Today I was watching a new video about Ben Carson (made by YouTube creator Zaunstar), which explored a bit of the madness that is the Carson campaign.
While I did learn a few things from this video that I didn’t already know, there was one part in particular that peeked my attention. Zaunstar made note that religion should not be either used to determine a person’s intelligence, nor should it be characterized as a mental illness.
When it comes to religion as a mental illness, while it’s a secular (primarily Atheist) talking point that I have been hearing since the release of Religulous (and likely before), it’s not one that I ever took seriously. By that, I don’t mean I wrote it off. I just didn’t evaluate the statement.
One of the reasons it came to mind here, was because of a status update from YouTube atheist Dusty Smith.
I do indeed weigh the parties involved in this debate. On one side, you have a group of presumably well educated people that have spent much of their life in their field of study. On the other side, you have a pseudo-religous commentator (one of many) that thinks that their realization of reality (religion is bullshit!) puts them intellectually on par with . . . .academic intellectuals.
However, no matter the sources, this is a reoccurring talking point that I hear fairly often, so it seems a good one to explore (at least to the best of my abilities).
Though I can not explore this from a scientific standpoint, I do have observations to derive from.
For the last while (year or 2), I found myself evaluating many of the old positions that I had held or groups that I had considered myself apart of. And eventually I found myself casting aside pretty much all, deeming most to be unnecessary, and in fact anathetical to positive communication.
While this has left me in a position of feeling like an outsider, it has also provided a lot of insight that would not be easily visible from the inside.
One of the best examples of this, is my argumentation for why Atheism (modern day NU-Atheism) could be considered a religion. Oh yes, atheists fight this association at every turn. And since a lot of these accusations are from theists projecting their conclusions on all groups, one can definitely say that Atheism is NOT a religion, as comparable to Islam or Christianity (for example).
However, the definition for religion also has:
A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion
Many like to fight this argument, claiming that pretty much any activities perused with great devotion could be considered religious.
I’ve even seen atheists leave out that last part of the definition when arguing people that call it a religion.While I know why they do it (it’s inconvenient, or as they would say, “stupid!”), its still dishonest. Not to mention amusing, since many atheists fight self identified agnostics due to the strict definition of the word. And then there are those that label radical feminism with the religious label.
While I agree, LOOK IN THE MIRROR!
While there are hundreds of thousands of atheists stuck in the closet due to backwards thinking in their locale, there are also hundreds of thousands (millions?) openly speaking up and communicating online. Like the feminists fighting first world oppression whilst ignoring the plight of females anywhere else that have no open broadband connectivity, the atheist community is similarly misfocused. And the whole of the movement will be a giant waste of time and energy (as well as a useless movement) until the atheists stop being so fucking religous and accept some secular diversity.
Now, though I would see no issue with labeling both radical feminism and Nu-Atheism as religious based on characteristics about both groups that make them fit the word, I would not say that either side is mentality ill or deluded. No doubt, there are examples to be had therein. But it is not a collective mental illness.
When it comes to delusions comparable to that of religion, the most aparant example that I can think of is conspiracy theories. I often find myself comparing them to religion for a reason. Because for the most part, most belief in such claims is based on (essentially) faith. Rather than faith in god, it’s faith that the government, big business, the illuminati or some other mysterious they is hell bent on killing us all, or starting shit for personal gain.
The United States is the most religious nation in the world, and it also has the most conspiracy theorists of any nation (not to mention that the nation spawns many of the most well kown theories).
Coinsidence? I doubt it.
I have a few conspiracy theorists in my circle of friends, so it’s interesting to observe and compare them to one another, and also to fairly like minded people (theists).
Like the religous person focused on a sect, many theorists also have a fairly limited scope of theories that they believe in. Some (like 9/11 and Pearl Harbour) tend to be universal among many. Yet there are many more that are only applicable to some. These are funny, because they are often dismissed by their fellow theorists (“Now that’s just silly!”).
One of the more funny conversations I’ve had lately, was about chemtrails. For those unaware, it’s chemicals released into the sky by passing aircraft (either passively or deliberately).
And to be honest, it was less a conversation then it was “Well I bet after seeing this . . .”.
Out comes the 6 plus, and on goes the YouTube retard.
Lesson 1: There are contrails , and there are chemtrails .
A contrail vanishes pretty much on contact with the atmosphere. A chemtrail remains, sometimes for hours. I even found (well, utilized) photographic examples.
Lesson 2: There is no reason for any turbo fan aircraft engine to be creating such formations due to the lack of moisture in the fuel. And besides, cold atmosphere aside, do humans leave trails 20 feet behind them in the winter?
(Yes, he actually said that).
The truth is, this is one of the easiest theories to debunk. Though the science is not entirely clear to me, the longevity of contrails is less chemicals, and more atmospheric moisture content and winds.
