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Seriously. Stop. Stop saying "so and so is mentally ill" because they hold some belief you don't like. Using that kind of language is like calling people you disagree with "retarded". Before you use the term "mentally ill", please take the time to learn two things:

(1) What mental illness really is, and
(2) That many people have a genuine mental illness

When you misuse the term, especially when used as an epithet, you are causing damage in at least two ways:

(a) You are spreading misinformation about mental illness, which makes it less likely that mentally ill people will get appropriate help, and
(b) You are, by extension, maligning mentally ill people unfairly.

So, please stop.

Okay, in regards to the specific situation at hand...

Point 1:
I am:
* A psychotherapist working towards a doctorate in psychology.
* An atheist and a full-on naturalist of the monist/physicalist variety. In other words, I don't believe in gods, souls, the afterlife, angels, astrology, reiki, homeopathy, reincarnation, telekinesis, or Bigfoot.
None of that makes me an expert necessarily, I just want you to know where I'm coming from.

Point 2
Religious belief is not a form of mental illness, any more than a belief that the moon landings were faked is a form of mental illness. Yes, I think anyone who believes in anything supernatural is wrong. But believing in wrong things does not define mental illness.

Point 3
Religious groups frequently employ techniques that arouse the emotions and suppress rational thinking. When a person is caught up in these techniques, they do not become "mentally ill", they are operating in a normal way in an abnormal situation. Mentally ill persons do the opposite: they operate abnormally in normal situations. The fact that religious leaders have learned how to manipulate people doesn't mean that they have the power to turn people insane.

Point 4
The whole "religious people are all crazy" shtick does not, I claim, represent the majority opinion of the atheist community. This is the Atheist Asshole Position, and most atheists would disavow it I imagine. In fact, I suspect that some people who make these kinds of pronouncements are provocateurs trying to make atheists look bad.

Point 5
If you are religious in the sense of believing in supernatural beings or forces, I think you're wrong. In many cases, I think your wrong beliefs hold back human progress. In a few cases, I think your beliefs inspire real harm. But I don't think you're mentally ill.

Final Point
A mental illness is a serious condition that requires professional help from a qualified mental health practitioner. To use it as an insult is to insult all those who struggle with the thoughts and emotions that cause suffering.

EDIT:
Thanks for the rec!!

EDIT #2:
I wanted to explain why I mentioned Point #5. I think the objects of religious faith, as well as the act of religious faith itself, are all worthy of public debate. I think it is healthy for a society to discuss beliefs and to criticize bad thinking and faulty logic. But by saying that religious belief is a form of mental illness, it takes it out of the realm of competing claims and makes it about something else entirely. In other words, invoking mental illness is an insulting red herring that closes down productive discussion.

Originally posted to Ash Bowie on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:01 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Mental Health Awareness.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (141+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bubbanomics, Rich in PA, Olympia, JayRaye, penguins4peace, marleycat, Onomastic, gustynpip, Danno11, CuriousBoston, DrPlacebo, sallystrutt, doroma, Naniboujou, a gilas girl, Avila, RunawayRose, social democrat, coquiero, Lorikeet, rscopes, renska, ladybug53, AoT, David54, Kysen, Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, Broke And Unemployed, illinifan17, sockpuppet, SallyCat, Mindful Nature, JVolvo, 2thanks, myadestes, glitterlust, Random Excess, JDWolverton, Time Waits for no Woman, Catte Nappe, sneakers563, Simian, Spider Jerusalem, Prinny Squad, Nowhere Man, bluicebank, emidesu, Colorado is the Shiznit, flitedocnm, TFinSF, janmtairy, Andrew C White, BrowniesAreGood, muddy boots, Eileen B, fcvaguy, vacantlook, Pluto, WI Deadhead, 3goldens, bythesea, Mother Mags, wishingwell, Wee Mama, Groucho Marxist, Ekaterin, tobendaro, Matt Z, stunzeed, stevenaxelrod, gmats, Wendy Slammo, commonmass, AuntieRa, dmhlt 66, Terri, Chaddiwicker, rubyclaire, TomP, millwood, LynChi, hazzcon, NYFM, little lion, drawingporno, rantsposition, sdf, lady blair, thea lake, Calfacon, basquebob, Ms Citizen, Gilmore, deminva, Penman, Vetwife, OllieGarkey, enhydra lutris, renbear, sfcouple, magicsister, NearlyNormal, back of a knapkin analyst, ZedMont, second gen, 1BQ, Naranjadia, grover, Syoho, KMc, congenitalefty, RLF, gramofsam1, dithered, janl1776, teklanika, eru, Book of Hearts, Texknight, Lonely Texan, psyched, fearlessfred14, mskitty, Kamakhya, hungrycoyote, mjfgates, LiberalMegan, LaFeminista, Villanova Rhodes, wolfwood, cRedd, Gareth, xgy2, uciguy30, howabout, Melanie in IA, Milou, AaronInSanDiego, Odysseus, zhimbo, shanikka

    Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

    by J Ash Bowie on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:01:58 PM PDT

  •  I agree to a point (4+ / 0-)

    I think certain ecstatic or otherwise extreme expressions of religious belief may well bespeak some mental illness.

    But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

    by Rich in PA on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:10:30 PM PDT

  •  Thank you. n/t (17+ / 0-)

    Dear Republicans, the United States is a Representative Democracy, not your church.

    by Onomastic on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:11:39 PM PDT

  •  Thank You (33+ / 0-)

    And also, it is very hurtful to those of us with mentally ill loved ones to see misinformation about mental illness causally tossed around. Our loved ones have enuf problems dealing with their illness.

    Solidarity Forever, for the Union makes us strong.-Ralph Chaplin, 1915

    by JayRaye on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:12:51 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for putting it so clearly, free of the (18+ / 0-)

    irrational emotions too often brought into a discussion of this type.  Emotions are wonderful things, but they certainly can lead us astray many times.

    "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

    by gustynpip on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:14:08 PM PDT

  •  Thank you! (22+ / 0-)

    Prejudice against people with mental illness is the last remaining socially accepted form of irrational prejudice, and our language matters a lot in causing that. As a law student planning to specialize in representing clients with mental illness, I applaud this diary.

    That said, at least in my mind, "crazy" and "mentally ill" are two entirely separate concepts. Most people with mental illness aren't crazy, and most crazy people (e.g. Santorum supporters) don't have a mental illness.

  •  I hope lots of people here (22+ / 0-)

    read this.

    The hyperbolic witticisms and need to appear "hip" sometimes leads folks into positions about which they know little and and try to learn even less.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:21:41 PM PDT

      •  Representing here, too. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eileen B

        Mental illness is a bitch, but while I react abnormally (and boy, do I) I get really frustrated with people who willfully reject overwhelming evidence in a self-serving effort to maintain a personal reality to the point of enacting the consequences of those beliefs into law.  

        -8.00, -6.87
        Our Faith is a personal Reality. Science describes our shared Reality.

        by Random Excess on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:00:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  When people have diabetes, they don't say (14+ / 0-)

        "I have a metabolism illness" so why do we even say "mental" illness? It's an illness, period, just like any other. It's time to stop pretending otherwise.

        Why are people with bipolar disorder or agoraphobia under some umbrella of "mental illness" with people with autism or schizophrenia? It makes no sense.

        Having diabetes or heart disease changes behavior, too; like PTSD or depression can. Heart disease impacts the organ's efficiency. PTSD impacts the brain's efficiency. Both are "illnesses" -- but only one has the stupid stigma of "mentally ill" that destroys careers and relationships.

        It's time the term "mental illness" went away. It encourages stereotypes....and makes no sense.

        •  Brilliant. n/t (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Eileen B, grover

          Let's go back to E Pluribus Unum

          by hazzcon on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 06:40:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  and why don't insurance companies (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Eileen B, grover, teklanika, Wee Mama

          put limits on treatments for diabetes or heart disease?  like they do for mental health care.  

        •  Good thought but... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NYFM, Wee Mama, Milou

          Eileen, I dig where you're coming from. But a mental illness is not necessarily the same as a medical illness. To illustrate, a medical doctor and a psychologist are not interchangeable. I suppose you could say that a psychiatrist works here, since they are medical doctors, but that is only true if you believe that mental illnesses are essentially biological malfunctions that should be primarily treated with medication. While that will be true in some cases, I think an argument can be made that some forms of mental illness fall outside of the medical model (e.g. PTSD or personality disorders).

          Just something to consider.

          Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

          by J Ash Bowie on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 07:02:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think my mental illness is a (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Eileen B, Milou

            biological malfunction and my meds work great helping with it. I'm not denying therapy isn't useful, but physical therapy is useful to medical doctors also.

            When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace. -- Jimi Hendrix

            by gnutpnut on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 07:31:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  There must be a distinction though (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              J Ash Bowie, Milou

              J Ash Bowie has this right.  Mental illness can be treated with either "talk" therapy or drug therapy or some combination of both.  But it would be a serious mistake to try and categorize mental illness as just another physical illness when it is often not.  As noted, there are personality disorders and other maladaptations which are entirely psychological.

              •  How is it different than other illnesses? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                grover

                Here's your statement with a "physical" illness substituted.

                MS can be treated with either physical therapy or drug therapy or some combination of both. But it would be a serious mistake to try and categorize muscular disorder as just another physical illness when it is often not. As noted, there are muscular disorders and other maladaptations which are entirely psychological.

                Hmm.

                Tell me again why mental illnesses aren't like other illnesses? My theory? People say this because they think of the mentally ill as criminals, weak, or incurable outcasts.....and therefore, mental illness is not something that can "happen" to them. It's fear, plain and simple, IMO.

                •  Mental illness has historically been stigmatized (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  J Ash Bowie

                  and anyone who believes they can draw inferences and make the stereotypes you list is ignorant and living in the dark ages.
                  Almost everyone nowadays knows someone who has been diagnosed, medicated and/or put through therapy, and successfully treated. However, your parallel fails to make the distinction that there are both physical reasons for mental illness (the brain) and psychological reasons (the mind or psyche).  Fear simply comes from lack of understanding, but I think people are becoming more and more educated and so there is less fear.

          •  I'd say it'd be a very weak argument to say (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            grover, adrianrf, Milou

            the brain isn't part of the human body. The "medical model" you speak of is absurdly incomplete if it doesn't encompass the health of the human brain.

            To say a "medical doctor and a psychologist are not interchangeable" seems especially absurd to me. First of all...."medical" doctor? As in.....what? A dentist? A podiatrist? An anesthesiologist? Heart surgeon? Brain surgeon? Your statement intentionally excludes psychology and psychiatry from being medical.

            My point? "Medical" doesn't include the brain? So, a person having hallucinations isn't having a "medical" problem as long as they have the diagnosis of schizophrenia....but once a brain tumor is discovered to be actually causing the hallucinations? Switch to a "medical doctor" then? What if no shrink had ruled out schizophrenia? They'd just die of a brain tumor, that's what.

            The paradigm needs to flip. "Mental" illnesses are medical. Period. It's science. It's physical. It's chemical. It's medical!

