I have one issue with Steve Mason's recent article "Jesus Who?"
In it, Steve proceeds to "Play Doctor" despite his own admonishments to others and determine that believers in religion exhibit "mental illness." The simple truth is that at least forty four percent of Americans (his statistic - not mine) believe in Jesus.
Something so common cannot be mental illness, however much it flies in the face of good reason. It is not abnormal which, if Dr. Mason is in the mental health field he should know, is necessary (though not sufficient) under the accepted definition of mental illness. It is sad but true that it may well be natural, human nature - not illness - - to believe things without much critical thought. In playing doctor and assessing a diagnosis, we risk losing sight of this fact.
Aubrey Ellen Shomo
Steve Mason responds:
Carefully reread my column and you will find the following lines:
"Religious people who think and act in terms of an imaginary realm, pure and simple, have lost touch with reality."
"The degree to which behavior is based on an insane belief is the degree to which that behavior itself is insane."
To my mind, building a web site for people who expect to be raptured up is so far a departure from reality as to be considered insane. Using another example, in the 1600's I suspect a majority believed in witches, but those who took part in the burning, stoning, drowning, and hanging were probably not people you'd want as neighbors. At about the same time, the average man in Asia believed in dragons, while the average man in Europe believed in unicorns - but to report actually seeing one was a clear sign of a delusion. Diagnosis is based more on the quality of response than the quantity of response.
In other words, believing there might be a god won't get you locked up, but believing you've double dated on occasion is another matter entirely.
Thank you for your interest in my work.