Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Atheism: a proposed addition to DSM-V

This morning, I systematically toured Libyan blogs in the hope of finding a particular picture about Ramadan I had seen in one of them. (I found it eventually in another place). During the search, I mentioned something interesting in a blog I generally don't read, Khalid Jorni's CNN Libya (Update: after a demand by CNN, Khalid had to change the name and URL of his blog, now located here). The post is dated Jan. 28 and titled Union of Libyan Bloggers succeeds in deleting a Libyan blog. I am pasting here an unusually large, unedited quote from its beginning:
"Living in a country where all men head to mosque on Fridays, and 99% of women wear Hijab, always made me think that we are different, innately religious, and naturally immune against godlessness and secularism, but recently I realized that we are as normal, "or abnormal, this is not the point", the point is that people in this country are not different from those who come out everyday in western societies confessing that they don’t believe in God, they are homosexuals, or they are addicted and cannot quit, the only one difference between us and them is that they can speak out, while we have to worry about the possible consequent social stigma before we even take a breath.
Those of you who browse the Arabic language sector of the Libyan blogosphere, have definitely come across what used to be the most popular Libyan blog of Tariq Ali, a Libyan guy who confessed frankly that he didn’t believe in any religion, and wrote things like "all prophets are quacks..bla bla bla", his blog has recently been deleted after the message that had been sent by the Libyan union of bloggers to maktoob, the host of Tariq's blog.
Now Tariq is silent, and I think since maktoob acquiesced in the demands of the Libyan union of bloggers, so the guy must have violated the terms of use of the host of his blog, and therefore his blog deserves to be deleted.
But I wonder if this was the right way to manage!. Did we need to hide him!?, to insult him on the comment section of his blog? To provoke everyone against him?, or to understand his illness, feel sorry for him, and advice him to get help?
Before the atheist Libyans -who are increasing every day- state their objection to the word "illness", I would like to point out that spirituality is now added as a recognized component of health.
Health used to be identified as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, but WHO has recently added spirituality as a fourth component of health, "Libyan physician bloggers can correct me if I am wrong, we have plenty of them", so he who has no spiritual life, who is not a Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, etc.., is now formally considered sick and needs therapy, not to be hidden, not to be insulted, not to be silenced, not to be terminated, but to be helped out with treatment..."
Follow the above link to read the entire post.
I am sorry for Tariq and his blog, but at the same time I think that what happened is good from the viewpoint of safety. The deceptive anonymity of Internet lures people to write things that could put them in trouble if they are found out. And they are too easily found out. We all know how Chinese regime with the help of Yahoo identifies people writing against it in the Web and puts them in jail. So, if Tariq hadn't been silenced now, he could eventually suffer something much worse than losing his blog. If he happens to read this, he is welcome to e-mail me.
Meanwhile, I would suggest to Khalid (and other people who think like him) to take care for the much needed inclusion of atheism in the next, fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. I don't know whom they should e-mail, but this is relatively easy to find :-).


Anonymous said...

Samuel Skinner
So the government gets to define accepted religions and if you aren't part of them the government can institutionalize you for insanity? Am I the only one who thinks this is insane?

Maya M said...

No, you aren't. I agree!
In fact, being considered insane in this situation sometimes isn't a bad thing. In Afghanistan, the life of apostate Abdulrahman was spared this way.

Suliman said...

Greetings, Maya! I don't believe everything I read. I guess it is the skeptic in me, especially when it comes to faith-based claims. You know there is something called the "Islamic declaration of human rights"? Oh, yes, and some even compare it point by point to the universal declaration by the UN. The only point they do not mention is the UN declaration refers to Humans, whereas the Islamic rights are of course conditioned on the recipient/beneficiary being a Muslim (generally male). Slight difference...

Anyway,... According to the WHO web site, their definition of health still says, "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." They also say it has not been amended since 1948. I don't know where Khalid got that they added spiritual to their definition of health. I seriously doubt that the WHO would make spirituality a prerequisite for healthiness, except perhaps for those who view their spirituality as a component of their well being. Further, their definition states clearly that being disease-free is insufficient, i.e., one can be disease-free but unhealthy. So, if Khalid is arguing that being non-spiritual is being sick, then being spiritual (=disease-free) does not guarantee healthiness according to the definition he attributes to WHO. Does anyone doubt Osama bin Laden is a spiritual man? Is he healthy? It is difficult to reason outside the bounds of rationality, despite all appearances to the contrary.

Maya M said...

Thank you, Suliman! I also didn't believe that WHO had altered the definition of health the way Khalid claimed, but I didn't bother to find the actual definition.
I suppose at the root of the error is some study finding that spiritual people are generally more healthy, or more satisfied with their health, than atheists. I think I have heard about such studies. Also, it is known that employment and family life (if not too unfortunate) are good for the health. This of course is purely statistical and doesn't mean that all married employed believers are healthy or that you are doomed to ill health if you are atheist/agnostic, single or without a regular paid job.
Also, I find something totalitarian in Khalid's view that if you are sick, you must have treatment, even if you don't want it. In the modern world, treatment is is voluntary, including that of mental disorders. Only in extreme cases is forced treatment applied, mostly when the illness poses direct physical danger to the life of the person having it, or other people.
Tariq's blog could be dangerous to him, but couldn't endanger other people except by annoying them or persuading them to leave Islam. The first "danger" is minor, and the second one reveals a surprising lack of self-confidence in Islam. If time has come when an ordinary guy's blog is a serious threat to a religion, then... finish the sentence yourself.