Nel's New Day

June 2, 2013

Religion Needs Fusion to Avoid Mental Illness

Raised as a Catholic, my partner sometimes tells people that she’s “in recovery” from the religion. She may be right, according to Kathleen Taylor, an Oxford University researcher and author specializing in neuroscience, who suggests that in the future religious fundamentalism may be treated as a curable mental illness. In a presentation on brain research at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales, Taylor said that becoming radicalized to a cult ideology might be perceived as a mental disturbance instead of a free will choice.

Although many people might think that she was talking about radical Islam, Taylor said that she also meant such beliefs as the idea that beating children is acceptable. Her 2006 book is Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control. In a YouTube video, Taylor said:

“We all change our beliefs of course. We all persuade each other to do things; we all watch advertising; we all get educated and experience [religions.] Brainwashing, if you like, is the extreme end of that; it’s the coercive, forceful, psychological torture type.”

Examples of fundamentalist Christian mental illness:

Hundreds of children die across the United States because of “faith healing”: In a report about children who died in the Faith Tabernacle Congregation in North Philadelphia and First Century Gospel Church in Juniata Park, one of the members said, “God promised us that if we do his will, that there’s no infection; all these diseases that you name, would not come to you.” And these are just two denominations across the U.S.

Fundamentalists preach hate and violence: Matt Trewhella, founder of Missionaries to the Preborn, announced on In Focus, a broadcast on the Voice of Christian Youth America networks, to damn parents who don’t teach their children that homosexuals are vile people:

“I have no respect for people who are parents, who actually have children, and have no problem with homosexuality or homosexual marriage. They are the most base people on the planet to have totally abandoned every God-given vestige to protect your child from the filth of homosexuality; to blatantly go along with it is disgusting.”

Trewhalla does have a few other problems: he is a convicted arsonist, investigated by the FBI in connection with the murder of a doctor, and signed the “Justifiable Homicide” petition defending the murder of two doctors. He openly called for arming children, saying: “This Christmas I want you to do the most loving thing, and I want you to buy each of your children an SKS rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition.”

Fundamentalist Christians violate individual privacy: Part of the training for Trewhalla’s millitant organization, Missionaries to the Preborn, is  to “sidewalk counsel.” In Georgia, Daryl Banther has taken sidewalk counseling seriously. During the 1890s Day Jamboree in Ringgold, he took his 8-year-old son to accost children in the parking lot, talking about Jesus and handing them religious pamphlets and questionnaires.  Parents called the police to stop him, and he plans to sue if city officials don’t let him continue. None of the parents knew Banther because he is from Cleveland (GA), over 100 miles away.

Fundamentalists also try to indoctrinate through public schools: Although the wall between church and state has kept public schools from teaching religion in the past, the Springboro Community City School District (OH) is considering a “controversial issues policy” so that students can “think critically, learn to identify important issues, explore fully and fairly all sides of an issue, weigh carefully the values and factors involved, and develop techniques for formulating and evaluating positions.” To religious people, such topics as evolution, sustainable development, and sex education are considered “controversial.” In the real world, scientific study has made these issues non-controversial.

Agenda 21 is one of those issues religious people consider wrong. A program supported by the United Nations, Agenda 21 encourages nations to consider environmental factors when developing resources, land, transportation, etc. Even the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation does not consider Agenda 21 a threat “in and of itself.” Glenn Beck has an hysterical book showing a dystopian future because of Agenda 21, and the public school wants make the book required reading for all students.

Parents, teachers, and students were at the well-attended board meeting to oppose uneducating students. The board tabled the issue for another month.

Religious leaders control message of priests: Nine violent hate crimes against the LGBT community in New York brought the year’s total to 27 in that city, and the highest ranking Catholic in the United States, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, told members of the LGBT community to “wash” their hands before they enter the Catholic Churches. In answer to this tension, Dolan told all Catholic dioceses to focus sermons on “traditional marriages” for the next month. He has also told the parishioners to join anti-LGBT events, fast, and pray to stop marriage from becoming a reality.

His church bulletin reads:

“The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined with many other organizations in urging the Supreme Court to uphold both DOMA and Proposition 8 and thereby to recognize the essential, irreplaceable contribution that husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, make to society, and especially to children.”

These coercive statements lead up to July 4, the day to celebrate religious freedom. Even the usual hate groups, National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council, have denounced the violence against LGBT people. 

In her book, Create Your Own Religion: A How-To Book without Instructions, Daniele Bolelli has an answer for these religions that purport “that they alone possess the Only Truth revealed to them by the deity of their choosing.” She suggests that people determine individual religions based on what is best for humanity.

Religious people already read selectively, cherry picking what they like and throwing out the rest. Groups use the same book—usually the Bible—to support opposing views, for example, about slavery before and during the Civil War: “It was in this same time period … that Christians used the Bible to argue for the abolition of slavery while just as many Christians found in the Bible the ideological ammuni­tion to support slavery as a divinely ordained institution.” A century later, both the Ku Klux Klan and Martin Luther King, Jr. called themselves Christians.

Early in the development of Christianity, Saint Paul pushed celibacy whereas Christian teacher Carpocrates urged sexual orgies.  Centuries later conservatives praise wealth as a divine blessing while liberals might find sin in unfettered capitalism.

With over 30,000 different Christian denominations, Bolelli describes most established religions as “based on shaky sources.”  She compares divine revelations to playing the game of “Telephone” as one person whispers something into another’s ear who then moves what is heard on down the line. Comparing the original statement and the distorted one at the end always results in laughter at the misunderstandings.

In the case of religious texts, several decades can pass, and the message passes through thousands of people before anyone writes down what they think was said. Another group then tries to determine the “accurate” version. Religious leaders have an easy job persuading people of “the truth” because the prophets are dead and no one knows anything about them. As Bolelli wrote:

“Like demented kids hugging a puppy too tight and crushing him to death out of ‘love,’ followers destroy their founders’ teachings with blind devotion. The freshness, beauty, and vital energy of the original message dies a miserable death when the message is turned into dogma. And what followers are left to worship is the dried-up, mummified corpse of what was maybe once a wonderful idea.”

The solution to working together is creating our own religions. A recent buzz word is “fusion”—music, food, dress, ethnic makeup—and certainly religion. Without this fusion, the world will be a disaster.

“The most conservative, fundamentalist branches see the global world as a threat. To them, more choices mean more opportunity to fall in error and stray from the One True Way. In their worldview, choice is the Devil’s tool to lead us away from the truth. Confronted with a world offering greater chances for choosing one’s own way, their answer is to dig deeper trenches and become even more radi­cally rigid. The more freedoms human history offers us, the more fundamentalists will fight them. Despite their mutual hatred for one another, Jerry Falwell and the Taliban are twins separated at birth—modernity makes both of them recoil in horror.”

Religious figures best at religious fusion are the “nuns on the bus.” Led by Sister Simone Campbell, the same group of Catholic nuns that traveled across the country to protest Republican budget cuts leaves this week from Ellis Island for a 15-state tour about immigration reform. Campbell said:

“Immigration is at the heart of our Catholic faith. It’s about community. We need to welcome the stranger, and treat the stranger as yourself.”

Right on, Sister Campbell!

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