HOME   People do good because they are human, not because they are religious! 

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Is Faith Delusion?
A Look at the Book by Andrew Sims

 

Many, even believer suspect that faith in God or Christianity is a sign of a disturbed mind.
 
Andrew Sims wrote the book Is Faith Delusion? which examines religious faith in the light of psychiatry and psychology. It asks if faith in religion encourages delusion and is based on delusion. So is faith a delusion? 

 

Sims as we say wants to argue that it is not.  But he gives no sensible or non-delusional reason for the no.  The jury is still out and religion is still under grave suspicion as dangerous to mental health if not an actual mind disorder.
 
The book's biggest flaw is its cardinal doctrine that if religious people have physically normal brains they are sane though they may report strange religious experiences and encounter what they believe to be God. That is nonsense. It is arrogant because nobody claims to know exactly how the human mind works or what forces there are that pull its strings.
 
Who is to say what a "normal" or "healthy" brain is? If everybody has healthy brains and think that God is making revelations to them all the time, then the consequences will be terrible. Normal life will be impossible. If everybody had mystical experiences all the time, that would prove that our criteria of a normal brain is faulty. Do not look at the brain and judge mystical experiences normal. Look at the consequences if everybody reported such experiences all the time. We judge a person who cuts their ears off for fun as abnormal simply because if everybody did that there would be grave problems and trouble. So those who have religious experiences are simply disturbed - period.


It is a mistake to assume that to be mentally ill, one must have wrong chemicals in the brain or abnormal brainwaves. The person who has a physically normal brain but who believes that the world is made of cheese is insane. God is an impersonal spirit if he exists. He does not reason or think for he knows all things. He does not have feelings. Though God is described as personal this is really not a helpful description for he is nothing like a person as we know it. Clearly people who say they have a relationship with him are as crazy if not worse than the seemingly sane and happy people who think they are in a relationship with their floor mop.

 

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.
 
Page 61 reminds us that Freud in Moses and Monotheism stated that faith in the one true God is a delusion. This helped lead to warfare between psychiatry and Christianity. In the 1960's, most psychiatrists were hostile towards the Christian faith (page 65). The psychiatric text books ignored religion generally but in one instance stated that religion is for the hesitant, those suffering from strong guilt, those who were afraid or unable to attain the right attitude and beliefs with cope with life (page 65). Of course all of this is correct. The fact that belief in God and doing good have no real connection proves that.
 
Sims would agree with the following reasoning: "People usually tell the truth. Even a liar has to tell the truth most of the time in order to seem believable when he lies. We don‘t assume that somebody is lying as our default position. Those who want us to believe that the witnesses of Jesus' resurrection were lying carry the burden of proof. Those who believingly assert that religious people are lying or deceived when they think religion is good for them carry the burden of proof."


But you may be able to prove a person is wrong to say something but you can never prove that they are lying. To lie means you have to intend to lie. Telling what is untrue when you think it is the truth is not lying.
 
If you meet a drunk who says he played cards with the Devil the night before and you decide that he is deluded or dreamt it and assert as much, it is stupid to say the burden of proof is on you to prove it.
 
Page 71 says there should be no proselytising of patients. This directly contradicts the teaching of Christianity that promoting the faith is of paramount importance and that God is to be prioritised and loving him matters ultimately and not you or your neighbour. Hellfire and brimstone teacher, Jesus treated everybody as if they were in grave danger of Hell and even ransacked the temple to make this point. Christians are hypocrites and counterfeit their religion for their own ends. They say Jesus was infallible God and they still pick and choose his teachings and try to improve on him. If the faith is the most important thing ever, they say it is - and if the Holy Spirit has the miraculous power to change hearts and minds so that people see and embrace the truth - then it should be propagated among the sick and the infirm and the dying as a matter of priority. Upsetting them is better than just saying nothing and letting them go to Hell.
 
I don't know if he sees evangelism as okay when it is about advertising the faith through good works and prayers as opposed to trying to bully anyone to believe. It may be that he sees proselytism and evangelism as the same thing.
 
Page 86 states that if we believe in randomness then what happens in our minds is meaningless. So we need to believe that nothing is really random and God controls and knows all things.
 
We do need to believe in randomness. If I start thinking that winning the lottery was fixed by God then it makes no sense for me to enjoy things that come about by chance for I don't believe in chance. And why bother with lotteries if they are fixed anyway? Healthy people believe that some things are random and some things are not. Belief in God violates our nature and our welfare by inferring that chance is impossible and that what we think is chance is not chance at all.
 
