Monday, March 31, 2014

Atheist Hate Speech and Mental Disorder

  photo 5b8aab67099f892b02a23a4e5245ad2d_zps38a4e577.png
 Peter Boghossian

Philosopher Randal Rauser acuses Peter Boghossian (see AW last Friday) of hate speech. He quotes Boghossian from his book where he urges that the DSM (bible of psychiatric therapy) include religious "delusions" as mental illness.
“We must recognize religion as brainwashing. We must recognize the (hyper) religious as mentally damaged.” - See more at:

“There is perhaps no greater contribution one could make to contain and perhaps even cure faith than removing the exemption that prohibits classifying religious delusions as mental illness. The removal of religious exemptions from the DSM would enable academicians and clinicians to bring considerable resources to bear on the problem of treating faith, as well as on the ethical issues surrounding faith-based interventions. In the long term, once these treatments and this body of research is refined, results could then be used to inform public health policies designed to contain and ultimately eradicate faith.” Peter Boghossian A Manual for Creating Atheists (Kindle Locations 3551-3555).[1]

Does this mean that all religious believers would be open to the charge of mental illness. It seems so. Rauser finds this to be hate speech. The end goal of bringing rleigious people under the label of mental illness is to "eradicate faith from society altogether."[2] Rauser points out that this qualifies as hate speech under the Canadian Criminal code:

“We must recognize religion as brainwashing. We must recognize the (hyper) religious as mentally damaged.” - See more at:

Marginal note: Advocating genocide
  • 318. (1) Every one who advocates or promotes genocide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
  • Marginal note:Definition of “genocide”
    (2) In this section, “genocide” means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part any identifiable group, namely,
    • (a) killing members of the group; or
    • (b) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.
  • Marginal note:Consent
    (3) No proceeding for an offence under this section shall be instituted without the consent of the Attorney General.
  • Definition of “identifiable group”
    (4) In this section, “identifiable group” means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
  • R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 318;
  • 2004, c. 14, s. 1.
Marginal note:Public incitement of hatred
  • 319. (1) Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty of
    • (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
    • (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.
  • Marginal note:Wilful promotion of hatred
    (2) Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of
    • (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
    • (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.[3]

Boghossian is not the only one to say this. American Atheist President David silverman said “We must recognize religion as brainwashing. We must recognize the (hyper) religious as mentally damaged.”[4]
“We must recognize religion as brainwashing. We must recognize the (hyper) religious as mentally damaged.” - See more at:“We must recognize religion as brainwashing. We must recognize the (hyper) religious as mentally damaged.”
Bill Maher called religion a neurological disorder. Sam Harris wrote “it is difficult to imagine a set of beliefs more suggestive of mental illness than those that lie at the heart of many of our religious traditions.” Face book groups claiming religion is mental disorder, according to Steadman "boast hundreds of members."[5] Not all atheists go along with the trend. Steadman himself, Humanist Chaplin at Harvard, calls for understanding.[6] He presents five reasons why one should not use this approach or call religious thinking mental illness. He had previously called for Christians and theists not to say that atheists are immoral. He calls for meeting each other on common ground.[7]

Steadman recognizes that a body of academic and scientific research links religions with well being, not with mental illness. Steadman writes:
In fact, empirical evidence sometimes points to the opposite conclusion,” Yaden [researcher at the university of Pennsylvania's positive policy research center] said, citing the work of Dr. Ken Pargament. “When it comes to facilitating mental health, empirical data demonstrates that religious people have more positive emotion, more meaning in life, more life satisfaction, cope better with trauma, are more physically healthy, are more altruistic and socially connected, and are not diagnosed with mental illness more than other people.”[8]
I have also quote heavily from sources making mention of these things.

[Noble, Kathleen D. (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.]

Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration (unpublished paper 1992)
Jayne Gackenback
"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).

(Ibid) "Relatedly, 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."
a. Trend toward positive view among psychologists.

Spiriutal Emergency


"Offsetting the clinical literature that views mystical experiences as pathological, many theorists (Bucke, 1961; Hood, 1974, 1976; James, 1961; Jung, 1973; Laski, 1968; Maslow, 1962, 1971; Stace, 1960; Underhill, 1955) have viewed mystical experiences as a sign of health and a powerful agent of transformation."

b. Most clinicians and clinical studies see postive.
"Results of a recent survey (Allman, et al,. 1992) suggest that most clinicians do not view mystical experiences as pathological. Also, studies by several researchers have found that people reporting mystical experiences scored lower on psychopathology scales and higher on measures of psychological well-being than controls (Caird, 1987; Hood, 1976, 1977, 1979; Spanos and Moretti, 1988)".
c. Incidence rate suggests no pathology.
"Numerous studies assessing the incidence of mystical experience (Back and Bourque, 1970; Greeley, 1974, 1987; Hay and Morisy, 1978; Hood, 1974, 1975, 1977; Thomas and Cooper, 1980) all support the conclusion that 30-40% of the population do have such experiences, suggesting that they are normal rather than pathological phenomena. In addition, a recent survey (Allman et al., 1992) has demonstrated that the number of patients who bring mystical experiences into treatment is not insignificant. Psychologists in full-time practice were asked to estimate the percentage of their clients over the past 12 months who had reported a mystical experience. The 285 respondents indicated that of the 20,670 clients seen during the past year, the incidence of mystical experience was 4.5%. This clearly challenges the GAP report on Mysticism, which claims that "mystical experiences are rarely observed in psychotherapeutic practice" (Group for Advancement of Psychiatry, 1976, p. 799).
2) Not the restult of deprivation or fantasy; mystics tend to be successful people.

