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Was MLK delusional? - Essay

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#1
FlatEarth1024

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***Disclaimer:  I have no psychological training.  The following is pure conjecture by an admitted layman.***

How many times have we seen the stories...David Koresh, Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite?  How many would-be messiahs have led their flock down the path of destruction on the personal instruction of their god?  Clearly these

#2
The White Coyote

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  Interesting observation FE. I have kind of pondered this stuation myself. My own sister, a devout and disillusioned Christian, talks about Jesus as if he were the milkman or a neighbor. She will say things like, "I'm not very happy with him right now." or "He's just not letting things go my way." It's kind of weird and I often wonder about people who "hear" voices. I hear a voice too but it's usually mine saying something like, "Well, you fucked up again didn't you asshole."
  I think MLK had some good and great ideals and ideas, but I think you are correct in being skeptical and a bit wary of anyone who "hears" voices.

#3
Ungodly

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First, I agree that Doctor King was a great man, certainly the best Christian leader in America in the 20th century. He may have been one of the greatest citizens this country has ever produced.  Instead of using his religious beliefs to justify denying civil rights to some people, he did the exact opposite and struggled to see all people treated equally with dignity and respect.   He is the only religious leader I can think of that I hold in very high regard.

Now, if he literally meant that he heard Jesus talking to him, then he certainly was delusional.  But I think he may have been resorting to hyperbole in a manner that is very common among Black American churchgoers.  It is not at all uncommon for black people who are deeply religious to say that God is "talking to them" or "leading them" and I do not think that black religious people are any more likely to be delusional than anyone else afflicted with religion.

To this day, when I hear his "I Have a Dream" sermon that he delivered in front of tens of thousands of people I feel a chill go up my spine. You'd have to boil a hundred thousand politicians just to get a tenth of a percent of this man's charisma, and then you'd have a toxic waste problem on your hands.

I read a very interesting piece about Doctor King recently that pointed out how all you ever hear about him these days is the wonderful work he did to promote civil rights for black people.  And of course this will always be what makes him famous, as well it should be.

But having had great success at tearing down the racist attitudes in both the North and South of this nation, Doctor King moved on to address other social issues like poverty and the unjust imperialist war in Vietnam.  The corporations that own and operate the media in this nation are not keen on promoting anti-war sentiments. NBC, for example, is owned by GE, and GE is a major defense contractor.

I firmly believe that there was a cause and effect relationship between his outspoken criticism of the war in Vietnam and his assassination.

If Dr. King was delusional, he certainly put it to good use.  But your point that we must use caution when a person claims to receive messages from an Imaginary Bearded Sky Daddy is very well founded, and well put too.

It is also true that the creature I refer to as Our Glorious Christian Leader has said that doG told him to invade Iraq.  I only claim that he said so, not that I think he believed it.

#4
The White Coyote

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A lot of someone hearing voices could be "self talk" using the personification of a God or any figurehead. For American Indians I suppose we could say we "hear" our spirit guides telling us what to do when in reality we follow what we believe to be their example. In fact we are following our own perceptions of what we believe and therefore nothing more than our own conscience. Perhaps Dr. Kings "Voice" was a product of his religious upbringing and moral compass. Unfortunately we will never really know.

#5
FlatEarth1024

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Ultimately, although I use Dr King as the subject, I guess the real point is that its not just the "bad" voices we should view with a wary eye. 

Let's say for a moment that it isn't all bombast and snake oil, and that some Jesus actually speaks verbally to Benny Hinn.  For the most part, his message is stupid and annoying, but not outright malignant.  Suppose one day 'Jesus' tells Benny to command his loyal followers to take to the streets in search of Jews, homosexuals and whoever else raises his ire.  In an eyeblink, the man transforms from a pain in the ass blowhard to a mass murderer.  And to millions, he will be justified in acting in service of his Christ.  Remember, if your dog tells you to kill you are a lunatic.  If God tells you to kill you are a Soldier of Christ.  That's why David Berkowitz is in a foam cell while nearly 30 years later Jim Jones is still considered Jesus incarnate to a loyal few.

That's why I say, even great people performing great deeds...if those deeds are even partially motivated by the phantom voice of an imaginary god, they must be observed with great caution.  While not looking the proverbial gift-horse in the mouth, we must be prepared for gifts sent in the name of Jesus to occasionally be the Trojan Horse, and be vigilant against their arrival.

#6
The White Coyote

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Mental illness comes in many guises, many forms, and many degrees. It could be said that all religiously afflicted people are mentally ill but I personally don't believe that. Environment, education and family all have a great deal of influence on who we are and what we believe. There will always be those that take their beliefs to the extreme. Look at the present situation with the Islamic suicide bombers. There were monks in the 60s that set themselves on fire to protest the war. The only thing that separates them from idiots like Jerry Falwell and Benny Hinn is cold hard cash. Jerry and Benny have too much to live for. Take away their cars, homes and cash and they would be the first Christian suicide bombers. :snork_lach:

#7
The Force

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[quote name='"FlatEarth"]We must always remember that the difference between great men like Dr King and psychopaths like David Koresh is often small' date=' and the line often blurred.[/quote']

That is a great point. It depends on how these guys use their charisma and speaking abilities to sway others. Is it to exploit in the name of a higher power, or to effect positive social change?

On the other hand, I'm reluctant to attribute speculations of mental illness or delusional personality disorders to Dr. King, primarily because when I think of people hearing voices in their heads, I think of schizophrenia, a scary and debilitating disease, and I think it sort of diminishes the everyday struggle for sanity schizophrenia sufferers go through to say that all Jeebus believers who claim to hear the voice of god or Jeebus fall into the same category. Dr. King was highly devout, but I doubt he was mentally unstable.

Also, a major difference between psychopaths and people like Dr. King is fundamentally personality based. Regardless how much Dr. King thought he heard Jeebus talking to him, he probably wouldn't have started a dangerous cult and sequestered himself and his followers off in a compound before drinking the Kool-aid. There are many other, deeper things going on in the mind than just thinking one hears the voice of god, though religious indoctrination does inform and give shape to a lot of delusions.

#8
Frozenwolf150

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Ah, leave Dr. King alone.  He was one of the few good Christian preachers out there, and his values actually exemplified the positive message that Jesus was trying to spread of pacifism and how we should treat the least among us.  I would judge him by what he sought out to accomplish, not necessarily the specific means by which he did or the negative connotations we often associate with such rhetoric.

As Prof. pointed out, Dr. King was likely just using the kind of language that was common among people from his walk of life at the time.  He used whatever words were necessary to communicate his ideas to his particular audience in a way they could easily comprehend. Chances are that any given person, addressing the same audience, with the same message, would have done the same thing.  Different people are going to interpret it in different ways regardless.  To focus entirely on the literal words, while ignoring their meaning or intent, is to miss the point.


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