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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
Religion as schizophrenia 
Thursday, June 17th, 2010 | 12:31 pm [commentary, religion]
Steve's New Userpic
Ashley is always bringing home these little bits of treasure from the library. Tuesday night she walked through the door carrying maybe her coolest piece of plunder to date: The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition — the DSM-IV. To a student of psychiatry or trained mental health professional, it's an invaluable tool, a common reference to hundreds of disorders, tested and refined over six decades, used to study and diagnose patients all across the country.
 
To smartasses like us, it’s an encyclopedia of insanity.
 
You can infer a little something about our personalities from which areas of the DSM-IV we initially gravitated toward. Ashley turned right to the section on eating disorders, getting the clinical perspective on bulimia and anorexia, as well as the far less sexy pica (eating stuff that’s not food) and rumination disorder (essentially chewing your cud — fuck, it’s disgusting). I went right for schizophrenia.
 
Check out what the manual has to say about the characteristic symptoms of schizophrenia, and see if it sounds like you or anyone you know:
 

The positive symptoms . . . include distortions or exaggerations of inferential thinking (delusions), perception (hallucination), language and communication (disorganized speech), and behavioral monitoring (grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior) . . .

 

Delusions . . . are erroneous beliefs that usually involve a misinterpretation of perceptions or experiences. Their content may include a variety of themes (e.g. persecutory, referential, somatic, religious, or grandiose). Persecutory delusions are most common; the person believes he or she is being tormented, followed, tricked, spied on, or subjected to ridicule. Referential delusions are also common; the person believes that certain gestures, comments, passages from books, newspapers, song lyrics, or other environmental cues are specifically directed at him or her. The distinction between a delusion and a strongly held idea is sometimes difficult to make and depends on the degree of conviction with which the belief is held despite clear contradictory evidence.

 
You all see where I’m going with this, so allow me to cut right to it: I think religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is a form of schizophrenia. The DSM’s diagnostic criteria require that a patient display two or more of those positive symptoms for at least a one-month period. So dig this: 
 
Delusions 
 
Tell me if these qualify as distortions or exaggerations of inferential thinking:
 
—The conviction, in the total absence of supporting evidence, and despite overwhelming circumstantial evidence to the contrary, that there exists an omnipotent, benevolent, invisible god who frequently visited Earth and interacted with humans in the past, whose will created and sustains reality, and whose ultimate plan determines all the events of our lives. 
 
—The conviction, on the basis of contradictory second-hand accounts, that a man who lived in Palestine 2,000 years ago was the literal son of that invisible god, worked miracles, revived corpses, and eventually returned to life following his own death and appeared to multitudes of witnesses before ascending bodily into an eternal spiritual realm.
 
—The conviction that this son of god regularly intervenes on behalf of those who believe in him and ask for his assistance.
 
—The conviction, held by many, that the invisible god or his son (or sometimes the human mother of the son) routinely reveal themselves through visions or apparitions, or perceived images hidden within natural or man-made phenomena (clouds, bird droppings, wood grain patterns, pancakes, pieces of toast, etc.).
 
—The conviction that the return of this son of god to Earth from the spiritual realm is imminent, and that his return will initiate a transformation of reality, with the invisible god and his son assuming direct control of the Earth, granting eternal life to his followers and consigning those who don’t worship him to a dimension of everlasting torment. 
 
Hallucinations 
 
Many Christians believe they experience direct communication with their invisible god via what they call spiritual gifts, or charismatic gifts. These gifts are:
 
—The word of wisdom, where the invisible god provides the Christian with a previously hidden insight into his message or intentions.
 
—The word of knowledge, where the invisible god reveals to the Christian specific information about another person, allowing the Christian to minister to or pray for that person more effectively.
 
—Faith healing, where the invisible god empowers a Christian or a group of Christians to heal injuries and cure illnesses through the power of prayer or the laying on of hands.
 
—Speaking in tongues, where the invisible god causes the Christian to speak in an unknown language which is understood by the speaker but interpreted as gibberish by others.
 
—The gift of discernment, where the invisible god grants the Christian the ability to determine the invisible god’s specific intentions for his or her life, allowing the Christian to act accordingly. 
 
Disorganized speech 
 
I think we covered this up there with speaking in tongues. But if you need something besides, more toward the “incoherent speech severe enough to substantially impair effective communication” end of things, I’ve also heard Rod Parsley routinely use phrases like “strategic inflection point” that I know he can’t have the foggiest comprehension of. 
 
Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior 
 
This one stumped me at first, but check out this elaboration courtesy of
Schizophrenia.com:
 

Grossly disorganized behavior includes difficulty in goal-directed behavior (leading to difficulties in activities in daily living), unpredictable agitation or silliness, social disinhibition, or behaviors that are bizarre to onlookers.

 
Taking that as a starting point, it’s easy to come up with a whole pile of examples, none more wrenching than
the case of Madeline Neumann, whose parents watched her die of undiagnosed, untreated diabetes, having chosen to pray for her healing rather than take her to a doctor even once in her eleven years. If failing to take your vomiting, weak, rapidly fading child to a doctor doesn’t qualify as difficulty in goal-directed behavior, I don’t know what does.
 
Take your haloperidol, Christians.

Comments 
Friday, June 18th, 2010 | 03:30 pm (UTC)
Pica is a MENTAL illness???? In my world, it was a symtom of severe anemia, which is now treated with transfusions.

