Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

 


A LEADING PSYCHIATRIST GETS IT WRONG ON FAITH AS AN AID FOR MENTAL PROBLEMS

Andrew Sims is the author of Is Faith Delusion?  He is a former Professor of Psychiatry and President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and has also been Chairman of their Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group, so is exceptionally well qualified to address the subject.

The book argues that if religious faith seems to help mental distress in people faith may not be delusion!  This leaves him wide open to the accusation that its a placebo and improving a delusion by substituting it with another one.  Delusions are never safe and they routinely spread themselves by posing as mental help.
 
Page 11 tells us that in the United Kingdom, 73 per cent of psychiatrists had no religion. 39 per cent of female psychiatrists believed in God. Only 19 per cent of male psychiatrists did. 92 per cent held that there was a link between religion and mental illness. 58 per cent of psychiatrists have never advised a patient to go and see their clergy.
 
Psychiatrists are doctors who specialise in mental illness. They treat their work as a learning process. These statistics show that the evidence that Christianity is not a significant help in relation to mental illness is strong. Also, real Christianity is a rarity and it definitely is a dangerous evil faith.
 
Page 13 says that a study carried out by members of the Christian Psychiatry Movement revealed that for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the best treatment was medication. But for cases where people were in danger of committing suicide, were suffering horrendous grief, were suffering from alcoholism or sociopathy prayer and Bible reading was the best help. This is a bizarre argument for the Bible is the most unread book in existence. Also, the book is disturbing.
 
Sims should have mentioned that many self-help books including ones that repudiate real Christianity such as Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures could be shown to have a similar if not better effect had studies been performed. Science and Health contains no vindictiveness and violence. The Bible is full of them.
 
In Sims view, you don't need religion but medication for the worst mental disorders. Sims is tricking us when he says that prayer and Bible reading help the grieving and alcoholics etc. The Bible is not a pretty read and is often horrific. Feelings of hope and strength can come upon anyone. Some people pray and they think prayer gave them these feelings. This overlooks the fact that the feelings were dormant until the right triggers came along. It is your emotional and mental setup that help not the Bible reading or the praying.
 
Psychiatry defines spirituality thus:
 
"Spirituality is a distinctive, potentially creative and universal dimension of human experience arising both within the inner subjective awareness of individuals and within communities, social groups and traditions. It may be experienced as relationship with that which is intimately 'inner', immanent and personal, within the self and others, and/or as relationship with that which is wholly 'other', transcendent and beyond the self. It is experienced as being of fundamental or ultimate importance and is thus concerned with matters of meaning and purpose in life, truth and values" (page 18).
 
This definition is inadequate. People who believe that people are just machines and there are no spirits or gods can still get a sense of meaning in life and this is not spiritual. Spiritual implies supernatural and magical. Yet this is not mentioned in the definition at all.
 
Page 20 sees religion as implying activity, commitment and belief "a particular system of worship". It is observed that the word religion has the same root as ligament, ligature and oblige.
 
I like this information. It indicates that if you claim to belong to a religion you must believe all it teaches even if you don't obey. For the bits that seem mad, you have to say the problem is not them but your lack of understanding. You need to believe. Otherwise you do not really belong to the religion at all. You are not a believer.
 
Page 26 asserts that most people with mental illness have poor self-esteem and their confidence is low.
 
Therapy - even in the form of reading books that seek to improve your self-esteem - helps. If praying and going to Church were much of a help we would all be going. And those who think they do help, already have self-esteem and are forgetting that. Why don't counsellors and life coaches stress religion? Because it does not work. For those who think it does in their experience, what is helping is the way they use religion to retreat into a safer fantasy world.
 
Page 27 asserts that psychotic illness attacks the selfhood of the person when it inflicts delusions of passivity. One form of this is when a person believes that somebody else has become her or him physically.
 
Sufferers may mean they feel that a physical change has taken place even though they and others cannot detect it. Sounds like some of them have gotten ideas from the Catholic claim that bread and wine become Jesus Christ physically though no change can be found. If a person suffers from the belief that God is now controlling him, then clearly the person is seriously mentally ill. Belief in God feeds that delusion for believers say God lives in his people and is closer to them that they are to themselves. Most believers would not understand the doctrine that God is a spirit. They would see him as a physical thing around us and in us that simply cannot be touched because he is using his magical powers to hide. Most believers who feel they are part of God and that God is inside them are mentally ill.
 
Page 28 says that all mental illnesses are accompanied by an inability to engage in or maintain relationships. Schizophrenia stops you behaving normally with others. Dementia changes you into a different kind of person that others feel they have lost touch with. The result is loneliness and the page asserts that religious belief helps a person who is lonely.
 
