Archive for the ‘Morality’ Category
Is there a link between religion and mental illness?
By Helen Pluckrose
I would argue that there is and intend to demonstrate this by showing the way children are raised in the Christian faith, giving statistical evidence of the correlations between Christianity and social problems and detailing the mental illnesses which exist only in relation to religion and especially Christianity. I am an atheist with experience of social work and psychiatric nursing and active in forums about religion, atheism and mental health.
Many atheists, most notably Richard Dawkins, have likened belief in a god to a delusion but of course this was never seriously meant as a clinical diagnosis. People with religious beliefs are not psychotic but have been taught or have chosen to suspend disbelief in just one of thousands of gods for whom there is no evidence whilst rationally assuming the non-existence of the rest. However, this self-delusion is psychologically harmful in a number of ways.
Christianity is the most common religious belief in the West and its unfounded tenets have great cultural acceptance here. A mother recently accused me of being cruel by telling my child her grandfather was gone forever and insisted that the concept of Heaven is very comforting. I told her about two older teenagers I have spoken to who had recently become atheist and have suffered deep grief on realising that they were not immortal. Neither of them found any support from friends or family. Those who were Christian advised them to pray and those who were atheist found their grief a ridiculous overreaction. They should not have done so. To be led to believe that you are immortal and then realise that you are not has an impact similar to finding you have a terminal illness. A teenager or adult learning this will have great difficulty adjusting their view of life whilst a small child will be temporarily distressed to realise we all die but then form their world view around this. A good parent will help their child through this in the same way as we help them deal with starting school or having a new baby in the family.
This same unhealthy conditioning can be seen in the concept of original sin and Satan. Children are taught they are inherently sinful and that Satan may tempt them into sin. They are taught to feel shame for existing at the same time as learning to externalise it onto this mythical demonic figure. This makes it very difficult for children to learn self-awareness and personal responsibility. I frequently speak to Christians suffering from guilt for enjoying supernatural novels and having a sex drive (even when it is not acted upon.) The other side of this is that they may then attribute genuinely negative behaviour to having been tempted by Satan and seek forgiveness from Christ without ever addressing the real cause of their behaviour and learning from it. An example of this is a young woman I spoke to who has a drug abuse problem – in her attempts to resist Satan through prayer and bible reading she never recognises her own emotional problems which stem from her childhood and never gets any stronger or more able to fight her addictions.
Christians will frequently argue that their children are given a good moral grounding through religious teaching but what is this morality? My daughter, attending a state school in England where Christian worship is compulsory, was taught that God flooded the world killing nearly everyone, that he turned rivers into blood and killed all the first born sons. She was six. In addition to this, she was told that this god still exists today and that he should be worshipped and loved for this behaviour. I was forced to remove her from religious education classes because she became so upset but this reaction of hers is surely natural and positive? Is it not more alarming if children accept this? Christian parents will often teach their children that Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator but that the violence of the Christian God is a positive thing. They will teach their children that Hitler was a genocidal sadist but that God will send not only all Jews but also Muslims and Hindus and atheists etc to be tortured for eternity because he is a god of love.
Does this teach children how to treat their fellow man and make good life decisions? Statistics from the world’s most Christian country, the USA, suggest not. 99.8% of prison inmates are theists and more than 80% of them Christian. (1) A recent in-depth study shows that religiosity is linked to poor societal health. (2) Teen pregnancy is highest in states with the most evangelical Christians. (3) Divorce rates are highest among evangelical Christians. (4)
In addition to general social problems connected to Christianity, there is a whole gamut of mental illnesses related to religion. Hyper-religiosity is now a recognised mental illness – an obsession with religion to the detriment of the rest of the individual’s needs. (5) Religious scrupulosity – an anxiety disorder in which people agonise over their every action, concerned that they may have been committing a sin, until they can no longer live a normal life is a form of anxiety disorder for which psychiatrists are increasingly consulted. (6)
Most common of all is religious OCD. In America this accounts for one third of all OCD cases which is a very high incidence. Sufferers will be unable to prevent themselves thinking blasphemous thoughts, denying the holy spirit or imagining having sex with Christ and will then feel the compulsion to pray endlessly or recite bible verses multiple times to repent of the thought. The thought will keep coming back until their entire lives are swallowed up in thinking the thought and going through the penitence rituals. John Bunyan is the earliest recorded sufferer.
‘one morning, as I did lie in my bed, I was, at other times, most fiercely assaulted with this temptation [i.e., sinful thought], to sell and part with Christ; the wicked suggestion still running in my mind, Sell Him, sell Him, sell Him, sell Him, sell Him, as fast as a man could speak; against which also, in my mind, as at other times, I answered, No, no, not for thousands, thousands, thousands, at least twenty times together….. Oh, the diligence of Satan! Oh, the desperateness of man’s heart!..’ (John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (London: George Larkin, 1666)
At this moment thousands of Americans are suffering through this precise process. Religious OCD is almost impossible to treat because the therapy works by allowing the thoughts to come and refusing to allow them to bother you. This takes away their power but is very difficult for a Christian to do. Jesus said that thoughts are as sinful as actions, that everyone who has ever felt angry is guilty of murder and everyone who has ever felt lust is an adulterer and no-one who denies the Holy Spirit will ever be forgiven. I am currently in touch with two young women with this form of OCD. Sufferers rarely receive support with the psychologist’s advice from religious leaders. Instead they are told they are sinning, that they must pray for help to resist Satan (thus giving the thoughts more power and setting up more ritual compulsions) and some have even been exorcised, futilely of course, and are still believed by family members to be possessed. This is not an aberration from mainstream Christianity – it is the inevitable result of a sensitive or self-reflective person being told they are sinful and weak and that the devil is real and must be resisted. In the words of the wonderful , self-aware sufferer, ‘OCD’ Dave:
‘What is the difference between General OCD and religious OCD? I would define the differentiating factor thus: A sufferer of general OCD is usually aware of the inappropriateness and strangeness of their actions, as well as their unreasonable nature but continues to engage in such actions because of the overwhelming mental anxiety brought about by the mental obsessions. A sufferer of religious OCD is generally not aware of the inappropriateness and strangeness of their actions, nor their unreasonable nature, instead believing such actions are at the core of their right relationship with God.(7)
This is the problem in a nutshell –‘ the sufferer is not aware of the inappropriateness and strangeness of their actions nor their unreasonable nature’ because all of this seems real and normal to the individual brought up to believe they are inherently sinful, that they are being judged at all times by an omnipotent being and may be cast into eternal torture. To be a thoughtful, devout Christian who accepts all the tenets of Christianity is to accept the strange and the inappropriate and the unreasonable and to attempt to live your life by it.
