My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
The latest catastrophe, the Covid-19 pandemic, has revealed the deep untruth underlying Adam Smith’s claim that ‘individuals, without desiring or knowing it, and while pursuing each his own interest, are working for the direct realisation of the general interest.’ The truth is that individuals pursuing their own interests produce group identities that have no sense of the general interest, but are rather marked by feelings of oppression, resentment or both. Only social trust and collective action, involving not only democratic co-ordination but genuine leadership, have a chance of returning us to a sense of the collective interest.BACK TO TOP