But is the problem that people cannot have a relationship with the person or that the person cannot have a relationship with others?
 
Page 28 by saying religion helps the lonely is hinting that you need to believe in a God who loves you so that you do not feel alone. In fact, Christians believe that you should believe in this God for him not for you. This makes any benefit a side-effect. God or belief in God does not directly help. Christianity says that God should be sought because it is a duty and we owe him our service and friendship. That kind of talk is not helpful. If anybody is helped by God it is not God or understanding the meaning of what it is to follow God that helps. It is the incorrect idea of what God is and is about that does that.
 
Page 36 says that if a person prays and is put totally out of action by psychosis he or she can still pray and this will bring strength and comfort. 
 
Will is too strong a word. And irresponsible and arrogant. How can Sims know that prayer helps every psychotic who prays? And how does the psychotic know that it is he who is praying and not the illness making him do it? Again Sims can't prove that prayer ever brings comfort and strength. God does not answer all prayers. If you pray and you get what you want, that does not mean that prayer got it for you. It is possible that God gave it to you for some reason other than that you prayed. If you ask the local charity to help you with your fuel bill, and they pay the bill, they might have done this not because you asked but because somebody else who you don't know of asked for you. Or they did it to impress the community and make them think they are addressing the issue of people with heating problems. Jesus said that God does not hear the prayer of those who do not forgive those who have hurt them. Yet even they claim that prayer helps them. Obviously this experience of help is caused psychologically. It is their perception - it does not mean they are really helped. It is not God answering prayer that is benefiting them. Therefore it is not down to the power of prayer but to how they respond to praying. Prayer always seems to benefit the church bitches the most - it puts a smile on their faces even though their hearts and minds are full of poison. And no wonder. There is a bitchy arrogance in thinking that if you pray to win the bingo and you win that you believe or know prayer did it.
 
Page 38 says that people who feel God is with them and in control of their lives will not feel they are victims of the unmerciful laws of fate if they pray. It says that you will feel you are a worthy person and your confidence will improve if you believe that you are loved by God.
 
It is not prayer that is doing this. First of all, logically prayer should make one feel that everything is controlled by God and there is no chance or randomness. Think for example how when somebody is discovered to be seriously ill and in need of urgent help by a neighbour how God gets the thanks. This is so silly unless God is thanked for controlling the neighbour's will. And that is insane. Second, how could a God loving you conditionally meaning he does not care if you are bad or good or if you are intelligent or stupid make you feel confident? Is it not arrogant to suppose: "I can face anything for God is looking after me!" when belief in God goes with the belief that God has to make the best of the kind of world we have and sometimes he sacrifices people for the sake of a greater good?
 
If God really sustains all things and nothing happens unless he assists it then there is no such thing as chance. There is only fate. Prayer is causing a delusion because God and fatalism go together.
 
Is it the case that some people are intrinsically religious and some are not? If there is a God and he wants us to seek him and to develop faith in him, at the very least we should be all intrinsically religious.
 
We are not intrinsically religious so it follows that prayer will not make all of us feel better or at least no worse.
 
Sims claims that if a person feels no remorse after hurting someone that person is ill in some way. As a Christian he would say that Christianity is true normality. You would then be only as normal as you are Christian.
 
Let us study then the relationship between Christianity and goodness.
 
There is no point in taking anything Christianity has to say seriously unless it gives people a reason to be good and do good. It does neither. Suppose we believe that God tells us what is good. We only do that because we judge God as good. No matter what we do, we are only saying something is good because we judge it as good. We are liars if we say we do it because God says it is good. The Christians reply that God supernaturally helps us to see that he is good so it is not a human judgement.  The Bible says that God is ultimately responsible for Christian judgments about himself. The Christian then has to delude himself that his judgements are the same as God's. The Christian's opinions become her God. If that is not an illness then what is?
 
Page 43 asserts that true forgiveness implies that you approve of the person who has done the wrong and that forgiveness can only happen in a relationship and is never solely individual. This is asking people to inflict the delusion of approving of the person but not the wrong the person has done to them.

Pages 138 and 139 deal with the issue of spiritual depression. Sims tries to argue that spiritual depression is not a disorder. Spiritual depression is not clinical depression, he tells us. The book says clinical depression is caused by the person having a temperament that is prone to feeling down, and is a response to some physical illness. What is spiritual depression? Obviously it would require having a proneness to feel down. Sims does not see it as having a physical root or cause. He says spiritual depression is caused by a person receiving great blessings and then ceasing to believe and thank God. Thus the person loses the blessings in the sense that he does not enjoy them anymore. They might be still there but his bad attitude stops them doing him any good.
 
