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Is religious fundamentalism a mental illness?

July 8, 2013 9:41am
Don't look now, but religious fundamentalists and those whose ideological beliefs border on the extreme and may be potentially harmful to society could soon be called crazy—in a medical sense.
 
Oxford University neurologist Kathleen Taylor said such "radicalizing ideologies" could be viewed as a mental disorder instead of personal choice.
 
"One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated. Someone who has for example become radicalized to a cult ideology -- we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance," she told The Times of London, according to Digital Journal.

Beyond religion
 
Taylor said the term "fundamentalist" could go beyond religion and could even include beliefs such as it is acceptable to beat one's children.
 
Such beliefs "are very harmful but are not normally categorized as mental illness," she said.
 
On the other hand, Digital Journal cited a Huffington Post report where Taylor warned about possible moral-ethical complications.
 
Taylor, in her book "The Brain Supremacy," stressed the need "to be careful" when developing technologies that can directly manipulate the brain.
 
She argued that technologies that profoundly change our relationship with the world around us "cannot simply be tools, to be used for good or evil, if they alter our basic perception of what good and evil are."
 
Taylor also warned against taking "fundamentalism" to mean radical Islamism.
 
'Us vs Them'
 
Digital Journal said some analysts are convinced neuroscientists may adopt a parochial and counterproductive approach if they insist on identifying particular belief systems characteristic of ideological opponents as a subject for therapeutic manipulation.
 
Also, it noted the potential of religious beliefs, political convictions, and even nationalist fervor could be powerful platforms for "Us vs Them" paranoid delusional fantasies.
 
Such fantasies could result in a devastating a 9/11-type attack or a Hiroshima/Nagasaki "orgy of mass destruction," it said.
 
"What we perceive from our perspective as our legitimate self-defensive reaction to the psychosis of the enemy, is from the perspective of the same enemy our equally malignant psychotic self-obsession," it added. — TJD, GMA News



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