’t be so sure that God is a false belief my friend.  Socrates wouldn’t like that.

  90. Agarnier – 
    ..  ..  and any theory, based scientifically or not, is just speculation. However, speculations based on science are more apt to be correct.

    It is important to distinguish scientific theories from other definitions of  “theory” or the vernacular usage of the word.

    the·o·ry   http://www.thefreedictionary.c
    1. A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.


    I propose for your consideration that during the same timeline of our big bang, other solar systems are in existance or, once existed in our universe.

    This seems unlikely according to scientific current theory.  Atoms, stars and planetary systems formed much later. 
    I link the timeline of the Big-bang:

    If this is a distinct possibility, then other solar systems may now, or may have once contained life.

    The formation and destruction of stars and solar systems, is a long time into the evolution of the universe.  Nevertheless, there has now been enough time for planets and life to evolve elsewhere.

    The fact that we are here strongly
    supports this theory.

    Although it is not possible at present to calculate probabilities about life on exoplanets, it would have taken billions of years and the life-cycle of many stars to create the atoms needed to form the molecules of life, so it unlikely that there was any life in the early universe.

    If you are in agreement with this theory you will agree, the possibility exists that other life forms are inhabiting other solar systems. They may have been around long before we arrived and may still exist.

    I suggest you look at this linked discussion on the “Drake Equation” which is just starting.  –

  91. Agarnier
    So, I assume you do not agree that all matter in the universe evolves.

    It is important to be clear when discussing stages of evolution, to distinguish the evolution of the Universe, the evolution of the Solar System,

    .. .. .. . and biological abiogenesis and evolution on Earth.

    We do not know precisely when life, as we know it began on earth


    We do know reasonably approximately however.

    so, how can you be sure when life began in the universe. Probably long before
    our solar system was formed I would wager. 

    That is possible, but uncertain.

  92.   OtherDon –  That would need something like an infinite amount of energy to produce, an energy the physicists describe as a “pure” energy.  Sounds like God, to me!

    Sounds like slotting another god into another gap in present knowledge to me! 
    So many of the earlier gaps have been closed by scientific investigations.
    In my experience, “God is pure energy in or beyond the big-bang, therefore Jesus”, – has always been difficult to explain logically!

  93. OtherDon
      Another is that is a unique situation creating one unique pattern.  For
    life to form there would need to be a number of molecules forming and
    the conditions to create them are mutually exclusive.  The conditions
    creating a lipid bi-layer (or other wall) are not the same as the
    conditions needed for nucleic acids, etc.  

    You seem to be disputing the principles of abiogenesis.

     Nobody suggested that all the chemical reactions had to happen at the same time, or that they all evolved at once.
     Evolution builds complexity slowly, one step at a time, although later more complex organisms like bacteria or viruses, can swap bigger chunks of DNA or RNA.

    A huge problem with any
    attempt at doing experiments to see how life may have begun is they all
    take place in test tubes.  The world never was a perfect pristine test

    That is indeed a problem!  Scientists do not have thousands of miles of ocean for millions of years to repeat experiments multi-billions of times.  The odds are so much more in favour of nature.

    There would have always been other molecules getting in the way
    of what the scientist wanted to happen. 

    There were no scientists around on early Earth “wanting anything to happen”.  Just billions of  chemical reactions taking place under very varied conditions.

    The other thing I love is with
    their theories they speak as if it is a manifest destiny that molecules
    want to duplicate themselves. 

    There is no need for commonly available molecules to “have a destiny”!  Just a need for a very few from billions over millions of years, to start replicating.

    The question raised in the OP, is why do theists feel the need to dispute objective science, to bolster their god-beliefs?

  94. Hi OtherDon,

    As someone who strives not to judge people to quickly, and who thinks of himself as a liberal I don’t recognise myself in your description of a liberal.

    Any medical diagnosis will be a label; this person is sick; this person has [enter condition and/or morphology], the prognosis is, this person is receiving / should receive treatment of [enter care], etc..  That is beside the point.

