Happy birthday, Robert M Persig

Happy birthday, Robert M Persig

On September 6, 1928, Robert M Pirsig was born in Minneapolis, Minn.

An entry today in the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s “Freethought of the Day” reveals that Pirsig was tested with an IQ of 170 when he was only nine years old.

He enrolled in the University of Minnesota when he was 15, but left to join the army in 1946. Pirsig returned to the university and graduated with a degree in philosophy in 1950, as well as studying philosophy at Banaras Hindu University in India and earning his MA in journalism from the University of Minnesota in 1958.

He later became a professor of English rhetoric and composition at the University of Montana, but stopped teaching after he was briefly diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression. He appeared to recover after some institutional care.

In 1974, Pirsig wrote the wildly popular philosophical book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, in which Pirsig details a motorcycle trip he took with his son, Chris, while illustrating philosophical ideas.


In the book, Pirsig writes about his theory, “the metaphysics of quality,” which is still widely discussed today.

In Pirsig’s novel, Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals (1991), Pirsig writes:

A person isn’t considered insane if there are a number of people who believe the same way. Insanity isn’t supposed to be a communicable disease. If one other person starts to believe him, maybe two or three, then it’s a religion.

He is quoted in Richard Dawkins’ 2006 book, The God Delusion, as saying more succinctly:

When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.

Religious mysticism is intellectual garbage. It’s a vestige of the old superstitious Dark Ages when nobody knew anything and the whole world was sinking deeper and deeper into filth and disease and poverty and ignorance. It is one of those delusions that isn’t called insane only because there are so many people involved.

7 responses to “Happy birthday, Robert M Persig”

  1. AgentCormac says:

    It is one of those delusions that isn’t called insane only because there are so many people involved.

    Wise words indeed. And boy are there so many people involved. But I have hope for the future, I sincerely do. We are growing in numbers all the time and the religiots are growing more desperate. Our time will come. It really will.

  2. Matt Westwood says:

    I confess I found ZATAOMCM a bit tedious, but readable enough. Far more important IMO was its sequel Lila which, to a certain extent, is an application of the somewhat dry ideas in ZATAOMCM to an immediate and important real-world situation.

  3. RJW says:

    Matt Westwood,

    “I confess that I found ZATAOMCM a bit tedious” So did I, why it was so ‘wildly popular’ is something of a mystery.

  4. L.Long says:

    So ignore that their are 2000000 religious people and just look at the person facing you. Is he delusional meaning there is no proof or even evidence that his believe is fact? So eventually you get to 2000000 delusional people. But then I only recognize the legal definition of insane….can he determine the difference between good (helping someone) and bad (hurting someone)? Yes then he is same, the fact he thinks he’s Napoleon is of no real interest, just like the dim who thinks he’s jesus, just deeper delusion, unless that is the name his parents gave him.

  5. Robster says:

    It is kinda strange that people who’ll happily munch down a serve of jesus’ flesh and blood each Sunday, who’ll look you in the eye and tell you that a long dead guy “loves you”, that snakes really do talk, that turning water into wine is not only possible, it’s been done, that all the planet’s wildlife fitted on one boat and believe the rest of a long line of absurd silliness are not considered somewhat mentally compromised is a wonder.

  6. Brian Jordan says:

    Believing all that malarkey you mentioned? Do they all REALLY believe so many impossible things before breakfast each and every day? Or do those delusions just sit lurking in the background, like the grit in the middle of a pearl, and pass largely ignored. Or excused, when they are remembered?

  7. L.Long says:

    Well Brian I have found that when asked they claim to believe all that silly nonsense. Right up until they use their iPhone at which time science is great!!!!
    Then go back to science is wrong after they hang up. Not only are they psychotically delusional but flaming hypocrites too.
    Just as they pick & choose the buyBull BS, they pick & choose what ever science they like.