“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1
This post is the thirty-second in a series that addresses a list of “40 Harmful Effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:
Harmful Effect #32: People accepting visual and auditory hallucinations unquestioningly as divine, sometimes with fatal results.
This assertion is absurd on its face and is devoid of any consideration of medical science. People who experience hallucinations are suffering from mental illness with which to begin. People who are, to be frank, crazy, are going to do crazy things. To blame Christianity (or any other religion) for the harmful decisions made by the mentally ill is disingenuous. Even in the absence of religious belief the mentally ill would still suffer hallucinations. Rather to attribute the origin of these hallucinations to Jesus or the devil, they might attribute them to space aliens or the CIA. (For example, Nobel prize-winning mathematician and paranoid schizophrenic John Nash was an atheist who famously suffered from hallucinations which were not attributed to divine sources.) One should not trivialize the sufferings of those who who are afflicted with psychological ailments, but even an atheist can end up in a tinfoil hat.
The atheist, of course, presupposes that there cannot be any such thing as divine encounters. Their naturalistic presupposition commits them to categorize any legitimate religious vision as a hallucination. So, any anti-supernaturalist worldview, any religious experience is harmful by default. This is not a fair standard and it creates a false equivalency between a direct message from God and a mental illness. Christians (or theists in general) are not committed to a worldview where God does not act interact with humans. The Bible contains many examples of divine encounters and can be used as an objective standard to test all other supposed encounters. Furthermore, the Bible encourages Christians to “test the spirits” rather than unquestioningly accept any given experience.
In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:
Harmful Effect #33: Discrimination against atheists, such as laws stating they may not hold public office or testify in court, or in half a dozen countries around the world, laws requiring their execution
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.