    It is important to note that any medical diagnosis will be based on a scale.  In the case of delusion and religion we can see that this will range from ‘mostly harmless’ to ‘deadly’ [as per the two very recent stories of people driven to suicide posted on this very Site – see Web News: Church’s Suicide Victims (Sep. 8th) & Not God’s Army etc. (Sep. 10th)].

    You ask: “Where was all this talk of dangerously delusional people when Martin Luther King and many other clergy (of all races) led the fight for civil rights?”

    Many, if not most, members of the early Civil Rights movement were not religious (the RCNL and the Highland Folk School are stand-out examples) in the early days (i.e. the 1950s).  By the time the movement had some political traction in the 1960s many ‘Reverends’ were indeed adept at jumping on the bandwagon.  Not all were as effective as King.  King certainly emerged as a leader due to his ability to use churches’ to organise and he was a great orator.  But, it is a repulsive re-writing of history to suggest that the movement needed the religious to succeed.

    You ask: “Did the poor, sick and dying of India think Mother Theresa was a public health menace?”  I cannot say – but I do know that is exactly what they should have thought given the evidence for her diverting funds away from the poor and her apparent acceptance of stolen monies.  According to some reports that have emerged since her death, these are the least of her crimes against humanity.

    You state: “Many Christians were leaders of the anti-war movements of every era.”  Many Christians were leaders of war movements in every era.

    You tell us: “When friends of mine go in to do prison ministry the inmates they work with think of them as saints, not psychopaths.”  Indeed.  Then they offer a case that is the very definition of delusional – an idiosyncratic belief or impression maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument – and, let us not forget that (as Human Rights Watch reported on 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics) the rate of reported mental health disorders in the state prison population is five times greater (56.2 percent) than in the general adult population (11 percent) – including symptoms of major depression, mania and psychotic disorders.  I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I won’t be trusting these people’s judgement on who is a saint any time soon.

    You inform us that: “In many cities the first hospitals were founded by Christians.”  How far back do you want to go in history?  The word hospital originally meant a place of hospitality for travellers or pilgrims – a self-serving method of news and commerce gathering.  Many were set up by religions that enjoyed privileges – such as tax exemption – so they were the only organisations  rich enough and legally able to set up such institutions.  Many hospitals, even today, that are supported by religions are not audited.  Are they really the boon they seem?

    “Folks, you are taking the worst examples of what some people of faith
    have done and broadly painting everyone of faith with the same brush.”  Sorry, I must have missed something – who’s calling the kettle black?  Not guilty.

    The problem is not that those people of faith who are lucid, mild-mannered, polite, reasonable and liberal are delusional – though they are.  The problem is that reasonable religious people’s delusions ensure  that religious nut-jobs with a serious mental condition – one that requires treatment – are passed over in order not to offend the mildly religious.  Thus; the World is far more dangerous, threatening and uncomfortable than it need be.

    You ask us to see ” … this dumb stuff the very radical right have done to be horrendous.”  We don’t need reminding.

    “So all of your arguments of Christians … [being] … dangerously delusional just don’t hold up.”  Two things:

    I don’t see anyone commenting that all christians are dangerous.  You really need to do something about that persecution complex you have.  Incidentally; such a complex is a common side-effect of being delusional.  Think about that.

    You appear to be saying that your witness statement trumps all the evidence presented elsewhere that religious people suffer delusions.  Are you also suffering delusions of grandeur?  Pride comes before a fall my friend.

    “You can’t paint everybody of a certain label with the same brush!”  Err, that’s what labels are … ?

    “Untold millions of people have been touched by faith in God.  You
    haven’t.  That doesn’t mean because you haven’t experienced what these
    untold millions of people have experienced that they are all delusional.”  True.  On the other hand you haven’t proved that they can’t be delusional.

    “You probably are not aware that many Christians see the creation
    narrative as a parable.”  I am.  “We don’t
    all resist science, but see science as telling us more about the
    complex universe.”  Why, then, resist in just this one instance?

