As to the first question, mental illness perhaps results from atypical wiring and growth of the brain, causes not necessarily known. Mental illness is not considered a contagious disease. So contrary to the title Barry gave to this thread, the hook if you will, belief in god is not a mental illness. But it is associated with cultural trends, those behaviours that can program the mind, especially younger minds which are more flexible and which do not have reasoning well developed, like most of us on FFL. Ideas spread from mind to mind via various forms of communication and a mind that is not very selective in what it lets through may become infected with strange unworkable ideas that are nonetheless believed to be true. So if belief in god is some form of illness, it is a cultural one, spread through parents and relatives, friends, government, and dare I say, education. While the concept of a meme has never been proved to exist, the idea of a meme (an element of a culture or system of behaviour that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by non-genetic means, especially imitation) is a convenient way to summarise cultural transmission and transmission of ideas on a personal scale. If belief in god leads to irrational and abberant behaviour perhaps we could call that a memetic disorder or a memetic disease.
As for the second question, that is related to the problem of non-physical physical interaction. There does not seem to be any way to explain this unless you accept that god is physical, or that the universe is not physical, and the latter seems pretty dumb. Religion mucks around with this problem as if it did not exist, which is why I find belief in god to be extraordinarily premature based on what we can feel confident about in this universe. Physical observation does not seem to be a resolution to the problem. One facet of human endeavour is subjective introspection. As far as knowledge of the physical world, no one involved with this kind of thing has ever discovered what we have discovered using science. A few really brilliant scientist like Einstein seem to have had a knack for that, but Einstein had plenty of physical data input before his discoveries. But introspective research does reveal something of how the mind works in a practical way, and it throws some light on the nutty problem of awareness which seems non physical, but which vanishes if the body in which the awareness seems to reside is destroyed, and yet there are experiences wherein one senses that if the body were destroyed some aspect of existence would continue, not personal or personal immortality, but some indefinable, irreducible value of abstract existence, because it is experienced (perhaps as a result these introspective techniques) that that value is what everything is. But because the experience is not shared, like scientific knowledge, we have no way to transmitting that experience to someone else. Also the experience is not hidden, it is simply the universe as it is seen every day and night, which includes body, mind, senses, and all that lies outside the body. This sort of realisation subjectively eliminates the problem because the physical / non-physical duality is seen to be the wrong question as both are seen to be the same thing. So saying a potato is physical but consciousness is not is, from this perspective, an idiotic question. But it certainly does not resolve the issue for scientific investigation because science has a dualistic approach to knowledge — observer and observed. This approach has proved very practical for living in the universe, but in regards to our awareness, from the scientific point of view it seems to be a function of the organisation of matter or does not seem to be there at all if we look for it directly, we always seem to have to approach it indirectly, except as we know it in ourselves where it does seem possible, from a purely subjective viewpoint, to dissolve the dividing line between observer and observed. Words are known by their context. God is a pretty loaded word culturally. One thing I try is, if you have a piece of literature, is to rewrite it substituting a word for god that does not have the cultural associations and hooks for the human psyche that have been programmed in. A place holder without the emotional associations. Often a piece of writing with this substitution will sound ridiculous when this is done, but not necessarily. Also there are cultural traditions in which the word god is not used for elemental being, such as Tao, or the Void as you find in some forms of Buddhism. I sometimes use the word 'Fred'. Or one could use a functional term like 'haberdasher'. Or perhaps a word with definite negative connotations would work better to counteract the cultural bias. If the passage, neutralised of emotional programming, still makes some kind of rational sense, maybe there is something to it; maybe not. In a beginning the mindfucker made the ground and the not-ground... ---In FairfieldLife@yahoogroups.com, <inmadison@...> wrote : there seem to be 2 questions running through this thread: 1) is a belief in God a mental illness and 2) is a belief in God justifiable. the first question is too cumbersome for me - having the notion of mental illness imbedded in the question . . . and I can't speak as to what a mental illness is, but the question is believing in the efficacy of trickle-down economics a mental illness could be fun : ) Re the 2nd question, I'm skipping is there a proof for the existence of God since it's pretty clear no such proof exists - and I'm suggesting: is a belief in God justifiable? We may believe in many things where there is no direct evidence, or no proof, but yet that belief is justifiable. For example, we may believe someone lied to us, even though we have no proof. [BTW - I am very much an amateur philosopher] I am going to restate the 2nd question as: Is a believe in the existence of component or realm beyond the physical/material justified? When I use the expression 'physical/material' I include anything that is physical/material, or anything that interacts with the physical/material. An individual who did not believe a belief in God was justified, would believe that the material/physical world was sufficient to explain all observable phenomenon, including the existence of the of the physical/material world itself. For me, I think the question is a bit of a red herring, but I admit to having read and heard nuanced and elegant expressions regarding the need for the nonphysical (spiritual) to explain stuff like value, and the moment by moment appreciation of an otherwise brutish world.