He makes a separation between spiritual and clinical depression. You, the mental health professional, can treat clinical depression but you must not treat spiritual depression. You must not see it as an illness.
 
It is uncaring and bigoted to take that approach.
 
The main problem with clinical depression is that it ruins the person's happiness and relationships. It is horrendous to say that clinical depression is an illness because of that and spiritual depression is not though it ruins a person's life too!
 
It opens the door to a psychiatrist deciding that a person has spiritual depression and he will refuse to help. The person still needs help. And what if clinical depression is being misdiagnosed as spiritual depression? Sims is forcing people to think they have spiritual depression just because no physical cause of their depression has been found. It isn't always possible to find it.
 
Spiritual depression is being used by Sims as an excuse for nudging people into the Church which will be seen as a hospital for their problem. He hopes it will lead to religious cranks and religious people doing what mental health professionals should be doing.

Page 162 lists three problems when psychiatrists work with patients with religious issues:
 
One is that the patient might be against psychiatry on religious grounds.
 
Two is that the professional might ruin the therapy by being against the patient's religious faith.
 
Three, there are issues surrounding cults or faiths that abuse their members. Many who are excluded or excommunicated from the cult exhibit psychiatric symptoms. Sims observes that it is often the case that nobody knows if the psychiatric problems came before this happened or not.
Problems such as feeling possessed or frightened by the gospel message are conveniently ignored.

Sims on page 164 states that a depressed Christian may have the following problems:
 
An inability to accept thanks - when thanked he feels and responds that he was only doing his duty.
 
Feels that everything is going wrong.
 
Takes minor errors as confirmation that he is wholly bad person. Sims should have added in "or basically a bad person".
 
He feels abandoned by God.
 
Sims says these symptoms may indicate spiritual depression or depression as an illness.
 
What Sims does not tell us is that according to the Luke Gospel, Jesus wanted us to be ungrateful for being thanked and to say we are only doing our duty and are useless. Depressed people feel that everything is going wrong. But if they are believers they have demons and Hell and the sinful refusal of the world to worry about. And that is as if they wouldn't have enough to trouble them. Catholicism says that wilfully touching yourself is a mortal sin and means you are cut off from God and will to go Hell forever if you die. This faith urges people to take harmless actions as proof that they are fit only for Hell. It makes good people feel abandoned by God. Some forms of Christianity teach the doctrine that we are thoroughly sinful and anti-god and that we don't do good for the right reasons so it is actually hypocrisy and sin too. This is the traditional view of the Calvinists and Lutherans. Catholicism accepted it because it was taught by evil St Augustine of Hippo.
 
This book pretends that religion is good for your health. If the author were honest he would admit that he means that Christianity is good for your mental health - not religion in general.
 
Psychologists and psychiatrists say that going out of your way to do good for others just is beneficial to mental health. Sims is significantly only interested in promoting religion rather than good works. Christianity condemns selfishness. Is it the fact that selfishness can harm others that is the problem? Is the problem the selfishness or the harming or both? If both then to what degree? You can be selfish and do everything just because you want to indulge yourself without hurting anybody. Though you help others you do it for yourself and not them. Your motivation is selfish. Christianity is just vicious when it condemns that. It is selfish in the harmful sense when it does that. Jesus said we must love God with all our being and we are to love ourselves and our neighbours less than that. That teaching worsens the nastiness.
 
Sims ignores the fact that Roman Catholicism for example when it had enough power, persecuted people until those people ended up insane.
 
He wants to pretend that religious mania does not exist. He would surmise that somebody who prays all the time and recites scriptures is not suffering from religious mania but the person who feels damned is.
 
Sims says that if you become mentally ill, religion may play some part in how you behave but it is not a cause and certainly not the cause of your illness. He never met anybody who was raised in fundamentalist Irish Catholicism and traumatised for life then!
 
He said that "religious beliefs are held with insight - it is understood that others may not share their beliefs". In other words, if you thought everybody else believed the same as you you would be considered to be mentally ill. But what about the person who cannot understand why others do not believe what he believes? Is he not mildly disturbed? It is Christian teaching that deep down everybody knows that God exists and that certain commands such as not to commit adultery or homosexuality or curse parents or steal are wrong for God says so. Not all religious beliefs are held with this "insight".
 
Sims book is an unscientific and unprofessional heap of crap. He does not have the honesty to engage with psychological and psychiatric objections to religion and to Christianity in particular. He just uses a heap of illogical and superficial arguments. His book does nothing to disprove the ideas: "Christian faith is a mental disorder" or "Christianity is as harmful as a mental disorder." It is important to remember that belief in some religions may be an illness but not all.
 
Sims is an outrage and should not be allowed to administer any form of mental health treatment.