Page 114 states that magic or superstitious thinking is different from religious experience. For example the magician thinks he can control God. The person who prays thinks he or she can't control God and that it is up to God to reply to the prayer or not. It says that Christians in British cultures on the whole are not superstitious and that they do not believe in superstitions or magic. Sims states that some religions are harmful and it is these that are bad for your health. He thinks religion only harms when it is abused.
 
If believers really believed that prayer does not manipulate God they would simply resign themselves to God's will by prayerfully saying, "Do what you will." But they ask for things. If you ask for a bike you are saying you want the bike whether it is God's will or not. If you were not doing that, you would be indifferent to getting the bike or not getting it for your only concern would be to see God's will done. You are not asking him to do his will but you are resigning yourself to his will. Asking then is not praying but is selfish cynical manipulation. Believers are superstitious. Period.
 
Also, people who pray and occultists who do magic spells both use excuses when they don't get what they pray or cast spells for. If a sick person dies, both conclude that the divine had to let the person die for a purpose and so the prayers or spells could not bring any results.
 
Page 121 reminds us that symptoms and signs are not the same thing. For example, a symptom of schizophrenia would be the sufferer has an auditory hallucination. A sign would be when he uses words that do not exist - made up words. A sign indicates what the disease is. The symptom is the patient's complaint or problem - eg depression. Page 124 says that if somebody reports an experience, you must learn what the experience means to him or her before diagnosing anything or deciding that the person is in fact not ill at all.
 
This is interesting. Surely the more a person prays then the more he gives signs that he could be mentally ill.
 
Page 150 tells us that if being a religious believer is a sign of mental illness then all religious activities are signs of mental problems.
 
"A delusion is a false, unshakeable idea or belief, which is out of keeping with the patient's educational, cultural and social background; it is held with extraordinary conviction and subjective certainty" (page 124).
 
This definition indicates that if you are the only person with a belief then the belief may be a delusion because the belief is not understandable or justifiable.
 
The Pharisees Jesus condemned were said by the gospels to be hypocrites. They were therefore out of keeping with their background. And they were so sure of themselves that they couldn't see how hypocritical they were. Jesus called them blind guides for that reason.
 
If a priest says mass backwards on a Sunday that is s sign he is deluded.
 
If a man argues that God exists because his Easter egg tasted good that shows he is deluded.
 
If a person doesn't wonder if they are deluded or not then that is a sign that they are deluded.
 
The deluded often love their delusions. They may PRETEND to wonder if they're deluded in order to seek support for their delusion.
 
If a person thinks very literally - eg that if they give their heart to God their heart has vanished from their body and is now in God's hands that is a sign of delusion.
 
Delusions can take any of the following forms:
 
Delusions of persecution

 

Morbid irrational jealousy

 

Delusions of grandeur

 

Delusions of love

 

Delusions of guilt

 

Delusions of control

 

Religious delusions (page 126).

 

The delusions are not bad simply because they are delusions but because they do harm. For example, to falsely think you are being persecuted is not good for you and neither is the idea that you have power and control that you do not have. Nobody needs treatment for harmless delusions. But if you believe in Bible Christianity you will feel persecuted by demons which are all around us according to Christ, feel jealous for God and hate to see people having any idols, feel that God loves you without evidence, feel that you can manipulate God though prayer and have religious delusions. Even if these are not necessarily delusions they are just as horrible. All together they are worse than having say a delusion of guilt.
 
Page 128 argues that though you can have religious delusions having religious faith is not necessarily delusion.
 
Sims lists the reasons why he thinks religious belief or faith is not delusion:
 
The beliefs are not against one's culture or social background. COMMENT - THEN THE REFORMERS MUST HAVE BEEN MENTALLY ILL FOR DEFYING ALL THAT WITH NEW RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. JESUS MUST HAVE BEEN DELUDED WHEN HE HAD SO MANY DIFFERENCES WITH HIS JEWISH BACKGROUND THAT HE DIED ALONE ON A CROSS.

 

They are understandable and justifiable.

