Peggy Fletcher Stack has a provoking article on Religious News Service that discusses the difference between divine inspiration and religious insanity:
A teenager says God and Jesus appeared to him in a grove and told him to start a new Christian church. Another person claims the Almighty talks to him through the radio.
A French girl gets messages from heaven to lead an army against the British, while a Utah woman thinks she is meant to have Jesus’ baby and 12 husbands.
Some of these figures were considered prophets and saints, while others were judged insane. The question is: How do you tell which is which?
Brian David Mitchell, convicted Friday (Dec. 10) of kidnapping and raping Elizabeth Smart, insisted that God gave him license to do so, though his attorneys argued he was mentally ill.The main difference between a prophet and a psychopath, says Ralph Hood, who teaches psychology of religion at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, is “whether or not (they) can get followers.”
(Though I do find it ironic they’re getting advice from Mormons about the issue!)