The tragedy at the Washington Navy Yard with 13 dead including the shooter, brings to attention once again the basic problem dealing with people who have some form of mental illness. The alleged shooter Aaron Alexis has had problems before with anger although medical records indicate that these reports were never released. Without a felony record, he was legally allowed to buy guns.
Records and subsequent reports show that Alexis heard voices talking to him, and was fearful of being followed and fearful that others were somehow electronically controlling him.
Certainly a voice talking to someone is an example of mental illness. But hey, wait a minute! Could it be religion? Could this have been God talking to Aaron Alexis and telling him to shoot people? Now that is a good question!
Just think of all of those to whom God has talked and given evil instructions. Certainly Abraham comes to mind with the instructions from God for Abraham to kill his own son Isaac. That is certainly fodder for any psychiatrist and an admission ticket to a rubber room.
But there are lots of other examples. Think of Joshua being told by God to kill every living person in Jericho and the other 31 cities of innocent peoples the Israelites were attacking in Canaan. Check out Joshua 6:21 for details on this.
Or check the story of Passover in Exodus 12:29 when God killed all the innocent first born Egyptians as the Israelites left Egypt. All those hundreds of thousands of killed first-born Egyptians were completely innocent of any acts committed by their Pharaoh.
Or consider the passage in Exodus 32:27 when Moses had his troops kill 3,000 Israelites who wanted to worship the golden calf instead of God. What about a little tolerance here and just letting them go their own way and do their own thing?
Of course there have been lots of tragedies from those claiming someone or God talking to them. Andrea Yates drowned all of her five children when Biblical precepts indicated this as an answer to her perceived lapse of parenting skills.
Many other sad tales of mothers killing their offspring as a result of voices or Godly/Biblical injunctions also exist. Of course, those of a religious leaning claim that these cases are when demons are talking to people – not God.
But how can you tell the difference? For Alexis perhaps and for Yates and others, it is demons and devils who are talking to them. For Abraham, Joshua, Moses and others it was God. That does not mean that there was a good result for those under the auspices of Abraham, Joshua and Moses. Death is never a good result or answer.
The related question is that if God is talking to some people and demons or devils talking to others, how would you know the difference? The usual answer is that God would not tell someone to kill someone else.
Of course that is not true, as you see from the magic book (the Bible) and the conversations that led to the deaths of so many as referenced above.
If people are talking to you in your head, it is you talking to yourself. Your brain is forming questions and answers to your thoughts and ideas. No one is silently talking to you or your brain. No one but you is giving you instructions. If you think otherwise, it is insanity or religion (both the same, really) giving you ideas.
Just as I have said before, if you have an invisible friend and are over the age of seven, you need serious medication or long term therapy. Or both.