    “This is prejudice (pre-judging people) plain and simple.”  No.  I can’t speak for everyone on this forum – but what you say is not true of this liberal.  When I say that people who are religious exhibit symptoms of delusion, I point to the evidence.  I also do not use the label to say that those who are delusional all pose an immediate threat to civil peace and prosperity.

    I say that delusions are presented in a spectrum; some relatively benign at one extreme – while at the other extreme some are obviously dangerous to the extent that they pose an immediate threat to life, liberty and limb of the Subject, and anyone who may come into contact with the Subject.

    Burying our heads in the sand is not an option.  Defining delusion in mental health guidelines to include religion does not mean that those with religion will be treated any differently.  I suffer at the milder end of the depression spectrum.  I suffer no incarceration.  I receive no medication, and I am free to refuse any prescribed if my condition worsens.  I take part in all forms of social and political discourse without discrimination.  However, should my condition worsen to the extent that I become suicidal I hope that someone will intervene before I do myself – and anyone around me – any serious harm.

    I also say that we must, if society is to progress, start to face up to the fact that the mildly religious offer sanctuary to the madly religious.  This always seems to begin with the mild joining the mad in being ‘offended’ whenever anyone tries to offer a factual description of the human condition as it is influenced by religion.

    The World is not Black & White – it is shades of grey.


  95. I think you are making a different argument here than what you’ve said previously. If you are saying that religion can play a role in mental illness I agree completely. So can wanting to be in shape (anorexia), so can wanting to be clean (OCD), so can being concerned about the state of the world (bipolar). Psychology is a very immature science and mental health even more so, we barely understand anything. At best we know that some things work some of the time. So yes, I agree religion can definitely play a role in mental illness. 

    That is completely different than saying (as I thought you were advocating earlier) that religion IN AND OF ITSELF should be classified as a mental illness (added to the DSM). That would be like saying that anyone who wants to watch what they eat  to stay fit should be considered anorexic or anyone that likes to wash their hands before a meal should be considered OCD. 

    As I said earlier (sorry I still don’t think you have addressed this) the result of saying religion equals mental illness would be catastrophic for the mental health profession. Huge number of potential patients and even more so parents of potential child patients would stay away from mental health for fear that their faith would be challenged. It would also be devastating in particular to the substance abuse field where religion or a “higher power” play an important role in therapy.

  96. It is a false belief as far as you are concerned.  That doesn’t actually make it a false belief.  (…) Just think of all the things science thought was true just 50 years ago that aren’t considered true now. (…) So don’t be so sure that God is a false belief my friend

    That makes no difference. Yes, some god-claim or other could be proven true tomorrow, and that would be extremely interesting, but it would NOT mean that the people who believed in it all along were never deluded. I could come up with a god-claim right now; you need to accept the Crocodile God Capwhadhinwharahl as your lord and savior to get eternal life in the Celestial Rainforest. If you believe me, with no evidence, something is decidedly wrong with your processes of reasoning. Now, there COULD be a crocodile god called Capwhadhinwharahl; the universe is big, and we really don’t know. But if it turns out he actually exists, you were still delusional the whole time you believed in him. I would know; I made him up.

    Even if your god turns out to exist, you don’t get to be smug and say I told you so. It was just dumb luck. You never had any evidence. You were deluded.

    The chance for that happening is very small. We know this because the evidence so far says the gods were all made up. Resist the faith-virus! Go with the evidence, because that’s all we got, and always be ready to revise your beliefs. Socrates was right. Wise people know they don’t know much. That’s why expert biologists and expert physicists don’t claim to know how life or the universe came to be. Laypeople who claim to know how life and the universe came to be, are clearly not wise.

  97. “Ok, look, I hope there isn’t a therapist who is so downright blunt as to phrase anything in such a way as you put it above. :-)”

    I could tell you stories… there are some pretty awful therapists out there but that’s another issue… I was exaggerating to make a point, just having religion added as a category to DSM would be harmful. In fact there is a similar situation that has thankfully been (mostly) corrected. It used to be that being gay was considered a mental illness and that led to all kinds of pseudoscience “gay conversion” therapies and I’m sure many gay people either avoided the mental health system or were turned off by it as a result, or even worse waisted time, money, and energy trying to fix a problem that was never really a problem. 