            PET scan of the human brain....

            c7_pet_depression

            •  I'm sorry, but... (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NYFM, Sparhawk, Wee Mama

              ""Mental" illnesses are medical. Period."

              I'm going to have to disagree. Major Depression is not in the same category as cancer or influenza. The fact that the brain is of the body doesn't change this. Except in the cases of physical trauma, like a brain tumor or stroke, a psychologically-based illness has a distinct etiology and course of treatment that makes it qualitatively different than an illness rooted in disease or physical malfunction.

              I'll go further and say that the treatment of mental illness was seriously compromised while it was considered a medical problem. We did not make serious advancements in the care of mental illness (not including pharmaceutical advances, although those have been significant) until after WWII when psychologists became clinicians alongside their medical counterparts. The medical model is a poor fit for mental health issues and is useful primarily as an adjunct to treatment.

              Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

              by J Ash Bowie on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 08:38:36 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Um. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Eileen B, Milou

            I know several people whose bipolar disorder has been treated brilliantly with antiseizure meds.

            Talk therapy fell by the wayside very quickly. It was no longer necessary, if it ever was.

            The brain is a funny little organ. Talk therapy helps some people exclusively. Medicine helps some people exclusively.

            And there are lots of people in the squishy middle.  But isnt it also true that quite a few people with "medical" illness get better when you give them a sugar pill?

            Talk therapy (in all its forms, including such things as behavior modification and cognitive therapies that really don't require a lot of talking) IS a medical intervention, the way I see it.  When we call it Something Else, we marginalize it, and therefore those who use it.

            © grover


            So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

            by grover on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 08:42:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm glad the meds worked (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NYFM, Sparhawk, teklanika

              It is a logical error to say that because both medical illnesses and mental illnesses are sometimes treatable by meds then they are of the same category. For one, meds only treat the symptoms of mental illness, while in medical realm they can sometimes cure the problem (e.g. infections). In other words, there is no pharmaceutical cure for mental illnesses; the medical model can be good for but stops at the limit of symptom management. Moreover, there are far more cases of bipolar disorder that cannot be treated only with meds, making your anecdotal cases outliers.

              I don't begrudge people finding relief from meds. But the differences are simply too many to simply define serious mental problems as being in the medical domain.

              Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

              by J Ash Bowie on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 08:59:18 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well, heck... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Eileen B, adrianrf

                I have an autoimmune disorder, the symptoms of which are managed (barely) by medicine.

                Since when does "cure" become any sort of threshold or standard for what is considered "medical" and what isn't?

                I have two highly respected board-certified rheumatologists  who almost never cure any of their patients. In the Pacific Northwest, there are a lot of us. We live with managed symptoms, just like our brothers and sisters with mental illness.

                Forgive me if I seem obtuse, but I really don't see a lot of difference.

                © grover


                So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

                by grover on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 09:21:02 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  The difference (0+ / 0-)

                  Mental illnesses are distinct in two ways from medical problems: (1) they do not involve a pathogen as a key etiological component, and (2) they include more than a physical dysfunction when one is present (e.g. schizophrenia), even though in most occasions there is no physical dysfunction. This is why a traumatic brain injury is considered a medical problem and not a mental illness, even though TBIs often affect mood and even personality.

                  You will realize how distinct these categories are when you acknowledge that psychotherapy can often successfully treat mental illnesses, but that it cannot treat medical problems. No study has ever shown psychotherapy to successfully treat an illness caused by a pathogen or physical dysfunction. However, psychotherapy can help patients cope with the emotional side effects of illness, just as medications can help people manage symptoms related to their mental illness. In this sense, there are treatment overlaps. But the underlying situations are entirely different.

                  Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

                  by J Ash Bowie on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 10:24:31 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  I wouldn't say that it's the stigma (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NYFM, Alexandra Lynch

          that destroys relationships so much as the fact that the behavior that comes with some of these disorders can be really hard to live with.

          48forEastAfrica - Donate to Oxfam If you can't feed a hundred people, then just feed one. - Mother Teresa

          by wasatch on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 08:55:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  it's a holdover from naive dualism. (0+ / 0-)

          Naive dualism is the belief that the mind is wholly separate from the body.  It's not the same thing as philosophical dualism, which is basically the belief in a soul, and is one of the underpinnings of religion.

          So we persist in this naive idea that minds have nothing to do with bodies, and use the term "mental illness."  

          I agree with you, and your point is very well stated:  better to drop it entirely, and just use the diagnostic terms:  "I have diabetes."  "I have depression."  "I have high blood pressure."  "I have bipolar disorder."  Etc.

          Though, the development of new medications has really made a difference in de-stigmatizing a lot of this.  When I was in highschool, depression was a big deal in the sense of "ohhhh, scary!"  Nowadays it's just "serotonin imbalance, need to go get some pills for that."   Similar with anxiety disorder and OCD and even erectile dysfunction (though the latter needs to stop being used as for mean jokes too).  

          And we can reserve the term "crazy" to mean "wholly irrational beliefs and behaviors that persist in contradiction to facts," rather than as a slur for an unspecified diagnosis.  

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 12:43:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Point Three (20+ / 0-)

    is spot on.

    Just because a person is subjected to techniques designed to get them to reject critical thinking doesn't mean they're insane. In fact, it's the opposite. They're usually perfectly sane.

    I frame it as a "TISC" process. Gain their TRUST. Have them ISOLATE themselves from outside opinions (scientists, non-believers, non-group members, etc). SCARE the hell out of them by threatening them with hell, eternal punishment, loss of salvation, peer pressure defining their pre-group life as sinful and wrong. Then, COLLECT and cash in.

    I can't see a part of that process that's insane to me. It's hard to see if you're being manipulated because it happens in small steps over time, but there's nothing insane about it. It works as a recruitment process for said groups because it's a perfectly rational outcome.

  •  Formosa's law on Usenet (6+ / 0-)

    which is just common sense and decency.

    we don't know anyone's true state of mind from online interaction.  if someone truly has a mental illness, it's cruel to torment the person.  

  •  And while we are at it (38+ / 0-)

    I absolutely loathe when people decide to call moody people "bipolar".  Moody is NOT what bipolar is.   Bipolar is my daughter telling me she hates the racing thoughts that keep her from sleep, that make her hallucinate, that keep her from being able to focus.  Bipolar is the deep depression that will sometimes spring up like a dark force grabbing her soul.  Bipolar is a serious disease that requires constant medication, vigilant care of your body, food intake, sleep schedule and emotional triggers.  Bipolar isn't crazy either, just a biochemical illness.

    Go Bernie Sanders! You are what a politician should be!

    by Former Chicagoan Now Angeleno on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:23:10 PM PDT

  •  thank you! n/t (6+ / 0-)

    Prison rape is not funny.

    by social democrat on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:23:44 PM PDT

  •  hey, can you write a diary... (8+ / 0-)

    ...about the use of atheism or agnosticism as a criteria for mental illness in the history of psychology/psychiatry?

    Prison rape is not funny.

    by social democrat on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:40:13 PM PDT

  •  Ann Coulter Maligns People With Mental Illness (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xxdr zombiexx, Calfacon

    ....by portraying a character who is in constant borderline meltdown.  Why does she get to play a mentally ill character ?

    There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

    by bernardpliers on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:48:28 PM PDT

  •  I disavow it entirely (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Thinking Fella, Wee Mama

    Namecalling and derogatory statements are not acceptable.

  •  I tipped but could not rec...lots of proof of (5+ / 0-)

    'supernatural' and that doesn't make belief in it wrong.

    I work for an agency that provides independent living and case management for people with mental illness. Religion, and belief or not, has nothing to do with mental illness.

    Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1841

    by SallyCat on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:48:52 PM PDT

    •  Evidence? (12+ / 0-)

      Well, no, there is no evidence for anything supernatural, if by "evidence" we mean objectively verifiable data. When we remove poorly constructed experiments, subjective first-person reports, and anecdotal tales, supernaturalism is left with nothing to support it. On the other hand, naturalism has only ever been supported by reliable evidence, without a single exception.

      Be that as it may, I can understand why many would believe in supernaturalism anyway. As such, by itself, such belief has nothing to do with mental illness.

      Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

      by J Ash Bowie on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:07:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I disagree. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        J Ash Bowie, mjfgates

        There's plenty of qualitative evidence of the supernatural. You've never seen Ghost Adventures, have you? :P

        Logic will break your heart forever. Be brave. -- The Stills

        by Colorado is the Shiznit on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:48:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Do you think that science has discovered all? (3+ / 0-)

        A hundred years ago, accepted science fact would've been considered supernatural fantasy.

        I remind myself of this when considering what might be "supernatural." Seems to be, but is it really?

        Radio waves full of data, speech, music, for example, that exist all around us, but we can't perceive except with equipment that was once unheard of.

        By the way, I'm not religious at all. But I do like to consider what might be just about to be discovered by science.

        •  I watch all these cool shows (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dinazina, Alexandra Lynch

          on the History 2 channel, or the Science channel, or whatever. I saw something a few months ago stating that they're pretty close to "discovering God" in the large hadron collider (LHC).

          I love that crap. I eat it up like potato chips.

          Logic will break your heart forever. Be brave. -- The Stills

          by Colorado is the Shiznit on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 06:14:41 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I was thinking particularly (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Colorado is the Shiznit

            that it's a "supernatural" belief that other intelligence exists in the universe. After all, we have no evidence of it after decades of SETI.

            But considering the size of the universe and the size of this planet,  it's also supernatural to believe our intelligence (such as it is) is the only. Thus questions like "Are we alone?" while gazing at the stars seem laughable.

            •  Completely agree. (0+ / 0-)

              Logic will break your heart forever. Be brave. -- The Stills

              by Colorado is the Shiznit on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 06:32:12 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Alien life isn't supernatural (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Sparhawk, adrianrf

              I think you are confounding belief in supernatural constructs (gods, souls, etc) with belief in hypothetically natural but unsupported phenomena. Alien life, if found, would certainly be natural...i.e. rooted in the same physical laws that make Earthly life possible. Also, we know that life exists (our own), so it isn't a stretch to presume that it could exist elsewhere, especially considering the age and scope of the universe.

              Now then, if someone believed in a specific form of life elsewhere, like the three-headed ammonia people of Planet X, that would be rather delusional. But still not supernatural.

              Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

              by J Ash Bowie on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 09:05:03 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yes (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                J Ash Bowie, adrianrf

                The supposition of alien life is a small extension of what we already know and take for granted. We haven't seen it yet, but seeing it would not throw our entire understanding of cosmology into disarray.

                On the other hand, a god hypothesis is something completely alien to our current understanding of the universe.

                They are not at all equivalent.

                (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                by Sparhawk on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 09:33:05 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  I didn't say science has discovered it all... (4+ / 0-)

          ...I only said that science hasn't yet discovered anything supernatural. In principle, it is entirely possible that science will indeed find some evidence for the supernatural...but possibility does not imply probability.

          Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

          by J Ash Bowie on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 06:36:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sure, because (2+ / 0-)

            once something's discovered by science it's no longer supernatural. The definition changes!