How can this possibly lead to mental health?
Helen Pluckrose. (https://twitter.com/hpluckrose)
As an Atheist, I am constantly coming in contact with people who will tell me how screwed I am. Such as, I am going to hell, God is sad for me, I have no reason to live, etc… I ask these people how they know all this and they tell me it is because the Bible, Gods true word says it all – plain and clear!
This all could be true, but most likely – it isn’t. The bible is a 2000 year old book written by a bunch of different people who never met Jesus and were basically just writing hearsay. The earliest known book was written about 30 – 40 years after Jesus died.
People use this book to live their lives; they base their morals off it and say the only way to live a good life is through this book. They tell people, like me, that it is completely impossible for us to have morals without this book. Well, let’s dive into it a little and see what Morals we can get out of it.
That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. (Luke 12:47)
So, it is completely okay to own a slave, and if our slaves do not obey us then we are allowed to beat them. Awesome!
If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.” (Exodus 21:20-21)
I am still good to beat my slave, just don’t kill them. Easy enough.
20But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel:
21Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you. Deuteronomy 22:20-21
Alright, this is good news. We are supposed to kill girls who aren’t virgins on their wedding days.
17Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
18But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. Numbers 31:17-18
Not only should we kill the females, but kill the males as well and save all the virgins for yourself. Lovely, I need me some virgins.
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. Genesis 3:16
I usually get slapped when I tell girls that I am in charge. I can easily show them that I am right, God said so himself.
22Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Ephesians 5:22-24
As I submit myself to the lord, my wife must submit herself to me. Well, Honey, I think it is your duty to make sure my back is massaged for an hour, each night.
Set the value of a male between the ages of twenty and sixty at fifty shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel; and if it is a female, set her value at thirty shekels. If it is a person between the ages of five and twenty, set the value of a male at twenty shekels and of a female at ten shekels. If it is a person between one month and five years, set the value of a male at five shekels of silver and that of a female at three shekels of silver. If it is a person sixty years old or more, set the value of a male at fifteen shekels and of a female at ten shekels. (Leviticus 27:3-7)
Guys go for more than women do on the open market, it must be our muscles and ability to grow mustaches.
11Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
12But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 1 Timothy 2:11-12
This is simple. Women, Shut the hell up when men are around.
If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are both discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)
This is way better than current laws. Instead of 10 – 15 years in prison, I get a new wife. Bitchin’!
Talking badly about your parents:
“Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.” (Jesus speaking) (Matthew 15:4)
I should be dead, 50 times over.
He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24)
Beat your kids with rods. Done and done, these little bastards are finally going to get more than a mild spanking and a 30 minute timeout.
Working on Sunday:
Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. (Exodus 31:15)
There goes my current job and my life and probably the life of every person who has ever lived. Good to know though, this does increase my morality.
… I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and kill them in front of me. (Jesus speaking) (Luke 19:26-27)
Don’t worship Jesus and be murdered in front of him. Well, I don’t worship Jesus, I can round up other non-worshippers and help you kill them if you promise to let me live. Deal?
“Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats. You must give me the firstborn of your sons. Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers for seven days, but give them to me on the eighth day.” (Exodus 29-30)
I should be dead, again. A lot of my good friends should also be dead, this is a bummer. But, again – The bible is morality and we need to follow it.
“‘Keep my decrees.
“‘Do not mate different kinds of animals.
“‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
“‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.-Leviticus 19:19
Well, my dog is forbidden, my garden is forbidden and a lot of my clothes are forbidden. Damn.
6And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.
7And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.
8Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you. Leviticus 11:6-8
Don’t eat pork, this has been an issue of morality for me lately. I am trying to work on being a better person and this is an easy one to fix. I am sure the Christian girls, I work with, will notice and probably want to date me now.
Those are just a few verses that I found that easily show how ridiculous the Bible is and shouldn’t be used as a guide for morality. I am a good person because I want to be treated good, so I treat other people good. The idea of “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” did not come from the bible, Jesus or your God. It has been around for ages.
- “Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him.”
–Pittacus 640–568 BCE)
- “Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others.”
-Isocrates 436 – 338 BCE
- “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”
-Confucius 551 – 479 BCE
Those are just three examples. Treat other people how you, yourself, would want to be treated. Being an Atheist doesn’t mean we are going to go out and murder, rape and steal as much as we can. It just means we don’t believe your silly old-book or in your gods. Animals show kindness to their own species, and they don’t have a book or priests telling them to do this, it is something that is built into them. With all that said, enjoy this video.
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