Friday, 23 December 2016

Sorry, but imaginary power friend delusions are just that. Cultural norms do not mean faith is not crazy.

In a recent article in Scientific American, Mind Guest Blogger Nathaniel P. Morris has presented an analysis of the quandry faced by psychiatrists regarding defences based upon on the usual variant of pragmatism (more of the Jamesian cultural variety and less of the Peircian scientific variety) of the distinction between religious faith and devotion.

According to Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright, Scientologists believe in alien spirits inhabiting human bodies. Many believe they have special powers, like telekinesis and telepathy.
This puts mental health professionals in a tricky, cultural bind. Before 1993, should mental health professionals have treated patients expressing these beliefs as psychotic? After 1993, as faithful adherents? (

Morris is not convinced that faithistic commitment are not simply indicative of mental illness:

But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues? If he could hear Jesus speaking to him? He might also insist nothing were wrong with him. After all, he’s practicing his faith.
It’s not just the ambiguities of mental health diagnoses that create this problem—the vague nature of how we define religion further complicates matters. For example, the Church of Scientology argued with the Internal Revenue Service for years to be classified as a charitable religious organization and to qualify for tax-exempt status. The Church eventually won this battle in 1993, a major step towards becoming a mainstream American religion. (
How does one distinguish politically correct pseudo-rational misrepresentation of the facts about religious faith really being narcissistic paranoid delusional obsession with imaginary father-figure superbeings and thus actually being mental illness, with an scientifically coherent statement of the facts which admits that is exactly what religious faith and fervor are, and that faithists are simply very sick?

In science and philosophy, we are not supposed to misrepresent facts because we do not like what they tell us. For example - strong determinism may well be true, even though it is a terrible prospect in many ways. Religious delusion always gets a free pass because of economics, cultural trends, misguided ideas about courtesy and 'tolerance' (the doctrinal specifics of godist delusions are generally completely bigoted and xenophobic towards unbelievers - if in a poeticised and duplicitous manner), and worries about grant money.

The proof that the misrepresenting approach endorsed in the DSMV is flawed is in front of us all of the time. Every time one of these groups of believers gets enough momentum and power - they make everyone else suffer doctrinal oppression and bullying across all spheres of civil society:

Islamic cleric oversees and orders execution of woman for being sexually liberated (Warning - Very Graphic):

What these outcomes strongly suggest is that many faithist delusionals are high functioning psychopaths (or else sociopaths) either as well as, or instead of, psychotics. The high functioning part is what causes unbelievers so much trouble and strife: we have to tolerate and suffer the impositions of the systematisation of doctrinally encoded and expressed mental illness ad-hoc coming from many social and interpersonal directions at once. Put glibly - in our societies a large array of doctrinal craziness - permitted and even endorsed in its basis by business, government, and monarchies - comes at us from all directions. It is obviously just crazy - just as is having an imaginary friend that one thinks is speaking to one. It doesn't matter how many people do this. It is still obviously a signifier of a deep mental pathology - shared though it may be. It will cause harm at some point, just like believing jumping off a roof will not hurt one if one is wearing a cape, and other similarly delusional beliefs, ultimately do.

Usually - the faithist's internalised doctrinal premises are simply crazy, and this is confirmed because even the other faithists that are also deluded but don't have those specific delusional commitments - even they can see the other faithists are crazy. Ask a Mormon about Islam, or a Protestant about the tenets of Mormonism or Catholicism. They all think the others are loonies. They all seem to miss the point that they have in many cases got the same core delusion - and they fail to identify it as a problem. That is definitely selective cognition on the basis of pathology.

The fact is we are not all equal in terms of psychology and cognition, and this matters immensely. We also change our pschyhological dispositions according to environmental inputs and stress, but some people are simply sick - very many people - and that is the explanation for most adults having paranoid fear-based and duplicitous delusions of reference to and from imaginary Daddy-god-of-the-universe friends.

When are we going to stop lying to ourselves and admit that having imaginary power friends is something people of low emotional and other intelligence do, or something that people do when suffering extreme stress-induced cognitive impediment (which is why the Church goes after 'broken' people), and that it is simply pathological, and that big numbers make no difference to this. Actually - more people in a society leaning towards such obviously paranoid and delusional pathologies is perhaps exactly what we should expect from the environment that our religio-cultural proclivities produce in the first place (source: AlJazeera via Youtube).

Cultural norms and sensitivity to them are not an adequate way to determine mental health. There are too many other factors that should and do have more weight. Scientific and rational thinking should be the cultural norm by norm by now. Faith wins not because of some problem with scientific discourse or thought - but because people who take up faith are basically not well.

There is a tendency by some clinical psychiatrists and cultural commentators to try to override the issue by stating that we are all mentally ill, and that we are all bigoted in some way. This is simply not a coherent way to analyse a situation where one person A has an imaginary power-god friend that they believe is talking to them and others through many channels, and they either immediately or ultimately (usually both) require compliance, submission, and mental assent to the validity of their (obviously fairly crazy) beliefs from person B. Person B has no such proclivities and places no such requirements on person A. Persons A and B are obviously not both pathological. Only person A is.