Dave Silverman commented on Facebook on the recent stories of faith-healing parents whose children die due to the fact that faith-healing, well, doesn’t heal. In all fairness, Silverman admits that his comments will be unpopular. I’d call them stupid, but I am a pedant.
To quote Silverman directly: “We must recognize religion as brainwashing. We must recognize the (hyper) religious as mentally damaged.” Silverman also says: “They [those parents who follow faith-healing] deserve admission to a mental health institution for as long as it takes to rid them of the religious poison that was inflicted on them….”
First: religion as brainwashing. The fact that parents will ignore both experience and (what I think can fairly be called) common sense to forego standard medical care in favor of faith-healing is a peculiar behavior found in some of the religious, and it results in a sad number of needlessly dead children. Likewise, we read numerous personal accounts of people leaving religious cults and fundamentalist sects, and we can fairly label the practices of those groups as akin to brainwashing.
So, we might fault Silverman for being imprecise by calling religion, whole cloth, a form of brainwashing. However, we can grant a charitable reading. Also, as far as I understand, brainwashing isn’t a form of mental illness. Anyway, we are going to be charitable and facepalm free, for now.
Second: the religious are mentally damaged. Come again? Okay, he qualifies his comment, but he only does so parenthetically. Asides in parentheses are typically understood to be unnecessary. Also, hyper is a matter of degree, not of type. Super liberal, hip religious people can be hyper religious just like ultra fundamentalist religious people. So:
Martin Luther King Jr.? Mentally damaged.
Malala Yousafzai? Mentally damaged.
Mohandas Gandhi? Mentally damaged.
Isaac Newton? Mentally damaged.
You get the point. Facepalming has begun. Oh, and let me quote myself: “In all fairness, Silverman admits that his comments will be unpopular. I’d call them stupid, but I am a pedant.”
Perhaps we want to be very charitable and think that Silverman only means to be talking about the fundamentalist fringes. Fine.
Third: institutionalizing the religious? What the actual fuck?!?!?!?!?!
Mental health is an actual concern people have. There are real reasons to visit mental health institutions and receive actual help. Mental illness is still a heavily stigmatized thing. You know what it isn’t? A tool for cheap rhetoric. Oh, and the rhetoric is so cheap, it has to use mental illness as an insult for it to work! FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!!!!! Did you think before you typed? At all? My face has now swallowed my palm.
For the record, no, this still doesn’t make Dave Silverman a fundamentalist.
I will say this. I do think I’ve found a new way to explain the difference between the religious and atheists:
Religious: True facepalming requires a God.
(Image via Lightstock)
Atheists: True facepalming needs humans, alone.
(Image via the Internets)
[Edit]: I follow myself, so my posts appear in my reader, and I find the presentation of this post quite funny due to the fact that it suggests a whole different context to this post. Ha! Oh well. You can’t win them all.