A Florida judge has decided that a certifiably insane man is actually sane because he sounds like a “relatively normal Christian.” John Ferguson, currently on death row in Florida, claims to be “the Prince of God” and is certain he’ll be spending eternity at Jesus’ side. The judge reasons that Ferguson’s beliefs are close enough to actual Christian beliefs to qualify him for his upcoming appointment with a lethal injection.
The judge states, “There is no evidence that Ferguson’s belief…is so significantly different from beliefs other Christians may hold, so as to consider it a sign of insanity.” So if enough people have the same beliefs as Ferguson, who has been repeatedly diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, then he’s not crazy. The judge stated that Ferguson suffers from “grandiose delusion,” but incidentally didn’t say the same about the many Christians who hold views similar to Ferguson.
Now the Bible has its share of craziness, but let’s see how Ferguson’s crazy compares to the Bible’s:
- has hallucinations
- hears his dead father’s voice
- and thinks cockroaches have infiltrated his brain
- claims that burning a pigeon will take away your sins
- forbids the eating of rock badgers
- and asserts that plants were created a day before the sun came out.
The Bible does have some fascinating incidents of actual and feigned psychotic moments:
Nebuchadnezzar ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of the sky. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws. —Daniel 4:33
David does his best imitation of a madman:
So he pretended to be insane, scratching on doors and drooling down his beard. —1 Samuel 21:13
Even Jesus and Paul had people wondering about their mental conditions:
When Jesus’ family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” —Mark 3:20
On another occasion we hear Jesus saying,
“I have the authority to give my life, and I have the authority to take my life back again. This is what my Father ordered me to do.” Many of them said, “He’s possessed by a demon! He’s crazy! Why do you listen to him?” —John 10:18,20
Whereas too little education can be a problem for some people,
As Paul was defending himself in this way, Festus shouted, “Paul, you’re crazy! Too much education is driving you crazy!” —Acts 26:24
Isn’t the Bible sterotyping here? Just because you’re named Festus, the Bible automatically assumes you’ll call people crazy because they’re over-educated.
One of the Bible’s most nonsensical passages about the “possessed” was the following description of the secret lives of evil spirits, the assumed cause of mental illness in biblical times.
“When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before.” —Luke 11:24-26
Unfortunately, the notion persists—that mental illness has a spiritual basis and can be cured by religion. Recent reports tell of the horrifying mental health care treatment in “prayer camps” run by churches in Ghana. Often chained to trees and required to fast for days on end, patients are only released when the camp leaders are told to do so by God. Most of the world has come a long way in treating mental illness, but tragically, the skewed view of some religions are still hindering progress on this front and causing ongoing, horrific, and needless suffering.
This seems like a good time to state that I do not think that the Bible is all madness. Just when you think the Bible has lost its mind, it redeems itself with a “madman” analogy that describes that one neighbor that no one really likes:
Like a madman shooting torches or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I was only joking!” —Proverbs 26:18-19
Selectively read, the Bible can offer comfort and inspiration to believers. But for a judge to claim that a madman’s belief in Jesus makes him fit to be executed; that’s not just ironic (Jesus, a guy who was unfairly executed, would most likely not support the death penalty), but it’s hardly a rational basis for a decision.
Just because many people believe something, it doesn’t make it any more true.
- More than a third of American conservatives believe that President Obama might be the anti-Christ.
- Many people used to believe in Zeus. Does that mean he once existed, but now doesn’t?
- Mormons used to get run out of town in their early days with few followers. Nowadays with their many adherents, their beliefs are just common enough to allow a Mormon presidential candidate.
- Horoscopes are still printed in just about every newspaper in the country.
- 12% of Americans are of the opinion that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.
- Millions of Christians have come and gone, convinced that Jesus was coming back to Earth in their lifetime. (Jesus has never failed to disappoint, and I’m willing to wager any amount of money that he will continue to do so. Fervent believers are encouraged to prove that their belief in Jesus’ imminent return is NOT crazy by betting their life savings on it. I figure if I were to ever lose this bet, and Jesus were to return, Jesus would be so pissed at me [and my blog] that losing my money would be the least of my worries.)
The Bible has given its blessing to a lot of delusional thinking through the years. When your religion is judged to be just about as sane as a paranoid schizophrenic, it should make you stop and think. And when a judge claims that holding commonly accepted religious beliefs, like sitting at Jesus’ side in heaven, PROVES that you’re sane, well to me that sounds a little crazy.
Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.