Paul J. Mills, Tiffany Barsotti, Meredith A. Pung, Kathleen L. Wilson, Laura Redwine, and Deepak Chopra Gratitude, along with love, compassion, empathy, joy, forgiveness, and self-knowledge, is a vital attribute of our wellbeing. While there are many definitions of gratitude, at its foundation, gratitude is a healing, life-affirming, and uplifting human experience that shifts us […]
A Baltimore mother accused of joining a cult and starving her child says she was acting on her religious beliefs. What’s the difference between extreme religious conviction and delusion? Between a religion and a cult?
Children believe that their mothers love them. The proof they have is the same as the proof of God – a subjective feeling. The fact that God is subjective doesn’t make the deity unreal, but it radically shifts the burden of proof. All subjective states are personal and therefore impossible to verify objectively. There is no way to tell if two people looking at a daffodil see the same shade of yellow, much less that they are referring to the same thing when they use the word “God.” Even brain scans provide nothing more than a rough location for where such thoughts occur, nothing about their validity.
Of course, the inner and outer world blend, and therefore they sometimes come to blows. Society tends to be happy with organized religion but unhappy with cults (even though organized religion can be defined as a cult with a large following). There’s not much debate on the spiritual side when either one breaks the law. Pedophile priests in the Catholic Church are prosecuted, as the members of the One Mind Ministries will be if they participated in starving a child. As for whether any of them are delusional, we refer to psychiatrists to make that determination on a medical basis.
What this all amounts to is that religion is entangled with the best and worst of human behavior. It is probably unique that way. In the name of loving God devotees have inflicted untold violence and composed the most beautiful poetry and music. It may be past time to radically reform organized religion or even dispense with it altogether (as I tend to believe). But the reason won’t be to cleanse the world of delusion. The reason will be that a better, more fulfilled spirituality wants to be born.
Published in the Washington Post