The Schenectady Daily Gazette occasionally has a column by Carl Strock called “The View From Here.” It’s often inflammatory and a bit mixed-up on the various flavors of Christianity, but his column from today was pretty interesting. If you’re a Gazette subscriber, you can read it here, but everybody else who doesn’t want to shell out a few bucks to read it is out of luck. Fortunately, I have a physical copy of the Gazette on hand, so I’ll quote rather liberally from it…
Disorders are updated, but one is missing
A forthcoming new edition of my favorite book, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, has gotten publicity recently with the disclosure of some of the changes it will contain, but frankly, ladies and gentlemen, the changes are nothing to get excited about. A tweak here, a tweak there.
Just fine-tuning, which is quite meaningless since all the definitions are arbitrary anyway, simply made up by the American Psychiatric Association. It’s not as if they are based on new scientific discoveries. [well… somewhat yes, somewhat no. but that’s another issue.]
What really strikes me is what is NOT in this supposedly comprehensive manual of derangement, with its hundreds of “dissociative disorders,” “mood disorders,” and “somatoform disorders,” and what I especially have in mind is the religious disorder, which is not included nor is any hint of it included.
But think about it, ladies and gentlemen: What is the main type of lunacy afflicting the world right now? Is it not the conviction that one is serving an all-powerful invisible being by using one’s own body as a bomb to blow up other people who do not share one’s devotion to that invisible being?
Certainly that’s the type of lunacy I’m most aware of, and I’m aware of it every time I go through airport security or even courthouse security.
Then below the level of suicide bombers devoted to Allah and his Prophet, who must be the purest exemplars of the religious disorder, we have other religious fanatics – Islamic, Jewish, Christian, Hindu – who are so convinced of their mandate from higher invisible beings that they feel fully justified in hacking, burning, torturing, shooting, dispossessing or just disdaining people who swear allegiance to different invisible beings.
Now, the definition of a mental disorder … is that it must not be merely cultural but must be associated with distress, disability, or with “a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom.” It must be “a manifestation of a behavioral, psychological, or biological dysfunction in the individual.”
Doesn’t the religious disorder fit that definition? … I think it [does]. The trouble is, too many people are afflicted with it, and they and their sympathizers have too much clout for American psychiatrists to dare call them nuts.
I could go on and on about how Carl needs to mitigate his tone and take note of the difference between religious extremism and generic religion, but I don’t feel like it, and you’ve probably heard it all before. Besides, he’s right – the people who follow the more gentle, generic religious track would be up in arms if any kind of religious belief was labeled a mental disorder.
Mainstream newspapers airing atheistic viewpoints! What is the world coming to?