Is religious faith, a form of schizophrenia?

Discussion in 'Christianity' started by Amergin, Jul 16, 2012.

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Is religion a form of schizophrenia?

  1. 1. Mental structures of religion and schizophrenia are the same.

    2 vote(s)
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  2. 2. Religion and schizophrenia share many brain circuits .

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  3. 3. Coincidental, religious programme is different from psychosis

    1 vote(s)
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  4. 4. There is no similarity

    2 vote(s)
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  1. Amergin

    Amergin Well-Known Member

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    The marked similarity between schizophrenia and intense religious faith.

    I am an Atheist in a four generation Atheistic Family. All were educated, and quite rational and sceptical. During medical school at U. of Edinburgh and my Neuroscience post-grad residency, I first encountered schizophrenia. I was required to rotate with a Psychiatrist in a Psych hospital for 3 months. I remember the common symptoms: delusions, auditory and/or visual hallucinations mostly divine, loss of body limits, ideas of reference, religiosity, paranoia, weakness in mental logic, depersonalisation, belief in a special mission from god, violent behaviour when beliefs are challenged. At that time, I had not encountered Christian Fundamentalists or American evangelicals.

    The condition produces aural and/or visual hallucinations that seem to the sufferer to be unambiguously real. They can be shown not be real, but hallucinations that people keep to themselves may never even be questioned. If I saw God in a full-blown ecstatic delusion, and didn’t know I was delusional, as far as I was concerned I’d have really seen God and I might not question it until I was diagnosed with a mental illness…maybe not even then. On the other side of this, non-religious people with a family history of schizophrenia may experience auditory and visual hallucinations of God and think it is real. It can be a conversion experience like Paul the Apostle experienced.

    The many varied symptoms of schizophrenia are exhibited by a majority of religious people and almost all evangelicals. Of course, not all of them exhibit all the signs/symptoms, and I am not a psychiatrist. However, it does not take a shrink to recognize these as out of the ordinary behavioural/emotional problems. It is when one sees a collection of these symptoms that one would have this person taken to the nearest mental health facility. However, when someone slaps the label of religion on it, it is suddenly ceases to be a metal illness.

    I have treated Epilepsy for 30 years. One type, Complex Partial (temporal lobe seizures) exhibit characteristic religious features. They produce out of body experience, or being one with the cosmos and God, hear a voice (God or saint), heavenly music, see God or past deceased ancestors, some exhibit glossolia “speaking in tongues,” (Cognitive-Linguistic Dissociation.) This is perhaps brought on by intense meditation in non-epileptics such as non-psychotic evangelicals or meditating nuns.. In both groups, the same regions of the brain are identified on fMRI. These are the hippocampus, the superior posterior Left temporal gyrus (auditory), the inferior posterior temporal gyrus (visual), and the inferior parietal lobules (left and right) causing “loss of body boundaries” oneness with god or space, and loss of our centralisation of self in body (out of body experience,) also the anterior frontal lobe.)

    (Schizophrenia.com - Schizophrenia symptoms, possible early warning signs)

    Amergin
     
  2. Dream

    Dream Well-Known Member

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    I think that schizotypal disorder would have a stronger relationship than schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is likely to make a person incompatible with a religion not compatible with it. It is, as you know, distinguished from a schizotypal personality disorder. The question is how to treat someone who has a mental illness. What do you do with them, and how much freedom should they have or not have? Up until the last century most mental ailments could not be understood. Many still are not. Also the mentally ill very likely have played (in the past) a significant role in the social web which makes up a part of the future. I think that the mentally ill that are always among us may self medicate through religious exercise. I do not think, however, that most religious people have an illness.

    About the evangelicals, it is complicated. Also, aren't most of the worst forms of schizophrenia caused by problems in childhood?
     
  3. Sam Albion

    Sam Albion akaFrancisKing:ViveLeRoi!

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    No, religious faith is not the same as schizophrenia.

    I am told I am a schizophrenic. I was given my diagnosis at age 22. My doctors notes said I was a "hebphrenic schizophrenic" and she gave me a "poor prognosis".