            •  According to some... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Sparhawk

              ...but not to me. I define the supernatural as a force or being that can cause changes in the material world while remaining unaffected in turn (i.e. it has causal properties but is not subject to the physical "laws" that give rise to the material universe). If science discovered such a thing, it would remain supernatural.

              Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

              by J Ash Bowie on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 07:06:22 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  The latest theories in physics (0+ / 0-)

                I've heard (as a layman) are - there may well be multiple universes and multiple dimensions. Not so easy to wrap our heads around that one! Ever read "Flatland"?

                •  Weird doesn't equal supernatural (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Sparhawk, dinazina

                  I suspect that some version of multiple universes is correct. Of course, I don't see how we could ever confirm it. If we're around in a thousand years, maybe we'll have the technology. But either way, if there are indeed other universes, then I would argue they too are natural and not supernatural. Still, it's all hypothetical at this point...

                  Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

                  by J Ash Bowie on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 09:12:11 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  you also see this... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gustynpip, JayRaye, Wee Mama

    ...in jokes about psychiatric medication -- see this from Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly about some punditry gone bad:

    I don’t know if Mr. Curl’s meds just kicked in at some point...

    Prison rape is not funny.

    by social democrat on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:50:15 PM PDT

  •  Tipped, Recced AND Hotlisted (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, Wee Mama, social democrat

    The first two because it needed to be said, the last because it will probably need to be said again (and again)

    from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

    by Catte Nappe on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:58:11 PM PDT

  •  Well said. You speak for this atheist. n/t (6+ / 0-)

    You can tell Monopoly is an old game because there's a luxury tax and rich people can go to jail.

    by Simian on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:00:08 PM PDT

  •  Some days I think this place is (4+ / 0-)

    just out of its collective gourd.

    I assume DKos ran out of things to argue about....

     

    #occupywallstreet: Although I know the rhythm you'd prefer me dancing to, I'll turn my revolt into style.

    by xxdr zombiexx on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:02:37 PM PDT

  •  Thank you! This must be said. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, social democrat

    For all the reasons you state.

  •  "Sidi Ahmed was not only a saint, he was crazy (2+ / 0-)

    too!"

    Rough quote from a North African novelist, famous, but I've forgotten his name.

    In other cultures what we call "mental illness" is a sign of having a different channel to what's Real. The "crazy" are thus given a respected role in society.

    In the latest DSM I've heard of no classification: "the mania to class every single unpleasant and non-conformist attitude as a mental illness, by people getting paid by pharmaceutical companies" as itself a mental illness. Moral illness, that's not even on the table.


    Today, if you exist... that's already suspicious.

    by Jim P on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:15:48 PM PDT

  •  Chickens and eggs, causations and correlations (4+ / 0-)

    Because some people do truly dreadful things and 'explain' their actions as being based on their religious belief, many choose to conclude that the religion caused them to do those dreadful things.

    Having worked for decades with the mentally ill in social service settings it is clear to me that religion is only one of several mantles people might cloak their delusions in. Having lived for even more decades in this world it is equally clear to me that technically sane people - in search of power, fame, wealth or other perceived 'goods' - have found the language and appearance of religion to be useful tools to further their personal ambitions.

    from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

    by Catte Nappe on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:15:53 PM PDT

    •  My experience has been that mentally ill clients (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      social democrat, Catte Nappe

      are from all different backgrounds and hold many different religious beliefs as well as some being atheists.

      So I have seen some very religious mentally ill patients and some who are atheist or agnostic with the same mental illness diagnosis.

      Schizophrenic and bipolar disorder can have some genetic components and are bio chemical disorders so often religion plays no role at all in the process, or so that has been my experience.

      Sometimes the delusions of the schizphrenics can be religiously oriented like a guy who said he was Moses and another who said he was John the Baptist but then I had the women who insisted she wrote the Beatles Song and another whose fixed delusion was she was part of the Secret Service Detail for President Carter.
      Another woman insisted male staff at the group home were stealing her bras and stealing her jewelry.

      Follow PA Keystone Liberals on Twitter: @KeystoneLibs

      by wishingwell on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:52:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you (15+ / 0-)

    This is an awesome post.

    From someone who

    a) grew up deeply embedded in a theistic religion

    b) has non-theistic religious beliefs

    c) has plenty of experience with mentally ill family members

    d) and knows the fucking difference

    Peace,

    Andrew

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:17:59 PM PDT

  •  oh great. (0+ / 0-)

    meta-pie-fight.

    We haven't had one of these in...................days.


    may we not be strangers in the lush province of joy - Charles Wright

    by AlyoshaKaramazov on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:19:20 PM PDT

  •  Kudos. (4+ / 0-)

    Point 5, I think, summarizes the majority view of people critical of religion without using insults or bombastic language.

    It just gets right to the heart of the problem.

  •  Except for Mormons. (0+ / 0-)

    Alright, alright....

    Just kidding.


    "Armaments, universal debt, planned obsolescence — the three pillars of Western prosperity." — Aldous Huxley

    by Pluto on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:33:22 PM PDT

  •  yes, I believe in god != I believe I'm god (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, J Ash Bowie

    It is an interesting discussion to have, at what point does it actually become insanity?   Some movies I like that discuss this are:  The Island (Pavel Lungin) and Through the Glass Darkly (Bergman).  Also, The Hour of the Wolf (Bergman) and Persona (Bergman) are interesting character studies of mental illness.

    •  Good questions (0+ / 0-)

      A belief, in itself, is not evidence of mental illness, regardless of its bizarreness. Mental illness is, rather, characterized by a lack of cognitive coherence and/or emotional regulation leading to suffering or situations that are destructive or distressing. It is possible for a belief system to lead to mental illness, at least in principle, and also for mental illness to inspire certain beliefs. But I would think that it is rare for the beliefs themselves to do this...I think it would be more about involvement in a toxic social environment, social isolation, or other secondary set of conditions.

      Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

      by J Ash Bowie on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 12:20:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥! (5+ / 0-)

    Great job - thanks so much!

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:50:01 PM PDT

  •  I have worked with schizophrenics in a residential (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    J Ash Bowie, grover, wasatch, NYFM

    living facility as the behavior specialist and therapist.
    We saw many delusions and some did much better and the delusions left when the medication was working well and others would do well but still have one or two fixed delusions.

    1. One guy was convinced I was throwing out his cigarettes and drinking his coffee.

    2. One day, we went around the circle asking for their birthdays so we could celebrate each one. We did fine until we came to one guy who said he was Not born, he Was the Creator. We just moved on.

    3. One woman insisted, as I said above, that the male staff were stealing her bras, lingerie and jewelry.

    4. Another woman insisted she was a Hilton and part owner of their hotel chain and always wanted me to call a lawyer for her.

    5. One man insisted he was Captain Kirk and the one on TV was fake.

    So I actually saw litttle of the religious stuff or delusions, they were quite varied as you can see.

    I never saw a deep correlation between mental illness and religion at all in 20 years of therapy, in patient, outpatient and the whole gamut.

    Follow PA Keystone Liberals on Twitter: @KeystoneLibs

    by wishingwell on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:59:56 PM PDT

  •  I think Glenn Beck is insane. (0+ / 0-)

    I don't mean that in a snarky sense.  I think he cannot tell the difference between stimulus that arises in his head and stimulus from the external world.  He is functional because he has an audience.  Were he to lose his audience and both the validation and checks on his behavior it offers, he'd be rocking himself in a corner.

  •  As someone who suffers from (5+ / 0-)

    PTSD, schizo-effective disorder and OCD I thank you. I'm tired of all of the slurs against the mentally ill on this site. That's the biggest reason I detest the "Saturday Hatemail" feature.

    I'm mentally ill. I'm also a liberal and on your side. Why do you feel the need to keep insulting me and other people I care about?

    (The last two sentences are directed at the haters and not the diarist).

    Why do I have the feeling George W. Bush joined the Stonecutters, ate a mess of ribs, and used the Constitution as a napkin?

    by Matt Z on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 06:04:59 PM PDT

  •  I'm demonstrably mentally ill and I believe in God (0+ / 0-)

    So there!  (And I've oh-so-amply documented and proven the first clause of the above statement many times over.)

    However, thank you diarist, for pointing out, that religious belief and mental illness are not the same thing.  If it were, I'd be the fucking Pope.

    However, when you describe yourself as:

    An atheist and a full-on naturalist of the monist/physicalist variety. In other words, I don't believe in gods, souls, the afterlife, angels, astrology, reiki, homeopathy, reincarnation, telekinesis, or Bigfoot.
    I totally agree... except with the word atheist.  Remove all the enumerated items like gods, souls, afterlife, bigfoot, etc., and all other supernatural phenomena, from the subject matter of the religious debate, and what is left over is still not necessarily atheism.  It's just a common starting ground.

    I think that part baffles many people who don't understand the material.

    You're welcome to your beliefs of course, of course, and to your own self-appellation.  We probably disagree with few things except, possibly, the value and meaning that we attach to the things leftover after the exclusion of the supernatural.

    •  Atheism defined (0+ / 0-)
      However, thank you diarist, for pointing out, that religious belief and mental illness are not the same thing.
      You're welcome. Seems obvious enough, but clearly it needs to be pointed out.
      I totally agree... except with the word atheist
      Atheism is defined as a lack of belief in a god (a-theism, "without belief in god"). I lack a belief in a god. Therefore, I am an atheist.
      I think that part baffles many people who don't understand the material.
      I have to admit that I'm curious...what is it that some people don't understand about the material?

      Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

      by J Ash Bowie on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 12:30:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I would suggest that the definition of God, (0+ / 0-)

        the one which you don't believe in, is, maybe not flawed, but poorly formed, perhaps formed in large part by the dumbing-down of religious thought that accompanies the ascendency of the religious right and their fundamentalist definitions of God as an anthropomorphic intelligence who meddles in earthly affairs through non-physics based miracles.

        Now, I would prefer instead to talk about what religion is, because it's by that that we avoid the cultural baggage that comes with arguing about definitions of God.  Certainly you can see, for instance, the God conception of Thomas Paine and Beethoven is not consistent with the God conception of Franklin Graham.  

        I briefly spammed my diary series on Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which went into a discussion of the rationalist and humanist turns that religion took during the Enlightenment period.  The  third part in the series IS HERE.  Trippy stuff that connects dots from the Illuminati to the Freemasons to the Founding Fathers to Weimar Classicism to Schiller and then to Beethoven.  The tide of religious thought at the time (and it's not necessarily where I am, but it's in the same ballpark) was pantheism and deism.  

        Richard Dawkins in his book, The God Delusion, praises Beethoven and the early Western pantheists by calling pantheism "Sexed Up Atheism."

        Interesting website about that that google brings up, HERE.  A quote:

        ... So what's the difference between Atheism and Pantheism? As far as disbelief in supernatural beings, forces or realms, there is no difference. World Pantheism also shares the respect for evidence, science, and logic that's typical of atheism.

        [...]

        Why go beyond straight atheism?

