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Is religion based on mental illness and is religious faith mental illness?


"I think mentally ill people have enough trouble in their minds without having the Devil and God in there" - psychiatric nurse in relation to Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper



Some argue that mental illness creates religion in the first place but that does not necessarily mean you are not right in the head if you believe.


Some say you are.


Some say that it depends - if religious faith is too devout and starts ignoring important facts then it is a disorder.  For example, some Christians and Muslims read violent nasty scripture texts as speaking only of peace - that needs to be seen for what it is: a form of psychosis. It is excellent and infallible evidence of mental illness unless they are being dishonest.


If sincere religion is not a mental illness, does that matter if it attracts people with mental illness?  Certainly it does matter!  Only a bad thing can draw in disturbed people.


Science speaks!


Jesse Bering states that religious belief is adaptive - they help you fit well into life and society.  This is contrasted with mental illness where you are seriously failing to adapt.  It is obvious that many religious people do not adapt well.  They run to convents or join a clerical caste.  Plus how do you measure the adaptive or maladaptive?


Not being able to function well in society is a sign of possible mental illness but the fact remains that some people with schizophrenia seem reasonably normal. Some who suffer paranoid schizophrenia are also highly intelligent and able to mask their illness well.  Sometimes the only marker is a strong core insane belief.  Not all irrational beliefs are equally irrational.  There is a difference between thinking there are fairies down the garden and thinking that they are always under your bed.


All people have irrational ideas but we should only consider them mentally ill when the belief is too big or important to them and/or they are not functioning in a reasonably safe and healthy way. "As a survivor of mental illness myself, I think we should save that term for situations in which people are truly suffering and having trouble going about their lives” writes Mogilevsky.


If a person was worshipping a turd as the one true God and claiming to be in a personal relationship with it and getting spiritual help from it that person is mentally ill even if it is the one thing that the person is doing out of the norm.  There is a difference between natural wild beliefs and supernatural ones.  While you may crazily think homoeopathy cured your cancer that is not necessarily insanity for you still believe in nature and that cats don't grow on trees.  You are making a mistake about how nature works.  But the supernatural is a different story.  Somebody who is convinced that tap water cured their cancer through some ghost that was in it is not right in the head.


Religious inspiration and "spiritual perception" take place in the temporal lobe and if this region of the brain is disturbed hallucinations and false memories of spiritual blessings and thought disorders and spiritual delusions can happen.



Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 1987;50:659-664


It is a fact that nuns locked away have notoriously high chance of having a serioius mental illness such as psychosis.  Other nuns are too prone to mood disorders or ocd.  The priesthood as well attracts a high number of depressed men suffering from personality disorders and even psychosis. 


Psychological Medicine October 2013 found that believers suffer depression at larger rates than atheists. Now in fairness this study was about China where religion is suppressed.  But it shows that religion and faith are no buffer against depression.  Yet we are pressured by society to think that religion helps if things go terribly wrong in your life!

From a 2016 study, it was learned men are less religious than women because men on average are more into analytical thinking than women and focus on how a leads to b and how things fit together and work together (systemising).   So a man is more likely than a woman to question a religious doctrine or find holes in it.  


Here is a quote from the authors of the results of the study: “Although supernatural ideation has long been one diagnostic criterion for schizotypy and schizophrenia (…), schizotypy has only recently received attention among scholars of religiosity. Much of this attention has focused on Crespi and Badcock’s theory (2008; Badcock, 2009), which proposes that both religious and schizotypal individuals are prone to impressions of supernatural agents and hidden intentions because they share similar epigenetic development of the social brain related to mentalizing far beyond the normal range. Crespi and Badcock’s diametric model (Badcock, 2009; Crespi & Badcock, 2008) proposes that if the physical world is not well understood, mental concepts such as agency and intentionality expand to the whole universe, resulting in beliefs in demons and gods.”


Another quote asks of the study if its "arguments mean that religious believers are nonanalytical individuals who are prone to schizotypy and who understand people but not physical mechanisms? In turn, are nonbelievers strong analytical thinkers who have autistic traits and who understand the physical world but not people? Not necessarily. Rather, it is more probable that both believers and nonbelievers represent subgroups that differ in their cognitive characteristics and clinical symptoms. Although most theorists agree that the factors which predict religiosity and atheism interact in complex ways, and that consequently there are different kinds of believers and nonbelievers, these subgroups have not been empirically elucidated. The present study was therefore designed to examine the characteristics of these groups."


