Leading neuroscientist: Religious fundamentalism may be a ‘mental illness’ that can be ‘cured’

I’m no fan of religious fundamentalism, but the idea of “curing” people of their belief systems could set a dangerous precedent. Besides, the world would be a far more boring place without the likes of the Westboro Baptist Church, wouldn’t it?

Via The Raw Story:

A leading neurologist at the University of Oxford said this week that recent developments meant that science may one day be able to identify religious fundamentalism as a “mental illness” and a cure it.

During a talk at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales on Wednesday, Kathleen Taylor was asked what positive developments she anticipated in neuroscience in the next 60 years.

“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.”

“I am not just talking about the obvious candidates like radical Islam or some of the more extreme cults,” she explained. “I am talking about things like the belief that it is OK to beat your children. These beliefs are very harmful but are not normally categorized as mental illness.”

“In many ways that could be a very positive thing because there are no doubt beliefs in our society that do a heck of a lot of damage, that really do a lot of harm.”

In the introduction to her book, The Brain Supremacy, Taylor noted that scientists needed “to be careful when it comes to developing technologies which can slip through the skull to directly manipulate the brain.”

“They cannot be morally neutral, these world-shaping tools; when the aspect of the world in question is a human being, morality inevitably rears its hydra heads,” she wrote. “Technologies which profoundly change our relationship with the world around us cannot simply be tools, to be used for good or evil, if they alter our basic perception of what good and evil are.”

[Photo credit: Twitter/Kathleen Taylor]

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