Religion a model for psychiatric delusions.

Now here’s a news article that’s sure to piss a few people off. Looks like a fellow by the name of Ryan McKay is giving a presentation in Sydney, Australia at the Cognitive Science Conference that draws a connection between being religious and suffering delusions:

The Border Mail

STUDYING the mechanisms of religious belief could lead to a better understanding of what goes on in the minds of people with psychiatric delusions.

An international conference in Sydney this week will hear that some religious beliefs including that a virgin gave birth to the son of God qualify as delusions.

Macquarie University PhD student Ryan McKay, who has been studying under one of the countrys leading authorities on delusions, Prof Max Coltheart, said the idea that religion was a delusion dated back to Sigmund Freud some 100 years ago.

In his presentation to the Cognitive Science Conference today, Mr McKay will outline the latest thinking on how religious belief relates to delusion.

“The line between psychosis and intense religiosity is a bit of a difficult one to draw,” he said.

He said many religious beliefs were triggered by a “religious experience”, often produced by changes in brain activity.

For example, it had been shown that when Buddhist monks went into deep mediation and experienced a sense of “being at one with the world”, they also experienced decreased blood flow to the part of the brain responsible for concepts of the “self”.

While I’m not about to start suggesting that everyone who’s religious is completely self-delusional, I can agree that there are many extremists who fit this concept well. I’ve not read anything written by Ryan on the subject yet (not even sure he’s published anything), but I would be interested in tracking it down just to see what he has to say.

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