Is religion good for anyone's sanity?

BethK
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Is religion good for anyone's sanity?

There is another thread on this site, titled "Study: Religion is Good for Kids". I want to look at it another way: Is religion good for -anyone-? Especially those who are more prone than others to having abnormal or unusual psychological ways of thinking or perceiving.

For instance, most of us would view seeing or hearing things which others neither see nor hear as being a matter for concern. In some cases, it is rightly so, such as the "Son of Sam" having God talk to him through his dog. Other cases are not so dramatic, such as someone believing that their "bad thoughts" about a certain person caused their accidents or death, or believing that Jesus is talking to them personally through their coffeemaker. It is worthy of note that some have equated schizophrenia or psychosis with having a "private religion".

Yet, all or nearly all religions teach that you must have your own personal relationship with the divine or with the object of worship. Many teach that a personal God or Goddess answers prayers. Thus, some people see apparitions of the Virgin Mary appear on toast or biscuits, or see clouds with some sort of religious symbolism that thus "shows them" the course of action that their "God" wishes them to take.

Religiosity, or the condition of being "overly religious" is considered to be a sign of mental illness. But, isn't the word "overly" in the eyes of the beholder? I would venture a guess that Richard Dawkins would define "overly religious" at a much lower threshold than would James Dobson (founder of the fundamentalist Christian organization "Focus on the Family&quotEye-wink. In fact, most religions I've been associated with venerate people who can have "that much faith" or be "so blessed" as to have God or a representative personally come and talk to them or appear to them or to guide them. Many, myself included in some of my theistic days, wish or hope that they too, will be so blessed. Certainly some lie about what they say God tells them, for attention, for respect, or for money and power. Some certainly actually believe it,

What is the difference between a saint and a lunatic? Both are getting personal messages from God. Some are seeing the Virgin Mary who tells them that a certain spring will heal the sick and infirm and get audiences with the Pope, join convents and lead others, whereas others who hear from the Virgin Mary are given medications or put in mental hospitals. What's the difference? Could it be how the message is taken politically? Or, really, whether it is believed as being true or not? A few years ago, the US had a president who had God speak to him and tell him things about how to proceed with war. Did anyone really believe that as literally true? If someone's neighbor told them that God spoke to him daily and told him how to do his job where others' lives depended upon it, that person would be put on a leave of absence pending psychological evaluation or perhaps hospitalized. Or, did the majority of the US population feel comfortable that someone showing signs of serious mental illness, with a cosmology that expected Armageddon, to have access to a very large arsenal of nuclear weapons? Given the fact that they were not used, do we believe that he had God literally speaking to him every day, or was that merely a political stunt? If so, that shows that lots of people accept signs of serious mental impairment if they envy having the illusion of the possibility of having God speak to a human being.

Furthermore, if seeing God, hearing from God, taking dictation from God (Moses or Mohamed) were not accepted and venerated at least sometimes, that gives a large license to those who are not completely mentally "stable" to interpret the misfirings of their neurons as having a divine source. They expect to be venerated or even sainted. The ones who are hospitalized feel that it was done in error which will be discovered - or that it was done out of malice of the "enemy of God" who intend to silence the spokesperson of God.

If it were not so accepted that some people, at least sometimes, can have God speaking or appearing or otherwise sending them personal messages, I think that some people would pull out of the path to utter insanity, or get help, or have help obtained for them MUCH sooner - sometimes, in time for it never to progress to full-blown schizophrenia, or psychotic breakdown, or whatever term. It would probably have the effect of stopping such people as the Son of Sam from going on their murder-sprees at what they believe are directions from God.

BTW, it is worthy of note that people in Islamic countries who go off the deep end never claim to be Mohamed or that Allah is speaking to them directly. Such would be viewed as blasphemy, punishable by the death penalty under Sharia Law. So, people have some understanding of what is and is not acceptable in their culture at least right before or right as they are going into the hole of psychosis.

 

This runs counter to what some psychologists and self-help groups will tell you. They will tell you that FINDING God, putting your trust in that God, "Turning it over" (turning problems over) to God will improve people's mental health, and will badger a nonbeliever into accepting God (even conditionally) or leaving. There are many who believe that everyone "needs" some optimal amount of spirituality - not too little (like an atheist) and not too much (like a lunatic).

 

 

How's my proselytizing? Call 1-800-FANATIC

Beth


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I totally believe that

I totally believe that religion can help some people.  Stress and anxiety come from cognitive dissonance, which is a perceptual thing: the difference between your world as you experience it and your world as you think it's supposed to be.

For a lot of people, where philosophical reality takes a back seat to working hard, making money, and maintaining family responsibilities, the truth isn't really what matters.  What matters is finding an idea that will inspire and sustain them to bear their burden with a smile on their face.