        Does atheism need sexing up? As such, atheism answers only a single question: is there a creator God, or not? That's an important question, but if your answer is "no" it is only a starting point. You may have reached that viewpoint based on your respect for logic, evidence and science, and those too are vital values. Yet after you've reached that initial "no God" answer, all the other important questions in life, all the options for mental and emotional wholeness and social and environmental harmony, remain open...

        Suddenly the atheist definition of God doesn't seem as firm.  Atheists and pantheists can both agree on most points except those that have to do with religion.  Which makes a discussion of the two positions likely to run headlong into confusions over definitions and intentions.  

        But I'm not a pantheist, and my own beliefs are too weird and vague to be encompassed by it and would take too long to explain.  Basically, I have a whole different set of questions that occupy my own religious thoughts and concerns that have little to do with anthropomorphic gods on clouds.  

        Now, since you are a psychiatrist, and an avowed atheist, may I suggest a book by an important figure in early psychological research, The Varieties of Religious Experience, a book I wrote another (rather silly and even pornographic diary) on HERE (Music and the Divine).

        James elaborated at one point on what he called "the mystical experience," something common to not just religion, but great poetry and music, and in fact, something maybe common to the human condition itself.  As a rationalist philosopher, William James wanted to first look at this experience objectively as a thing apart rather than to indulge in any specific dogmatic revealed wisdom folderol.  I'm going to do us all a favor by quoting from a summary notes website rather than James himself. [...]

            He understands mystical experience in terms of four characteristics. The first two of these are sufficient to identify a mystical experience.

            1. On the one hand, there is ineffability: the subject of a mystical experience cannot find words to describe it.

            2. On the other hand, there is the noetic quality: subjects claim that they have experienced revelations, insights into vital truths.

            3. The third characteristic of mystical experiences is their transiency: they rarely last more than an hour or two at most.

            4. The fourth characteristic is passivity: the subject feels a loss of control, of being in the grasp of a "superior power".

        And thusly I have justified my anecdote of Toe-Curl-Girl.  Slick, eh?

        I can relate all four of those characteristics to my experience of great music.  But I would add one more aspect to it that I think James might have identified with: The sense that you are experiencing something more important than just yourself.  For some people, that more important thing might take a number of forms, including a sense of being in the presence of God.

        So from my perspective, I'm totally comfortable accepting all the premises of atheists that they may perceive as religious deal killers.  I, on the other hand, perceive them as irrelevant and out of the scope of the religious questions that plague me, which I, perhaps too presumptiously, consider to be questions of a higher but unscientific nature.

        One last thing... I got sucked into a debate on a gaming forum where an atheist quite sincerely asked people to tell him WHY they believed in God.  My answer was, so I would have something to feel grateful to when I drank a cup of my home-roasted Kenya AA Mbwinjeru coffee.  Perhaps there is no sentient anthropomorphic God there, but I still experience gratitude to something outside myself.  The author of the question gave me credit for giving him the most interesting and thought-provoking answer.

        That personal experience of gratitude, subjective as it is, is real to me.  Yet, because it is subjective, it is out of the realm of scientific inquiry, other than an analysis of brain centers that are more active when I experience it.  I, on the other hand, because the experience is so real to me, want to find some MEANING in it.  For instance, what does it mean about my connection to other people outside my own personal bubble that I can appreciate a good cup of Kenya AA?  Do we have any connection to other people at all?  I'm not suggesting anything supernatural here.  Just asking a critical question about metaphysics, about what is real, about what is shareable, about what the definition of ME is, that I can even contemplate a cup of Kenya as an enjoyable experience for ME.  

        As you can see, this spins off in a host of directions that are religiously significant but not supernatural.

        So, when you say you are an atheist because you don't believe in God, I say, fine, but your definition of what you don't believe in is so strictly confined that it's not a very useful statement or creed.

        •  Reply 1 (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dumbo

          I'm going to have to reply in small bits...

          I would suggest that the definition of God, the one which you don't believe in, is, maybe not flawed, but poorly formed, perhaps formed in large part by the dumbing-down of religious thought...
          It doesn't matter which god you present, I don't believe in it. It doesn't matter how sublime, abstract, or sophisticated your definition of god might be, I don't believe it. If you use god in a purely metaphorical way, then I might believe in the phenomena for which you are using the term "god" (e.g. love, creativity, etc), but I still reject the deific moniker. I do not believe in any gods whatsoever...I am without theistic belief, hence I am an atheist. Any attempt to define away the atheistic position is merely a semantic argument that ignores the substance of the debate.

          Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

          by J Ash Bowie on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 09:38:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Reply #2 (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dumbo
          Suddenly the atheist definition of God doesn't seem as firm.  Atheists and pantheists can both agree on most points except those that have to do with religion.
          I am a progressive and Ron Paul is a libertarian. We both agree on several things, like ending the war on drugs and bringing home the troops. But that doesn't make my progressivism "less firm"...it just means there is overlap between these two political worldviews. Likewise, that there are many pantheists who are also atheistic doesn't change the definition of atheism, it just means that pantheism allows for atheism.
          Basically, I have a whole different set of questions that occupy my own religious thoughts and concerns that have little to do with anthropomorphic gods on clouds.  
          If you don't believe in any non-metaphorical gods, then you are an atheist, too. You might want to avoid using that term for whatever reason, but the term describes you nevertheless.

          It's important to understand that being an atheist only entails one thing: a lack of belief in gods. It is possible to be an atheist and yet believe in all other kinds of supernatural things, like souls and magic. It is a mistake to automatically assume that an atheist is also a naturalist (like myself).

          Now, since you are a psychiatrist, and an avowed atheist, may I suggest a book by an important figure in early psychological research, The Varieties of Religious Experience
          I am actually a graduate student in the process of becoming a psychologist, not a psychiatrist (who is a medical doctor).

          I am familiar with James of course. Please note, lacking belief in gods does not prevent one from having the kinds of peak experiences that James talked about. Many Buddhists are atheistic even as they work towards attaining nirvana. You should not conflate beliefs with experiences.

          Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

          by J Ash Bowie on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 01:09:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Reply about definition of God... (0+ / 0-)
            If you don't believe in any non-metaphorical gods, then you are an atheist, too. You might want to avoid using that term for whatever reason, but the term describes you nevertheless.
            Well, no.  I would say the sticky point here is "non-metaphorical Gods."  We run headfirst, again, into a limited cultural understanding of the use of the word God which doesn't align well to the broader use of the word outside TV evangelism and fundamentalism debates.  In fact, the word God can and is often used to describe concepts that are NOT metaphorical, but are abstract and thus not comparable to fundamentalist interpretations of God.

            Hmmm... I'm not a Hindu, but let's see what their definition of God is.  Wikipedia on Brahman:

            The later Vedic religion produced a series of profound philosophical reflections in which Brahman is now considered to be the one Absolute Reality behind changing appearances; the universal substrate from which material things originate and to which they return after their dissolution.
            This is too abstract to be considered metaphorical.  Neither is it physical or material in the same way as the white-bearded God of fundamentalism.  It's conceptual.  Now, Hinduism takes a number of twists and turns from there, some of which can be dogmatic, others not, but I ask the question, if somebody believes the basic premise as described above, are they atheists, using the word atheist as I believe you are using it?  I don't think a yes or no answer to this question is very clarifying, whichever way you answer it.  

            Now broaden out from there to other faiths, for a moment.  I'm Jewish.  Most non-Hassidic Jews are quite content to try to understand their faith through metaphor.  In fact, I suspect most rabbis don't believe in a real sentient anthropomorphic entity, although I can't prove that.  Maybe I'm wrong.  But there is a lot of space there for that, not just space for an uncomfortable coexistence , but a central basis of theological thought.  God is often used, in this context, as language to describe those things that are out of our individual human control yet denote a higher order and purpose in material existence.  Even if we don't understand that purpose, even if that purpose is silly from our perspective, like calculating the number 42, as in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxty.

            Let's turn to Christianity now.  First sentence of the New Testament:

            John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
            There is a lot of analysis of this which runs in multiple directions.  Fundamentalists have their own interpretation which is consistent with an anthropomorphic God.  The original greek Text translated as "The Word," is Logos.  

            Wikipedia on Logos:

            ... After Judaism came under Hellenistic influence, Philo (ca. 20 BC–AD 50) adopted the term into Jewish philosophy.[6] The Gospel of John identifies the Logos, through which all things are made, as divine (theos),[7] and further identifies Jesus as the incarnation of the Logos...
            Let's avoid the whole Magic Jesus controversy for the moment and focus on Logos.  
            Philo distinguished between logos prophorikos (the uttered word) and the logos endiathetos (the word remaining within).[10] The Stoics also spoke of the logos spermatikos (the generative principle of the Universe), which is not important in the Biblical tradition, but is relevant in Neoplatonism.[11]
            Now we are entering an area of greater abstraction.  "The generative principle of the Universe."  Is this a metaphor?  No.  The anthropomorphic God, though, can be a metaphor for this.

            And, by the way, Neoplatonism is probably the closest definition of what I believe, but that would take a longer explanation.  My first exposure to Neoplatonism came through a mailing list I used to be active on, The Everything List, which was a mailing list "hang out" for researchers and thinkers in the field of theoretical physics.  I'm not a physicist -- just a crazy engineer who loves music -- but I've always had a passion for these things.  An interesting question it raises is this: If I have a model for the universe, if I have a formula that describes a universe, like this one, do I need any real instigator to say that all universes that can be described by that formula are as real as the one that I live in now?  Many prominent scientists would say, no.  (I would say no).  If you say no, you run into a number of fascinating and sometimes crazy metaphysical implications.  

            Is this religion?  Is this consistent with the Hindu Brahman, "the one Absolute Reality behind changing appearances; the universal substrate from which material things originate."  Is it consistent with Logos, "the generative purpose of the universe?"  Yes.

            I'm sure I can find other examples of more theologically advanced uses of the word God, but this is just a good start.  God doesn't necessarily have to be metaphorical to avoid being fundamentalist.  It can simply be more abstract and elegant.  Or, if you must have a metaphor, it can be a metaphor for that which is abstract and elegant about our universe.  But I would say that's not necessarily a metaphor but rather a proper use of language to boil down abstract concepts.  

            Thank you for inviting this conversation.  I might be able to scavenge part of this for a wider diary on the subject.  I can't do that right now, though, while the topic is hot, because Thursdays are my music series day.  (This Thursday the Sibelius Violin concerto).