    I don’t want to see atheists try and do the same thing to religious people. The way we convince people to abandon religion is not to define them as mentally ill but to use reason.

  98. I was just elaborating on my speculation that life may exist on other planets!! I thought you had challenged that speculation in an earlier post.

    If I’ve been unclear, I’m sorry.  I actually do believe it is likely life exists elsewhere in the universe.

  99. Red Dog

    I don’t want a special category just for religious people.  I only want the definition of the word delusion to be reduced down to bare bones which would mean elimination of the religious free pass.  The overall effect would be very minimal.  

    Oh jeeze, I just saw on the news that the US Embassy in Cairo is under attack and they said the US Embassy in Libya is in trouble too.  This doesn’t bode well, does it.

  100. Stephen of Wimbledon-

    I can’t believe you actually said:

    “You really need to do something about that persecution complex you have. Incidentally; such a complex is a common side-effect of being delusional. Think about that.”

    Are you blind?   I write something and 4 people jump on it.  Not one person has thought I made a single valid point (except when I pointed out one person was being condensending).  I have been told I am delusional 468 times. I need treatment.  I need intervention.  People have equated my beliefs with every vile evil perpetrated by mankind.  You yourself wrote a minor thesis paper refuting every point you could (with what you think are effective points).  And then you say I’m exhibiting a delusional side effect by immagining I am being persecuted.  You are, you are truely blind.  And you can take your  smug little  “Think about that” and …………………

    Given the extent of your critique, I am clearly not worth your conversing with.

  101. Alanfordiscussion:   Thanks for the linked videos, which shows much more clearly things I didn’t really understand before.  I only knew that wonderful things could happen, without direction or purpose, over a 500 million year time span, on a very different planetary surface from what we see now.

    For a human it’s difficult to imagine that much time at all, and that’s just the bit while life actually got going from basic chemistry.  It’s about 8 times more than since the dinosaur age ended, and look how much has happened since then – still apparently without any unnecessary supernatural intervention.

    Of course, as OtherDon replied to my earlier book recommendation “People can always find books and articles that say what they want to hear”, so folk who don’t understand (or won’t accept) these outcomes from physics and chemistry will discount the probable explanations as impossible without gods, as revealed in those holy books, “that say what they want to hear.”

    Plus, thank you for all your thoughtful and well-informed comments.

  102. OK  Folks,

    You have all clearly drunk the “religion is delusion”  Kool-Aide.  I am not going to say a single thing to dent that.
    Nor are you going to say anything that is going to change my absolute faith in God and Jesus.

    God can’t be proven.  God can’t be dis-proven.  We are at a draw.

    Only one thing will decide it………….

    When we die:
     If you were right………..So what?  It doesn’t matter anymore.
    When we die:
    If you find out I was right all along……….you’ve got a big problem.

    I apologize for any time I might have sounded angry.  I  probably was, but I shouldn’t be rude about it.

    Good Bye for now.  I’ve got to get back to my regular life.

  103.  OtherDon:  In an earlier reply to your comments, I recommended 2 books to you.  You replied that you would put ‘The God Virus’ on your long reading list, but that your life is busy.

    From your previous comments, and this reply to Stephen of Wimbledon, may I suggest that you elevate this valuable book to the top of your list, since it clearly explains the symptoms of religious infections, what they do to their unsuspecting victims, and why you don’t benefit from an infection of this type.

    This book doesn’t discuss the reasons that religions are demonstrably untrue, but how and why they proliferate in societies, how they manifest themselves to others, and how they blind their victims to their own dysfunction.

    Your anger towards Stephens comments show that the virus has a home in you – like in so many others – and I hope you find the strength to combat and evict it – it won’t be simple, quick or easy, but it will be worth the effort to yourself and those around you.