 

COMMENT: HE SEEMS TO BE THINKING OF THE BELIEFS BEING UNDERSTANDABLE AND JUSTIFIABLE IN A PERSONAL BUT NOT EVIDENTIAL WAY. HE MIGHT SEE SOMEBODY BELIEVING BECAUSE THEIR COMMUNITY BELIEVES AS UNDERSTANDABLE AND JUSTIFIABLE. BUT THE FACT REMAINS, THAT UNLESS THE BELIEFS ARE BASED ON RESEARCH AND CRITICAL THOUGHT AND EVIDENCE THEY ARE NEITHER UNDERSTANDABLE OR JUSTIFIABLE. AND INDEED THE CHRISTIANS WHO CAN ABLY DEFEND AT LEAST SOME OF THEIR BELIEFS IN A RATIONAL WAY ARE FEW AND FAR BETWEEN. MOST CANNOT AND SO THEY ARE DELUDED. PERIOD. ALSO THERE ARE BELIEFS THAT ARE NOT UNDERSTANDABLE OR JUSTIFIABLE. WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE THE MESSAGE OF THE BOOK "THE SECRET" THAT HITLER'S VICTIMS BROUGHT THEIR SUFFERING ON THEMSELVES FOR NOT USING THE MAGIC OF POSITIVE THINKING? ALSO, EVEN IF A RELIGION CAN PRESENT EVIDENCE THAT ITS BELIEFS ARE PROBABLY TRUE, IT DOES NOT FOLLOW THAT IT REALLY BELIEVES BECAUSE OF THE EVIDENCE. IT IS POSSIBLE TO SAY YOU BELIEVE IN SOMETHING THERE IS EVIDENCE FOR WHILE YOU DON'T GIVE A TOSS ABOUT THE EVIDENCE. CAN YOU HAVE FAITH AND EVIDENCE FOR IT AND NOT BELIEVE BECAUSE OF THE EVIDENCE? ASSUMING FAITH DOESN'T ALWAYS DEPEND ON EVIDENCE THE ANSWER WOULD BE YES.

 

They are not crudely literal or concrete - eg, when you think you sense the voice of God in prayer you don't mean you hear an audible voice.

 

COMMENT: CHRISTIANS BELIEVE THAT GOD MOSTLY COMMUNICATES WITHOUT ACTUALLY SPEAKING. IF THERE IS NO GOD OR IF HE IS NOT COMMUNICATING THEN YOU ARE DELUDED FOR YOU ARE MISTAKING YOUR OWN IMPRESSIONS FOR HIS MESSAGE. IF BELIEVERS REALLY BELIEVE IN THIS FORM OF DIVINE COMMUNICATION, WHY DON'T THEY MURDER PEOPLE AND SAY THAT WAS BECAUSE THEY FELT THAT GOD TOLD THEM TO? IF GOD USES EVIL FOR GOOD THEN IF THEY FEEL HE IS TELLING THEM TO KILL, THERE IS NOTHING ANYBODY CAN DO TO REASON THEM OUT OF IT. ONCE YOU SAY GOD USES EVIL, YOU ADMIT THE POSSIBILITY THAT HE CAN COMMAND YOU TO KILL FOR HE KILLS ANYWAY. THE REALITY CHECK IS TAKEN AWAY FROM YOU. FEELING THAT GOD IS COMMUNICATING IS ACTUALLY MORE DELUSIONAL THAN HEARING AN AUDIBLE VOICE FOR YOU WILL NOT HEED THE VOICE JUST BECAUSE YOU HEAR IT BUT YOU MIGHT HEED IT BECAUSE YOU FEEL IT REALLY IS GOD. YOU HAVE MORE REASON TO TAKE A VOICE SERIOUSLY THAN ANY ALLEGED PSYCHIC POWER THAT TELLS YOU THAT GOD IS COMMUNICATING WITH YOU INAUDIBLY AND THROUGH YOUR IMPRESSIONS AND EMOTIONS.

 

Believers understand that others may not accept their beliefs and that they might be wrong.

 

COMMENT: SOME RELIGIONS CLAIM TO BE ALL FACTUAL AND EVERYBODY ELSE IS WRONG BUT THEM. THE VATICAN STILL DOES THAT. AND MANY BELIEVERS DENY THAT THEIR FAITH COULD BE WRONG AND STATE THAT THEIR DOCTRINES ARE NOT REALLY BELIEFS BUT FACTS. JESUS COMMANDED US TO BE CERTAIN THAT HIS TEACHING IS CORRECT.

 

If religion does strange things at worship it does not do similar things in ordinary daily life. For example, priests claim to turn bread into Jesus. The priest does not claim that his doorstop is really his father.

