For awhile I have thought that:
Religions are mental syndromes consisting of bizarre, typically but not always inherited, maladaptive, abusive, time-wasting obsessions and compulsions, which people feel compelled to obsessive over, believe in, do, learn about, teach to other people, and spend money on, in order to avoid feeling too guilty about themselves due to the possibility of not obsessing over, doing, believing in, learning about, teaching to other people, and spending money on, the things they were taught that they have to obsess over, believe in, practice, learn about, teach to other people, and spend money on.
I can explain this in more detail. I thought of this, so it is copyrighted to me.
Another thing: religions start in the brains of people who are schizophrenic, extremely obsessive-compulsive, and have good charismatic leadership qualities. I got this idea from Robert Spolsky, except that he calls these people schizotypel, which he uses to mean only partially schizophrenic, but for now I will call them schizophrenic.
Atheists often describe religion as a mental disorder, and religious people have discussed that concept too.
I've seen quite a number of discussion especially regarding visions, extremism, religious grandiosity, as something seen with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. An eon ago, when I was a student and spent a rotation working in a mental ward, I was amazed about how prophet-like some of the in-patients were. We discussed that too, and it's a long known phenomenon. It left an impression on me.
Sorry about that copyright.
I was amazed about how prophet-like some of the in-patients were
Some founders of religions are crazy people who succeeded at being crazy. They were able to be crazy in a coherent way, they were able to promote their craziness to other people, they made a place for themselves in their society.
One concern I've always had about this is that if taken too far it could result in unjust treatment of the religious folks. Also I think that in creating religiosity the cultural influence is stronger than any possible mental defect.
I don't know if religion begins in the brains of people who are schizophrenic, extremely obsessive-compulsive, and have good charismatic leadership qualities, or not.
Doing my research on family violence in 1979, I discovered there is a correlation between personality type and occupations chosen. Remember, correlation does not mean cause. It means the two factions co-exist on parallel tracks.
Example, there is a high correlation between men who chose to be ministers, doctors, lawyers, police officers and truck drivers to have high incident rates of family violence.
To find the rate by occupation, the count was incident of family violence per 100,000 population. How many ministers per 100,000 population had been reported having family violence charges brought against him, for example?
There are five personality characteristics these occupations have in common:
1. Reference to a higher authority, god, medical protocols, laws, law enforcement and regulations.
2. Intolerance for ambiguity. There is one right way, all other ways are wrong.
3. Expected to be in control; values domination, expects submission.
4. Acceptance of instrumental behavior; do what is necessary to get the job done.
5. Obedience is a high value.
The occupation with the lowest incident rate of family violence was symphony orchestra conductor. Why? There were shared goals of a performance that depended on each person doing his part. (In those days, there were no women conductors of note).
The way to perform was to an agreed upon standard.
The conductor had the attention of the members and led with the flick of a finger or raised eyebrow.
The members shared the criteria for getting the job done.
Rather than obedience as a high value, self-monitoring drew members to want to participate with the conductor to achieve high levels of performance. Internal locus of control was based on common performance goals.
One of my friends has been a believer since I met him when we were both 12. I'm not out to him yet, but he suspects I'm atheist. Recently he told me that Jesus is a friend of his, and that he talks to him all the time. He also believes he has great personal favor with god. I find this irrational and spooky today, but there was a time when I was just like him.
My take on god and religion is pretty simple as an ex-believer. Look on the Bible or holy book. Look at how it was put together, how and when written, etc. None of the timeframes fit and the 66 books were never meant to be in the order we have them in today. Much was thrown out and some destroyed. None of the writers really appear to be eyewitnesses of anything. Many writings are 70 and 80 years after the said event. The entire Bible self destructs if looked at properly. God is a contradicting mythical tyrant.
That only leaves the Deist viewpoint. God set everything in motion and dissappeared. He has no book of instuctions for us and doesn't really give a damn. The Deist god is a god you can never know.
Back to the god of the Bible and the delusional disorder that causes people to believe in him. You can call it a desire to live forever and know all things. It's just as easy for me to say that believers have a great fear of death. It's a mental disorder but not necessarily mental illness.
Recently he told me that Jesus is a friend of his, and that he talks to him all the time. He also believes he has great personal favor with god. I find this irrational and spooky today
That religion involves our sense of goodness is a huge part of what gives it so much power over people's minds.
Religion is associated with the part of human psychology that relates to group cohesion.
People evolved to have a moral sense. Our morality enables us to form groups that cooperate and help each other survive.
Our group-enabling psychology is a very powerful part of human psychology. It HAS to be powerful, because sometimes the needs of the group are more important than an individual's needs. So our group-enabling psychology has to be powerful to overcome the powerful instincts for individual survival.
Being good - cooperative, altruistic, helping others - is part of our group-enabling psychology.
Religious tendencies evolved as part of our group-enabling psychology. Religion provides group cohesion, makes it possible for one individual to sacrifice their life for the group if necessary, helps enforce social norms because "God is watching you", encourages people to be good.
And maybe people's sense that faith is good, that being religious is good, is genetic. Because when the people in a group adhered to their group's religion, it was adaptive, and this adaptive behavior is encouraged by the sense of goodness it produces.
I've said this elsewhere, though I can't locate exactly where, but here we go again:
I think of religion less as as mental disorder but as a learned, maladaptive behavior system, which is either indoctrinated into children before they have the means to discriminate reality from fantasy, or in adults who, for multiple reasons, adopt such beliefs because of fear, insecurity, a desire to belong or some other suchlike justification. Regardless, religion fails in the final analysis because it has no relationship to reality, and the only reason why it survives is because it has the means to persuade people who will not examine its motives but accept them as whole cloth.
Religion's biggest problem right now is the internet, which is a free and open source of information which, when filtered through skepticism and discipline, can yield multiple reasons NOT to accept such unfounded practices and has done so with increasing regularity over the past quarter-century.
People learn religion because they are ignorant or gullible. They shed religion when their natural curiosity and quest for true knowledge ascertains that they have been lied to by their priests, rabbis, pastors or imams. This process is becoming more common as time goes on, as evinced by the decreasing numbers of believers (at least in the US) and the increasing numbers of the "nones."
No, this story is far from over, but the trend is obvious to anyone with eyes to see.
Alas, I do not have the eloquence to put it as you did, Loren. Many thanks.
Wow, very interesting thread. Lots to consider. What do we make of our fellow human?
I think time is on our side, but we are not out of the woods yet. I for one am weary of sustaining the polite fiction. I don't have the resources to sustain the fiction, and I no longer care to operate around it. I've been silent for long enough.