The Gnostics were right, to know yourself is to know the divine.
There are two general types of religion and orthodox/institutional religion is by far the most common. Science, atheism, psychology, and these have led to their very own brands of “sin” which was originally just a word meaning error.
The second type could be called “living”, and even some orthodoxies have attempted a revival by attempting to focus on preserving the spirit of their doctrine over the letter.
This is what people are calling spiritual today. “I’m spiritual. but not religious”? Yes. Generally the followers of a living faith say that, because they do see and see correctly. The difference between themselves and orthodoxy religion could be broadly called “the practice of wisdom”.
So, what does this mean for those of us who feel we are not religious and don’t see what we consider evidence of religious thinking in our lives? The abstinence from religion is a religion. If you believe the rejection of religion has meaning, that is your religion if you practice this rejection consistently. I consider that particular attitude to be pointless psychological poverty. Some might feel hypocritical if they consider opening their mind to an even semi-religious view, but all art is religion excepting maybe commercial art, and really, with how it makes people behave I don’t think you could exclude it either. Any attempt you make to see meaning and beauty in life is religion.
I’ve found the debate of whether or not Buddhism is a religion interesting. As far as I can tell, the Buddhists themselves don’t particularly care one way or the other, but it does extend beyond philosophy into religion with its focus on personal experience. According to my explanation, Buddhism would be a religion.
Now onto the notion of “sick” religions. As long as it doesn’t come to bloodshed, there will always be religion, and well… It has come to bloodshed and there is still religion. It just goes underground.
Religion is so inherent to the human mind and human nature that mental health professionals had to revise their definition of mental illness. They used to see any belief in something that isn’t demonstratable in a strictly material/tangible state to be delusion and even potential psychosis. But they had to drop that because it was making them have to deal with everyone who spoke to them for any reason as a psychotic, and not all of them were caused distress based on their religious beliefs. So they revised psychosis to mean anyone who experiences involuntary ideation and perception not in keeping with the social norm of their community and that causes them practical and social dysfunction.
If your perceptions and ideas are viewed as socially acceptable and don’t impair your ability to take care of yourself and remain healthy, it’s religion. In fact, now there is a new branch of psychology, environmental. They examine the impact of social activity and environmental conditions on people’s mental health.
I like the second part of that, but “socially acceptable” sounds dangerous. It does sound dangerous. The reason they include that is they see mental health as being able to deal with your community well. So if you say you have constant thoughts of Jesus and the psychologist notices that your family and friends and social circles often have Jesus imagery commonly visible, they do not consider you mentally ill. That is, unless your reaction to the chronic thoughts of Jesus made you engage in self destructive or physically threatening behaviour to the people in your community.
What if you have thoughts of the Old Gods & Goddess, but they are not commonly visible? If the thoughts of the old deities do not make you obsess to the point of not being able to feed and care for yourself, and if they don’t motivate you to violent or self destructive acts, then you are just considered religious and not mentally ill. As a matter of fact, if thoughts of your deities make you engage in positive citizenship, socially acceptable behaviour, and seem to help you with emotional strength, these days they even admit it’s psychologically healthy. Modern studies show that not only do well adjusted and peacefully religious types show signs of better coping skills, they even heal better after medical treatment
To me, the Old Gods & Goddesses are only part of my life. They are not my whole life excluding all else. So according to what you have shared, you are not obsessed, therefore not mentally ill and just a man of faith. I’m not sure of my own faith, but I am not a man of negative faith either.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.