My stepfather, a great man with 160 IQ, used to irritate me as a teen by buying lottery tickets.  I showed him the math, which he congratulated me on and corrected, but he wasn't swayed.  He told me he didn't buy the ticket because he really thought he'd win the money.  He bought it because for maybe 10 minutes he got to daydream about what he'd do with it.  And that was worth a dollar to him.

So given a huge universe where ultimate truth is probably unknowable, and given a lifestyle where philosophical or scientific inquiry is irrelevant to someone, religion can definitely help them.  Secretly, one may not really think there's a God or a heaven.  But he gets to dream about greener fields, instead of staring at the mole on the guy's neck in front of him in the factory for 12 hours 6 days a week.

 

I think too many people place too much importance on truth, whatever that is.  The truth is we live for a while, we do stuff, and then we die.  If someone wants to live in a fantasy world, what's the difference?  As long as he doesn't demand I accept his fantasy or he'll cut my head off, then who cares?  Whatever gets him through his 80 years, that's fine with me.


harleysportster
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I can't speak for everyone of course

Of course, I can't speak for every person on the planet, but religion was probably the most damaging aspect of my life.

However, that was my own personal experiences and can not necessarily be used as actual evidence that religion is bad for people in general.

 BUT, While many people are quick to admit that religion helps alot of people, it is also important to remember that it hurts and kills just as many people, in my opinion.

 

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno


BethK
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I think you guys have the

I think you guys have the same idea I do. I'm not being an apologist for the use of the crutch of religion even if it appears to help.

Yes, religion can appear to help some people. It is a crutch of an imaginary friend who cares about them, but for some unknown reason will not alleviate their suffering or bad situation - except in the cases where it happens by chance. These chance cases are enough to convince believers that God can and will solve problems for the faithful, provided they have enough faith and pray hard enough, and it's not "happening for a reason". Any other reward that was so sporadic would not convince anyone that their "help" was worth anything. Still, people persist.

In some cases, faith in some imaginary friend can help people to help themselves. For instance, in most 12-step programs, people are condescendingly told that they can put their faith in a doorknob if they want if they don't believe in god or a religion. I suppose if it gives someone the incentive they need to stop drinking or doing drugs or whatever else, that is a good thing. They would probably do better if they spent the energy they spend on imaginary friends to re-arrange their life and human friendships as to get them away from the lifestyle that fed into the unwanted behavior. Same as praying for a job. If it gives someone the inspiration to do such things as look in the classifieds, apply for that job that their neighbors' cousin's company has open. If they spent the time they spend praying though filling out job applications and researching companies, they might find a better job faster. If praying for good grades inspires someone to study for the test, it can appear to help. Studying instead of praying would probably help more. Nonetheless, finding inspiration and hope through an imaginary source is fleeting. Secular programs have a higher success rate than the various anonymous programs, simply because they teach you to decide for yourself if you want to stop the behavior, then just plain stop it.

IMX, taking a naturalistic approach is harder to deal with in the short term, but better in the longer term, if one faced with an unsolvable crisis (e.g., the death of a loved one, loss of a home, etc.) to accept that these things happen. People get old and die. It's the natural order. Some people die young from natural causes, accident, or crime. That's also the way things work. Their loved one is not coming back, they will never see them again. The best way is or was to do the best they can with or for the person while they're here. That's part of "living for today", and making the best of what really is. In the event of such a thing, it's more productive to work in some way to either alleviate suffering or to work toward reducing the premature cause of death - like start a neighborhood crime watch, or work for safer vehicles or roads, or do what they can to reduce drunk driving. Or donate to, or work for an organization that will help prevent the cause of death. Or, volunteer for a hospice to help other people nearing the end to help relieve their suffering. Doing anything is more productive than talking to an imaginary friend and begging them to make it go away.

IMO, the harm comes in when some psychologically impaired people have societal permission to believe such nonsense as God talking to them via a burning bush, a piece of burned toast, or a water-pipe. Most of us would thoroughly disbelieve that such things were actually speaking to us, and would certainly not act on anything they said! But, for some who believe and have been told and have read about other people being so "blessed" (specially "loved" by God&quotEye-wink as to get such messages, they may well believe what they are told and take action on it. A few such people may commit horrendous acts to others, more commit horrendous things on themselves, and it seldom works out for anything positive. It is especially harmful when a few cases that appear to have turned out well as far as the people, the message, and some suggestible people who have followed it and believed it, such people are venerated or sainted. It is outright dangerous, especially for some psychologically unbalanced people, to live in hope that they will receive such messages or instructions. It keeps many people from doing something proactive to stop their progression into psychosis in time to prevent it from taking over and destroying their lives - and often the lives of those around them.

How's my proselytizing? Call 1-800-FANATIC

Beth


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bennyboy wrote: The truth

bennyboy wrote:

 The truth is we live for a while, we do stuff, and then we die. 

 

                  ...awesome, isn't it ?

I'm a right wing atheist because I enjoy being hated by everyone.