            •  How many angels can fit on the head of a pin (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Dumbo
              Well, no.  I would say the sticky point here is "non-metaphorical Gods."
              It isn't sticky at all. A god that is non-metaphorical either exists or doesn't. If you believe in Brahman as an objectively existing, non-metaphorical deity, then I am wrong and you are indeed a theist.
              In fact, the word God can and is often used to describe concepts that are NOT metaphorical, but are abstract and thus not comparable to fundamentalist interpretations of God.
              Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you mean to say here that "God" can be used to describe forces, objects, and processes that do not conform to simplistic Abrahamic concepts. If so, that is unarguably true. If that usage is non-metaphorical, meaning that it is describing forces, objects, and processes that fall outside of the natural universe as described by physics, then I don't believe in those gods either.
              This is too abstract to be considered metaphorical.
              All metaphors are inherently abstract...a metaphor is merely the use of something to represent something else. In the example you offered, "Brahman" is a personified metaphor for an assumed "Absolute Reality behind changing appearances". As such, the actual assertion here is that such a thing as a "universal substrate" called "Absolute Reality" exists. I don't believe it does, but even if I did, I would remain an atheist, because this is describing a state of existence, not a god. To illustrate, I could believe in a heavenly afterlife that was absent of any gods...and I would be an atheist who also believed in heaven.
              Most non-Hassidic Jews are quite content to try to understand their faith through metaphor.
              If so, the term atheist accurately describes them.
              Is this religion?
              I haven't been addressing what is or isn't religion. Only what is and isn't entailed by atheism.
              I'm sure I can find other examples of more theologically advanced uses of the word God, but this is just a good start.
              Which is fine, but is irrelevant to the topic at hand, which is the integrity of the atheistic position. You've been stuck on insisting that atheists only deny crude, "fundamentalist" versions of god. I've literally said that it doesn't matter how sublime, abstract, or sophisticated your definition of god is...if it is anything other than a metaphor for natural forces, objects, or processes, then atheists (by definition) do not accept those gods as real.  

              Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

              by J Ash Bowie on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 05:48:16 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Just testing... (0+ / 0-)
                if it is anything other than a metaphor for natural forces, objects, or processes, then atheists (by definition) do not accept those gods as real.
                This is not what I believe, but if I said that I define God as mathematics, or some particular branch of mathematics, would you say that this God is not a natural force, object or process, and hence, something you don't believe in?  

                (To further test it, suppose I also mean Complex Mathematics, which is a mathematical system based that defines and uses i, the square root of negative 1.)

                I'll jump ahead and guess you'll say yes, mathematics exists, but it's not material, it's ideal, and so it fits somewhere in the natural world order of things as a naturalist would define it, but just not in the physical material world... or something like that.

                Brahman is not a thinking, feeling deity as you are culturally used to thinking of those things, but an abstract idea that tries to describe the essence of things and give it a name.  Hinduism then offers ways of trying to understand that and put it in perspective, whether it fails or succeeds at that.  Sometimes, in some flavors, it does resort to supernatural hocus pocus, but it's not really necessary for the core beliefs.  In fact, by your standards, the Brahman of Hinduism may not be a God either.  I'm not sure.  It might be that the only three God-based religions antithetical to Naturalism are the Abrahamic ones, and only primarily in their primitive fundamentalist forms.

                •  What are you trying to say? (0+ / 0-)
                  This is not what I believe, but if I said that I define God as mathematics, or some particular branch of mathematics, would you say that this God is not a natural force, object or process, and hence, something you don't believe in?  
                  I would say that you are using the idea of god metaphorically and would ask how that metaphor improves upon simply referring to math as math.
                  I'll jump ahead and guess you'll say yes, mathematics exists, but it's not material, it's ideal, and so it fits somewhere in the natural world order of things as a naturalist would define it, but just not in the physical material world... or something like that.
                  Yeah, something like that, although I wouldn't call math an ideal. Math is as real as any other language...it's just a model for describing the universe in a very precise way.
                  Brahman is not a thinking, feeling deity as you are culturally used to thinking of those things, but an abstract idea that tries to describe the essence of things and give it a name.
                  If Brahman is just an idea, then it isn't a god.
                  It might be that the only three God-based religions antithetical to Naturalism are the Abrahamic ones, and only primarily in their primitive fundamentalist forms.
                  I think you seriously underestimate the degree to which the Dharmic and mainline Abrahamic religions rely upon supernatural assumptions at a deep level. Some small Eastern sects might not be concerned with gods, and would therefore be strictly atheistic, but you will be hard-pressed to find any that are genuinely naturalistic. Even Confucianism,
                  which is certainly atheistic, makes all kinds of supernatural claims.

                  But either way, so what? What exactly is the argument that you're trying to make here?

                  Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

                  by J Ash Bowie on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 09:04:11 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  Reply #3 (final) (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dumbo
          So from my perspective, I'm totally comfortable accepting all the premises of atheists that they may perceive as religious deal killers.  I, on the other hand, perceive them as irrelevant and out of the scope of the religious questions that plague me, which I, perhaps too presumptuously, consider to be questions of a higher but unscientific nature.
          I'm not understanding you here. Are you saying that atheism or religious deal-killers are irrelevant to you? If the latter, could you give an example of what you mean?  
          Perhaps there is no sentient anthropomorphic God there, but I still experience gratitude to something outside myself.
          Fair enough. But surely you would agree that it is entirely possible to feel gratitude without needing a god to act as the providing object? Needing to feel gratitude doesn't really answer why believe in a god. Of course, it sounds like you don't quite believe that a "sentient anthropomorphic God" exists, so I'm not sure how your position is essentially different than my own. Perhaps the only difference is that I don't imagine a god when I give thanks.
          Yet, because it is subjective, it is out of the realm of scientific inquiry, other than an analysis of brain centers that are more active when I experience it.
          Actually, it's possible to study gratitude in all kinds of scientific ways. We can explore what it means to people, how it makes people feel, and it's impact on behavior and even health. In psychology there is a growing scientific literature addressing gratitude.
          I, on the other hand, because the experience is so real to me, want to find some MEANING in it.  For instance, what does it mean about my connection to other people outside my own personal bubble that I can appreciate a good cup of Kenya AA?  Do we have any connection to other people at all?  I'm not suggesting anything supernatural here.
          I think a common misunderstanding many people make about atheists is that we are uninterested in meaning or connection or emotion or any of the things that makes life rich and fulfilling. This is entirely false, of course....or at least no more true than for the population at large. We tend to simply dismiss supernatural solutions to these questions, instead looking to the natural world for answers.
          So, when you say you are an atheist because you don't believe in God, I say, fine, but your definition of what you don't believe in is so strictly confined that it's not a very useful statement or creed.
          Neither "I believe in God/s" (theism) nor "I don't believe in gods" (atheism) are creeds. They are merely belief positions regarding the existence of deities.

          I did, however, tell you my creed: naturalism. Naturalism entails a broad and sophisticated (and I believe veridical) worldview, especially when informed by secular humanism. And of course I have my own ever-developing ethical commitments, which lay outside the scope of the original post.

          The big takeaway here should be the understanding that atheism in no way prevents a life of meaning, fulfillment, and joy, and it has the great advantage of being in alignment with reality.

          Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

          by J Ash Bowie on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 03:38:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Hmmm... (0+ / 0-)

            Not a reply really, just an observation about the Wikipedia entry on Naturalism:

            Theists challenge the idea that nature is all there is. They believe in a god (or gods) that created nature.
            That's not necessarily true at all.  A supreme sentient entity (which I don't believe in) would not necessarily have to be the creator of the universe.  So you could quite easily believe in an anthropomorphic God and yet believe the universe has always existed, or that it arose from some pre-universe (Greek or Norse paganism, for instance), and is merely dominated today by a supreme being who throws lightning bolts and pisses down from clouds.

            Whomever wrote that didn't think it out very well.  However, it's quite accurate if you define theist to mean fundamentalist Christian.

  •  A most appropriate & well thought out Post. Thanks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    social democrat, J Ash Bowie

    (Or do we still call them Diaries?

    Well, whether it's a Post or a Diary - it's DAMN GOOD!)

    “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.” ~ FDR

    by dmhlt 66 on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 06:23:50 PM PDT

  •  I suffer from depression and anxiety (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    social democrat

    and it is bad enough for me not to shy away from calling myself "mentally ill" because I do indeed react in an abnormal way to normal situations.  

    The more we are careful with our language, the better.  Language is so powerful!

    I appreciate your diary.  

    Just wanted to mention that I do believe in "supernatural" entities and believe we are actually souls incarnated in a body, but I don't go around calling people who say they are athiests "crazy" or "mentally ill".  Heh.

  •  Hooray (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    social democrat

    We're starting to amass reasonable diaries from mental health professionals here.

    I do believe that certain political leaders speak as if they are paranoid or narcissistic, but they might be faking it.

    Other than that, we really shouldn't sling psych terms around loosely.

    For those of you who prefer Bartlett to Obama, re-watch the West Wing. For those who prefer Clinton, re-watch old news videos.

    by Ptolemy on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 07:05:48 PM PDT

  •  I get your drift but my standard... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sparhawk

    ...theoretical argument is that if one were to replace the name "Jesus" (or whatever) with "Mary Lincoln" in all the texts, conversations and observances put forth by Christians (who I guess would then identify as Marist-Lincolnists), would the adherents still be considered mentally healthy in today's society? If they were fervently calling on the ghost of Mary Lincoln to protect and guide them through life as well as somehow accommodate them after death, would that be assumed to be rationally acceptable behavior? If people displayed sincere spiritual devotion to Grouch Marx or Aesop or Bugs Bunny would they similarly be able to demand cultural respect? I don't know. I hardly care. Most "holy" texts were composed decades and centuries after the subject/deity or stated events existed/occurred (I mean, the story of Noah wasn't told in the first person) so their authenticity is questionable. Mormonism may be the exception but quite a lot of their documented origins are somewhat bizarre. Meh. If a hundred years from now Mary Lincoln is proclaimed the Daughter of God/Supreme Prophetess because eighty random writers create a sacred narrative around her I suppose her devoted followers would be considered completely sane and any criticism of their beliefs to be bigotry. It just seems weird to me.

    •  Irrelevant (0+ / 0-)

      ...theoretical argument is that if one were to replace the name "Jesus" (or whatever) with "Mary Lincoln" in all the texts, conversations and observances put forth by Christians (who I guess would then identify as Marist-Lincolnists), would the adherents still be considered mentally healthy in today's society?

      I think Scientology as a belief system is batshit crazy, but that doesn't make its adherents mentally ill. Religious claims come in all shapes and sizes and have become tailor made to appeal to our natural biases and to exploit common cognitive errors. If the Mary Lincoln cult created the same basic religious structure as the Catholics, then I don't see any difference in terms of mental illness not being a factor.

      Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

      by J Ash Bowie on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 08:45:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Having worked in a residential home (0+ / 0-)

      for psychotic adults, I see this as a difference between "belief" and "see/hear/touch/be/know."

      If I believe in Jesus, I'm most likely just your average faithful person. If I'm hearing from Jesus, if I'm seeing him on a regular basis, if I'm talking to him AND he's talking back to me, if I go shopping with Jesus, or simply, if I  AM Jesus, then you should probably gently refer me to a doctor for further work-up.   Even then, it's possible that I'm under the influence of toxins or a serious blow to the head, but it's more likely under those circumstances I'm mentally ill.

      But people talk to their goldfish, believe that their deceased parents watch over them, and even SCREAM at NFL referees, pundits, bachelorettes and Simon Cowell on tv. None of these things are logical. But none of these things are symptoms of being mentally ill either.  So having belief in a man who lived long ago who is documented as saying some pretty cool stuff  that provides useful guidance for getting along with other people (whether or not he actually did), isn't really so far out there.