    I am now 35. I still hear voices inside my mind that other people do not hear. I have never been an in-patient, I have never been violent (apart from a few juvenile ego-skirmishes, like everybody else). I do not take medication, and I do not see a psychiatrist.

    Why am I not running amok in the streets with an axe? For, if I am a schizophrenic, unmedicated and untreated, then by now I should be raving and barking at the moon.

    Surely?

    Yet, instead of murdering random strangers, I work and earn a living, I create performance art, I write novels, I trained to be a psychiatric nurse, I sat a BSC psych degree, I recycle my paper, glass and plastic. I happily take parcels in for my neighbours.

    Mad indeed.

    I took medication, initially. For just two weeks. I could barely move -- it was too much effort. I slept for 18 hours a day. I developed acne. I could barely breathe. My heart pounded so violently in my chest that I thought I was having a heart attack. I threw the tablets in the bin and I've not taken another since. I am glad I made the decision to throw the tablets away -- the medication they gave me to "cure" me has been withdrawn from the market because it causes cardiac abnormalities such as long QT syndrome and sudden death syndrome.

    If I had listened to those people who supposedly know best, I'd be dead. My heart would've packed in.

    I haven't cured myself. I still hear the voices, all day, every day. Usually, I ignore them. I still occasionally see things that other people don't. Unfortunately for me, I have proof that many of my delusions are not in fact, delusions, but have some basis in fact.

    Let me give you my most recent example...

    I was at a family wedding, just last month. We'd been given the invitations last year, but I'd lost them -- decorating the house, things go missing. Family members arranged to take us to the venue, which, as far as I knew, was in Wales (although it wasn't).

    We rock up at the venue. It's massive! It's like a castle! It's plush. I'm happy.

    Regardless, the week before I'd seen my sister in law. She said the hotel we were going to was haunted. I said I'd mooch around when we got there, and anything I discovered, using my "delusionary abilities", I'd pass on to her.

    I arrive and proceed to take my bags upstairs. On the wall, in the stairwell, were many paintings, but I stopped at a picture of a certain woman. As I looked at her, I started hearing voices. The voice in my mind said -- It was her home, she didn't want to leave, it was a ruin when she got it. I should look at the blue room -- she was very proud of it, but she didn't like the monkeys. I should also see the jacobean fireplace. I'd love it.

    Yes, it sounds like nonsense, doesn't it?

    I'm still on the stairs, with my bag, and my sister in law comes down. I tell her what I'm "hallucinating". She suggests I put my bags away and come for a drink. Which I do.

    In the bar, there is a booklet. The booklet confirms everything I'd just been told. The woman in the painting did indeed once own the house, and when she and her husband bought the place, it was a ruin, with just two walls. The blue room? Was duck egg blue, and gilded. She'd designed it herself, and it was exactly the same as the original. On the walls were monkeys, painted by an artist comissioned by the present owner. The jacobean fireplace? It was downstairs, in the breakfast room. And yes, I did love it.

    Fact, or fiction? Delusion, or fact?

    Now, should I be medicated so I no longer hear these voices? Is it right that I should be committed to a psychiatric hospital and have my human rights taken away, because I hear these voices? I am not dangerous, and nor am I mad. In fact, I could list... twenty or so of these "experiences" where I have proven, beyond doubt, that what I am hallucinating has basis in fact and reality.

    So... am I a schizophrenic, or am I psychic?

    I am opting for psychic.

    I am not suggesting that all people diagnosed with schizophrenia are misdiagnosed psychics. I have spent too long in acute settings to deny schizophrenia exists. It's a horrific state to be in, and I don't see many people with it who can function like I do.

    But, what about me? Am I just an anomaly?

    Am I just a "high functioning" schizophrenic? Do I have some kind of schizophreniform illness, instead of "proper" schizophrenia? Or am I not, in fact, mentally ill, but psychic?

    If I am, how many others are there, like me, who are told they are mad, and their perceptions are delusory and unfactual? How many people like me are given a diagnosis and brain damaged by medications when instead, they'd be better off without?

    I don't know. I'd hazard a guess at one in ten.