You don't need to be living in the stone age to inadequately understand how things work.  Sometimes you should know but you don't.  It has not sunk in.  The more you fail to understand or the more mystery you are faced with the more likely you are to think that gods and demons are doing things.  The more you will want to think it for it makes your life less stressful.  And you may let it happen because you are lazy.


If a person has mental illness and is hearing voices and seeing things the person may interpret that as coming from demons even if the content of the experiences does not suggest that.  The suggestion comes from religion and faith which speak of demons influencing people and talking to them.  The belief can turn a mentally ill person violent.   It is not the person who is to blame but religion and how it validates superstition. Any alleged good done by blessings and exorcisms mean nothing if somebody who is mentally unhealthy is led by faith to kill.


The research discovered that men on average think of the mechanics of things more than women.  Women on average are more mentalistic.  A man could attribute his skills to his equipment and tools while a woman could attribute hers to her intelligence and diligence.  To me that explains why men are more sceptical of religion than women.  The universe could be seen as a brute fact by a man while a woman is more likely to feel it is a gift from God.


The study found that on average women do not fare as well as men at analytical thinking.  That is top of the list.  The next thing on the list is systemising.  Naturally a person who is not good enough at systemising will easily imagine that prayers are answered and stuff.  It is easy to think your prayers are always answered when you don't take time to see how if b follows a and a is a prayer that it does not mean a caused b or even helped cause it.  Understanding the difference between causation and correlation and applying that understanding is key to analytical thinking.


The study found that if males are careless with or bad at analytical thinking and systemising they ended up with religious beliefs.


The study found that your approach to how you think you know things determines if you will probably end up religious or not.


To me even a person who has a strongly mechanistic awareness of how things work could still develop gullible beliefs in religion and suspend their critical faculties. In other words what happens is that they think they sense supernatural stuff and believe in it on face value.  It is a seeing is believing sort of thing but not like normal seeing is believing.   For example the feeling that God is present will be taken as true even though logically we know that feeling it is sunny outside will not make it sunny. 


Finally the study found that mechanical cognition was weaker among believers and stronger among non-believers.


The argument in depth


Faith should be embracing the truth as your friend. Faith should be a fluid process. Religion has people adopting faith for they fear what it is like to think for yourself and feel alone. If you adopt faith for that reason then your faith is not about truth but about what suits you. It is not about truth but about practicality. Faith that serves as a crutch or a shield to avoid fear only leads to irrationality and self-deception and bigotry.


People often enjoy the escapism provided by religion and religious worship. It makes them feel magic instead of the mundane. They fear the hardness of life and the horrible realities of life in this world. Religion and worship help these evils seem far away and somehow unreal. People fear that reason might prove there is no God and no afterlife and that their loved ones suffer for nothing along the lines of a divine purpose. So religion and worship allows them to escape from reason. If reality and the rational world are scary and seem omnipotent, you will wish that there was some magic that subverts and conquers them. If you are dying, you can get enormous relief by doing magic spells for you feel that something magical will happen to save your life. You want a miracle and you hope for one. Television and cinema and different things provide escapism. People enjoy watching the suffering of characters in movies for it triggers the sense that bad things are fine if they happen to others but not me and so they won't happen to me. If bad things are happening to them, they can feel they are not and that other people thankfully are doing the suffering not them. Religion is evil precisely because it teases out and develops our faculties for escapism and not only that but wants to turn us into escapists all the time.
Religious people tend to assume that faith is beneficial or at least a bit more beneficial than the alternatives. Others say it is not beneficial enough to justify having it. They may even say it is bad. But most assert that faith is something that will never go away. If that is true then it needs to be more open to reason and evidence and correction. A semi-blind faith is better than blind faith. A faith that cares about evidence is more important and useful than one that cares little for it.
The religious person who suffers and pleads with God to help will clutch at straws. The stroke victim for example who expects prayer to work will think that tiny improvements and even temporary ones are proof that it does. Faith is not good if it encourages somebody to be that desperate. It would be deadly if a battered wife overlooked the violence from her husband just because he smiles at her occasionally. It is a degrading victim mentality.