      © grover


      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 09:01:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Okay. I guess. But if a group of... (0+ / 0-)

        ...people start believing that someone else IS actually communicating with "Jesus" (or some other deity) and that the directives coming from this "human telephone" are essentially the words of God and must be obeyed...they're totally stable? So the folks who pray before a deformed tree bole because it might be shaped like the "Virgin" Mary, they're okay too. Okay. Just checking. Hearing voices is nuts, giving credence and fealty to the person hearing voices is normal. If that works for you that's cool.

        •  No, that's weird. (0+ / 0-)

          Spending thousands of dollars on a grilled cheese sandwich that sort of looks like it has the Virgin Mary's face on it is weird too.

          But spending millions on a piece of paper that has Honus Wagner's face on it is very bizarre too.  People gathering together in a stadium to watch a big TV screen of a football or baseball game  together -- and I ASSURE you, there is praying going on there too -- is strange.

          The question I ask myself is, are these people divorced from reality? Do they really think that visiting the tree WILL cure cancer or they just hedging their bets, kind of like people will also try high doses of fish oil, mud baths to remove toxins and herbal detox mixtures?  Do they really think that everyone flipping their ball caps backward into rally caps helps?

          Are they harming anyone? Are they still able to go to work, care for their children, attend to their personal hygeine (even during March Madness), etc?

          The vast majority that visit holy sites have things in perspective. Would it be nice to have miracles happen as a result of a visit? Sure, but as most sports fans know, miracles usually happen only  when preparation and skill meet opportunity.

          And just to be clear, I specifically said that if someone is hearing voices, then they should likely be evaluated. I'm not sure how you go the idea that this would "be cool" with me.   Folks who have audio hallucinations need to stop taking toxic substances and/or they need help.

          © grover


          So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

          by grover on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 10:23:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No no. I wasn't at all implying... (0+ / 0-)

            ...that you were cool with audio hallucinations. I was questioning the idea that the folks who really, really, really believe that this voice-hearing person is actually having some kind of plausible supernatural experience...those folks, they are not mentally-ill in any way providing they're holding down a job, etc. Just trying to clarify your position. I'm not disputing your point. So, just as an example, The Hale-Bopp/Heaven's Gate followers, who apparently were functional, competent tech-types...they might have been totally sane even though their leader could have been delusional? I'm not trying to be an asshole, I appreciate your lucid explanations.

            •  Oh the Heaven's Gate folks (0+ / 0-)

              (the ones who committed the Hale Bopp suicides) weren't actually functioning the way most of us would describe "normal."

              They gave up all material possessions, worked only to support the collective (many of us in San Diego used the word "cult") and quite a few of the men "chose" to be castrated (their ability to make independent choice in question, as far as I'm concerned).

              That's beyond what is considered apprpriate, normal, reasonal or expected in most faith systems.

              Their leader claimed to be a deity. Maybe he was delusional. Maybe he was just a power-hungry SOB who opted for mass suicide because he knew the gig was up. After all, that's what happened with Jim Jones as far as we can tell, and likely David Koresh.  These folks seem always seem coolly rational when destroying other lives. It's hard to know what's going on in their minds. Are they ill  or master manipulators?

              I'll leave that to folks with the alphabet soup after their names to figure out.

              © grover


              So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

              by grover on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 11:34:28 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Again, thanks for the response. (0+ / 0-)

                I just think it's an interesting topic. I live in L.A. and the subsidized handicapped roaming the streets wear lanyards with I.D. and bus passes, etc. Many are delusional but they generally don't seem to be "joiners" although some of them can be easily swayed or emotionally controlled. Their thought processes may be warped but they are their own. I've met religious devotees who appear to have adopted the psychosis (sorry, I know that's not the proper word...I can't think of a better one right now) of a charismatic spiritual leader and somehow that is more chilling for me. I know that kind of identification can apply to politicians and sports figures but there's just something different when superstition, magic and shit like "hellfire" is involved. Maybe it's the communal nature of it, sort of a mild mass hysteria. The more fundamental sects seem to reinforce their belief systems until everything outside of their realm seems like a threat that needs be attacked. It just doesn't comport with my notion of being mentally healthy. Perhaps I just internalized the 1956 "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" at  too early an age but religious folks evoke the same response from me.

                •  Yeah. I know. (0+ / 0-)

                  Religion seems to be in a class all its own until a guy gets beat half to death at a Dodgers game and his only sin seems to have been that he wore the jersey of another team, and we realize, it's all just Lord of the Flies. Some people are joiners; some people are more --or less -- stable; and some people are just looking for an excuse to attack those outside their tribe.

                  Any time people choose to see the world as "us" and "other" (which a lot of philosophers believe is a proclivity programmed into human nature: it's just what we do), we can get disordered behavior by those individuals.  But does that ipso facto mean these individuals have disorders too? Or does it mean that some people gravitate to certain groups, that they look for the affirmation or even cover that belonging to such a group provides?

                  After all, many people are Christians and Muslims, many are Raider fans, attend NHL games, listen to heavy metal or rap, or attend rival high schools and colleges. So why do some believe it's ok (or even necessary) to fight or even kill another human being simply because he belongs to another tribe?

                  Lord of the Flies. William Golding wasn't the first to observe this. But he was one of the first to give us an easily understood, palatable metaphor. And I think he was right.

                  © grover


                  So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

                  by grover on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 01:15:47 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  What do you have against Reiki and Homeopathy? (0+ / 0-)

    I know Reiki works and pretty sure Homeopathy does...weird for throwing that in there with Bigfoot and angels, especially in this context.  Good diary all the same.

    People, not corporations. Democracy, not totalitarian capitalism.

    by democracy is coming on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 07:35:43 PM PDT

    •  I'm going to assume this was snark n/t (0+ / 0-)

      Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

      by J Ash Bowie on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 08:46:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You'd be wrong. Have you tried either? (0+ / 0-)

        And by that I mean with someone whos a trained professional?

        People, not corporations. Democracy, not totalitarian capitalism.

        by democracy is coming on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 11:41:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't have to try them... (0+ / 0-)

          Reiki and homeopathy only work as placebos, when they work at all. There is not one shred of reliable evidence indicating that they do anything more. Moreover, if they worked as advertised, it would upend physics entirely, and I don't think that case can be made. They are both pseudoscientific hogwash.

          Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

          by J Ash Bowie on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 03:52:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Memorial Sloan Kettering offers a course in Reiki (0+ / 0-)

            You can see the link here

            I think the placebo effect is inapporiate in this case, even if its not measurable from a scientifice perspective.  If you are getting rid of bad thoughts, blockages in energy flow, learning to live healthier et cetera much in the same way as acupuncture really think thats the same thing as believeing in unicorns and the yeti?  

            And do you dismiss acupuncture as well?

            People, not corporations. Democracy, not totalitarian capitalism.

            by democracy is coming on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 01:08:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm familiar with Reiki and Homeopathy (0+ / 0-)
              I think the placebo effect is inapporiate in this case, even if its not measurable from a scientific perspective
              If they aren't doing anything that we can see and verify (and they aren't), then there is no reason whatsoever to believe they are doing anything at all. If people who use these products (i.e. letting people wave their hands over them and water) do not see measurable changes beyond what a placebo does, then they aren't doing anything.

              "Getting rid of bad thoughts"...has nothing to do with waving your hands over someone or drinking water. Neither does learning to live a more healthy lifestyle. "Blockages in energy flow" is gobbledegook.

              And do you dismiss acupuncture as well?
              Yup. The placebo effect is an amazing thing.
              [Are reiki, homeopathy, and acupuncture] the same thing as believeing in unicorns and the yeti?
              These beliefs are similar in that they are all entirely unsupported by reliable means of investigation. In other words, people believe in them for two reasons: they want to believe in them or they've been suckered. When you show me an independent, double blind study showing the effectiveness of reiki, homeopathy, or acupuncture above placebo, then I'll change my mind. Until then, I'll keep them in their pseudoscientific hoohah bin where they belong.

              Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

              by J Ash Bowie on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 01:34:47 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  No true RCT studies but millions got healthier (0+ / 0-)

                I know it doesn't count much as far as scientific value goes (to you) but anecdotally it "works".    

                And since ultimately the choice out there is between drugs with potential harmful side effects and "placebos" that achieve the same goal without the risk, I'd say - yea, its more real that angels.  

                At least, Sloan Kettering seems to agree with me.

                And by the way - thanks for writing back to me about this - I know its off topic and we don't agree but I appreciate your polite back and forth.

                People, not corporations. Democracy, not totalitarian capitalism.

                by democracy is coming on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 02:22:13 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  The actual argument (0+ / 0-)
                  I know it doesn't count much as far as scientific value goes (to you) but anecdotally it "works".    
                  And I'm sure you're familiar with the value of anecdotal evidence. If you are trying to persuade me, this hurts your case badly. After all, many people anecdotally claim that faith healing works, too...should we give these practitioners the benefit of the doubt then? Benny Hinn would be relieved to hear it...
                  And since ultimately the choice out there is between drugs with potential harmful side effects and "placebos" that achieve the same goal without the risk, I'd say - yea, its more real that angels.  
                  This is getting away from the argument a bit. The issue here is whether or not it is reasonable to believe that things like reiki and homeopathy have any effect beyond the psychological. I'm asserting two things: 1) that no reliable evidence exists that would indicate these things impact change, and (2) if they did, it would violate known physics. The implication is thus: it is unreasonable to believe in any claim for which there is no reliable evidence and for which would violate models that themselves have a high level of evidential support. This is entirely on par with believing in fairies and angels (i.e. there is no reliable evidence for them and their existence would violate known physical laws).

                  Now then, reiki and homeopathy might indeed work, just as fairies and angels might actually be real. But the point is that the best evidence we have available to us now strongly suggests they do not. To believe otherwise at this point in time is unreasonable.

                  [Quick note: reiki and homeopathy have no side effects because they have no effect whatsoever]

                  At least, Sloan Kettering seems to agree with me.
                  Just for future debating reference, this comment is a fallacy called Appeal to Authority. I recommend you avoid it.
                  And by the way - thanks for writing back to me about this - I know its off topic and we don't agree but I appreciate your polite back and forth.
                  Sure thing. Disagreement is okay as long as it is done with some courtesy.

                  Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

                  by J Ash Bowie on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 03:16:46 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  You're definitely a very good debater but I (0+ / 0-)

                    would add that if Acupuncture doesn't work, then its practitioners would have to be successful dupers of people for the last several thousand years.  That would be your claim, no?

                    Obviously, I agree that manipulating the gullible is something that goes back thousands of years and includes religious leaders but I'd be surprised if Acupuncturists could have designed such a highly elaborate system and sustain the ruse without actual, immediate "medical" results (as opposed to promises of the afterlife, angels and demons etc).

                    But the point is that the best evidence we have available to us now strongly suggests they do not
                    That's interesting but I think theres no evidence that they don't work.  Today I researched that some of the RCT studies on using Acupuncture as an analgesic suggest the deviation to placebo is insignificant but they did show an improvement nonetheless.  So I don't think it disproves its usefulness.

