Can belief in the absurd be considered a mental disorder?

To entertain belief in an imaginary friend is to dwell on the ficticious. While I feel that the human imagination is one of our best features, I also fear that societal forces and specific institutions have evolved into psychological enslavers, manipulating this aspect of our intelligence and our natural brain function.

Imagination is an amazing quality of the human spirit, and has brought us so much good by augmenting the quantity and quality of human life. Any parent will tell you that the birthday card your young child made is always more special than the one that was bought.

Yet over time, people starting hating themselves and killing each other. Why? Belief in the absurd.

It's absurd to think that you are inherently broken or forever in need of direction and submission. It's also absurd to think that we need to hate, mutilate, desecrate, denigrate or annihilate as a result of competing fairy tales.

I've only studies philosophy and not psychology or psychiatry. I have no training in mental disorders, but religion just seems cookoo. I might not bother with the subject, but people are suffering and I thought I should say something.

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Comment by Andrew Bradford Hoke on July 15, 2014 at 10:54pm
Luara,

As for 'religious experiences,' I think that Dr. Strassman did some important work along these lines.
Comment by Michael Penn on July 15, 2014 at 5:40pm

How would I meditate on an image of god? That's impossible when I haven't got a clue what this god looks like. Why would I envision god as an apophatic negative and try to meditate on his image. That's a double negative right there. IE, if I had a dollar and that's a possitive, then the negative would be that I don't have a dollar. Trying to meditate on a god image without definate attributes means you have no clue what to meditate on. Your next move is metaphysical mindsets and the audible "ahoooooooooooooom" keeping it going til you realize that "ooom" is god. Luara, you border on supernateralism so much here tht it isn't funny!

Comment by Luara on July 15, 2014 at 1:10pm

I've heard of Christian meditation, where the person meditates on their image of God.  I can see how apophatic Christianity would be suitable for that.  Trying to meditate on a God-image without definite attributes might open up someones consciousness like a Zen paradox is meant to do. 

Comment by Luara on July 15, 2014 at 1:03pm

I've had religious experiences too, but I didn't "frame" them.  I didn't try to decide whether the "God" I perceived was supernatural or the product of my own mind.  That might have interfered with the experience.  So I can see how apophatic theology would suit Christians who are inclined to seek a personal experience of God.  It doesn't get between them and their experience. 

It probably becomes more important to "frame" numinous experience when one is ex-religious.  I wasn't brought up religiously, and with my predilection to religious experience, I've often thought that if I had been brought up religious, I would immediately have interpreted these experiences as contact with the Creator of the Universe. 

I said: "extraordinary knowledge."  I didn't say a damned thing about a god.  Someone can say that and not necessarily claim to be in contact with Yahweh or any other deity, but just to know something that the rest of us don't and therewith set him- or herself apart and above others.

But what would such people claim to know? 

Perhaps it's not so much a matter of special knowing, as of changing the person's being. 

Meditation does have concrete benefits.  I've heard that concrete changes can be found in the EEG's etc. of longtime Buddhist monks.  These concrete changes probably do indicate a change in their being.  Perhaps wonderful changes. 

Comment by Loren Miller on July 15, 2014 at 9:41am

Postscript:

I said: "extraordinary knowledge."  I didn't say a damned thing about a god.  Someone can say that and not necessarily claim to be in contact with Yahweh or any other deity, but just to know something that the rest of us don't and therewith set him- or herself apart and above others.

All it really takes is ego.

Comment by Loren Miller on July 15, 2014 at 9:33am

I repeat, Luara ... I have had such experiences, or at least what I presume to be SIMILAR experiences.  I can't compare them to anyone else's any more than I can satisfactorily describe to someone who's never had it what Rocky Road ice cream tastes like.  In my case, I knew that the experience came from ME and no one and nothing else, that it was a part of me and not the product of anything external.  Most importantly, that it was the product of a practice I had undertaken which predicted such experiences, given regular practice of the technique.

Sam Harris has made much the same claim - that numinous experiences are natural to human beings and not dependent on any particular belief system, but may be accessed through multiple different practices and techniques.  I would imagine that it would be entirely possible for someone to have such an experience without such practice, though I would also expect such an event to be potentially very dislocating, indeed frightening.  Indeed, I have heard of such occurrences.  Having a means of understanding their causation helps a lot, and the explanations I had in the case of TM were useful in terms of keeping me grounded rather than either frightened or looking to some external (god) source for them.

Comment by Luara on July 15, 2014 at 9:19am

I would say that depends on what they DO with their religious / numinous experiences.  If they want to claim that they are a demonstration of extraordinary knowledge which sets that person apart

What extraordinary knowledge do you mean?  I posited someone who has religious experiences but does not conclude from that, that they are in contact with a supernatural being. 

Such a person would not claim they have knowledge direct from the Creator of the Universe. 

Is there some other kind of extraordinary knowledge that such a person might claim? 

If we're to understand these events, we must first separate them from the belief systems which feed on them and make unsubstantiated claims based on them and recognize that they are NATURAL PHENOMENA

How about someone who has religious experiences and does not make any claims about what caused the experience? 

Do you have proof that religious experiences are natural phenomena?

Comment by Loren Miller on July 15, 2014 at 9:08am

@Luara

I would say that depends on what they DO with their religious / numinous experiences.  If they want to claim that they are a demonstration of extraordinary knowledge which sets that person apart, it's time for the 46-extra-long coat with the wrap-around and buckled sleeves with matching rubber room.  If, on the other hand, they state that it was a personal experience which demonstrates some of the amazing abilities the human body can produce, but is personal and has no necessary impact on others, I'd say that person has a fair grasp of the situation.

During my tenure with the Transcendental Meditation organization, I had some experiences which were genuine jaw-droppers, experiences which at least in some cases were predicted by the teachings of the technique and shared by some though not all others.  I couldn't have manufactured these experiences if I tried, and in many cases, the experience came on me unannounced and unanticipated, totally spontaneously.  My attribution of the causation of those experiences was my continued practice of the TM technique, full stop, and I continued to live my life and do my work as an audio engineer with the organization until I left in December of 1977.

The fact is that numinous experiences are not the exclusive province of any one religion, that they are part of humanity's inherent makeup and as such are accessible to most if not all of humankind, possibly depending on personal neuro-physiological characteristics.  If we're to understand these events, we must first separate them from the belief systems which feed on them and make unsubstantiated claims based on them and recognize that they are NATURAL PHENOMENA ... then study them as such.

Comment by Michael Penn on July 15, 2014 at 9:00am

OK, then god is always a big negative, and I give up here. Have it your way, but readers will see what I was trying to say.

You must understand that in my world I don't deal with things like A, B, and C --going on into X and Y with claims that if one of them was this or that, then you have to believe a certain thing. Some discussions here get into things like that and go on and on forever until the poster finally says he is not talking about reality --just a possibility. You can check that out in Tony's blog "Free Will (Sam Harris." I don't discuss "Neverland" but I will discuss logic on every day terms.

Not talking about reality -- just a possibility. That's hot air!

Apophatic christianity avoids making positive claims about god. OK, let's tell the truth. God is a negative and therfore imaginary. That's my viewpoint until the blog we are in is changed to read "Apophatic Chrisitanity."

Comment by Luara on July 15, 2014 at 8:50am

Mystical and religious experiences are nothing but delusion unless you understand your own mind because no experiences outside of the natural can occur.

Suppose someone does not attribute their religious experience to a supernatural entity.  Are they still delusional and unfit for public office?

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