Many religions worry mental health professionals. Calvinism encourages the delusion that human nature cannot really do good unless one becomes Christian on steroids. Roman Catholicism encourages the notion that an unChristened baby is estranged from God. Jesus claimed to save us from death and people are still dying and dying horribly. Religion ignores the discoveries of scholars that the Bible and the Koran are man-made and not God-made after all. Yet the religions say God is their ultimate and chief author. Also, all who pray try to turn the failures of prayer into successes. For example, if you pray for your cancer tumour to disappear and it doesn't, you will say that if you are dying now from pneumonia that the pneumonia is the answer to your prayer for a cure - dying from pneumonia is the cure. Or you may reason that prayer always works and when it doesn't, the reason is that in some unknown way you didn't pray right - you only seemed to connect with God but you didn't. So prayers are real when they seem to work and not real prayers but simulations when they don't. If religion is a delusion then as delusions need to be maintained by further delusions and cause bad thinking habits that lead to more delusions being added on it is vital that religious believers be corrected. They are not islands and society needs to be as delusion free as possible.

Many atheists feel that believers in religion are just guessing though they say they believe. They feel that believers are in fact believing regardless of the evidence against the religion or proof that the religion is wrong. The problem of a religious person being confronted with proof that her sinless religion is in fact corrupt and still claiming to believe is an interesting one. And so is the problem of a believer in an unerring scripture being given proof that it is indeed full of errors still believing in and supporting the scripture. Do these people really believe? Habit can be mistaken for belief. Sometimes it is just hypocritical defiance of the truth and resentment of the truth. Thinking you believe is not the same as really believing. It is more charitable to accuse them of latent unbelief than of being deluded. You would rather be accused of seeing the truth and being not ready to admit it than accused of being a crank who isn't mentally right when capable of delusion. The bigger the doctrine the bigger the delusion. A deluded person who thinks a fairy visits his room for a minute at midnight is not as bad as the nun who thinks she marries God. If religious parents are deluded and raising their children in the faith is important to them then they will be trying to inflict their delusion on the child. This cannot be tolerated.
A religious system that enables and facilitates delusion would need to be pulled down. Its members should be given incentives and encouragement to leave.
Those who claim that religion like that does not always hurt should admit that even so, it does not help.
So are believers who believe in the face of clear and simple proof that they are wrong deluded? Sometimes they are. The most committed ones such as priests and monks and nuns and the super-pious are definitely deluded. It is their level of devotion that justifies a diagnosis of delusion. However it must be admitted that it is possible that all believers suffer from delusion which may range from slight to severe.
Psychiatry and psychology are steadily lengthening their list of mental disorders. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders listed 106 in 1952 and it was 297 in 1994. This is good news for the self-help and counselling and stress industry. But it has produced a sense that mental health is extremely uncommon. It is hard to see why various forms of accepted religion should be seen as normal. Running after miracles and praying should be seen as abnormal in light of the fact that most of us most of the time do not think about religion. Faith does not feed your hungry children. It is strange to consider mundane problems and misperceptions as mental disorders when religion with all its bizarre ideas and obsession with things that don't matter at all is considered mentally healthy. We can easily live in a world where all religious activity is seen as disturbed.
Many nations are very secular and have low percentages of serious mental illness.

