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silent thunder

fundamentalism: mental illness

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Couple of interesting, very brief articles.


Leading Oxford University neurologist Kathleen Taylor has posited in her new book The Brain Supremacy that religious fundamentalism may soon be an identifiable "mental disorder” — and curable as an illness.


Perhaps Zimbardo is correct, and the social structures around us will always influence our malleable nature. If we look at the animals around us, we see a natural order of violence and dominance playing a part in wildlife's harmony.


In addition to the possibility of religious fundamentalism being treated as a mental illness in the near future, other scientists have found a link between shrinkage of the hippocampus, a large and significant section of the brain, and those who hold deeply religious or spiritual beliefs.


Such a mucky quagmire. Who decides? If technology or treatment is created that can reach into the skull and affect the working of the mind, what does this mean to free will? Is there even free will among the 'believers' or is it the result of a compulsory and sick behavior pattern?


I'm reminded of my in-law's (atheist fundamentalist) tendencies who time and again, tried to get my wife and I to ignore our infant son's crying and to not tolerate his 'manipulation' of us to pick him up and coddle him. The same people who systematically emotionally and physically abused my wife because it was the 'only right way to raise a healthy child'. These same people who look on us with mildly cloaked disdain when we cuddle and/or soothe our son for any reason. 'Have to toughen them up' is their mantra... which to me, is only teaching a child that 'hey the world is out to get you and you can't trust it, and guess what, you can't trust us either'. Sick... the idea that a 3 month old infant is capable of subterfuge or social manipulation. These are not uneducated, simple folk. They both hold advanced degrees.


Clearly to me, this is an illness that caused much harm in my wife's life experience, yet in their case has nothing to do with religious belief. Unflinching belief of any kind seems to be the danger trigger.


Bah, I'm rambling and this is making my stomach churn.

Time to go gaze at the sun and breathe.



Edited by silent thunder

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Materialist and religious fundamentalism are both problematic, but the former is supported by the scientific community and the education system.


Already, many spiritual experiences are considered schizophrenia symptoms regardless of context and the individual's ability to think logically and manage life. "You saw X? Delusional beliefs and hallucinations, here's some Clozapine!"


All sides should try to question themselves, and note where emotion gets mixed with ideas. In Stilling the Mind, Alan Wallace suggests treating any beliefs we hold as working hypotheses. That's a model I've tried to follow. There is much to learn from the logic and empiricism of science.


Something Richard Dawkins, of all people, has said which I strongly agree with - children are too young to critically come to a philosophical stance, so they shouldn't have one thrown at them.


The idea of parents routinely 'raising our kids X' sickens me a little, whether it's atheism, or Christianity, or Taoism, or Buddhism, etc. Dawkins compares saying that a child is a Christian to saying that a child is a Marxist - how can a kid possibly consider something like that fully? This is at least partially intentional brainwashing going on, right now, in homes all over the world.


There's a reason religion is still so strongly correlated with geographical location - the brainwashing of uncritical children which I just mentioned, combined with the human tendencies to follow the herd and to associate emotions with beliefs - and this same thing causes fundamentalism.

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The main article talked about how the hippocampus seemed to shrink in people who had strong life changing spiritual experiences.


Well, that would mean that their memories might be affected. Could be that they started living more in the present and so this area started to become reduced. The hippocampus also can shrink due to extreme stress. I'm thinking probably because it is a major receptor of stress and so reduces to minimize the impact. This might be useful for people who seek spiritual connections, since they will be able to focus more on the spiritual than on stress.


However, obstinate and aggressive fundamentalism is, to me, a character issue which needs work, much like excessive egotism and selfishness. I think we see a fair amount of fundamentalist attitudes on TTB from time to time as well -- the idea that "you don't do this practice, or you don't do it this way, so you have no possible way to be truly connected to the spiritual. My way is the best, I'm better than you because you do this and I do that." That's essentially what fundamentalism comes down to -- a way to aggrandize one's self over others by standing on something greater than themselves.


I also have to deal with some fundamentalist beliefs of an extended family member. Its frustrating to hear someone's logical fallacies come out in demeaning ways, and not really be able to do anything about it. The (other) family relationships are more important than our agreeing with each other on these things.. but, man!!!

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