I almost pissed around and let this month get by me. I only have a few days left, so let’s get this done :)
I found this quote, and it intrigues me, as I have always kind of felt this way. I found out long ago that professionals in the mental health biz had an escape clause for the religious. If it is a widely held delusion it is somehow allright. This has always bothered me. The quote:
“When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion.”
Robert M. Pirsig
While I tend to agree with this quote personally, no one diagnoses the religious as holding a delusional belief. They get a free pass.
So what is a delusion? Here are a few dictionary definitions: A false belief or opinion. A false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact. Or simply, the state of being deluded.
Let’s focus on the second one there, “a false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact.” That pretty much accurately describes every religious person I have encountered, or heard about. But as I said the religious get a free pass from being categorized as mentally ill. Why is that? What makes a delusion an acceptable one? I think culture is the answer, but I don’t care for that excuse. Culture, “The arts, beliefs, customs, institutions, and other products of human work and thought considered as a unit, especially with regard to a particular time or social group.” I don’t see anything in there that should assume people can run around believeing all sorts of nonsense, or to freely allow one to believe in things non existant without question.
When I found out that the word delusion does not apply to religion, I thought about that and came up with this notion, it is from memory and not word for word. But here goes…
There’s a guy let’s call him Joe. Joe is Irish. Joe thinks there are leprechauns in his garden. He is always looking around for them, and quite sure they are there. Is this a delusion? I’m not sure a fanciful belief that leprechauns in your garden is a full blown delusion just yet.
Now, Joe’s belief in the leprechauns has grown a bit, to the point where he is actively looking for them. He is looking behind rocks and trees, and constantly peering out his window in hopes of seeing one. Is he deluded yet? I’m not sure but I think we are getting there.
Finally Joe is so sure of the leprechauns he is building traps trying to catch one. He is also talking to his pals at the pub about them. Despite his friends assurances that they do not exist, and the fact that he has never seen or caught one, Joe still believes leprechauns exist, and live in his garden. Is he deluded yet? Yes, I think so. But because he is Irish and the leprechaun tale is part of his particular culture, he gets the free pass from being delusional? I don’t think so.
Somewhere between having a fanciful belief and actually acting upon that belief despite no evidence at all supporting that belief, delusion has crept in. Joe is fucking delusional. Being Irish is no excuse. The only reason no one will make this diagnosis is probably because of one of two things. Either the clinical professional suffers from the same delusions, or is fearful of the backlash that would be initiated from such a diagnosis. They are either complicit, or chicken shits.
This is my non clinical opinion.
EDIT: I am going to expand on this issue a little bit. I think one could consider my little story about Joe as a simile for 3 separate stages in the progression of a religious person. The first paragraph you could call a likeness to a deist. Someone that believes in an all powefull supernatural being of some sort, but has no affiliation with any denomination or group.
Paragraph two is the same person who has moved on to prayer, and perhaps associating with some denomination or group…
And paragraph three where the person is attending church regularly, following their rituals, and participating in group activities.