Religion is not a mental illness

Joy Behar from “The View” under fire for controversial statement

More stories from Rebecca Mennecke


Joy Behar from “The View” made a controversial statement comparing religion and mental illness, and conservatives aren’t having it.

This time, controversy has found its way past President Donald Trump to Vice President Mike Pence and, not astonishingly, his faith.

According to the Daily Beast, Pence — a self-proclaimed “born again, evangelical Catholic”  — was raised in a Catholic home, went into Catholic ministry and had apparently wanted to be a priest.

Pence’s faith has historically come under fire due to his anti-LGBTQIA+ beliefs, strict support for anti-abortion policies and his conservative views on basically everything.

The recent controversy began when previous White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman discussed Pence’s faith on “Celebrity Big Brother,” where she talked about the depth of Pence’s faith to Jesus Christ, and about how Pence says that Jesus tells him to do things.

On “The View,” Joy Behar responded to this clip with Newman saying, “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness.”

Pence in turn responded to Behar saying, “To have ABC maintain a broadcast forum that compared Christianity to mental illness is just wrong.”

In this case, I actually agree with Pence.

First of all,  people who say they hear their god — or those they worship — probably do not mean that they literally think they are being spoken to from a divine figure.

Religion is much deeper and more spiritual than that. Some people have claimed to have met God or heard God, and they aren’t called crazy or mentally ill. They’re called religious. They hear their god in more ways than being literally spoken to, such as in loving actions, passages of holy texts or certain signs.

The fact that Behar compared a debilitating, crippling internal struggle to something as peaceful and loving as faith is unfathomable to me.

It’s offensive both to people struggling from mental illnesses as well as people who adhere to Christian teachings. Mental illness is painful and is not at all like a peaceful community of faith.

By comparing mental illness to a religion, Behar is belittling the struggle of those suffering from legitimate mental illnesses.

Being religious is not a mental illness. To follow a religion is a choice that a person makes every day, while mental illness is not. To compare the two is to make a fallacious argument — an argument that I never thought I would have to weigh in on.

We all know Pence has a few (okay, a lot) of faults when it comes to the combination of his faith and his politics. I can understand why some would criticize Pence’s religious beliefs, but attacking Christianity as a whole because of Pence’s strict conservative adherence isn’t fair to the billions of people who adhere to different Christian principles or apply those principles differently.

“That would make me mentally ill since I’m a Christian myself,” Behar said. “It would make my mother mentally ill, my father, my aunts, my daughter — of course not. I don’t mean to offend people but apparently I keep doing it. It was a joke. Comedians are in danger these days.”

It wasn’t funny that mental illness and religion were compared, no matter one’s opinion on whether God speaks to people. Insulting Christianity — or any faith — isn’t comical. Religion, of all types, is a beautiful practice, not a mental illness, or a thing to be made fun of.