Annotations to Spurzheim's Observations on Insanity:
Religion is another fertile cause of insanity. Mr. Haslam, though he declares it sinful to consider religion as a cause of insanity, adds, however, that he would be ungrateful, did he not avow his obligation to Methodism for its supply of numerous cases. Hence the primitive feelings of religion may be misled and produce insanity; that is what I would contend for, and in that sense religion often leads to insanity.
Most people's religion is what they want to believe, not what they do believe. And very few of them stop to examine its foundations."
Texas mother over the edge because of cult! - Interestingly enough, this is a Christian View.
Glen Milstein , doctoral student from Teacher's College, Columbia University says that Religious faith effects the way you view the mental illness of a relative. To declare that a relative is incurable is a direct challenge to religious faith when it comes to mental illness.
Philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote:
"'Religion is based . . . mainly upon fear . . . fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand . . . . My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race.'"
Christianity Causes Insanity !!??!!
Did I get your attention? I have been doing some personal research to determine if there are any reputable studies available documenting a verifiable link between a belief in Christianity and mental illness. This article is my resulting conclusions and rant on the subject.
I have more than a jaded interest in this topic. Someone very close to me is suffering from severe mental illness and has been for most, if not all of his life. He is now in his 70s and the symptoms of his debilitation are more apparent than they were some 20 years ago when I first met him. Sometime in the early 1960s he felt the call of GOD on his life and became part of the Operation Mobilization missionary organization based in Belgium. He quit his job, packed up his wife and five small children and became a fully committed servant of the Lord using his ability as an automobile mechanic to keep the missionary wheels in Europe rolling.
Interested in raising his family in the fear and admonition of the Lord, he would insist on having daily family devotions which would often last two to three hours. He required his children to memorize whole chapters of the Bible at a time. If they failed to perform as instructed, the kids could expect severe chastisement in the form of screaming tirades with threats of hell and eternal retribution at the hands of an angry God. These "lectures" could go on for hours. He refrained from open physical abuse, but would deny meals as a regular incentive toward "holiness".
He believes that GOD speaks to him in an audible voice. He is convinced that when he needs help with mundane chore that GOD himself intervenes in a similar way as the saints of the Old Testament testify. For instance, once he was faced with some plumbing problems. He had no funds to hire a repairman and lacked the proper knowledge to fix his kitchen sink. He prayed to "Jesus" and was promptly answered by a disembodied voice who stated emphatically, "I AM A PLUMBER." Once he heard that, he was able to fix the leaking sink. He relates other experiences along the same line, which he claims assist him on a regular basis. He also believes his theological understanding is superior to most other people's because of his special relationship with his creator.
He was asked to leave Operation Mobilization after several years of working there. His ability to maintain positive relationships was and is extremely limited. The seemingly slightest provocation could and still can send him into a violent tirade. If the argument he had was with a man, it would be nothing for him to throw the man up against a wall and threaten to kill him. The argument could be about anything, especially religion. Although he would eventually "repent" for his behavior, another episode would follow shortly. The pattern was never broken, so he would be asked to leave one Christian organization or church after another as the years progressed.
Once his children grew up and left home, he would stalk them, trying to find out if they were sinning against GOD in any way. If he found them doing something he believed was inappropriate, he would barge into their place of employment sometime after the observed behavior and make a terrible scene, exclaiming emotionally that GOD was going to splatter their blood all over the wall in his wrath if they did not immediately repent.
Eventually all the Children moved far away. From then on his wife had to endure the full energy of his idiosyncrasies. Recently one of his daughters visited him at his home for the first time in 22 years. She is 43. It went well at first, but while at dinner in a restaurant, he began eating off of her plate, licking her food, hitting her with gospel tracts and then began yelling and screaming in anger for all the patrons to witness.
The poor man is just plain mentally ill. He never did act exactly normal, but now as early stages of senility are becoming apparent, the strange behavior is simply more pronounced.
This is my interest and motivation for exploring the topic at hand.
Regardless of the quotes and story above, I found no verifiable correlation between religious faith and mental illness. What I found was that mental illness is just like any other illness that affects people's lives. Mental illness is somewhat hard to define, because in some ways, all human beings are subject to delusions and fantasies. This is not really a bad thing. Each of us can attest to having wildly vivid and impossible dreams from time to time in our sleep. During the dream, we are sure of the reality of the experience. It is only on waking that the fantasy is dispelled. It is our capacity to imagine things that do not exist that has made modern medicine, technology and our fledgling space program possible. Imagination is the cousin to insanity and the line between the two is often thin.
From what I have been able to discover, such things as having a bad heart, being allergic to cats, being diagnosed with prostate cancer or any other of the untold host of diseases available on earth are no different than having most mental disorders. Diseases or weakness of mind is something people randomly experience, and predicting who will be afflicted is an undeveloped science.
While it may not be a truism that religion drives people mad, it is a truism that religion does not cure madness, any more than it cures lung cancer, heart disease, or poor eyesight. In many ways religion may help restrain some erratic behavior, but in others it probably exacerbates aberrations.
I have done what I can to help my friend overcome a lifetime of mental abuse, cloaked in a shroud of "Christianity." It has taken my friend years to overcome the emotional scars begun in childhood and continued into adulthood. This friend has also completely left behind Christianity. My friend finally realizes that Christianity and religion really had nothing to do with her father's odd behavior. He was and is simply "not right." Accepting this fact has been the greatest of healing. Accepting this fact has also tolled the final death knell to her "faith". Realizing that her father was mentally ill all those years with neither the "Church" or the "Holy Spirit" being able to cure him or even properly diagnose him has culminated with her present state as an "ex-Christian".
There is simply no reality to the reported blessings of Christianity.
To conclude, I offer this quote from The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill :
Mental illnesses are disorders of the brain that disrupt a person's thinking, feeling, moods, and ability to relate to others. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are disorders of the brain that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.
Mental illnesses do not discriminate; they affect people of every age, gender, race, religion, or socioeconomic status. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character, or poor upbringing. In the United States, over seven million adults and over five million children and adolescents suffer from a serious, chronic brain disorder. These illnesses have a great impact on society. Four of the top ten leading causes of disability are mental illnesses including major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder, and the estimated cost of mental health care is over $150 billion per year. But far more important is the effect untreated mental illness has on the lives of individuals and their loved ones.
These brain disorders are treatable. As a person with diabetes, takes insulin, most people with serious mental illness need medication to help control symptoms. Supportive counseling, self-help groups, housing, vocational rehabilitation, income assistance and other community services can also provide support and stability, contributing to recovery.