Friday, January 11, 2008

Illness and Exploitation

There have been several posts on atheist blogs about a man who cut off his hand because he saw "the number of the beast" - as if this somehow discredits religion.

It's a poor argument, and one that malicious in the way it exploits mental illness in order to target a political opponent.

A person suffering from such delusions can just as easily cut off his hand because he senses some sort of rampant disease or alien possession. The fact is, this man had an illness and the illness cost him his hand.

He 'interprets' his illness in religious terms simply because religious terms are the most common.

Really, does it make sense to argue that if nobody believed in God that self-destructive mental illness will cease to exist?

If there were an actual religion that had as one of its commandments the cutting off of one's hand, then that religion could be legitimately criticized. However, this incident does not fit that description.

I would suggest that we not get into the habbit of exploiting the tragedy of a person's illness to score rhetorical political points.

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