We have met Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, here before. He’s a rabid Catholic – I use the term “rabid” because he is virulently hostile to the idea of anything non-Catholic – and to say he’s a bit of a crank is to understate the case by a wide margin. This is the guy, after all, who said church abuse victims were “active participants” In their own abuse.
Now, apparently filled with Christmas cheer and taking a break from inventing stories about “homosexuality,” what’s he is telling us is that non-religious people are insane:
Watch courtesy of Right Wing Watch:
They believe that freedom is license to do whatever they want. They don’t want to be told anything, which is why they die prematurely, they’re unhappy, that’s why we have a disproportionate number of agnostics and atheists in the asylum, all of this is true.
Now I’m a polytheist and I believe all gods are real. But that line atheists like to use, that theists believe in an invisible man in the sky, comes to mind. I fully realize that saying you believe in invisible people sounds insane, and I would never tell people who don’t believe in Odin and Thor that they are insane. I can’t prove it after all. And it doesn’t matter to me whether they share my beliefs or not. They’re MY beliefs after all.
It is also true that some atheists think theists are necessarily insane, or at least mentally ill, else they would be atheists too. I believe that both viewpoints are unhelpful. Believe me, I’ve been called crazy for worshipping any gods at all on the one hand, and called insane for worshipping more than one god, on the other. My biggest complaint is that the First Amendment renders all such arguments moot.
It would be far more constructive to just let people be, as long as they don’t try to force their beliefs on others.
And in that regard, Donohue is especially problematic, given some of his other statements. Keep in mind, he is also on record as having said that marriage equality is one of the most bizarre ideas in history. But apparently, from his point of view, people who believe in an invisible guy in the sky are NOT insane.
This is not all. He is also well known for his persecution complex, namely his War on Christmas shtick, where any idea of a multicultural celebration of the solstice is “cultural fascism.” But for Donohue, the War on Christmas is really more of a war on Catholicism.
So according to Donohue, those people he calls cultural fascists and secularists,
They believe that freedom is license to do whatever you want. That’s why they’re quote non-judgmental, but they made a judgment when they made themselves non-judgmental. They believe in no-holds-barred. They don’t like the three dreaded words in the English language, which we got from our Jewish friends: thou shalt not.
Never mind that “thou shalt not” is the antithesis of freedom. That is why the Constitution is not Biblical. The Ten Commandments are a list of non-freedoms, of things you absolutely CANNOT do, while the Constitution guarantees you the freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and happiness” in your own way, rather than according to a list of exclusions which says “you can’t do this, you can’t do that…”
Being hostile to religious freedom, Donohue says,
They don’t want to be told anything. Which is why they die prematurely, why they’re unhappy, that’s why we have a disproportionate number of atheists and agnostics in the asylum. All of this is true. Now look, they’ve got some serious problems. I’m talking here about the militants. I’m not talking about your average atheist or agnostic. They’re not more of a threat than a lame Catholic is. But I am talking about the organized group. So only a small percentage of them, but every year they have to try to do something to stick it to us. And like American atheists, when do they have their annual convention every year? On Good Friday. See it’s all the middle finger in the face of Christians.
At which point, Bill, Jesus says you should turn the other cheek, and then offer us Christmas as well. Read the Bible. It’s an eye-opener.
Newsmax host Steve Malzberg asked, instead of any real questions, “And you say atheists and agnostics die earlier because they’re unhappy and there’s more of them in mental institutions?”
“Absolutely!” answered Donohue. “I have a book coming out which details all this stuff in great, great detail.”
Well that’s good. We wouldn’t want a book that details generalities!
You take a look at people who are secularists and you compare them to people of faith and there’s a huge difference when it turns to health and happiness. Mental health, physical health and degree of happiness. Now look, they gotta work it out, fine, I’ll help pay for their therapy, just take your hands, your mitts off the Catholics during Christmas.
Malzburg said, “I love this guy, I do.”
The whole health and atheism meme is a favorite one on the Religious Right, and you’ll find the Conservopedia touting research that proves it. And on Patheos, Dr. Greg will tell you that, “I think there is a case to be made that atheism could be a mental illness.” That’s right. You’re mentally ill if you do not believe in God.
I don’t know what this makes me, since I believe in so many.
But it isn’t a lack of “belief” or “god” that affects wellness, but a lack of socializing. As Scientific American pointed out a couple of years ago, “As a religious person, you gain a community of like-minded individuals, many of whom are eager to welcome you into their social circle.” That’s what my wife misses about her days as a Christian: the sense of community. She doesn’t miss the Pentecostal belief system that twisted and tortured her mind so terribly for many years.
Leave it to Bill Donohue then to twist the facts so that they’re as twisted as his beliefs.
And in fact, another article points out that James A. Thorson writes,
Koenig, George, Meador, Blazer, and Cyck (1994) examined religion and general anxiety, as well as depression and any DSM-III disorder, in groups of mainline and conservative Protestants as well as Pentecostals. The Pentecostals had significantly higher 6-month and lifetime rates of depression, anxiety, and any DSM-III disorder. Mainline Protestants had the lowest 6-month and lifetime rates of anxiety disorder and the lowest rates of any DSM-III disorder, and conservative Protestants had the lowest 6-month and lifetime rates of depressive disorder.
Koenig (1992), however, has pointed out that, “It is well known that depression and anxiety are more common among the lower classes, the poor, and the uneducated” (p. 183). One might speculate that these terms fairly describe many of the Pentecostals studied in the 1994 article, and perhaps their higher rates of anxiety and depression had socioeconomic, rather than religious, explanations. Also, it could be possible that individuals with higher levels of anxiety for some reason gravitate toward Pentecostal denominations. In terms of speculation, it is of course possible that Pentecostal affiliation in some way causes anxiety.
“Religion and Anxiety: Which Anxiety? Which Religion?” by James A. Thorson. Handbook of Religion and Mental Health, edited by Harold G. Koenig
Atheists get divorced less often than Evangelicals, and most of the folks in prison are Catholics or protestants, with very few being atheists. From these statistics, you could not conclude that atheists are mentally ill. Rather the opposite.
Statistics don’t tell the whole story, obviously, because there are many factors at play, but on the whole, it doesn’t appear that religion makes you a better person and that it is a sense of community rather than belief that make you healthier.
And contrary to Donohue, if anyone is persecuted here, it is not Catholics, but atheists. After all, you don’t read about people being put into insane asylums for being Christians, but you do read about them being committed because they are atheists.
But it’s far too late in the day to expect honesty out of Bill Donohue.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.