  104. > The belief is not one ordinarily accepted by other members of the person’s culture or subculture

    This actually makes sense. Sane people believe what their culture believes. They are not competent to evaluate if it is actually true. (Presumably it is something tested, tried and true for many generations, superior to any individual knowledge.) People who persist in some odd belief despite what all their fellows are telling them are a quite different sort. Intermediate are small groups of people who hold eccentric delusions. It is the deviance that excites the psychiatrists, not the truth or falsity of the belief. What excites Dr. Dawkins is the amount of evidence one can bring to bear to support a belief. Religionists would be disdainful that Dr. Dawkins holds the evidence more important than the ultimate metaphysical truth. Dawkins would counter, at least he can examine evidence. The early quantum mechanics people would have seemed nuts to the psychiatrists, even though they were correct.

  105. >I’m not sold on the idea that faith is a sickness

    I would say the knowledge 99% of citizens have of atoms is of exactly the same quality they have of the knowledge of transubstantiation. They just took it on the word of experts with only the wooliest understanding. I think the best way to understand Christians is they trusted the wrong experts, not that they are deluded.  The essential problem is the Christian experts are corrupt. They KNOW they are wrong, but persist in telling lies for personal gain.

    The assertions of Christians sound absurd, but so do those of science. The difference is not in plausibility, but in evidence.

  106. Gravatars:

    If you go to you can assign yourself a web-wide icon to represent yourself.  Go to logged on/settings to tell RDF to use it.

    This helps keep track of who says what.  Icons are much more memorable than names.

  107. Hi OtherDon,

    I urge you to remember Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 1 to 5.

    I myself will take note of verse 6 and, in future, consider more carefully before casting my pearls of wisdom.



    Nor are you going to say anything that is going to change my absolute faith in God and Jesus.


    In my experience, “God is pure energy in or beyond the big-bang, therefore Jesus”, – has always been difficult to explain logically!


    I did comment here on that blind dogmatic faith earlier!

    God can’t be proven.  God can’t be dis-proven.  We are at a draw.

    Only one thing will decide it………….

    When we die: If you were right………..So what?  It doesn’t matter anymore.
    When we die:If you find out I was right all along ……….you’ve got a big problem.

    On the other hand  atheists right, (or if the gods of some other religions are correct), you will have wasted your one and only entire life,  pandering to a non-existent entity for which there is no historical or scientific evidence!

    BTW:  I have provided links on this discussion to a great deal of information answering fundamental scientific questions about life and the Universe:- for those who wish to understand it.

    You will see, that on this forum, (on Reason, Science, & Education) we seek out true, accurate  information,  so errors will be challenged and corrected, without any “group-think”,  dogma or regard to the view points of those making those mistakes!

  109. OtherDon,

    Yeah, the OCD tends to kick in big time when my personal grasp on reality is challenged. Insanity is not what it’s “cracked up” to be. If i can’t be right, I can at least be consistent. My apologies, I defer to your cognitive abilities but, you were dissing my atheist prophet, Dawkins. 

    My personal experience has been that religion tends to be more susceptible to creeping nepotism than it is to promoting altruism. The only religion that could become a unifying agent for the human psyche would have to be a globally accepted religion. There are at least three distinct religions that believe in the same god and they seem to be hell bent on destroying each other. Politics is religion’s latent twin and as such, should also require global acceptance. I feel that we have a better chance for continued survival and immortality in exploring and nurturing a global consensus in support of the eventual proliferation of humanity in the universe.

    The concept of pure energy being God is interesting and supports the concept that the universe itself is a thriving living entity. “Nature as God”. Unlike the doctrine of today’s religions, they do meet the criteria for theoretical falsifiability. So does the theory of the existence of other lifeforms in the universe. There is no empirical evidence to support or deny their existence. 