Actually, a very heavy belief in xtianity IS often recognized as a symptom of mental illness.

I wonder what would happen if we tried to cast demons out of our autistic adopted son? Here in Kansas, I wouldn't be surprised if such a thing would mean he is no longer disbaled....................
Friday, June 18th, 2010 | 04:13 pm (UTC)
Really? So the pica went away once the anemia had been treated? That's very cool, I've never heard of that.

But, yeah, according to the DSM-IV, pica is a mental disorder (code # 307.52). It mentions nothing about it being an outgrowth of a physical condition, other than being frequently associated with mental retardation.
Friday, June 18th, 2010 | 05:12 pm (UTC)
Mental retardation??? Hahahaha.......that's funny, Steve! My IQ was off the charts, in a GOOD way, and my children are all honor students, and my daughter is already being considered for valedictorian of her class! Perhaps her conformity and my allowing of same is "retarded"!(her desire to "never get into any trouble" and be liked by all of her teachers IS a cause of concern to me, though!)Pica is a symptom of severe anemia. One finds oneself craving things like paint chips, ice, dirt, and other non-food items. I first noticed it when I reached puberty. It got worse with each pregnency. I drove people crazy at work by crunching ice cubes! I got into lots of trouble with gym teachers back in grade school for not being able to run as fast as other kids. It was also a problem at Damascus High. I guess I can see why teachers thought I was not a nice kid, I never wanted to play basketball or run.(where's the eye-rolley when I need it?) I was good at math, though! Seriously........the prob I have is called Beta Thalessemia, and transfusions are the only way to treat it. It just involves red blood celss being too small to carry oxygen, no delusions or inordinate beliefs in God! I am very glad I wasn't diagnosed until after my children were born, though, because I might have made other choices, had I known. No one ever presented it to me as a mental illness, though. My stepmother always thought I was crazy.........maybe that's what she meant! Hahaha! She believes in God, though, and thinks I brought demons and Satan into her home! My Dad almost dumped her over it!
Sunday, June 20th, 2010 | 04:07 am (UTC)
Anonymous
I, too, am familiar with pica as being a side effect of a vitamin/mineral deficiency. But, my guess is that pica could have a number of causes, and in some people where there is not a physical explanation, it may be linked to a mental illness.
Sunday, June 20th, 2010 | 04:53 am (UTC)
Anonymous
A part of me would like to argue against your christianity = schizophrenia theory, but sadly, I have known too many people that fit the bill.

For instance,
A childhood friend of mine had the misfortune of being born to very strict baptist parents. She was not allowed to wear anything but dresses, they had no tv and she was not allowed to listen to secular music. Every week she had to memorize verses from the bible and recite them after dinner. If she got them wrong, she was physically punished. But, that's not even the crazy part. Back then, Smurfs were all the rage. There wasn't a kid around that didn't own a Smurf stuffed animal or two. Anyway, my friend's church told her parents that The Smurfs practiced sorcery (I shit you, not) and were evil. According to the church, some kid had been violently attacked by a demon Smurf doll. Her parents promptly bagged up her Smurf toys and disposed of them. What's sad is that my friend, being a little kid, believed the whole story and came to my house in a panic to warn me of the danger. How's that for crazy?


But, if I may nitpick, why do you think Christianity in "particular" is a form of mental illness. What do you see about it that is more crazy than any other religion?

-Kim
Sunday, June 20th, 2010 | 04:15 pm (UTC)

That's pretty crazy, and I have nothing in my personal experience to even approach it. I know Ashley had some trouble with her religious upbringing. Her parents would confiscate books and overreact to her wearing black nail polish, stuff like that, but I know of no reports of demonic stuffed animals. Though maybe she just hasn't told me about that yet . . .

I only say Christianity "in particular" because it's the faith I have the most first-hand experience with. I've known followers of Judaism and Islam, but not in large enough numbers to have encountered fanatics (the Jews and Muslims I've known have all been pleasant and reasonable people), and pretty much every Wiccan I've met has been a benign goofball. The only religious folks I've known who wore their faith's most repugnant teachings on their sleeves have been Christians.

But you're right; there's nothing about Christianity that makes it any crazier than any other faith you could name. In terms of how their beliefs line up with reality, they're all equally out to lunch.
Sunday, June 20th, 2010 | 09:58 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
Are you referring to the belief in the immaculate conception, the mystery of the cross, or the fact that xians never seem to be satisfied until everyone is xian? Other religions have thier individual quirks that must be accepted on faith alone, but christianity really pushes the bounderies of reality with those three things.

Of course, attempting to carry on a civil discussion about anything with someone who truly believes that there are demons waiting for them around every corner is not easy,either. My Dad married someone who, to this day, felt that yours truly brought demons into her home, and did not want me to live there because of all the demonic presences that ensued whenever I walked into the room. She told me that when I was three, she tells my kids that now. I feel truly sorry for that poor baptist girl, and I hope she was able to get over it and live a normal life.
Sunday, June 20th, 2010 | 10:04 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
How does an inanimate smurf doll attack someone? Does this only happen in Christian homes? If so, would Christian children be safer in the care offoster parents, who are more likely to have accounts with orkin and get rid of those pesky demonically possessed items?
Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 | 06:07 am (UTC)
Anonymous
crazy is what crazy does, I guess. Back in my day, it took a whole lot more than what I shared here to be considered off your rocker. It was a different time.

-Kim
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