I want to thank everyone who responded to my last post for engaging in such a thoughtful, serious discussion in a reasoned and civil manner, when the emotional topic easily could have provoked a shouting match. It made me wonder, as one spot-on comment after another appeared, why is Xanga so NICE?
I know there are jerks, creeps, and lowlifes of all sorts in Xangaland. I occasionally stumble across their blogs. I quietly go on my way and they never know I was there. Perhaps those who think I’m a lowlife also depart without making themselves known. Whatever the reason, I truly appreciate the ability to express my sometimes unorthodox views here without getting flamed.
Ok, so here are some more of those views. See, I’m not quite done with my last train of thought.
I’ve suspected for a long time that a connection exists between religion and mental illness. I do NOT mean that religious people are crazy, in general. But here are some impressions I have:
Years ago I worked with pediatric psych patients. We mostly had kids with major behavioral issues on the ward, but once in a while we got a psychotic teenager. If you’ve never seen someone in the midst of a psychotic break, I’m here to tell you, it is truly terrifying, for the patient and for their family. But what struck me the most was that ALL of the psychotic kids I met during those years had very religious families. Sometimes whole packs of relatives would visit and sit in a circle around the kid, reading aloud from the bible. It creeped me out.
Many of the spectacular cases of crazy-person-done-something-awful in the last 10 years have involved religion. Andrea Yates is an example of that. Although she knew that killing her children violated the law, she believed she was acting in their best interests. She was saving them from something–eternal damnation? In an eerily similar case, another Texas woman cut off her baby’s arms. I don’t know what her rationale was, but the 911 operator could hear hymns playing in the background.
About schizophrenia: many studies have been done on the causes of this condition. It is currently believed that there is both a genetic and an environmental mechanism. In other words, some people are born with a predisposition to schizophrenia, but they will develop the illness only if there is a trigger.
So here is my radical thesis of the day: For some people who have the schizophrenia gene, religion is the trigger that sparks the psychotic break. Perhaps because having faith in an unseen, omnipotent deity makes it easier to believe in other things that can’t be seen, like the voices in your head.
Note that I do not have statistics supporting my contention that religious people have a higher incidence of psychosis. It is my subjective and probably prejudicial impression. But when you come right down to it, many of the things religious people believe seem delusional to me. And some of the things allegedly sane folks do in the name of religion, like flying airplanes full of people into large buildings, seem just as crazy as any hallucination a psychotic person could come up with.