A friend from Africa wrote this week:
“I would like to propose that religious beliefs be placed in the DSM (Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders) as a category of mental illness for the following reasons:
(1) Hallucinations - the person has invisible friends who (s)he insists are real, and to whom (s)he speaks daily, even though nobody can actually see or hear these friends.
(2) Delusions - the patient believes that the invisible friends have magical powers to make them rich, cure cancer, bring about world peace, and will do so eventually if asked.
(3) Denial/Inability to learn - though the requests for world peace remain unanswered, even after hundreds of years, the patients persist with the praying behavior, each time expecting different results.
4) Inability to distinguish fantasy from reality - the beliefs are contingent upon ancient mythology being accepted as historical fact.
(5) Paranoia - the belief that anyone who does not share their supernatural concept of reality is "evil," "the devil," "an agent of Satan".
(6) Emotional abuse - ¬ religious concepts such as sin, hell, cause feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and other types of emotional "baggage" which can scar the
psyche for life.
(7) Violence - many patients insist that others should share in their delusions, even to the extent of using violence.
I don’t know if it was meant to be a spoof or a serious statement of where he is with religion, but here is how I respond: “I would agree that each of those seven points is evidence of religious pathology, but also know that there is such a thing as healthy religion. Mine, Catholicism, could also have its seven points:
1. We know that we do not know all there is to know and that there is a Reality beyond us that became one of us in order to show us Itself and invite us beyond ourselves to Himself.
2. We believe that all the powers of the universe can act in ways beyond their knowledge, because we have experienced that, whether directly or indirectly, so we express our hopes, wants and needs, open to the Truth of the Ultimate.
3. We understand that we are responsible to make efforts to change evil and injustice in the world, and that the results are not in our control.
4. We respect the wisdom of those who came before us, searching for meaning and passing it on to those who follow.
5. We understand that the Holy can be approached in diverse ways, and that there is something to learn from other religious traditions.
6. We know ourselves to be imperfect, but also that we can constantly grow in union with all that is good, and we know the power of forgiveness.
7. We consider the use of violence to be the complete opposite of everything we hold true, and try to become as non-violent as is possible.
There are, of course, many other things we hold true:
8. We believe in the eternal sacredness of all life.
9. We believe ourselves to be invited to unity with the ultimate Reality, which we call God.
10. We believe that all humanity is in the image of God, which makes us all brothers and sisters.
11. We know that the way to live is to others, not merely ourselves.
12. We have an obligation to be onwe with all, especially the most vulnerable.
13. We need to be good stewards of the earth.
There are even more, but I t I’ll stop there to prove I have no fear of the number 13!
Even if these 13 statements of faith are seen as pathological, they remain among all that we believe.