Nobody can say it is ever good to believe in God. Those who are made happy by the belief are in delusion and to say this delusion is a good thing is to talk nonsense. These people are being used by the clergy. When you are deluded you might think your delusion is one that makes you cheery but when you are deluded you will never know if you would be happier with another delusion or none. It’s still bad. It’s still degrading. It stops you being yourself and empowering yourself.
Born to Believe, Andrew Newberg MD and Mark Robert Waldman, Free Press, New York, 2006 page 37 says that religious visions and hearing voices should not be regarded as mental illness if these visions and voices make the person happier and healthier. It says that psychosis should only be diagnosed if this person's behaviour is very strange. For example, if a person sees people who are not there but who urge her to leave her abusive husband for her own sake the visions are regarded as being non-pathological. This makes no sense. The person is still divorced from reality and is ill no matter how much good the illness does for her.
The American Psychiatric Association regards a problem as a psychological delusion or disorder if it manifests as an incorrect belief different to what everybody else believes and is believed in defiance of incontrovertible and obvious evidence that it is false. A case would be where the anorexic sees fat on her or his body where there is no fat. Or if a Catholic saw open wounds like Christ's in his hands where there are no wounds. Love is a power and involves emotion and therefore sensory reactions. You need a body to really love. To sense this emotion in a rock would be an illness. You would be insane if you said a rock was in love with you. To sense the love emotion in God is even worse for at least you can see the rock and have adequate verification that the rock exists! At least the rock is physical!
Chris Stedman keeps saying religion is not a mental illness. It would not be as bad if he would say this is true of some religion. But he gives the impression that there are no cults of religion that are deranged.
The atheistic mental health advocate Miri Mogilevsky stated, "“Religion and mental illness are different psychological processes”. Mir suggests that religious faith will "stem from cognitive processes that are essentially adaptive, such as looking for patterns and feeling like a part of something larger than oneself.” So religion is not a mental illness if it helps you be a functional member o of society.
The reasoning is that religious belief helps you adapt to society. Mental illness blocks adapting. The religious will form communities but the insane will not integrate in society. They will think and do things that make such integration impossible.
Dr Ken Pargament stated, “When it comes to facilitating mental health, empirical data demonstrates that religious people have more positive emotion, more meaning in life, more life satisfaction, cope better with trauma, are more physically healthy, are more altruistic and socially connected, and are not diagnosed with mental illness more than other people.”
Religion could easily be a foundation for many forms of mental illness. The believer might not develop the illness but is at risk. The only answer is to encourage her or him to keep religion at a polite distance.




In the heyday of the Spiritualist or psychic movement, many produced books from "spirits" by automatic writing.  The writer felt that some other being was moving their hand.  It is felt that these spirits were secondary personalities for none of them showed any proof of being a dead spirit passed on.  Mental dissociation was popularised as showing how you could split your self into two so that a new personality could emerge.  Sounds like self-inflicted possession of a sort!  The idea was that a subconscious personality could be contacted and made to communicate through ouija boards and so on.  Many therapists advised against all that as there was a danger of bringing up repressed and forgotten and latent bad feelings and traumas.  Sometimes the "spirits" were malicious to the person channelling them or to others.  In this it is taken to be showing a different facet to the channeller. 


When contraptions such as ouija boards and loosely held pencils were so adept at getting communications it is clear that the mind probably does a good enough job on its own without them by sending you subliminal lies and poison and by acting as if there is another person inside you.  The mind simulates God.  There is no need for God to explain why you feel accompanied and that there is a higher power. There is - your unconsciousness!




Founded in Australia in 1957 by Catholic priest, Cornelius Keogh, GROW is a God-based "support" system for people with mental health problems.