    The fact that there are defined laws of physics seems to indicate that there may be some cosmic life force creating and promoting the continued survival and evolution of biological life forms on earth. However, there is no religion on earth that isn’t riddled with unreliable, delusional claims of personal immortality, resurrection and miraculous achievements. If there is a deity, it is nothing that we could realistically theorize during any stage of our evolution to date. I wonder if intelligent alien life forms would believe in a deity, and if so, would it belie their intelligence? (rhetorical question)

    To my knowledge there is no biological life form on earth that is truly immortal. Yet, humans are the one biological species that, over a 200,000 year period, genetically evolved a survival mechanism involving a psychological belief in immortality. Then, immediately set out to find the secret of immortality. Hence folklore and science. The Epoch of Gilgamesh recorded humanity’s early quest for immortality. Their successors are on the cusp of extensive space exploration creating a whole new era of expansion and discovery. It’s amazing how far a flawed emotional belief can stimulate the curiosity and advance the intelligence of an animal. 

    I said before that religion has served humanity well but, we cannot allow the delusion and its global divisiveness to jeopardize our future development. Now that the promise of immortality is at our fingertips, our curiosity will be stimulated even further. As we explore and inhabit space our species intelligence and technology will expand exponentially over increasingly shorter periods of time. We are at a watershed in the evolution  of humanity and our species immortality is no longer delusional and decisively within our reach. It would be corrupt and  inhuman to allow our species to become extinct because of our negligence.

  110.  @rdfrs-d87dc2090f3a1c5f8a608da82af5e0db:disqus 

    Thanks for your comment.

    I did put rather a lot of links, with mid-boggling time-scales and details.

    I hope people have the time to and the interest to read them, because there was much confusion in the earlier part of this discussion.

  111. Alan4discusdion,

    Great links! Lots of pertinent info.
    Keep it comming.
    May god be with you. Lol

  112. >God can’t be proven. God can’t be dis-proven. We are at a draw. God can’t be proven.   

    By your reasoning, even though there is no evidence for the existence of leprechauns, leprechauns can’t be proven.  Leprechauns can’t be dis-proven. We are at a draw.

    Nope. The burden of proof is on the person making the claim for existence of something. There is no evidence at all for any god, and Jehovah is perhaps the most absurd of the gods.

    I understand you won’t find that convincing, but I want you to at least admit you deliberately misstated ordinary logic.  You were deliberately dishonest.  That destroys your general credibility.

  113. Untold millions of people have been touched by faith in God. You haven’t. That doesn’t mean because you haven’t experienced what these untold millions of people have experienced that they are all delusional

    But just what do people claim based on being so touched?  I have had a number of cosmic consciousness experiences.  This a highly pleasant experiencing the universe as a unified whole. But that experience does not make me any more expert in String theory.  Christians claim the feel-good endorphin rush of touching god gives them specific knowledge, like the age of the earth.
    That is such hubris of Christians to imagine this emotional experience makes them experts on everything. It clearly does absolutely nothing to improve mathematical ability — the main way we have of understanding our earth in detail.

    I am pretty sure I have also had hundreds of experiences you folks call “touching god”. At one point I learned to bliss out at will. But the experiences had absolutely no connection to Jesus, Jehovah or churches. You had them in that context, and were lead to them by professionals who told you how to interpret them.  You obeyed. Then you pompously imagined you were magically wiser than anyone else, without work.

  114. >God can’t be proven. God can’t be dis-proven. We are at a draw. God can’t be proven.  

    Proof is absolute certainty.  That is rarely needed in human affairs. It is more a mathematical concept.  We have piles and piles of evidence that:

    1. the claims of the bible are false.

    2. the claims of the bible are inconsistent.

    3. the universe runs just fine without a god.

    4. there is nothing special about the bible. It is just one of 10,000 such myths, and most of it was plagiarised.

    On the other hand, there is not a scrap of evidence to support it other than a gut feeling.

    It might be so, but the probability is much lower than the probability that Santa Claus is alive and living at the north pole. Santa’s existence would do far less violence to established facts.

  115. >God can’t be proven. God can’t be dis-proven. We are at a draw.

    Otherdon at 3:  “Daddy, there is a bogey man under my bed.”