                    I understand its a fallacy, but what do you think about why Sloan Kettering offers it?  Or why other medical professionals and institutions offer acupuncture?  

                    I know acupuncture and homeopathy have been offered by several doctors (their medical advice) to stimulate labor in pregnant women, with success.  The labor wasn't happening naturally, If its all placebo, how does this happen?  What explains this?  And don't just call it placebo - I want to know what you would say is medically going on when they can't go into labor and what is going on medically when they go into labor after acupuncture sessions or took some pills?

                    People, not corporations. Democracy, not totalitarian capitalism.

                    by democracy is coming on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 06:39:53 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Mare fallacies (0+ / 0-)
                      ..if Acupuncture doesn't work, then its practitioners would have to be successful dupers of people for the last several thousand years.  That would be your claim, no?
                      Yes, but that doesn't mean the practitioners aren't themselves duped. I'm sure the large majority of them are convinced sticking metal needles in people has some kind of beneficial impact. But they have an extra incentive to fool themselves: it maintains their livelihood.
                      Obviously, I agree that manipulating the gullible is something that goes back thousands of years and includes religious leaders but I'd be surprised if Acupuncturists could have designed such a highly elaborate system and sustain the ruse without actual, immediate "medical" results (as opposed to promises of the afterlife, angels and demons etc).
                      But you just finished arguing that religion has plenty of sophisticated and elaborate theological systems. But that aside, all you are really arguing for is how wrong ideas can nevertheless be very sticky in culture over long periods of time. For future reference, your point here is another fallacy:  Appeal to Tradition. The fact that a belief has been held over time says nothing about its veracity.
                      That's interesting but I think theres no evidence that they don't work.
                      That isn't the problem. The problem is that there is no evidence that they do. The burden of proof lies with those making the claim.
                      I understand its a fallacy, but what do you think about why Sloan Kettering offers it?  Or why other medical professionals and institutions offer acupuncture?  
                      I don't know or care why they do. It is irrelevant to the question of whether or not these treatments work.
                      I know acupuncture and homeopathy have been offered by several doctors (their medical advice) to stimulate labor in pregnant women, with success.
                      All you know (I'm assuming here that you know these doctors or the women personally...otherwise, it's hearsay) is that a small number of pregnant women have had their pregnancy "stimulated" and that their doctors offered acupuncture and homeopathy. It is incorrect to assume that the latter caused the former (this is a fallacy called Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc). It is exactly this kind of weak but attractive anecdotal evidence that keeps unsupportable beliefs alive. I very much doubt that sticking needles in their flesh or drinking water had any effect whatsoever on their pregnancy, and a secondhand story without citations or any indication of a controlled environment does nothing to convince me (nor should it convince you!).

                      Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

                      by J Ash Bowie on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 07:33:41 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    J Ash Bowie

    Many people who disagree with opinion may say crazy and mental illness but are clueless with what the illness does in  real life to the individual and loved ones.  A person should never just throw out some of these terms even though I DO think some of these right winged hypocrites  are suffering from something.  It does not make them mentally ill but many trying to make us all walk lockstep in some sort of controlled fashion is narcissistic but these people KNOW what they are doing.  There is a difference in mental illness in controlling your behavior and not controlling it.  Mentally ill people cannot control their behavior.  Not without help.
    It is a real illness people.  It is not a metaphor for ignprance  or IMO evil.

    Thanks for the diary from someone who deals with PTSD vets on a regular basis.  It is not funny and just because one has beliefs does not make them insane !

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 07:41:39 PM PDT

    •  Although I must say crazy does not mean (0+ / 0-)

      mental illness as well.  There are plenty of just crazy terminology is defining ridiculous.  I don't think mental illness means crazy.  I think we are all a little crazy with certain behaviors but doesn't make us mentally ill.

      Crazy should describe extremism and never mental illness

      example

      crazy

      Pronunciation: ˈkreɪzi
      informal
      adjective (crazier, craziest)
      1mad, especially as manifested in wild or aggressive behaviour:
      Stella went crazy and assaulted a visitor
      a crazy look
      extremely angry:
      the noise was driving me crazy
      foolish:
      it was crazy to hope that good might come out of this mess
      2extremely enthusiastic:

      We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

      by Vetwife on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 03:36:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tipped & Recced. Thank you for publishing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    J Ash Bowie

    this.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 07:42:03 PM PDT

  •  A-effing-men! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    J Ash Bowie

    Republished to Mental Health Awareness group.

    If I wanted government in my uterus, I'd fuck a senator

    by second gen on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 08:18:59 PM PDT

  •  Religious people are not mentally ill by reason of (0+ / 0-)

    their religiosity, but mental illness sometimes manifests itself in religious delusions.  

    God telling people to kill people and such.

    I think the difficulty in telling the difference comes from reading stories in the bible about God telling people to kill people.

    What'd the devil give you for your soul, Tommy? He taught me to play this here guitar REAL good. Oh son, for that you traded your everlastin' soul? Well, I wuddn' usin' it.

    by ZedMont on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 08:22:47 PM PDT

  •  Thank you from a high-functioning madman (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    J Ash Bowie

    There's probably a lot of interesting conversation that could be had about faith, spirituality, and skepticism, but we can't really do that if we misunderstand mental illness as disagreement and misunderstand disagreement as mental illness.

  •  Calling you out on point 3 (0+ / 0-)

    First off, thanks for a great diary.  

    You say:

    Point 3
    Religious groups frequently employ techniques that arouse the emotions and suppress rational thinking. When a person is caught up in these techniques, they do not become "mentally ill", they are operating in a normal way in an abnormal situation. Mentally ill persons do the opposite: they operate abnormally in normal situations.
    Let's say you get to know me, and one day I tell you I am a follower of a new religion called Easter Bunnyism.  
    I believe in the Easter Bunny as a real being.  I claim that the Easter Bunny talks to me in my head, and I talk with it in prayer each morning.  Each Saturday I perform a ritual where I lay out brightly colored eggs on my lawn and then gather them up while wearing a bunny suit, singing songs of praise and hopping about.  I sometimes go to the local mall or door to door wearing the same bunny suit and hand out pamphlets to strangers trying to spread the good news.

    Now, be honest... Would you be reluctant to let me in your house, babysit your kids, or vote for me when I run for mayor?  Would you think there was something wrong with me?

    You would?  Congratulations, you're thinking!

    ...they are operating in a normal way in an abnormal situation.  Mentally ill persons do the opposite: they operate abnormally in normal situations.
    So refusing to eat a ham sandwich when you're hungry because an old book says pig meat is unclean, getting up early every Sunday and spending your time singing songs to nonexistent deities, thinking that women need to hide their hair, that cows are sacred, that sex before marriage is bad, and telling people that God told you to run for office (as long as it's the Christian one and not the Easter Bunny) is considered "normal" operation?  All of these things seem pretty abnormal to me.  The only difference is that the big religions have lots of followers, so this abnormal behavior is considered "normal".  All of these things interfere with normal life or place obstacles in the way of human happiness.  It seems to me that all of these are clear cases of operating abnormally in normal situations.  

    When you're hungry, eat.  Spend your Sundays doing something useful or helpful.  Don't teach that women need to hide themselves, especially when the men don't have to.  Don't let those cows poop all over the road.  Know that sex is fun and healthy.  And you decided to run for office, not God.  But these ideas put me in a solid minority of Americans.  Yet all of them are, when taken on their own merits, completely rational and sound ideas.  So am I crazy?  

    What's the difference between the Catholic Church and the little cult down the street that walks on its hands and wears only pink?  Several hundred million followers, who lend it legitimacy through numbers.  It's the hand-walkers who are the crazies.  Right?

    Consider also that many years ago, thinking the earth went around the sun would have been considered a sign of mental illness.  Or believing in germs.  Or quantum physics.  

    Who is "mentally ill", then?  And what's the real definition?  Abnormal behavior?  By whose standards?  

    So does that mean there are more kinds of mental illness than we acknowledge?  Obviously if someone has a chemical imbalance in their brain, that's one thing.  But maybe we all have imbalances but we don't bother to test people because what they say jibes with what we think is "normal".  i.e., if I hear voices in my head telling me to hurt people, there's something wrong.  But when Rick Santorum says that God told him to hate gays, he's considered perfectly respectable by a great many people.  Who's to say he isn't unbalanced?  Or me?  Or you?  

    Who is normal?  Who is abnormal?  Why do some people get a free pass while others are labeled mentally ill?  

    •  Good questions (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hatrax, Catte Nappe

      Now, be honest... Would you be reluctant to let me in your house, babysit your kids, or vote for me when I run for mayor?  Would you think there was something wrong with me?

      If you are asking if I think "you" are mentally ill, it would depend entirely on how those beliefs came about. If, for example, you were a Bunniest because:

      1) Your parents were Bunniests and indoctrinated you into their religion, or
      2) You were down and out and a group of Bunniests took you in, made you feel special and loved, and helped you get your life on track, or
      3) If you practiced a form of medication or ecstatic ritual leading to a peak experience involving the Easter Bunny,
      4) You are part of a community of Bunniests and acceptance of their beliefs is part and parcel of being considered an upright member of the group,

      ...then no, you aren't mentally ill. You have strange beliefs, but no stranger really than any other religious beliefs. You would be like all the other believers in the world who believe something due to normal cognitive biases and errors.

      If, however, you believed it because you were having unstoppable delusions or hallucinations, then yes, you are probably mentally ill (you also might have a tumor or brain infection).

      Who is "mentally ill", then?  And what's the real definition?  Abnormal behavior?

      Great question. There is no clear cut answer, but I don't know any psychologist who defines mental illness as merely involving abnormal behavior. Such behavior might be a symptom of mental illness, but wouldn't itself be considered as such (unless it was truly bizarre, I suppose). Most psychologists would agree, I think, that mental illness involves semi- or fully involuntary thoughts and feelings that cause some degree of suffering. And so, mental illness is involved if the abnormal behavior is (a) to some degree compulsory and (b) distressing or leads to outcomes that are distressing (e.g social isolation).

      I cannot do this topic justice in a DKos comment. I will simply say that modern psychology long ago moved beyond social conformity as a key marker for mental health.

      Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

      by J Ash Bowie on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 10:48:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for elaborating (0+ / 0-)

        I appreciate your time and willingness to discuss this.  You say:

        Most psychologists would agree, I think, that mental illness involves semi- or fully involuntary thoughts and feelings that cause some degree of suffering. And so, mental illness is involved if the abnormal behavior is (a) to some degree compulsory and (b) distressing or leads to outcomes that are distressing
        If I drink a couple of beers every so often, like at dinner or when I hang out with friends, I'm normal.  If I binge-drink all the time and it affects my health and relationships, I'm an alcoholic and I have a problem.  This follows points a and b above.

        If I eat when I'm hungry and put on a couple of extra pounds, I'm an average person.  If I cannot stop eating and weigh 600 pounds, I have an eating disorder.  This also follows points a and b above.

