This is a big question and of course I have an opinion. I know little to nothing about psychiatry and I’m willing to prove it; so on with my opinions.
The truth about the religious claims that were familiar to me was obvious at 10 yrs. old. Theistic beliefs fit in with my understanding that fantasy, legend, myth and fiction were part and parcel with religion. To me religious practice was simply “Interpretive Theater” with absolutely nothing behind the curtain.
Lest the words of god leave one befuddled, robed practitioners will interpret the words for their parishioners because something called doctrine requires the text be disassembled so parishioners don’t misunderstand and reach a incorrect conclusion from the literal words. The effects of the doctrinal narrative are enhanced by the elaborate and often lavishly adorned architecture that work to bind the willing to the institution they have chosen to accept.
As to the question, what I suspect is that there’s a process of compartmentalization of a person’s reasoning that allows religious beliefs to naturally cohabit with their other reasoned beliefs. This is not to say that the constant reinforcement by religious institutions, their committed minions and religious belief holds a place of special privilege in American society and play a significant role in the reinforcement and propagation of spiritualism as a central role in each individuals healthy psychological development. They most certainly do and it should be obvious to anyone willing to consider that the competing theistic claims cannot all be true.
Given that vagaries ascribed to the deities people worship requires special reasoning dispensations (e.g. “mysterious ways” and “beyond human understanding”) to negate all discrepancies, contradictions and simply being wrong on the facts that permeates all theistic text.
Pardon me if all of this reads like convoluted thinking. Just reflect upon the apparent ease it takes to arraign one’s world view paradigm to accept the existence of a deity as being reasonable. In almost every city in the country there are at least as many, if not more, churches as there are gas stations.
In a nutshell, yes I believe there is a diagnosable pathology associated with religious beliefs. It’s an open question, to my way of thinking, as to whether the aforementioned pathology is in fact an illness. Regardless, many de-converted theists describe symptoms common with PTSD as a byproduct of leaving their faith and some describe their experience as an awakening of a sort. Having rejected the notion I wouldn’t know myself. My epiphany at ten years old thing.
To me the least likely explanation for everything is the equivalent to magic. A god. What do you think? Is holding to unfalsifiable claims a type of mental illness? Perhaps the de-converted amongst us might have a say on the matter.
“Ask yourself, what kind of mind demands to be worshipped for doing what came naturally and why should anyone feel compelled to be subservient to a benevolent benefactor? Forever!”