    Otherdon’s dad:  “No there’s not. Here look where I am pointing with a flashlight. There is no bogeyman.”

     Otherdon at 3:  “But the bogey man is invisible.” 

     Otherdon’s dad:  “Watch me wave a broom about.  See, there is nothing there.” 

      Otherdon at 3:  “But the bogey man is transcorporeal.”  

     Otherdon’s dad:  “Where the heck did you learn a word like that? What does it mean?”   

    Otherdon at 3:  “ It means brooms go right through him.  You can’t prove there is no bogeyman so I am going to sit here and cry and be frightened and its all your fault.”

  116. >You have all clearly drunk the “religion is delusion” Kool-Aide.

    Drinking Kool Aid™ refers to cult members drinking poison Kool Aid at Jonestown, even though they knew it was likely poison.

    Your comment makes no sense. Religion clearly is a delusion. People who believe in religion believe in magic incantations they can say to cause an old man living in the sky to send them material goods or protect them from harm. This assertion has been tested over and over and always found bogus. It is as preposterous as any cargo cult.

    If someone is not gullible, and refuses to belief this myth without evidence, they are hardly drinking Kool Aid. You are the gullible one. If anyone is drinking Kool Aid it is you, even if your gullibility has not killed you yet. Many people killed themselves with their trust in prayer.

  117. This will serve as a retraction of my previous post. After further investigation, it is now being reported that the attacks on the embassies in Cairo and Syria were planned by a small organized group and not the result of the release of any media defamation of the muslim faith. It is being investigated by both governments in an effort to track down the perpetrators. The post is being removed by the author.

  118. Here is an extended version of that post I formatted and put on my website.  I hope you will find it amusing.

    Adult Christians like to taunt me that the god Jehovah must exist because I cannot prove he does not. I would like to show why that logic is fallacious.

    son: “Daddy, there is a bogey man under the bed.”

    father: “No no, that is just your imagination. Here, let me show you with a flashlight.”

    son: “But bogey men are invisible.”

    father: “I see. I am waving a broom around all under the bed. I don’t feel any bogeymen.”

    son: “But bogey men are transcorporeal.”

    father: “Where’d you learn a strange word like that? What does it mean?”

    son: “It means brooms go right through ’em.”

    father: “Ok then, if bogey men are invisible and transcorporeal, how did you find out one was under the bed in the first place?”

    son: “I heard a squeaking noise.”

    father: “But everyone knows bogeyman don’t squeak. They make sort of breathy roaring noise like this, ahhrrr.”

    son: “Eeek!”

    son: “But it is written! He’s there, Dad! I promise. I can feel him with my soul strings.”

    father: “Who “written” it? you? “soul strings” Who you bin hanging out with, Oprah?”

    son: “No, its in a book Ralphie owns.”

    son: “Dad, why won’t you believe me? Why do you reject the living truth? Why do you hate me? Why have you forsaken me? Why dost thou abandon me to a fate worse than death?”

    father: “What have you been reading? I am not harming you or abandoning you. You are just letting your imagination run away with you. I will sleep in the arm chair over there. If any bogey man attacks you I will come to your rescue and whack him with a baseball bat. I’ll leave the constellation turtle night light on. Now go to sleep.”

    son: “But Dad. He’s indomitable. He will rip off your appendages. He will inject you with steroids. I don’t want to die…”

    Jehovah is just the adult version of an imaginary bogeyman under the bed. Christians too need help getting over their terror.

    I licensed a cartoon to illustrate it.

  119. The human psyche has  not matured beyond the adolescent stages of it’s evolutionary development. As a result, the entire species is in a constant state of turmoil, trying to establish a unified sense of reality with little parental guidance. To date, this guidance has predominately stemmed from flawed religious belief established through greed, war, fear and ignorance. As a whole, humanity relies heavily on the established leadership of the day, even though the vast majority are aware that the flawed ideologies of all religious and political leaders do not reflect reality. In its restricted maturity, the majority accept this flawed leadership in blind faith, even to the detriment of their future survival. 