        If I have an active imagination and like to talk and listen to my imaginary friends (I myself do this, as I write fiction), then I'm normal (perhaps a little eccentric).  If I listen to my imaginary friends to the exclusion of real people and turn myself over to their bidding, I have a problem.  A and b again.

        If I believe in a higher power, go to church on holidays, and leave everyone else alone I'm religious.  If I restrict my diet, wear special clothes, refuse to have sex with someone I love, listen to voices from god, refuse to get medical treatment for my kids, and try to suppress education, I'm devoutly religious and don't have a problem, at least to a fair number of people.  

        Why does religion get this free pass?  

        I'd also point out the example, again, of the first person to think of germ theory or the heliocentric model.  Their actions were a.) compulsory, in the sense that their mental makeup couldn't ignore the truth.  Their actions were b. distressing, because they were probably laughed at and ostracized.  Thus, they were, by definition, mentally ill.  

        Except, they weren't.  They were RIGHT.  

        •  Clarifications (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Hatrax
          If I believe in a higher power, go to church on holidays, and leave everyone else alone I'm religious.  If I restrict my diet, wear special clothes, refuse to have sex with someone I love, listen to voices from god, refuse to get medical treatment for my kids, and try to suppress education, I'm devoutly religious and don't have a problem, at least to a fair number of people.

          Why does religion get this free pass?

          Because you are mistaking weirdness for illness, with the exception of hearing intrusive voices, which would suggest psychosis.

          A good way to think about this is the notion of homeostasis. A person who is mentally ill experiences thoughts and feelings that lack integrity and coherence....they do not "click" in a way that promotes a flexible and complex cognitive/behavioral flow. A healthy person is able to employ mental functions in an integral and coherent way. What matters here is how far away from cognitive homeostasis a person is...either on the too-rigid side (e.g. OCD) or the too-chaotic end (e.g. bipolar).

          This is why your examples here fail to pass the test of mental illness. Believing things that are strange to you or facing danger in the name of upholding one's principles do not indicate a lack of mental homeostasis. The people might be in error, they might be somewhat irrational, and they might be wasting their time...but all those things fall within the normal (healthy) range of mental functioning. All of the behaviors you listed can be explained by normal human biases and cognitive errors, along with effects related to acculturation and the desire for social acceptance.

          I'd also point out the example, again, of the first person to think of germ theory or the heliocentric model.  Their actions were a.) compulsory, in the sense that their mental makeup couldn't ignore the truth.  Their actions were b. distressing, because they were probably laughed at and ostracized.  Thus, they were, by definition, mentally ill.  

          Except, they weren't.  They were RIGHT.  

          Their rightness is irrelevant to whether or not they were mentally ill. Far more scientists have been wrong and treated well enough...that doesn't make them more mentally healthy.

          I think you are misunderstanding how psychology uses the word compulsion. When my bladder is full, I am compelled to pee--that is normal behavior related to maintaining biophysical homeostasis. When I am anxious about something (like losing a job), I might feel compelled to have a glass of wine or watch a distracting movie--both are normal, healthy reactions to emotional stress. When I have to wash my hands 100 times a day because my unrelenting and unreasonable fear of germs is intolerable, I am mentally ill. I'm confident you can grasp the difference here.

          Mental illness does not describe people who did things they thought were right in the face of opposition or even repression. Quite the opposite: people who are able to overcome their natural desire to conform and to avoid punishment in order to further a rational and ethical goal is often considered to be working near the peak of human capability. We do not call a reasonable willingness to face possible danger "mental illness", we call it "courage".  

          Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

          by J Ash Bowie on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 04:39:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you so much! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CBrachyrhynchos

    As a person with multiple diagnosed mental conditions who actually does have to "go take his prozac", I've gotten rather tired of people considering beliefs to be mental illness simply because they cannot understand why anyone would believe them.

    It's not just that I find this sort of rhetoric somewhat stigmatizing, which I frankly do. It's also that by saying that people who don't agree with you must be crazy, you are being extremely dismissive of them. And call me old-fashioned, but I'd rather live in a society where we can have our differences but still respect each other.

    One personal position I will add is that I also cringe when conservatism is described as a personality disorder or mental illness, something I have seen a lot of on this site. While I believe that conservatism is a fundamentally wrong philosophy, I don't believe you have to be mentally ill to be a conservative or even a Tea Party supporter.

    Male, 21, -4.75/-6.92, born and raised TN-05, now WI-02, unapologetic supporter of Obama and Occupy. Tammy Baldwin for Senate and Recall Walker!

    by fearlessfred14 on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 10:50:06 PM PDT

    •  Agreed (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fearlessfred14

      By calling people you disagree with mentally ill, it does more than dismiss the people, but also the ideas they assert. This is ineffective rhetorically because it doesn't get to why an idea might be wrong. Moreover, if the purpose is to get people to change their minds, understanding why people hold to strange beliefs is important.

      I'm okay with saying a idea is "nuts" or "batshit crazy" as a way of saying how irrational they might be. But that is not the same as making a straightforward claim of mental illness. For example, I think Santorum's beliefs are loony, but I don't think he's mentally ill at all.

      It is also fine with me to point out that someone might be deluded or out of control or irrational...one doesn't have to be mentally ill to be those things.

      Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

      by J Ash Bowie on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 11:12:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hmmm (0+ / 0-)

    So someone who claims to hear messages from an invisible sky pixie is not exhibiting signs of mental illness?

    cheers,

    Mitch Gore

    Want to end too big to fail banks? Then move your money and they will no longer be too big.

    by Lestatdelc on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 12:53:13 AM PDT

    •  Depends (0+ / 0-)
      So someone who claims to hear messages from an invisible sky pixie is not exhibiting signs of mental illness?
      It depends on what they mean by "hear". If they are literally hearing intrusive voices, as if messages were being transmitted into their brain, then psychosis might be at play. If they experience visions of the sky pixie while on certain drugs or after hours of meditation or ecstatic dancing, that isn't mental illness, only a hyperactivated brain giving signals primed by preexisting beliefs. If they mean they interpret the sky pixie trying to communicate through the breeze, then no, that isn't mental illness either. It is more likely to be a form of apophenia, which is the normal human error of sensing patterns in random noise (it's why we see faces in clouds or tree bark).

      Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

      by J Ash Bowie on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 04:50:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Today, I had not mental illness (0+ / 0-)

    Screamed at my boyfriend for losing my ID and causing me weeks of stress and upster and destabilizing my life before falling back asleep and woke up in utter self hatred after a nightmare, hallucinating visually and feeling crushed inside.

    Now im not. Im not mentally ill -- i have hellish panic attacks. And I do mean hellish (1/3 of each day spent in absolute terror for well over a year now.) Im just having panic attacks and im so sutterly exhausted that i lose it now and then.

    But I knew i was feeling bad, that what i  said was wrong. I knew that hte hallucinations were just that (I dotn see "things" when i hallucinate. I see distortions of light and shadow which mimic form temporarily, before becoming obviosly not.)

    But it doesnt get worse. its gotten better over time, if slowly. it strikes with semi-predictability, and its symptoms are usually the same.

    Oh its disruptive. and terrifying. But I have never gone to a doctor even during the worst panic attacks, because i know that, no matter how scared, they ARE panic attacks.

    But I might look mentally ill, if you didnt know me. The point of htis being, mental illness..TRUE mental illness..is not always obvious. Those who have it have things like those things I have, except they are not 100% certain they are mere tricks of the mind.

    If I couldnt always be certain, i'd completely lose it.

    mee wurst troll evurr. nobuddy pay brijj tole; me nott sceary enuf. mee gett drunc an kil sellf. troll droun.

    by kamrom on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 06:13:11 AM PDT

  •  Religious Delusional Behavior (0+ / 0-)

    1) Delusion: Psychiatry . a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact: a paranoid delusion.

    Mentally ill persons do the opposite: they operate abnormally in normal situations.
    2 )Not necessarily.  Delusional Disorder is recognized in the DSM. Your statement would require specific values of "Normal" to be true. And as we all know, "normality" does not necessarily confer correctness. "Everybody does it" doesn't mean mean "it" is either correct, reasonable or sane behavior. So ask yourself: Is it "normal" behavior to persist in a belief despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Since a large percentage of the population does this, one could assert that it is normal behavior. Whether it is rational and reasonable, and therefore sane, is another matter entirely. In most cases, people evidencing these kinds of delusions can function "normally" in society except in matters affected by their delusions. Then again, one could make the same claim for just about anyone suffering from delusions.
    But believing in wrong things does not define mental illness.
    3) While not all people of a religious nature are necessarily delusional, certain subtypes certainly are, like Young Earth Creationists and other very Orthodox "Literalist" types, from all of the Abrahamic religions.

    In Sum: Having religious beliefs (or the absence of them) isn't in itself a sign of mental illness. Having narrowly defined religious beliefs (dogma) that conflict with observable or inferential reality and holding to those beliefs in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary is definitely a sign of mental illness... even if at least 40% of the American population evidences such beliefs.

    If we don't accept this behavior as delusional, I would suggest we revisit our definition of" delusion", rather than just making exceptions for the religious variety.

    "As God is my witness, I thought wingnuts could fly."

    by Niniane on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 06:21:15 AM PDT

    •  Distinctions (0+ / 0-)
      Your statement would require specific values of "Normal" to be true. And as we all know, "normality" does not necessarily confer correctness.
      You are misunderstanding the meaning of my statement. I don't mean "abnormal" in the sense of acting differently than the norm. I mean their minds are operating abnormally in situations that are otherwise "normal", meaning absent of stress or other manipulating factors.

      I'll cut and paste from another comment on this post...
      A good way to think about this is the notion of homeostasis. A person who is mentally ill experiences thoughts and feelings that lack integrity and coherence....they do not "click" in a way that promotes a flexible and complex cognitive/behavioral flow. A healthy person is able to employ mental functions in an integral and coherent way. What matters here is how far away from cognitive homeostasis a person is...either on the too-rigid side (e.g. OCD) or the too-chaotic end (e.g. bipolar). This does not define the average Young Earth Creationist.

      While not all people of a religious nature are necessarily delusional, certain subtypes certainly are, like Young Earth Creationists and other very Orthodox "Literalist" types, from all of the Abrahamic religions.
      You are confusing the colloquial definition of deluded (i.e. believing in something that is wrong due to either simple ignorance or thru manipulative social measures as employed by many religious groups) with the psychological definition, which involves involuntary and often distressing beliefs that are clearly at odds with reality.

      By clearly, I mean really clearly. For example, there aren't groups of religious believers who think that the CIA is monitoring them through the television or that aliens are attempting to melt their brains via ray guns in space. Believing in YEC, while obviously wrong to anyone who understands science, does not qualify as this kind of intrusive delusion. They just believe weird things.

      Moreover, people who are suffering from genuine delusions tend to fare poorly in society because they have a hard time interpreting cause and effect correctly. Young Earth Creationists generally function just fine. This is why you can't isolate a single belief, even one that is irrational and unjustified, and say someone is mentally ill. That misses the point of why people believe weird things entirely.

      Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

      by J Ash Bowie on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 04:29:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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