Religious fervor or mental illness: SciAM guest blogger wonders how to tell
|January 1, 2017||Posted by News under Mind, Naturalism, News|
From physician Nathaniel P. Morris at Scientific American:
Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia.
But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues? If he could hear Jesus speaking to him? He might also insist nothing were wrong with him. After all, he’s practicing his faith.
It’s not just the ambiguities of mental health diagnoses that create this problem—the vague nature of how we define religion further complicates matters. More.
Actually it is quite easy to tell: The outcome in the person’s life. Persons who have had near-death experiences, for example, tend to focus more on relationships and less on acquisitions. While it is not possible to tell from the outside what exactly happened, a change that cannot be attributed to mental illness becomes evident. Consider the case of philosopher A. J. Ayers:
“Freddie became so much nicer after he died,” said Dee. “He was not nearly so boastful. He took an interest in other people.” Ayer also told the writer Edward St. Aubyn in France that he had had “a kind of resurrection” and for the first time in his life, he had begun to notice scenery. In France, on a mountain near his villa, he said, “I suddenly stopped and looked out at the sea and thought, my God, how beautiful this is … for 26 years I had never really looked at it before.”
What is also undeniably true — and has never been reported on — is that at the end of his life, Freddie spent more and more time with his former BBC debating opponent, the Jesuit priest and philosopher Frederick Copleston, who was at Freddie’s funeral at Golders Green crematorium.More.
See also: Templeton sets out to find the afterlife for $5 million
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