Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Religion and Madness

At least 20% of the population may have a mental disorder during a given year. (Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General - Chapter 2)

Fundamentalists often appear to be particularly mad.

Thinks of the mad Hindus attacking Moslems in Mumbai. Think of the Christian Crusaders roasting children on spits.

Think of certain officials of the Ministry of Education in Sudan.

In the Guardian's Comment is Free site we read:

"The children voted and chose the name Muhammad. All but one of the children in her class are Muslims. Gillian then wrote a letter to the parents of Class 2X explaining that the children had chosen the name Muhammad for their class teddy bear.

"The school was visited by officers of the Ministry of Education... "The government men then asked to see and interview Gillian...

"On arrival at the police barracks, accompanied by the school principal, Gillian was interrogated for five hours. Gillian was then remanded to the cells...


"I was informed that Gillian had been charged under the Sudanese penal code with blasphemously defaming the Prophet."


The Muslim Council of Britain called on the Sudanese government to intervene in the case. (Sudan plays down teddy blasphemy case)

"This is a very unfortunate incident and Ms Gibbons should never have been arrested in the first place. It is obvious that no malice was intended," said Muhammad Abdul Bari, the council's secretary-general.

A spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in London said he believed the teacher would be cleared and the "minute" issue resolved amicably very quickly.

Anton T Boisen wrote "Exploration of the Inner World: A Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience". (1936)

Boisen wrote:

"(I proceed) from the hypothesis that there is an important relationship between acute mental illness of the functional type and those sudden transformations of character so prominent in the history of the Christian church since the days of Saul of Tarsus....

"Religious experience as well as mental disorder may involve severe emotional upheaval, and mental disorder as well as religious experience may represent the operation of the healing forces of nature (or of nature's God)...

"Certain types of mental disorder as well as certain types of religious experience are alike attempts at reorganization (of the psyche or soul at its most fundamental, existential level).

"The difference lies in the outcome (by their fruits you will know them, Matt. 7:16).

"Where the attempt is successful and some degree of victory is won, it is commonly recognized as religious experience. Where it is unsuccessful or indeterminate, it is commonly spoken of as insanity....

"I approach the problem not merely as a specialist in both the psychology and sociology of religion but also in psychopathology.

"What is more, I come to it as one who has personally explored the little-known country with which it deals."

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