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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Is Fundamentalism Mental Illness?

An Oxford researcher, Kathleen Tylor,(neuroscience) says religious fundamentalism is a kind of mental illness.[1]Problem is I've said that myself on occasion. The draw back to that way of thinking is that it depends upon what we mean by "fundamentalism."

“Someone who has for example become radicalised to a cult ideology -- we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance," Taylor said. “In many ways it could be a very positive thing because there are no doubt beliefs in our society that do a heck of a lot of damage."
The author went on to say she wasn't just referring to the "obvious candidates like radical Islam," but also meant such beliefs as the idea that beating children is acceptable.
“Someone who has for example become radicalised to a cult ideology -- we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance," Taylor said. “In many ways it could be a very positive thing because there are no doubt beliefs in our society that do a heck of a lot of damage."
The author went on to say she wasn't just referring to the "obvious candidates like radical Islam," 

 what does she mean by "radical?" Or what does she mean by "fundamentalism." She adds the example:
"but also meant such beliefs as the idea that beating children is acceptable." [2] Of course we could say the same things about atheists ("new" atheists especially) or even civil liberties advocates. How long before the focus of loony beliefs shifts form beating children to belief in the deity of Christ? Why is beating children any more iconic of fundamentalism than it is of secular behavior?

the article offer no insights into the process of studying fundamentalism. The only example that she gives is of intrinsically non religious behavior. The most interesting problem is that there is nothing in this article to connect neuroscience to they study fo mental illness in religious people or anyone else. Most of the article and the video is about Taylor's book on brain washing. I have to conclude that this is another case of Huff Post cashing in on some atheism fad or of some blogger in their network who is an atheist activist just using a bare excuse to slip in some derogatory impression of religion. More proof Huff post has become a breeding ground for atheist propaganda.

Several studies have shown that religious experience is not linked to mental illness.

Childhood Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration

Caird
(1987) "found no relationship between reported mystical experience and neuroticism, psychoticism and lying while Spanos and Moretti (1988) found no relationship between a measure of mystical experience and psychopathology."
Quote:

The experience of pure consciousness is typically called "mystical". The essence of the mystical experience has been debated for years (Horne, 1982). It is often held that "mysticism is a manifestation of something which is at the root of all religions (p. 16; Happold, 1963)." The empirical assessment of the mystical experience in psychology has occurred to a limited extent. Scientific interest in the mystical experience was broadened with the research on psychoactive drugs. The popular belief was that such drugs mimicked either mystical states and/or schizophrenic ones (reviewed in Lukoff, Zanger & Lu, 1990). Although there is likely some physiological similarity as well as phenomenological recent work has shown clear differences. For instance, Oxman, Rosenberg, Schnurr, Tucker and Gala (1988) analyzed 66 autobiographical accounts of schizophrenia, hallucinogenic drug experiences, and mystical ecstasy as well as 28 control accounts of important personal experiences. They concluded that the:

"subjective experiences of schizophrenia, hallucinogenic drug-induced states, and mystical ecstasy are more different from one another than alike."(p. 401).




Gackenback

Quote:

In terms of psychological correlates, well-being and happiness has been associated with mystical experiences,(Mathes, Zevon, Roter, Joerger, 1982; Hay & Morisy, 1978; Greeley, 1975; Alexander, Boyer, & Alexander, 1987) as well as self-actualization (Hood, 1977; Alexander, 1992). Regarding the latter, the developer of self-actualization believed that even one spontaneous peak or transcendental experience could promote self-actualization. Correlational research has supported this relationship. In a recent statistical meta-analysis of causal designs with Transcendental Meditation (TM) controlling for length of treatment and strength of study design, it was found that: TM enhances self-actualization on standard inventories significantly more than recent clinically devised relaxation/meditation procedures not explicitly directed toward transcendence [mystical experience] (p. 1; Alexander, 1992)[3]



[1] , Huff Post, "Kathleen Taylor Neuroscientist  says Religious Fundamentalism Could be Treated as a Mental Illness." blog,  posted: 05/31/2013.
 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/31/kathleen-taylor-religious-fundamentalism-mental-illness_n_3365896.html?utm_hp_ref=religion accessed 1/3/13.

[2]Ibid.

[3] Jayne Gackenback, "Pure Consciousness, mystical Experience." website: http://www.sawka.com/spiritwatch/cehsc/ipure.htm  accessed 6/3/13.

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