Typically it blames the victim not God, "We gave too much importance to ourselves and our feelings."  "We grew inattentive to God's presence and providence and God's natural order in our lives".   "We lost all insight into our condition."   All these things in effect blame lack of faith for contributing to mental illness and try to make the person feel it is up to others to define her or his illness and not her or him.  False hope is offered too, "We surrendered to the healing power of a wise and loving God."  These answers to the problem are to be expected and are absolute proof that religion does not help with mental illness.  People involved with GROW are in recovery anyway and it is to the success of mental health care and to people confiding in each other that GROW does not wreak more destruction than it should.  And if it destroys it can blame lack of faith and the participants' alleged immaturity.
A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts and damages a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning
If religion is not a mental illness, it could nevertheless be a symptom of a mental illness.
A religion could be a symptom of your own mental illness or somebody else's.
Abraham was going to kill his son for God.
Moses slaughtered and had people stoned to death because he thought God wanted it.
Jesus said that it is okay to murder big sinners as long as you are better than them. He deliberately sought crucifixion.
Those religious heroes were clearly so insane that a diagnosis would have been done in seconds.
Christianity only recognises the work of doctors not because doctors get results but because God allegedly uses doctors to heal you. That makes them no different from the crank who urges you to keep away form doctors and trust in prayer. Both see doctors as useless in themselves. Both agree in principle that if God bans the healing work of doctors then God is right.
Religious people mostly if not always have delusions not beliefs.
If a religion is a symptom of mental illness, it is therefore a facilitator.
Social pressure and "because everybody does it" are major reasons why religion is so powerful.
Allowing social pressure to make you religious is in fact maladaptive.
Religious persons give all their love to invisible friends. They think these friends exist though they have no evidence. If you have a relationship with a non-existent friend that is a sign that hallucination of some kind is involved. Religion induces it. It is very extreme when the relationship is about giving all your love to God. Christ said that you and your neighbour do not come first for you must love God with all your heart.
Religious persons suffer from delusions - they think that no matter how terrible things get for them that some invisible friend will help with magic. They do this in spite of seeing people who are never helped. The evidence cannot shake their belief so it is a delusion.
The believer never learns. The believer trusts in prayer even if it never works. Excuses are made for its failure. They think, "Next time I will get my prayer answered." They might deny they are so confident that it will be answered exactly but actions speak louder.
Believers suffer from a tendency to accept absurd myths and the impossible as historically true. Christians believe in Adam and Eve despite the silly story about them in the Bible and the scientific proof that they are fiction. Fantasy and reality are mixed together. They cannot distinguish one from the other.
Believers suffer the paranoid belief that anybody who does not agree with their religious doctrines is sinful or in league wittingly or unwittingly with Satan.
Believers condone the emotional abuse inflicted on them. They feel awful and evil for doing harmless things such as masturbating or forgetting to pray. They think that some sin that is not that bad will put them in Hell forever. They have their psyche scarred for life. They will often become emotional abusers themselves. By supporting a religion of emotional abuse and passive aggression they are guilty by association.
Believers tend to hate and harass and use violence against those who will not agree with their religious beliefs.


Believers say God is important for there is no morality unless there is a God.  They say you need to believe in God to understand why we must be moral.  They say that unbelievers if they can behave in a moral way have no reason why and that even then it is because God overrides their ignorance and gifts them with moral tendencies.  If believers are saying here is no difference between feeding a dog or torturing him to death if there is no God then they need psychiatric attention. The need to establish a difference is the first step.  Taking this first step is itself moral.  Then the next step is applying moral thinking to the difference.   Though the difference is seen as assessing and not being moral for an is does not imply an ought it is clear that it is still moral.  The error is in thinking that taking a step towards a moral issue is not itself moral.  It is.  Taking the step is even more important than having a moral system for you cannot have a moral system without it.  The idea that God needs to be believed in to be moral is clearly trying to diagnose everybody as psychopaths who need a faith "treatment" to manage or cure the disorder.


Liberals and lefties typically try to deny that murder is a sin by saying murderers are mentally ill.  Then they hypocritically exempt people like Moses and Muhammad and St Paul who murdered many.
If hypothetically religion does not do these things, it should lead to them. It should still be discarded on a point of principle.
The bad consequences of labelling religion as a mental illness include that it stops you looking into why sensible people get involved with something as irrational as religion.
The answer to this is that we all need to help each other become more rational. There is more to treating mental illness than just listening to professionals.
Another consequence is that it could be thought that simply being irrational means you re ill. But it could mean you are lazy or mistaken or misinformed or just haven't got the chance to think.
If religion is a mental illness, it can make other mental illnesses you have worse. It spreads the maladaption that leads to further illness.
The world fears the next logical steps.
If religion is a sickness then the religious need professional help and need to go to therapists who can help them weed out the religious conditioning and sickness they suffer.
Children will have to be taken out of religious schools.
Children will have to be removed from religious parents.
Religious evangelisation will have to be prohibited for it spreads the mental illness.
The answer to all that is that the steps will only apply in serious cases. You cannot take every child away from religious parents. Some yes but the rest will need to be challenged on what they are doing to the child.
Fr. Peter Carota says on his blog that “All people who sin are mentally ill”. Religion often thinks atheists and sinners are sick so why can't we atheists not think the religious leaders in particular are sick? 


While the mentally ill are as harmless as anybody else, it is a fact that if the person is religious then their illness can go in a dangerous direction. 95% percent of crimes in the United States are committed by people who do not have any sign of a mental illness.  Most of them do have religion though.  It stands to reason that if a person believes a God has the right to kill and delegate that right to us and that belief is a mental disorder that they will prove dangerous.




