top of page

No, Belief in Gods is Not a Mental Illness, and You Should Stop Using "Mental Illness" as an Insult

The idea that religion and belief in supernatural beings are forms of mental illness has gained momentum over the last few years, especially among atheists. Critics often argue that religious faith is a product of delusion or irrational thinking, equating it to a mental disorder. However, such assertions fail to recognize the complex nature of human belief systems and the profound role that religion plays in the lives of billions of people worldwide.



Understanding Belief Systems


Belief in the supernatural is deeply ingrained in humanity's psychological evolution, spanning across almost all cultures and historical epochs. Our ancestors, faced with the mysteries of the natural world and the uncertainties of existence, sought meaning and explanation through religiosity. Over tens of thousands of years, the human brain developed cognitive tendencies that sought out patterns, agency, and purpose in its surroundings. Religion's adaptability and multifaceted fitness provided a framework for understanding the world, offering solace in times of uncertainty and a sense of control in the face of adversity. While our understanding of the natural world has expanded through scientific advancements, the psychological impulse to seek the supernatural endures as an intrinsic part of human nature. That does not make religion a mental illness.


Psychological Benefits of Religion


Religion often acts as a psychological support system, offering individuals a sense of community, social support, and belonging. Participating in religious rituals and practices can foster a sense of connectedness and provide a framework for coping with life's challenges. Despite the prevalence of religious trauma, research has also shown that religious beliefs and practices are associated with increased life satisfaction, reduced stress, and improved mental well-being. Moreover, religion often promotes values such as forgiveness, compassion, and altruism, which can contribute to positive mental health outcomes. As such, these belief systems provide individuals with a sense of meaning, purpose, and identity, as well as answers to existential questions. While these beliefs may not conform to empirical evidence or scientific methods, they serve an important psychological and social function by providing comfort and guidance. That does not make religion a mental illness.


The Limitations of the Mental Illness Framework


Mental illness is a legitimate and important area of study within psychology and psychiatry. However, labeling religious beliefs as a mental illness oversimplifies the complexity of human cognition and fails to acknowledge the multifaceted nature of religious experiences. Religion encompasses a wide range of beliefs, practices, and experiences that cannot be reduced to symptoms of psychopathology. Dismissing religion as a mental illness disregards the rich cultural and historical significance of religious traditions and the individual's autonomy in shaping their belief system.


Moreover, those who claim that religious beliefs are a mental illness clearly don't understand what a "mental illness" actually is. Mental illness is characterized by significant disturbances in cognition, mood, or behavior, leading to impaired functioning and distress. Mental illnesses can arise from a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors, and they can manifest in various forms, such as anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and others. These conditions are recognized by the psychiatric community based on standardized diagnostic criteria, such as those outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Mental illnesses are distinct from normal variations in thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, as they typically involve a significant deviation from the individual's typical functioning, which then causes clinically significant distress or impairment. Treatment for mental illnesses often involves a multidimensional approach, including psychotherapy, medication, lifestyle modifications, and support from mental health professionals.


While it is true that certain teachings, practices, and environments have resulted in mental health issues for some religious believers, that does not, therefore, mean "religion" or a belief in the supernatural is, in and of itself, a mental illness. There have been many examples of atheist communities causing anxiety disorders and depression within their secular ranks, as well. That does mean "atheism" is a mental illness, does it?


Stop Using "Mental Illness" as an Insult


Using "mental illness" as an insult or as a means to attack a belief system is not only inappropriate, but it also displays a lack of understanding and empathy. Mental illness is a legitimate and complex phenomenon that affects tens of millions of individuals worldwide. It is a serious health concern that requires sensitivity and support. Misusing the term as an insult not only perpetuates harmful stereotypes but also contributes to the stigmatization of mental health sufferers. Furthermore, attempting to discredit a belief system by labeling it as a mental illness oversimplifies the complexity of human thought processes, disregards the rich cultural and historical significance of spiritual practices, and undermines people's liberty to live their life according to their own conscience. Resorting to derogatory or dismissive language merely reveals the Twitter-like ignorance and small-mindedness of the attacker, not the potential scientific failings of religion.

 

6 Comments


Guest
May 05

It very much is a mental illness and a disgusting perversion of NLP.

Like

Guest
Apr 16

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rU8_Fg103ZQ

This video shows us that Judaism is the weakest smallest most insignificant religious scam in the world compared to the 12 other religious scams.. Israel should be less aggressive, and just shut the hell up.. Israel is like 'the lame mouse pretending it's a tiger'..

All religion is just empty words.. None of you, nor them can prove even one of religion's bullshit belief lies is truth.. All religion is just pretend made-up delusion, just criminal scams.. These wars are religion's wars.. Each one playing its scam so long that now they even believe it's their and our truth and reality... Clueless religion dooms its followers to hell's end... Religion is merely criminal terrorist organizations pretending to own and…

Like

Guest
Dec 15, 2023

So, it's all about how one chooses to define mental illness, and degrees of certainty.


I'm going to go slightly off-tangent here for a moment. I support your work. However, parts of this post don't make sense to me. Sections are logically inconsistent, display bias, and assert unsupported claims. I'd like to think you can do better.


For example, kindly provide your evidence:


"[T]he psychological impulse to seek the supernatural endures as an intrinsic part of human nature."


and,


"Belief in the supernatural is deeply ingrained in humanity's psychological evolution, spanning across almost all cultures and historical epochs. Our ancestors, faced with the mysteries of the natural world and the uncertainties of existence, sought meaning and explanation through religiosity."


Blue…


Like
Guest
Apr 16
Replying to

Quoting you: So, it's all about how one chooses to define mental illness, and degrees of certainty."..

Rethink that statement.. It's so vague that it's like 'stirring a plugged toilet'..

I am authoring the new university course 'Blue Base Eternity, The Philosophy of Psychiatry'.. As I compose it, it is becoming more and more difficult and disconcerting to add to and edit, because I must read it over and over, and the more I detail about humanity's truths and reality, the more it feels like the manuscript's content is me visiting hell itself.. Humanity is absolutely insane...

"How one chooses to define mental illness", is the problem.. Example: The policeman's job is to bully the meek and innocent for democracy…

Like

Dennis Blue
Dennis Blue
May 24, 2023

Your post is supported by some relevant research. An article appearing in Science Daily ("Humans Predisposed to Believe in Gods and the Afterlife, March, 2021), cites worldwide research, sponsored and overseen by the University of Oxford, suggesting that people from diverse cultural settings instinctively believe that some part of their mind, soul, or spirit lives on after death. The studies likewise indicated that "theology is a reasoned response to what is a basic 'impulse' of the human mind." Accordingly, the article indirectly expresses that religion is a common outgrowth of normal human psychology. It is not a mental illness. When reviewing this data for inclusion in my book, "Rethinking Jesus: when the walk fails the talk", (Inara Publishing, 2021), I…

Like
Replying to

Wonderful insight, Dr. Blue! Thank you!!

Like
bottom of page