    As science develops in our societies, so too will the individual understanding of the laws of physics. When the majority finally understand the truth of our existence, they will no longer accept the leadership of liars and charlatans. They will accept responsibility for their own destiny and demand a more direct input into the financial and political decisions of their government. Personally, I feel there will be no better time than the present to commence implementing societial reform.

  120. If we truly need guidence and cannot depend on our own decisions, we should think of nature as our God. A God whose purpose and intelligence is far beyond our comprehension. A God without favor or prejudice. A God who just keeps on creating & destroying life and is oblivious to our individual or species survival. A God who throughout an eternity has and will create life through constant rebirth and death. Not a God of human creation yet, one we all know well. A strange paradox where madness reigns and purpose is fleeting. A universe teeming with life all vying for survival.

    Such a universe must be totally void of morals, purpose or reward! But, for the species lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, a species with the intelligence to unlock the secrets of God himself; this species may be able to survive in the universe through future eternity. If humanity is to survive we first have to save our planet, then explore the universe while spreading the seed of mankind to insure our survival from natures eventual destruction.

    Many scientists dismiss the improbability of life forming only on earth and that the universe, as it has always existed, may be teeming with various life forms totally foreign and unknown to earth. We have to grasp reality and finally discover that we are not the centre of the universe. Any premise of an all-knowing deity bestowing favor to any of it’s living entities is not evident in any of nature’s laws. The laws of physics are still largely unknown but, believed to be universal and uniform. All laws therefore must be in sync and agree with the laws of nature and physics. Many religious teachings fly in the face of nature and physics and are therefore incompatible with reality.

  121.   @ Agarnier

    We have to grasp reality and finally discover that we are not the centre of the universe. Any premise of an all-knowing deity bestowing favor to any of it’s living entities is not evident in any of nature’s laws.

    Historically and psychologically, theist incredulity about astronomical and cosmological features, has been based on a geocentric, homocentric, egocentric view,  that, that person’s self and religion, are the prime focus of a world/universe, with a father-figure overlooking it.
    It is a cosy child-like self-centred view of reality.

    The laws of physics are still largely unknown but, believed to be universal and uniform.


    This was so in the past, but while there are still frontiers of knowledge to be explored, many laws/established theories  of physics and other sciences are well known – at least to the scientists who study them!

    All laws therefore must be in sync and agree with the laws of nature and physics. Many religious teachings fly in the face of nature and physics and are therefore incompatible with reality.

    That is correct, but the nature of childhood learning and indoctrination, (as I mentioned in this discussion here…    ) means that people compare new ideas for consistency with long held “core” beliefs.
     Those lacking in scientific education (or indoctrinated in anti-science) often reject complex science and substitute the simplistic dogmatic magic, which is less taxing on their mental capacities.

  122. Alan4discussion,

    Your commentary seems to support my statements and I feel I must be missing your point. I guess we will just have to agree to agree. Thanks again for the informative links.

  123. Agarnier – I think you are quite new to this forum.  Welcome!
    Replies can be agreeing, expanding on, or clarifying comments.  They don’t all need to be challenging.If you have a look at some of the science discussions, you will see people working together contributing to build up a big picture of accurate information.  .. .. .. … As in this discussion on power generation:… I thank you for your earlier comment on my links.  There are some very well informed people who provide scientific links to support discussions here.  Unfortunately the links are often wasted on creationists, but others can learn much from them.

  124. “Unfortunately the links are often wasted on creationists but, others can learn much from them.”
    I am thrilled not to be a creationists. I certainly appreciate the fact that there are many others who are trying to enlighten the general public. The only faith I have is in science and humanity and, to date, humanity has been questionable. You have succeeded in bolstering my confidence.

  125. I have become a persona non grata among most of my miracle seeking ex-friends. I’m afraid I have become a rector of the faith in humanity and nature and I express my concerns when the opportunity arises. It is refreshing to encounter groups that are within a broader ballpark of idiologies than the religious bent.

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