Psychologist Valerie Tarico says that if one can explain how Christian belief originates then the belief is false. According to her, the origin of the belief can be explained by neuroscience and neuropsychology. This however, Christians love to tell us, does not prove in itself that the belief is wrong. True. I could be programmed to believe in God. And there could be a God. But what I worship is not God. I can have a delusion about what is true! If the faculties that cause me to have a delusion cause me to accept something that is actually true then it is still a delusion in the psychological sense. If I have a fault on my cornea that makes me see a streetlight and there is a streetlight there, the fact remains is that I did not see the real streetlight. A delusion can be actually false and or psychologically false.
Christians surmise that Tarico commits the genetic fallacy. They accuse her of reasoning, "If one can explain the origin of a phenomenon (Christian religious belief), then the phenomenon is false." But given that if you have a delusion that your dead daughter is alive and it turns out you are right, the fact remains that it is still a delusion for your perception of reality is still psychotic. Christian faith is not real faith and brings people to what they want God to be not what he is. Tarico is right that the Christian faith is false subjectively.
Christians answer Tarico by saying if God exists and created humans, then it is possible that God made our cognitive faculties function as they do so to reveal himself and so that we might believe. Then even if we are programmed by our past to believe in God, we find God through this programming and the belief is still valid. This makes no sense. If I pretend to be a rich Mr Perfect and convince women I am for real then I do not lead them to me but to a mistaken perception of me. God cannot lead people to genuine faith if Tarico is right. And she is.



The anthropologist Jonathan Marks in Why I Am Not a Scientist: Anthropology and Modern Knowledge (University of California, 2009) tells us that that scientists often see what they want to see. Their methods and peer reviews are a lot less objective and fair than people think. Even the amount of the funding money available can affect what the scientist concludes from his experiments.
The proper view is that though science can be biased and unfair it is still the best method we have for getting at the truth. At least in principle, science extols being open-minded and looking at what is there. If science is faulty then religion is worse. Choose the lesser curse.
Christians use such statements to show that science does not give certainty. But they only weaken their own religion by doing so.
Atheists say that Christians are too sure of themselves when nobody should be that sure. Christians reply that this argument undermines atheists too when they are very sure of themselves. Suppose they are right. We can then say yes it does undermine such atheists. But it undermines Christians more. Choose the lesser evil! Atheists resist the temptation to believe in a God that adores them. Christians do not. So the Christians should not be so sure of their beliefs being true when they are that biased. Plus if atheists are right, then they may know it. In that case, they are not undermining themselves by saying Christians can't be that sure their faith is true!
Also, Christians assert that if an atheist says nobody can be sure how can the atheist know that nobody can be sure? Perhaps there are people out there who are sure that their beliefs are correct.


Christians say that there is evidence for the resurrection and that if we only believe things because we want to and not because of the evidence that does not mean there is no evidence for the resurrection (page 19, The Infidel Delusion). True. But it does mean we never believe because of the evidence even if we use it. Christians then would be lying bigots for saying they have an honest and justified belief in the resurrection. Even if there is evidence for the resurrection, there might as well be none for all the good it does Christians.
Scientists believe that we are hardwired to filter out counterevidence. Suppose all our beliefs are more biased than what we think. It follows then that we should only believe what we need to get by on in this world. Eg, that doctors may cure you, that food keeps you alive, what we are told about maths and geography is correct etc. To start getting religious is going too far. The further you go the more bigoted you are in danger of becoming.

Christians say that many scientists believe that people by nature only believe what they want to believe. Christians view themselves as an exception. They contradict their claim that human nature is biased and unfair with belief and then they contradict this by denying that they are among such people.




Contradictory beliefs are really not beliefs at all.  They are just fighting each other.  They are proof that one only imagines one believes. No matter what the Catholic or Mormon or Muslim or whatever says, the morals they get from being part of society is what matter to them even at the expense of specifically religious morals. Yet they will say they love God totally when in fact they would rather God went and died if it meant their little newborn baby could live. If religion is not a mental disorder then it wants to be.  The more self-contradictory a "believer" is the more they are just calling themselves a believer.