 

COMMENT: AT LEAST HE ADMITS THAT RELIGIOUS PEOPLE DO THINGS THAT AROUSE A SUSPICION OF DELUSION OR MENTAL ILLNESS. BUT HE SEEMS TO ARGUE THAT QUANTITY NOT QUALITY MATTERS - A STRANGE STANCE! THE MAN WHO RANTS AND RAVES FOR FIVE MINUTES EVERY DAY AND WHO IS FINE OTHERWISE WILL NOT BE REGARDED AS A WELL MAN. THE PRIEST MIGHT TURN BREAD INTO JESUS ONCE A DAY FOR A LITTLE WHILE AND THAT IS STRANGE BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ATTITUDE HE CARRIES ABOUT ALL DAY? IF HIS ACTION IS STRANGE SO IS HIS ATTITUDE THAT HE CAN TURN BREAD INTO JESUS AT WILL. THE ATTITUDE IS THERE ALL DAY EVERY DAY. IT IS A BIGGER ISSUE THAN THE LITTLE TIME HE SPENDS CELEBRATING MASS.

 

 Sims should know that believers who fuse reason and evidence and faith and who are careful to be open to new light are the only ones who might not be delusional. But he is silent on it. He is just an apologist for blind faith or reckless faith.
 
Page 130 lists illnesses and forms of derangement that are not delusion. One item on the list is the overvalued idea. This is when somebody values an idea too much. For example, if a person thinks it is a sin to be gay, they may go and murder gay people.
 
Page 131 states that hearing voices does not necessarily imply that a person is hallucinating or mentally ill as long as the person doesn't think other people can hear them too. It says it is experienced not as something outside oneself but as something interior.
 
Christianity regards people who never sensed any such voice as prophets of God. For example, the Bible authors are supposed to have felt that God was inspiring them but they did not hear any voices. Surely then somebody that hears a voice and thinks its God's should have more authority than any of those people? Surely if the voice could be God's then the more people hearing his voice the better? This is a disturbing thought and shows that belief in God is harmful for implying that the answer is yes.
 
Many would argue that mothers who kill their children because they believe God told them to are not guilty of a crime but are insane. That would be okay if there was scientific evidence that their brain chemistry was faulty but if the person could be taken for normal it is not fair to categorise her as insane just for having a belief! It is not the voice that is the problem but her belief that it is reliable and from the infallible God. If it is fair and correct, then why say she is insane just because she had a strange belief and acted on it? It is the acting on it that leads to her been seen as insane. This makes no sense. You can be crazy in your mind without doing all your illness tells you to do. If she is insane, then those who believe in stopping women from having abortions to save their own lives should be seen as insane too when they think God wants them to be that anti-abortion.
 
And what do the mothers mean if they say that God told them? It does not necessarily mean they heard an audible voice. Whatever they think is telling them to do it, the problem is not what they are being told but their willingness to heed and obey.
 
Yet we cannot start seeing people who kill in the name of God as sane.
 
The only conclusion is that the sense that God is communicating with you is a mental illness. This is the problem - the person who thinks they are being told to kill and the person who thinks they are being told to help people still have the same perception. The perception is the same though the content of the message is different. And it is the perception that is the problem. If poison makes some people feel good and others feel awful it is still poison. If John is drunk he is drunk even if he acts normal. To say the mothers are insane because they kill their children out of a sense of obedience to the divine message is like saying John is only drunk if he dances on the tables.
 
Page 136 states that those who are always praying and preaching religion are not suffering from religious mania. Those who have a melancholy attachment to religion are.
 
This assumes that prayer is not delusion which it is. The praying person refuses to let themselves see that they are manipulating God. They are convinced they are holy and good though they can't be. Preaching religion is preaching prayer first and foremost so it adds salt to the horrid wound of prayer. I hope Sims is not suggesting that praying and preaching are never signs of mania? Anything can be!
 
Page 118 tells us that to say religious faith is a delusion is to say that not only is the faith untrue or false but that the person who has faith is mad.
 
Page 150 tells us that if being a religious believer is a sign of mental illness then all religious activities are signs of mental problems.
 
Agreed - on both counts!
 
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 140 says that since Jesus offered his message to the broken-hearted, Christian faith is a crutch but it helps us outgrow the crutch and stand on our own two feet.
 
A true professional would know that faith cannot be a crutch for everybody. Some will try to embrace the crutch and not be able to. And because they tried they will feel worse. Others won't want a crutch.
 