    Believing in God is not considered delusional, in conventional psychiatry. Neither is believing in aliens. It's culturally acceptable in some societies, and therefore is not considered to be a true delusion. It's the same with me -- you might not believe that I am psychic, but within my culture, being psychic is not an impossibility. And is, therefore, not delusional.

    The "symptoms" I have, the hearing voices? Again, within my culture, there are people who also hear and see things other people do not see. We call them "spiritualists", or "psychics". And yes, many of them are frauds, and many of them seem to use various techniques such as cold reading, but not all of them do. I don't.

    I don't profess to be any great shakes. I don't have all the answers. I can't help you learn to be like me. I don't think I'm a saint. I haven't been "chosen" by God to lead the people to a new way of being. I don't even pretend to understand it, yet. Maybe I will, eventually. But, in the meantime, I live with it. And, as far as I'm aware, I'm entitled to believe whatever I like.
     
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Check out this issue of New Scientist:

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  5. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Interesting topic. Yes, there are some religiously-fueled psychoses. Are they any more prevalent than others? Not according to APA. Is religiousity itself psychotic? I certainly hope not. Not just for my sake but for say, Hartshorne, Whitehead, Pierce, Heidengger, Prigogine, Stapp, Shimony!
     
  6. Dream

    Dream Well-Known Member

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    What a great quote! I think I'll quote you on that sometime in the future when you are least expecting it. :p
     
  7. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Sorry, but the presentation of your argument is so flawed, it's what Ben Goldacre and Marcus Chown call 'bad science'.

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  8. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    Ehem. Before modern psychology, who was it that gave psychological counseling? Wasn't it the shaman, priest, or other religious figure of the group/culture? ;)
     
  9. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    Interesting, I wonder how many can replace the word Atheistic with Baptist, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim, etc.

    So many are indoctrinated by their entire clan to grow up in the belief systems of their family....

    Now to me, a died in the wool proselytizing Atheist is no different than any over zealous religionist with the notion that s/he knows all and the rest know nothing.

    I have the highest respect for the agnostic...one who is smart enough to admit s/he doesn't know....rather than either side who swear they have the only corner on the truth.

    Lastly it appears to me that folks that make an argument that the other side is crazy is an indication that they realize they don't have any solid ground to stand on for their argument.
     
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    And let us not forget ...

    That the order of experience that Amergin points to is the same order of experience spoken of by people such as William Blake, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Vincent Van Gogh, Marcel Proust, Albert Camus, Hermann Hesse ... so do we declare them to be schizophrenic as well?

    There's a really interesting paper here on the link between mysticism and epilepsy ... with rather startling suggestions.

    The paper examines the links without assuming that the 'sufferer' is indeed afflicted with an 'illness' that seems like an open-minded approach, to me ...

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  11. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    "Is religious faith, a form of schizophrenia?"

    --> There are definitely people who are mentally imbalanced or just extremely needy, and they use religion as an unhealthly way of dealing with their psychological problems.
     
  12. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    Yet another reason to agree with Thich Nhat Hanh when he equates being filled with mindfulness the same as being filled with the holy spirit.
     
  13. Bhaktajan II

    Bhaktajan II Hare Krishna Yogi

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    The insane repeat the same INCORRECT act so as to accomplish something ---but since they are doing it wrong 'repeatedly' there is no profit to be gained . . .

    Four Generations?

    WWI Generation
    WWII Generation
    Korean War Generation
    Vietnam War Generation

    . . . uhm? What Generation came next???????????

    http://www.interfaith.org/forum/god-and-god-know-ye-15025-9.html#post268923

    There is a common denouminator that keeps future Karma enmass pent-up until a latent nature that spills out!

    Ironically, One man's insanity is another man's bread and butter industry --replete with dividens.

    http://www.interfaith.org/forum/the-bible-is-clear-on-12982-2.html#post230776
     
  14. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    My family's tradition is this: children shall be raised to have their own minds. Consequentially, we have an extremely wide range of religious beliefs--ranging from conservative to liberal Christians, to mystics, to agnostics, to secularists, atheists, pagans, new age of various stripes, and me. :D

    We all get along fine.
     