It was found in a 2009 fMRI study that if a person thinks religious thoughts the part of the brain that is about discerning and perceiving other peoples feelings and intentions comes into play.  Grafman published this study.  It was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Vol. 106, No. 12).  It was found that telling people that God guides them and protects them that this area of the brain responded.  The study was confirmed by a Danish team.  That study can be found in the Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience (Vol. 4, No. 2 - 2009) and in this case the areas lit up when subjects of the study prayed.


This proves that the feeling that you are in touch with somebody when you may not be can be induced.  This feeling is behind religion. It is an abuse of the brain to pray and feel you are protected by God for that part of the brain is meant for relating to people.  People can protect you but God does not.






Sociology professor Matthew May of Oakland University found a definite link between people feeling they had to stay in a religion they wanted out of and depression.

Caleb Lack is associate professor of psychology and practicum coordinator at the University of Central Oklahoma.  He directs the Secular Therapy Project. The project enables people who need secular therapy, including people who need to disentangle from religion, to get it.  He has found this correlation between staying in a religion you don't accept and depression to be well established.  May's findings are of great value to his work and vocation.


Lack says, "I’d say it both matches our experience and isn’t unexpected based on what we know about how uncertainty impacts us,  If we exist in a state of uncertainty, such as what exists if I am not sure about, or wavering back and forth between, religious belief and doubt, then people are naturally more vulnerable to developing anxiety and depression."  If a religion is not credible and harms people then believers who are conditioned to believe will start to suffer and struggle and doubt and end up depressed unless the door is there and they are supported in leaving.  A healthy religion supports exiters and people on the other side must be welcoming to them as well.




Many people who are difficult to label as schizophrenic hear voices.  It is interesting that not all who hear voices hear bad things. But the danger is what are the voices going to say tomorrow? We must be careful that we don't start accepting hearing voices as just another variation of normal mental life. Religion is doing that already in certain cases such as at apparition sites and Jelena at Medjugorje supposedly hears Mary's voice. In all these cases the voices say punitive threatening stuff. The fact that the stuff is usually nice makes no difference for a bully can be very nice in order to wound you when they unexpectedly turn nasty and that is a scam to get you to blame yourself.




Mental health experts consider a person who changes in spiritual matters overnight to be suffering from some mental illness.  The atheist or uninterested religionist who suddenly becomes a religious saint in waiting or the saint who turns irreligious atheist in minutes is not well.  Take the unreligious becoming dramatically religious.  Yet religion sees such change as evidence of the power of God or truth.  It argues that God controls all that happens and even our free will is only free because of him and not in spite of him so in a sense it is is not really free.  Thus God can choose to fast-track a bad man to a holy one.  Religion conflicts with science in this matter. 


Religion presents sudden saints such as murderous St Paul, the timid apostles turning into hyper-evangelists for Jesus in seconds and Jesus who usually went to the Temple in peace suddenly turning warrior as ideals.  It denies the obvious: they were not well.  Oddly enough the argument that Jesus rose from the dead is based on the allegedly total change in those who were his followers.  They were not great people of faith and because of the resurrection experiences they became intensely devoted to spreading the word that Jesus was alive.  Arguing that they were not mentally ill for the resurrection happened is pointless and gets nobody anywhere.  Anybody can use arguments around how suddenly a person changes for a miracle being true.  Plus the change could still be down to mental illness even if the apostles DID see the risen Jesus or think they did.




To say religion is a mental illness supposedly insults mentally ill people but that is not true if religion  really is a mental illness. It is religion that is insulting those people by stealing a place in society as if it were good and healthy.  Also, mental illness is an umbrella term.  If religion is one kind of mental illness that is not insulting people with more obvious kinds such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia for it is in a category of its own.

Are we defining religion and mentally ill people by mental illness.  We are defining religion as mental illness as in how mental illness is a thing.  We are not defining mentally ill people by their illness.

There are those who say we are not focusing on what draws people to religion if we dismiss it as mental illness.  But with mental illness we still have to try to understand the person and what motivates them.  It does not follow that if a person has a mental illness that we can just ignore them and dehumanise them.

