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Similarities between religion and mental illness

By Alexei  

My mother who has fallen in with an American-style Evangelical church. I am 21, I still live at home. I live in Britain, specifically Scotland, where we do not have the American style attitude to religion, except in isolated groups like this one. I see a lot of stories on this website are from those types of evangelical churches.

VicarImage by Nick Kidd via Flickr

(The irony is that America is a 'secular state' and you have lots of religious lunatics, while we in Britain have an official state religion, Anglicanism, yet almost nobody practices religion, and those that do, it is often polite and civil.)

Anyway, I have observed my mother and several of her co-religionists and I can honestly say they clearly suffer from some kind of mental illness and delusion. For example, they could be deterministic and think and plan their lives. But instead they just repeat the mantra of 'trust in the lord'. Or that my mother wants to 'be like Jesus'. This is having a bad effect on her and a bad effect on me. It is also a self fulfilling prophecy. They are inactive in life decisions and wait for whatever happens to happen. When something positive happens, like a promotion or a job opportunity they can be 'thankful to the Lord' even though positive and negative factors happen all the time and they will choose to ignore the negative factors.

So, the question has to be raised between the link between organized religion and psychosis, delusions of grandeur and mental illness in general. Obviously not all religious people and all religions are such, but certain aspects like evangelical Christianity.

The Psychological basis of religions are comparable to this analogy, at the top of a valley there is a dam. In the valley there are 3 towns. One right underneath the dam, one halfway down and the other at the bottom of the valley. Those at the bottom are mildly concerned about the dam collapsing, those at the halfway point are very concerned, but those directly underneath are not concerned at all. It is a psychological necessity for them to deflect their minds away from worrying all the time, otherwise the constant fear would paralyze them.

This I suppose is an analogy for religion, for good or for bad. By submitting to 'belief' it allows them to cope. So perhaps it is a psychological necessity. But for good or for bad I have to live with a mother who is an evangelical Christian, which is pretty crazy. That is why I decided to write this.

Generally speaking we were raised Christian, but not to this extreme variant. That happened later to my mother. I still consider myself a cultural Chrsitian, although I don't practice. This may sound like hypocrisy but so be it. (Most of the people on here seem to be American. In Europe and the rest of the world, religion is often tied to identity and culture.)

An example of this extremism is when someone close to the church died they went up to the hospital to try and bring the person back to life! Most of the people attending the church are on Psychiatric medicine, yet the faith healing idea evangelists are telling them that taking pills is an affront to God, as they are rejecting God's healing.
And the 'pastor'. He is a self-centered git. I have always found those who claim to be 'born again' the most repulsive people I have met. Yes, often they were former alcoholics or drug addicts who have kicked their habit, which I supposes is good, but the pain they inflict on others is much worse on what they did to themselves. The pastors are psychologically vain, empire builders, connivance and cunning. They teach to 'be like Jesus' but just take for themselves.

However, the problem with Christianity compared with other religions is it's focus on proselytizing and conversion, spreading around the world like a cancer. This is helped largely because Christianity is based in rich countries, which means that they can spread the message easily to poor countries by building shining new churches in poor peasant villages.

Christianity is also unattainable because their leader Jesus is too perfect for human nature. Christianity is like communism, in that it assumes that mankind has reached a higher level, when we quite clearly haven't Anyone who has ever tried to 'be like Jesus' has always ended up insane, or a megalomaniac, like the pastor I talked about. When this superhuman psyche (Jesus) is placed on people with all too human failings we see the result of they hypocrisy and failings of the Christian religion.

I appreciate cultural diversity as well. Like the young woman in another article who went to India and appreciated the other religion's traditions.
I don't really consider myself an atheist, more an agnostic and a humanist. Religion is an expression of culture. I like Russian novels, even by the strongly religious Dostoevsky (as one may be able to guess by the name I entered), but also Chekhov, who was a humanist and atheist but appreciated religion. The problem is when religion becomes such an overbearing factor in someone's life like my mother.


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