Council on Spiritual Practices

State of Unitive Consciousness
"Furthermore, Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being. "

3) Mystisicm offers therapeutic insights.

"...Within the Western model we recognize and define psychosis as a suboptimal state of consciousness that views reality in a distorted way and does not recognize that distortion. It is therefore important to note that from the mystical perspective our usual state fits all the criteria of psychosis, being suboptimal, having a distorted view of reality, yet not recognizing that distortion. Indeed from the ultimate mystical perspective, psychosis can be defined as being trapped in, or attached to, any one state of consciousness, each of which by itself is necessarily limited and only relatively real.'' [-- page 665 ) [Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

See Also: Lukoff, David & Francis G. Lu (1988). ``Transpersonal psychology research review: Topic: Mystical experiences.'' Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20 (2), 161-184. Charles T. Tart, Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm, p. 19.[9]

I have seen over a dozen studies showing that religious experience is not mental illness.

We can see the hate speech is growing. Rauser quotes Boghossian as saying: “we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible, or that the planets rule their lives, than we should allow parents to knock their children’s teeth out or lock them in a dungeon.” That's pretty chilling. People are advocating banning the teaching of religion from children, that's a major quashing of civil liberties. I don't think we would have much trouble linking that to hate speech.


[1] Boghossian quoted in Randal Rauser, "Is Peter Boghossian guilty of Hate Speech?" Randal Rauser, 1/22/14 (blog) on line
accessed March 30, 2014.
Rauser is a systematic theologian of the Evangelical camp. He earned his Ph.D. in theology for King's College, London. Associate professor of historical theology at Edmonton.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Chris Steadman, "Five Reasons Atheists should't call religion Mental Illness," Religious News Service. Feb 24, 2014. online accessed March 30, 2014.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] ___________, "In 2014 let's stop saying 'atheists are immoral,' and 'believers are stupid.'" Religious News Service, Jan 08, 2014. accessed March 30, 2014.

[8] Steadman "five Reasons," Op cit.

[9] this is an amalgam of a lot of studies. It can all be referenced on my website Doxa.


JBsptfn said...

Bill Maher? The guy on Comedy Central? Where does he get off saying something like that? Just another ignorant person. He reminds me of Marshall Brain with his "Why Won't God heal amputees" and God is Imaginary" books.

Metacrock said...

yes the comedian. he's a big time atheist and a big mouth.

Dave said...

"Bill Maher? The guy on Comedy Central?"

No, Jon Stewart is on Comedy Central as the anchor for The Daily Show. Maher is the host of Real Time on HBO.

Metacrock said...

well anyway the comedian. His attempts at serous thought are really funny too. Thanks for the info.

JBsptfn said...

Maher used to be on Comedy Central from 1993-97:

Bill Maher Wikipedia Page

Metacrock said...

thanks JB

Dave said...

Exactly. He was on there twenty years ago, not now. If you mention "the guy ["the comedian"] on Comedy Central, people are going to think of either Stewart or Colbert.

Maher is presently on HBO. Maher is an outspoken atheist who generally refers to fundamentalism when he says "religion" as a part of his frustration with the American conservative/Tea Party movement as well as segments of the Roman Catholic Church aligning on various issues with that movement. He makes good points at times in his political diatribes, yet when he refers to religion in politics and society he tends to lump all Abrahamic/monotheistic religions and their views of God together, going after both the Protestant fundamentalist evangelicals and the Roman Catholics Bishops/Bill Donohue's Catholic League for their sexism, homophobia, etc.

Stewart is of Jewish ethnic descent but isn't thought to formally or regularly practice any religion. He doesn't dislike religion, and has respect for the potential benefit of religion, but he is quick to point out hateful, hypocritical, and otherwise destructive or nonsensical attitudes and behaviors that claim to be endorsed or justified by religion on his program. Unlike Maher, he doesn't mock or rant against religion on television, but instead uses satire to point out inconsistencies and harmful activities.

This is relevant for a site like this, to distinguish between different approaches to conservative religious agendas in the national media, not just nitpicking names and dates. In both cases the lampooning of religion is a direct reaction to the frequently small-minded, irrational, or intolerant views put forth and acted upon by a significant segment of the North American communities of Christians.