If religion is not evil or a mental illness it could still be a stepping stone to them just as sugar is a stepping stone to diabetes

One study found that if you believe in a God who is there but who does not meddle in your life that “Belief in a deistic God and one’s overall belief in God were not significantly related to any psychiatric symptoms.” That is not a very good endorsement of religion as being good for your mind for it has a more interventionist God.  Feelings and impulses are taken as his promptings.

Atheists can be irrational and that does not make them mentally ill.  So what about religion? We are saying the irrationality of religion is a symptom of a delusion. The atheist is not having a relationship with a make believe friend.  This relationship amounts to little more than pretending that your ideas and impulses are his way of talking to you.  What would you think of a person who said that the tree communicates with him through how its leaves fall as if it were a code or sign.




Artistic expression can sometimes disguise mental disorders and religion is a form of artistic expression.  Talking to people who are not there is normalised which means we have more madness here than in mad painters.  Religion is a mental illness or at least has a lot to do with it and though most members do not need treatment they do not need their delusion reinforced or celebrated.  Great harm will be done to many.

If self-deception can be helpful then it is only as a temporary measure. We don't need the supernatural. We all feel we will live for a long time though we know we will not. Natural self-deception is all we need. But it is better to get tough and face reality - that makes you your own person, your own strong person.

We must remember that Christ did encourage religious delusion as in sickness.

He said you must love God with your mind - believe in him totally. You must love God with all your heart - all your feelings are feelings of love for him alone. This centering on God is the greatest commandment according to the Bible. Everybody agrees that love your neighbour as yourself is put lower down and refers to how you treat your neighbour not how you are to feel about him. Hypothetically, if you had to choose love of God or a person you choose God. Jesus teaching is extremism. Extremism is never satisfied and to obey Christ is to go on the slippery slope to religious terrorism.

Catholics feel about the communion wafer as they do a person. That is not right.



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Further References

Dein, S. (2012). Mental health and the paranormal. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 31 (1) 61–74. http://sci-hub.tw/http://doi.org/10.24972/ijts.2012.31.1

Dutton, E., Madison, G., & Dunkel, C. (2017). The Mutant Says in His Heart, “There Is No God”: the Rejection of Collective Religiosity Centred Around the Worship of Moral Gods Is Associated with High Mutational Load. Evolutionary Psychological Science. doi:10.1007/s40806-017-0133-5

Farias, M., Underwood, R., & Claridge, G. (2012). Unusual but sound minds: Mental health indicators in spiritual individuals. British Journal of Psychology, no-no. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.2012.02128.x

May, M. (2017). Should I Stay or Should I Go? Religious (Dis)Affiliation and Depressive Symptomatology. Society and Mental Health, 2156869317748713. doi:10.1177/2156869317748713

Nie, F., & Olson, D. V. A. (2016). Demonic Influence: The Negative Mental Health Effects of Belief in Demons. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 55(3), 498-515. doi:10.1111/jssr.12287

Orenstein, A. (2002). Religion and Paranormal Belief. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41(2), 301-311. doi:10.1111/1468-5906.00118

Rogers, P., Caswell, N., & Brewer, G. (2017). 2D:4D digit ratio and types of adult paranormal belief: An attempted replication and extension of Voracek (2009) with a UK sample. Personality and Individual Differences, 104, 92-97. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2016.07.038

Schofield, K., & Claridge, G. (2007). Paranormal experiences and mental health: Schizotypy as an underlying factor. Personality and Individual Differences, 43(7), 1908-1916. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2007.06.014

Schulter, G., & Papousek, I. (2008). Believing in paranormal phenomena: Relations to asymmetry of body and brain. Cortex, 44(10), 1326-1335. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2007.08.022

Thalbourne, M. A., & Delin, P. S. (1994). A common thread underlying belief in the paranormal, creative personality, mystical experience and psychopathology. Journal of Parapsychology, 58(1), 3-38.

Voracek, M. (2009). Who wants to believe? Associations between digit ratio (2D:4D) and paranormal and superstitious beliefs. Personality and Individual Differences, 47(2), 105-109. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2009.01.051

Wilson, M. S., Bulbulia, J., & Sibley, C. G. (2014). Differences and similarities in religious and paranormal beliefs: a typology of distinct faith signatures. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 4(2), 104-126. doi:10.1080/2153599X.2013.779934