Religious Fundamentalism: A ‘Mental Illness’ To Be Cured?

Image courtesy of Ambro /
Image courtesy of Ambro /

According to, Oxford Neuroscientist Kathleen Taylor made a very thought-provoking comment recently during a talk at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales.  When asked what positive developments she anticipated in neuroscience in the next 60 years, rawstory states the following:

‘“One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated,” she explained, according to The Times of London. “Somebody who has for example become radicalised to a cult ideology – we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance.”’

Taylor’s statement raises many questions.  How is ‘fundamentalism’ to be defined? Is it right to medicalize belief systems that are held in the absence of other manifestations of mental illness/disturbance? How should the ‘disturbance’ be treated?

Personally, I find the Austrian Psychiatrist and founder of Logotherapy/Existential Analysis (or the Third School of Viennese Psychotherapy), Viktor Frankl, to have the most sensible approach to fundamentalist ideology.  Frankl would point out that when a person’s religious worldview becomes distorted, it ceases to fulfill its function and a spiritual malaise develops.  That malaise can only be rectified by re-discovering the core meaning at the heart of a religious experience.  Once the individual  recognises the freedom that  now exists to change his/her way of thinking, life has renewed meaning and the spiritual dimension is expressed in a more positive manner. Crucially, the spiritual dimension of the individual’s life is affirmed and developed, not denied.

You can read the rawstory article here and make up your own mind.


2 responses to “Religious Fundamentalism: A ‘Mental Illness’ To Be Cured?”

  1. A radical follower of any religion mimics the behavior of any cult member; both of their minds are locked in a prison.


  2. I wonder if they’ll ever find a cure for the neo-Kraepelian fundamentalism of contemporary neuroscientists.


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