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Fundamentalist Christianity is a Mental Illness

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Fundamentalist Christianity is a Mental Illness

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Recently, Joy Behar, co-host of The View on ABC, caught the attention of Vice President Mike Pence when she said of his fervent brand of Christianity, “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talk to you. That’s called mental illness, if I’m not correct. Hearing voices.”

Pence raised a ruckus about Behar’s opinion on C-Span and criticized ABC for allowing her to exercise her First Amendment right. The CEO of Disney, owners of ABC, objected to her statement.

“It is simply wrong for ABC to have a television program that expresses that kind of religious intolerance,” said Pence.

Behar later apologized on The View, expressing that “I think Vice President Pence is right. I was raised to respect everyone’s religious faith, and I fell short of that. I sincerely apologize for what I said.”

As The Bilerico Project explains, this is troubling:

While it is important to keep in mind free speech doesn’t protect you from getting in trouble at work, or even fired, the chilling effect of the sitting vice president suggesting a network shouldn’t air criticism of his brand of religious belief is notable and worrisome. … Behar, a comedian and commentator, should not be allowed to question the legitimacy of hearing Jesus Christ speak to you?

I hope that TV’s last unapologetic atheist, Bill Maher, has his stand-up pal Joy Behar on his HBO show soon to talk about this.

It’s that phrase of Behar’s – I was raised to respect everyone’s religious faith – that, every time I hear it, elicits a forceful “why?!?”

If the Vice President of the United States came on television and said that he communicates with the dead, we’d be justified in questioning his mental health, but if it is just one dead person named Jesus, we’re supposed to just accept that as normal?

I absolutely respect everybody’s right to religion. You may believe any damn thing you wish to believe. However, I will only respect your religion inasmuch as it contributes to the greater good and doesn’t conflict with empirical science.

For instance, that whole Sermon on the Mount part of Christianity? Brilliant. It would be an amazing world if the billions who worship the speaker actually put the speech into practice.

But that part where the creator of the universe calls forth two she bears to maul forty-two children for making fun of a prophet’s bald head? That gets zero respect from me.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Brilliant. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone? Brilliant. That which you do to the least of these, you do to me? Brilliant.

A talking snake tricked a rib-woman into eating a fruit, so now we’re all doomed? Bullshit. Before the entire earth was flooded, two kangaroos, two penguins, and two of every species of beetle walked across the planet to board a boat? Bullshit. A rabble-rouser who was tortured to death came back from the dead and his zombie body flew into the sky? Bullshit.

I pick on Christianity here because it’s what I know best, but other religions are just as bad. If you believe without evidence that our creator came from Planet Kolob, or galactic overlord Xenu nuked our ancestors in a volcano, or that someone who draws a cartoon of your prophet must be killed, you’re suffering a serious delusion.

I like to think that most people who claim a religion agree with me on some level, deep down. They know there’s no way the first two humans who bore only three sons could be the source of all humanity. They know the physics of burying the entire earth with water at a level higher than Mt. Everest is impossible. They see the mumbo-jumbo for what it is – fantastic stories from ancient oral folklore, useful as allegory, metaphor, and fable, but not to be taken literally. They stay for the community, the identity, and the shared values.

I like to think that, because the alternative – that I am seriously outnumbered by people who share a dangerous mass delusion – frightens me.

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