  15. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    Delusional behavior can be a symptom of schizophrenia. A delusion is a belief that is held based on false foundations. No one can prove that God, gods, spirits, exist, yet people go on believing in this nonesense anyway. And there's a double standard among psychiatrists that it is OK to believe in God in the Abrahamic sense or the supernatural. The argument is that it is not a delusion if the majority hold this belief. People have the right to believe in whatever they want to as long as they're not going to hurt themselves or anyone else. I think its very hypocritical though. The psychiatrists are supposed to be the ones grounding us in reality not telling us it's ok to belief in some primal motivation like God, the gods, or spirits that can not be proven to exist and which influences our decisions and our morals and our laws.
     
  16. Sam Albion

    Sam Albion akaFrancisKing:ViveLeRoi!

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    thanks for posting that link, Thomas-- have read half-- will read the rest tomorrow
     
  17. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    Calm down, exile! ;)
    It's also ok to believe in Plato's world of forms or the Tao.
     
  18. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    Either Plato or the Platonic school wrote Alcabiades I 300-2 BCE. The Platonic school knew of Zarathushtra. Alcabiades I describes the how the Persians were followers of Zarathushtra, how Zarathushtra was the father of the Magi, and how Zarathushtra was the son of Ahuramazda, the same God by expression, not by name, that is described in the New Testament.

    The Zarathushtrian concept of both a material world and spiritual world and Plato's concept of a physical world and a perfect world said to be descendant from a common ancestor. But after reading Alcabiades I wouldn't be surprised if that was actually a Zarathushtrian concept. The philosophers, Socrates, worshiped deities that were foreign to the Greek religious heritage and they were even charged with impiety or put to death. It could have been Zarathushtrian deities that they were worshiping due to Medism in Greek city states.

    The Aramaic Bible tells us how Zarathushtra was the man who sent the Magi to Jesus. Marco Polo tells us that Magi from Iran were the first people to have come into contact with Jesus and that the sacred Zarathushtrian fire was the gift that they got in return for their gifts to Jesus.
     
  19. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    Ok, so it's ok to posit some theories, (especially if they come from Zarathushtra,) but not others, especially if they come from Semetic (Abrahamic) sources?
     
  20. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Post #15 exile: Delusional behavior can be a symptom of schizophrenia. A delusion is a belief that is held based on false foundations. No one can prove that God, gods, spirits, exist, yet people go on believing in this nonesense anyway. Well, no one has ever been able to “prove” that an ego or id exists either—why is belief in spirit nonsense?

    And there's a double standard among psychiatrists that it is OK to believe in God in the Abrahamic sense or the supernatural. Believing in the supernatural is a double standard compared to, let’s say, believing in M-brane theory (it too, has no empirical content)?

    The argument is that it is not a delusion if the majority hold this belief. One will not find that in the DSM IV as a definition. For instance, believing that G!D pours H!s spirit over me (in a meta-physical and experiential sense) is not delusional since it is not empirically refutable. Believing G!D to be a six-foot, white-bearded old man who looks like D R Finkelstein (uncanny resemblance to Michelangelo’s painting) who physically transports me for visits to H!s throne during services is delusional (I can be filmed sitting in Meeting).

    People have the right to believe in whatever they want to as long as they're not going to hurt themselves or anyone else. I think its very hypocritical though. Believing in what you want is hypocritical? Is it hypocritical to want a cool day or rain for the garden?

    The psychiatrists are supposed to be the ones grounding us in reality not telling us it's ok to belief in some primal motivation like God, the gods, or spirits that can not be proven to exist and which influences our decisions and our morals and our laws. No, psychiatrists are supposed to treat mental (neurological or psychiatric) disorder, not determining what reality is for us. Some (see Amit Goswami) believe the world is mental, and do quite well in dealing with the world. Some (see Daniel Dennett) believe mentality is a epiphenomena of brain chemistry and does equally well. Some (see Roger Penrose) believe in a Platonic and Aristotelian universe, Forms and all, and do well. Some (see Henry Stapp) believe in a Heraclitian world of Whitehead’s Process Philosophy and do well in the world. None of these can be proven, all impact their morals and politics, what harm is done?
     

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