Jesus offering his message of comfort does not mean that he wanted religion to be a crutch. You can be comforted by something without using it as a crutch.
 
Page 142 states that a person would be seriously mentally disturbed at the least for believing a belief that his reason tells him is false.

 

If Christianity is absurd and the evidence for it is inadequate, then the sillier it is then the bigger the chance is that the believer is at least a bit disturbed. Sims should argue that Christian faith is a delusion but not for those few experts who know the rationality of the faith and the evidence for Jesus being what he claimed to be. But if he thought that he would not have written his book. And the experts do not exist for the Christian faith is untrue and improbable.
 

Page 146 says that all attempts to be objective or totally unbiased fall short in the sense that there will always be a bias or subjective aspect. In short, the unprejudiced observation does not exist.

 

Sims brings that up because he wants to make out you can have crazy religious beliefs and still be sane for it is normal to make errors or be misled.  But that depends on how crazy the beliefs are and if you are going to act on them.

 

The bias needs to be contained not encouraged.  The scientist can reduce the bias but how can the religious person?  There is no reality check for the latter!
 
There could be somebody, a God, out there who really can do magic. But until there is proof we assume there isn't. We can't go about making no decisions just because we can't know everything.  But if we assume there is a God then we end up programming ourselves to imagien we are in an intensely important relationship with him. That is as warped as marrying a non-existent spouse.

 

Page 150 states that a man heard evil voices. His Roman Catholic mother told him to pray to God when they torment him. One day he jumped out the window and committed suicide. Sims states that perhaps he didn't pray in time. He wasn't thinking and thus he lost the chance to counteract the voices with prayer.
 
He just won't admit that for all he knows the man might have went insane because of religion!
 
Page 152 lists the five formal characteristics of self.

 

It's the awareness that I exist - the awareness of existing.

 

The awareness that I am doing something even if it is nothing!

 

The awareness that I am one person.

 

The awareness that I am me and wasn't somebody else a while ago.

 

The awareness that I can distinguish myself from the outside world.

 

Page 157 states that if a person does wrong and feels nothing and feels no guilt then they may suffer from dissocial personality disorder (page 157). Sims suggests that we need to be aware of our sins to be healthy people, and states that sin should be understood as a failure in our relationship with God and others (page 158).
 
We need to be aware of it when we do wrong. Sin is a legal concept in the sense that it means that not only have you done wrong but you have broken divine law. The atheist simply sees that he did wrong. He rejects the thought that he did something extra bad, breaking divine law. Sin and doing wrong are not the same thing. The first is about law. The second is about having hurt unnecessarily. We do not need the concept of sin on top of our problems and our guilt.
 
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.
 
Page 175 says that demonic possession never happens unwittingly. Demons only get possessing a person because the person invited them in.
 
Sims cannot prove that everybody who is possessed asked the demons to enter. Asking demons to enter in itself should not lead to possession. The possession is never consented to. If an invitation is necessary to be possessed then that is to say that consent leads to possession. But as you have not consented to the possession then it follows then that you are possessed against your will. You wanted demons in you to improve your life not to take over and abuse your body. If you are possessed against your will then it follows that totally innocent people can be possessed.
 
Sims won't admit that there are people who claim to be possessed without inviting demons in. He is dishonest. He knows that if he teaches that demons don't need to be invited that scares people and causes grave distress to the mentally ill. He advocates belief in possession and then lies to stop the doctrine doing extreme harm. That is a tactic that is not going to work. People are not that easily lied to.
 
It is impossible to prove that anybody really has a demon. If our material brains can fake demons and split personalities, then there may be unknown mental abilities that can do even better. A person could be possessed by some uncontrollable part of themselves. So even if you prove a person is possessed, you cannot prove that they are possessed by any supernatural being or demon. Also, possession is impossible to prove for many mental illnesses can simulate it and also we can't know all there is to know about mental illnesses and their varieties.
 
Page 214 says that prayer is the best means a person with mental illness can take to cope with the illness.
 
Where is Sims' proof that this is correct? Prayer can't help everybody. If medication or therapy can sometimes make a person worse surely prayer can as well.
 
Page 216 states Sims denial that there is any causal relationship between faith and mental illness/delusion. 
 
Commonsense says that anything can contribute to the onset of mental illness. Just as seeing a picture of a stick-thin model can be the start of anorexia so religion can be the start of insanity.
 
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.