Some may ask: Why mix religion and wellness? Objections might include assumptions and preferences that hold religion to be personal, or sacrosanct, that some might be offended, that everyone is entitled to believe what she likes and so on. The list of possible objections to addressing, questioning, challenging or opposing faith-based positions is nearly without end. None is considered reasonable or wise by your kindly Well Infidel of political junkie persuasion. REAL wellness, the kind that seeks to promote positive well being based upon reason, exuberant living and maximum personal freedoms (as well as optimal fitness and nutritional patterns), is a lifestyle philosophy that embraces an open forum on all topics, especially matters of consequence to the healthiest possible societies, physically and mentally.
Religion is too important to ignore, or to be embraced too seriously or endured without challenge, when necessary.
In the following essay, I suggest that the serious embrace of religion can and often is a mental condition, but I recognize that this is not an original idea:
Devout, orthodox, or dogmatic religion (or what we might call religiosity) is significantly correlated with emotional disturbance.
People largely disturb themselves by believing in absolutistic shoulds, oughts and musts...The devoutly religious person tends to be inflexibly closed, intolerant and unchanging. Religiosity, therefore, is in many respects equivalent to irrational thinking and emotional disturbance.
Albert Ellis, Psychotherapy and Atheistic Values (1980)
Introduction: The DSM
Despite vigorous protests from Republican presidential candidates, the Vatican, Fox News, Westboro Baptist Church and preachers across the land, a new entry has been added to the authoritative Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Social scientists term the new mental disorder, the 298th official DMS entry, Impositional Religiosity. It is seen in all parts of America, but is far more common in common in those states with Republican legislatures. It is characterized by passionate tendencies to evangelize for policies, laws and other rules that impose elements of faith-based beliefs, dogmas and creeds on secular societies. As a consequence, religious beliefs are inflicted on many who view such perspectives as unwelcome, irrational and even preposterous.
The DSM dates to the 1840 census, when efforts were made to collect information about mental health in the United States. By the census of 1980, seven categories of mental conditions were established: mania, melancholia, monomania, paresis, dementia, dipsomania and epilepsy. Given that the inclusion of Impositional Religiosity brings the list of disorders to almost 200 as of 2015, it seems the trajectory of mental health in this country is not encouraging.
Definitions and Cases
Impositional Religiosity accounts for such phenomena as the culture war in America, wherein otherwise relatively good and generous people embrace policies that restrict the rights of others. Examples of the disorder are seen in legal actions by religious groups seeking to oppose full reproductive choices for women, to deny equal rights for LGBT communities, to hinder scientific research (e.g., concerning the use of stem cells) and education (e.g., the teaching of evolution) and to impose supernatural-inspired symbols (e.g., crosses, 10 commandment tablets, baby Jesus statues) and rituals (prayer in public schools, god language on currency and the patriotic pledge). It seems unlikely that such unwelcome forms of imposition, which reflect bullying, indifference to the preferences of others, intolerance, discrimination and/or mean-spirited bigotry, would manifest absent creeds and dogmas that reinforce undemocratic tendencies. Princeton University philosopher Peter Singer wrote: If anyone ever tries to tell you that, for all its quirks and irrationality, religion is harmless or even beneficial for society, remember those 128 million Americans - and hundreds of millions more citizens of other nations - who might be helped by research that is being restricted by religious beliefs. (Free Inquiry, The Harm That Religion Does, by Peter Singer, June/July 2004, p. 17.)
Recent examples of Impositional Religiosity were on display before and after the June 26 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that established same-sex marriage as a legal right across the United States. While hailed by President Barack Obama as a victory for America (When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free), many sufferers of Impositional Religiosity appear to be in the throes of mental breakdowns, as the following examples attest:
- Associate Justice Antonin Scalia railed against an elitist majority on the Court, calling the decision a judicial Putsch and a threat to democracy.
- A month earlier, evangelist Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham, predicted that Jesus would be here any day now to escort his followers to heaven. She added, without authentic Christians around to keep order, you-know-what will hit fans everywhere. Specifically, banks will close, the stock market will plunge, planes will fall out of the sky, cars will crash, families will be torn apart and so on. (See Anne Graham Lotz Issues 'Mayday!' Call to Prayer.)
- Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee urged conservative Christians to engage in a massive biblical disobedience campaign against the false god of judicial supremacy and added this for good measure: We don't have freedom of speech if a business is denied the right to discriminate against homosexuals based on their religious beliefs.
- Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert urged followers to flee the country, since that's what God did, and added that there will be a drop-off of God's protection of the good ole U.S. because we've gone and legalized gay marriage.
- Former Rep. Allen West wrote that the ruling could lead to civil war.
- Bill Muehlenberg of BarbWire said that we are now officially in the End Times because of this homo-fascist decision and the Supreme Court has just declared that reality and biology no longer exist.
- Christian blogger Bryan Fischer somehow discovered that Satan is dancing in the streets of America and, because of this decision, 6/26 will be our nation's moral 9/11 - a date that will live in infamy when the twin towers of truth and righteousness were blown up by moral jihadists.
Late night comedian Conan O'Brian got in the spirit of the moment by noting that, for the first time in 24 years, Jupiter and Venus appeared almost on top of each other in the night sky. So the gay marriage ruling is having more of an impact than we thought.
Identification/Classification Not the Same As Cure
Unfortunately, including this mental disorder in the DSM does not imply that a cure has been found. At present, there is no drug known to alleviate, let alone immunize against, the condition. Neither is there a counseling program in place for hundreds of thousands drawn to the Tea Party. Furthermore, there are no special treatment programs for unhinged Republican office holders afflicted with Impositional Religiosity who somehow believe they are capable of serving as president of the United States.
Fortunately, while there are no cures for these conditions, there are practitioners of alternative and complementary medicine, including homeopaths, psychic surgeons and chiropractors, who insist that their potions, crystals, treatments, astrological charts or other methods can eliminate the dreadful disorder of Impositional Religiosity, painlessly and quickly. Unfortunately, a conspiracy by the government, the pharmaceutical industry and/or the American Medical Society is suppressing these superior, proven cures in order to protect their monopolies, so they say.
Let us pray, light a candle, do a rain dance, sacrifice an animal (but no virgins, please) or do something known to please the one true god or gods in order to bring relief for those afflicted with Impositional Religiosity and the rest of us imposed upon by them, as soon as heavenly possible.
Be well and look on the bright side of life.