Canadian author William Harwood, who wrote Mythology’s Last Gods (Prometheus Books, 1992) asks whether the word “unsanity” appropriately describes the sloppy thinking in which religionists often indulge.
In the concluding novel of Arthur C Clarke’s Odyssey series, he postulates a distinction between “insane” and “unsane”. Essentially, the difference is that “insane” means neurologically programmed to be incapable of rational thinking and behaviour (whether such a condition actually exists is not immediately relevant), while “unsane” means able to put one’s mind in neutral in order to engage in irrational thinking for the purpose of nullifying evidence that contradicts a security belief.
It is possible that not a single god-worshipper is insane, although Ruholla Khomeini and Pope Pius IX make such a postulation very tentative. But all may be unsane, since even those who could have been freed of god addiction if they had ever encountered the falsifying evidence, are able to rationalize that “when God does it, it’s not evil”.
A person who believes that the execution of every human who will ever live in reprisal for the crimes of his primeval ancestors would have been evil if Hitler did it, but is not evil when his god does it, may be unsane.
A person who believes that an omnipotent Master of the Universe sentences his imagined enemies to trillions of years of sadistic torture in a hell that even the current pope has repudiated, but is nonetheless a nice guy, may be unsane.
A person who believes that “Not a sparrow falls without his consent,” (Mat. 10:29) but when a loved one is killed in a plane crash goes to a church to thank the imagined executioner for his omnibenevolence, may be unsane.
A person who can read Luke 16:1-19, in which Jesus preaches a sermon whose message can be summarized “Cheat those who are no longer useful to you, and use the stolen money to bribe those who are in a position to do you good,” and believe that such a teaching, coming from the Bible, must epitomize true morality even though he would have recognized it as morally repugnant if it had come from Machiavelli, may be unsane.
A person who can believe that victimless behaviour, such as drinking coffee, engaging in consensual sexual recreation with another adult while avoiding undesirable consequences, eating pork, leaving home without a turban, or reading Playboy while wearing red socks on a Thursday in August, can be a “sin” simply because a lawgiver, living or dead, so decreed, may be unsane.
A person who can reason that a Bible author should be disbelieved when he says that the earth is flat but believed when he says that a god revealed its existence, may be unsane.
A person who can argue that the life-supporting universe is too complex to have come into existence undesigned but an even more complex entity capable of designing the universe could have come into existence undesigned, may be unsane.
A person who can read Exodus 18:11, “Yahweh is the greatest of all the gods, for they tried their hardest and he defeated them”, and blot that passage out of his memory in order to continue believing that the Bible was written by monotheists, may be unsane.
A person who can recognize that creating a number that is more than ten but less than nine is impossible, but nonetheless believes that his god could do so, may be unsane.
A person who believes that “argument from consensus” must be valid when more than half of the human race believe in a creator god, even though it was not valid when the entire human race believed the earth is flat, may be unsane.
A person who believes that his god can preknow the future to the minutest detail, but that does not mean that the future is predetermined, may be unsane.
A person who believes in a god that is omniscient and committed to a plan that it already knows is “the right thing,” but will change its plan at the request of a sycophant, may be unsane.
A person who can rationalize that Daniel’s (12:2) statement that there is life after death nullifies Ecclesiastes’ (9:5) statement that death is the end of existence, and shut out the reality that the presence of even one pair (there are many more) of diametrically opposite statements refutes the pretence that the Bible is “revealed truth” may be unsane.
A person who can believe that the first fifty saviour gods to rise from the dead existed only in mythology, but the final copy of a copy of a copy really did it, may be unsane.
A person who believes that the masochism of self-inflicted celibacy can gratify a voyeur in the sky, while simultaneously denying that such a voyeur must be a sadist, may be unsane.
A person who believes that an imaginary playmate in the sky has the omnipotence to prevent such evils as disease, famine, war, natural disasters and transportation accidents, and chooses not to do so, but is nonetheless omnibenevolent, may be unsane.
A person who can believe that one plus one plus one equals one may be unsane.
A person who can rationalize that, even though continuing overpopulation is certain to cause massive starvation and food wars within a few decades, there is really no problem because a deux ex machina will intervene to save us in the last act, may be dangerously unsane.
A person who can rationalize that welfare and social security should be abolished because the unemployed cannot starve to death unless Ol’ Massa in the sky wants them to die, may be criminally unsane.
A person who can murder his god’s imagined enemies in the belief that the god wants them dead but is impotent to kill them himself, perhaps goes beyond being merely unsane.
And finally, a person who believes in an omnipotent god that wants the entire human race to be Christian but in 2000 years has failed to win the allegiance of even one fifth of the human population may be unsane, as may persons whose gods want all humans to be Jews, or Muslims, or Hindus, and have been equally unsuccessful.
All of the foregoing situations require the mind-neutralization that George Orwell called doublethink and Arthur Clarke categorized as unsane.
So does “unsanity” have any more objective reality than “insanity”? Or is it merely an eye-of-the-beholder label that does not make fuzzy thinking any more comprehensible after labelling than before? A better question would be:
Is unsanity a useful concept, as curved space and imaginary numbers are useful concepts, even if it has no real existence? Since the behaviour so categorized is real, even if the label is not, I suggest that it is.
From the Freethinker