Can belief in the absurd be considered a mental disorder?

To entertain belief in an imaginary friend is to dwell on the ficticious. While I feel that the human imagination is one of our best features, I also fear that societal forces and specific institutions have evolved into psychological enslavers, manipulating this aspect of our intelligence and our natural brain function.

Imagination is an amazing quality of the human spirit, and has brought us so much good by augmenting the quantity and quality of human life. Any parent will tell you that the birthday card your young child made is always more special than the one that was bought.

Yet over time, people starting hating themselves and killing each other. Why? Belief in the absurd.

It's absurd to think that you are inherently broken or forever in need of direction and submission. It's also absurd to think that we need to hate, mutilate, desecrate, denigrate or annihilate as a result of competing fairy tales.

I've only studies philosophy and not psychology or psychiatry. I have no training in mental disorders, but religion just seems cookoo. I might not bother with the subject, but people are suffering and I thought I should say something.

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Comment by Andrew Bradford Hoke on July 6, 2014 at 10:17am

@ Sentient Biped - I agree that 'religion must have an adaptive value,' but I propose that the value is only for warlords, pedophiles and other sadists. It is at the expense of abused masochists.

Comment by Loren Miller on July 6, 2014 at 9:47am

My sense is that a mental disorder may be more inherent to a given person and may be the result of a chemical or structural abnormality in his or her nervous system, as well as being possibly made worse by external treatment.  Conversely, religion almost by definition is an INHERITED behavior, gained from the immediate social environment in most cases and transmitted by MEMES.

I'm hardly qualified to give a full analysis of just WHAT religion is ... but there's my $0.02 worth.

Comment by Joan Denoo on July 6, 2014 at 9:32am

A child born into a family of fundamentalist religions learns how to believe and have faith in delusions and self-censors doubts and questions. 

An adult raised in such a family and retains the fallacies has a dysfunctional mental disorder. 

An adult who accepts the errors and takes on the mantle of religion does so out of flawed thinking. 

The individual has rights to think and act as he or she believes, however, the moment their thoughts and acts interfere with my thoughts and acts, I retain, not only the right, but the responsibility to speak out loud and to take effective action in opposition. 

Comment by Daniel W on July 6, 2014 at 9:29am

I guess it depends on how you define disorder.  The majority of people in the world are religious.  Religion must have an adaptive value, in the sense that if it was maladaptive, wouldn't it have died our.  My adaptive value, I mean that in the sense of natural selection, where a function or structure leads to increased procreation and survival.

It may well be that atheism, or freethought, is maladaptive.  Even if correct in the scientific and a-theological aspects. Is being factually and logically correct, adaptive?  If not, how do we define religion as a mental disorder?

Not arguing with your point.  I think religion promotes craziness, abuse, thoughtlessness, oppression, violence.   But in the sense of mental disorder....  who decides what is a disorder, and what are the criteria for deciding that?  In a logical sense, or an evidence-based sense?

I agree a religion is big, a cult is small.  Some religions are less all-controlling than some cults, but I don't know how the #s pan out.

Comment by Andrew Bradford Hoke on July 6, 2014 at 9:25am

Thanks for the response.

You feel that dysfunctional learned behavior is a more accurate way to characterize religion than by calling it a mental disorder. Is that right?

Comment by Loren Miller on July 6, 2014 at 9:20am

I see religion as less a mental disorder than a dysfunctional learned behavior, passed down from parent to child over multiple generations.  This behavior is perpetuated by tradition and fear and a failure to look at that behavior with any kind of detached or objective viewpoint.  It amounts to an inherited bad habit, transmitted from older believers who should know better yet don't to those who have no defense against its illogic because of their lack of sophistication and near automatic deference to their elders.

So no, I don't think it's a mental disorder ... though it IS perhaps the single most preventable tragedy of human history.

Comment by Andrew Bradford Hoke on July 6, 2014 at 9:18am

Something akin to 'standing on the hose,' religion seems to worm it's way into a person's head - standing between thought and belief. Religion then serves as a barrier and therefore a governor in and of the mind.

I just a related video by youtuber "mccainisthrough."

In the video, he points out that the only difference between a cult and a religion is size.



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