I’m not even going to bother with the human contrail example (do you realize how much air goes though a jet engine?!).
And when it comes to a lack of moisture in fuel to create a trail . . . BULLSHIT!
Even gasoline has a bit of moisture in it (visible in the winter).
Or to stick with aviation, there was the British Airways triple 7 that crash landed at Hethrow in 2008. It’s engines got starved for fuel . . .by sticky ice crystals in the fuel system. Formed while flying in a frigid airmass over Russia (fuel -30C), the crystals do not become sticky until decent (between -20 and -8 I believe), and are not dangerous until dislodged by an acceleration in engine power.
That is chemtrails in a nutshell. I do not believe in them, nor do I even have to take them seriously, because science has the answers already.
One of these times I’ll take the time to familiarize myself with some of the science at play in the 9/11 attacks, so I can take that on to. And though I’ve already done a few, there are no shortage of food, big ag or big biotech conspiracies.
Though Chemtrails are seemingly easily debunked, I know a person that just can not accept that. Based on seeing up to 7 Chemtrails over our city in one day.
Surely it’s not our proximity to Winnipeg and Minneapolis airports. Or high altitude Europe bound flights curving North to ride the jetstream (saves fuel).
Nope . . . nefarious activity!
But conspiracy theories are not the only thing that people delude themselves with.
One of the more harmful examples that I can think of, is alternative medicine (I’m planing on dedicating a whole series to it eventually).
Another that is fairly prominent in my family and inner circle, is the paranormal. Though it is indeed a huge topic, I’m talking primarily of ghosts and such.
A cousin of mine claims to see them everywhere. This includes at family gatherings (aparently my grandpa dropped by during the Christmas celebration).
I take this with a grain of salt however.
This cousin is well known for always trying to get attention. Not to mention that my aunt only fanned the flames further by taking a psychic (that happens to be an old friend of hers) very seriously.
But that’s fine. Though it had not occurred to me last time, I’ll ask a few questions of description if the ghost shows up again (does he have glasses? What is he wearing?).
I have another family member however, that loves watching ghost hunting shows. This is another genre that YouTube has no shortage of. However, their credibility (at least to me) ranges from “well, at least they debunk” to “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING me?!”. The last reaction is why I try and avoid paranormal shows. Because what is considered evidence can often be . . . A head scratcher.
Though it is easy for me to sort out the at least tolerable from the utterly unscientific bullshit, not everyone (this family member included) can (or does) this.
I realized how much of an effect this bullshit had on his (and likley other people’s) views during one of these shows (an oldie, but an evenly balenced goodie). A part of the documentary focused on a family that moved into a strange house that had a past suicide, and of which happened to be haunted. And this was remidied by way of a cleansing and blessing of the house.
A psychologist (when explained the situation) figured it a combination of the stresses of life and relocation into a strange house with a bad history. And of course, the placebo affect.
I was immediately reminded of a Minnesota pharmacist that I read about whom went viral for mixing monster repellant for some parents. For parents of children with major nighttime monster issues, a custom formula is made up with instructions (on official RX stickers) to “spray around entire bedroom. Should see effects within 2 to 3 days”. And like magic . . . a 100% success rate. Like my belt that repels Pink Elephants . . . Haven’t seen one yet!
It was the reaction to this story that intrested me. The person basically said “it would be interesting to see something like that done where the manifestation is not in someone’s mind”. Meaning that rather than starting from a point of neutrality, they are starting from “Ghosts exist”.
Something that while annoying, is not what I would consider harmful.
What is however, are some of the persons other characteristics. The relevant details in this case are a touch of paranoia, as well as an unfortunate history of being at the butt end of many assholes and organizations in his lifetime.
This comes into play due to a couple of instances where he SERIOUSLY considered whether or not he had a curse or dark cloud over himself. While I had no quelms about smashing that straight away (as well as illistrating the danger of living out a self fulfilling prophecy), he countered with “Well, look at the evidence!”.
Now, why would he say that? What could make a person call a series of unrelated events evidence ?What would make that logically sensible, I wonder . . .
Either way, I covered 3 very different groups of people. Though different, they all are similar in that they share views that could rightfully be called irrational. Because either the claims are flat out false, or they are just grasping at straws.
Of all the beliefs in the groups, I would not say that I consider any to be a mental illness as a stand alone. In some cases, I’m sure that they add to the problem, there is no doubt about it. But not in everyone who is a conspiracy theorist, a ghost believer or religious.
However, it strikes me that all maybe symptoms of a certain type of mindset. Be it something that one is born with or just a product of environmental factors, all of the above do seem to appeal to a certain kind of mind.
What exactly would constitute such a mind, I will leave to the experts of the field. Same goes with what shapes such a mind in the first place.
Either way, that is why I do not think it proper to call religion a mental illness.