Homer Numan

Homer Numan

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Are Religious People 'Crazy?'

I formulated this reply in response to a question asked by one of the contributors on the 'Slugger O'Toole' blog.

Sadly I have had considerable experience of religious people down the years, and I can broadly group them in three sections:

1. The ‘learned it by rote’ brigade. Brought up with it, went to school with it. It’s second nature and not something you question or rave about. It’s just there. On the surface this group are fairly harmless. Many will refer to themselves as being ‘lapsed’. Underneath they’re deeply tribalist and feel that any attack on their faith is a personal attack on them. Whether or not they are regular attenders at mass, church or mosque, they remain indelibly stamped with their tribal marking.

2. The ‘late convert’ brigade. These people have generally had little or no experience of religion in their formative years, but ‘discover’ religious faith later in life through marriage, peer group or a life-changing event. They tend to over-compensate for their ‘former life’ by seeking to convert everyone in sight to their exciting new findings. This group tends to be more suggestible to extreme ideas.

3. The complete fanatic. Driven by an insatiable urge to ‘live’ their faith, these people are often relatively normal on first meeting, but tend to be obsessive to the point of mania in matters of religion. They refuse to acknowledge any other viewpoint, see their holy book as being infallible and impose their particular ‘moral code’ on their immediate family and anyone else within their sphere of influence. In my opinion, they represent the ultimate, perhaps logical conclusion of that strange phenomenon called religious belief.

Whether all religious people are ‘crazy’ is a highly debatable point. Having had regular experience of an individual with acute paranoid schziophrenia, I was struck by the similarities of the more bizarre psychological aspects of their condition with the unquestioning spiritual ideas of the religious. Obviously this is itself proves nothing, but several scientific studies have suggested that religious experiences can be induced by manipulating various parts of the brain, as indeed of course can mind-altering drugs.

None of this is intended to suggest that all religious people are ‘crazy’, but it is rather puzzling that ‘miracles’, prophets and intense religious experiences such as documented visions have almost entirely ceased since the early centuries AD. It must be remembered that a vivid dream in biblical times could be interpreted as a vision from God, a natural phenomenon such as a flood or earthquake was considered to be aimed at ‘sinful’ mankind rather than being a random occurence and that organised religion was a highly effective tool in controlling an often lawless and volatile population with promise of cake tomorrow for good behaviour today.

Rather like alcohol, religious belief is relatively harmless and can even be beneficial in small doses. However, when it begins to seep into government, schools and hospitals and forms itself into a world-view, as in violent Islam or fundamentalist Christianity, it becomes a malevolence that is closed to reason.

In my view, it is the duty of government to ensure that all religious belief is kept well away from the statute book, and that men, women and sexual minorities are given equal standing in all matters. Children should be allowed to be children, and the classroom is not the place for dispensing one-sided religious dogma. If the chosen ‘faith’ of the parents is really as strong as their church leaders would contend, there is nothing to be lost in providing all children with a well-rounded secular education and allowing them to experience religious ‘instruction’ outside school premises.


steve said...

Well this is an interesting one! I really think that you would have got on well with Jesus if you were around at the same time. See, Jesus really did not like the religious leaders of his time, he called them all sorts of things. When he came and preached the gospel they then hated him and killed him!. As Davey well knows (as we have spoke many times) I think there is a massive difference in “religious people and ways” and true Christianity. One is the cause of most of the wars and hatred in the world, and the other promotes peace, joy and happiness.

P.S very sorry you have had to undergo the sadness of knowing me!!LOL

No-Disguise said...

'True' Christianity?

How do we define that exactly?

Witch burnings? Crusades? Bombing Muslims? Shooting homosexuals? Killing abortionists? Fleecing gullible believers in a giant church? Burning condoms? Screaming about evolution? Denouncing global warming? Whipping ourselves every morning? Destroying the planet? Declaring that we alone have the true key to heaven and all other branches of Christianity are damned?

It's a slippery concept.

Details of Jesus life are extremely sketchy. We are almost entirely reliant on the four gospel accounts. All were written at least 40 years after Jesus 'departed' and are (understandably given these time scales) contradictory.
Add to that the 'missing' accounts, which were judged to be 'not good enough' by the early Christian church and it's pretty much impossible to get any 'true' picture of who Christ actually was or what his 'true' message actually is.

From my perspective, Christ appears to have been a pacifist, a feminist and a socialist.
These traits have been quietly ignored by the Christian church down the ages.

Take the feminist angle -- Mary Magdalene was a disciple in all but name, she was the only one of his followers present at the crucifixion, she was the only one present at the resurrection and she was 'chosen' by Christ to tell the others of this miracle.
This would indicate that Christ viewed women as being at least equal to men, at a time when the status of women was as sub-ordinates at best.

Yet the church has constantly relegated women to the sidelines. Most branches of Christianity forbid women from preaching, many do not allow them to speak in church at all and most patronisingly assign them the role of 'home-maker.' As Harry Enfield so eloquently put it; 'women -- know your place!'

Jesus declared that a rich man could never enter the kingdom of heaven. Yet most western Christians see no problem in amassing large amounts of earthly goods. Is that 'true' Christianity?

You mention the message of 'peace, joy and happiness' as opposed to 'wars and hatred'.

The USA is undoubtedly the largest Christian nation on earth, as well as being the most powerful.
Yet most of it's actions would not be inconsistent with a supposed 'nation of Satan' -- the endless pursuit of wealth, lack of a proper welfare state for the most vulnerable, a foreign policy based on mindless aggression and random slaughter (Iraq), the use of corrupt puppet regimes for it's own ends (Saddam) and unwavering support for a state with an appalling human rights record (Israel).
Where is the peace, joy and happiness here?

Do Christians really have goals that differ in any meaningful way from the rest of us? Self-preservation, the pursuit of material goods and supposed superiority over others -- are these Christian traits or secular traits?

When it comes to subjects such as homosexuality and abortion, who is more compassionate -- the secularist or the Christian?

In my experience, most Christians spend a huge amount of time in meaningless religious rituals, scanning the bible for supposed prophecies, and attempting to ensure their own salvation, rather than actually helping others less fortunate than themselves.

Certainly, Jesus original idea may have been 'peace, joy and happiness', but his message has been largely hijacked for entirely selfish ends.

Sadly there is no such thing as 'true Christianity' -- it is whatever the beholder wishes it to be.

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