Please note: This is satire. I can understand how, given the style of writing, that it doesn’t appear that way. However, I have realized how poorly evident this is, hence this disclaimer. All comments below against this idea are correct. The point of this satire was to point out the invalidity of the joke mentioned in the first 2 lines of this post.
This question is more or less a joke within the atheist community, at least part of it. Atheists joke that the praying theist is hearing voices and is crazy. I became curious to see if this joke had any validity, after all, as the old saying goes, “a lot of truth is said in jest”. Much to my surprise, I found that the many varied symptoms of schizphrenia are exhibited by a majority of religious people. Of course not all of them exhibit all the signs/symptoms, and I am not a metal health doctor. However, it doesn’t take a doctor to recognize these as out of the ordinary behavioral/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 not a metal illness. Below is the list of behaviors I have personally seen exhibited by religious people I currently know and have had conversations with, along with some I’ve heard about from other’s experiences. It should be noted that the list of symptoms (http://www.schizophrenia.com/earlysigns.htm) is longer than the one below (but not by much).
Examples of Feelings/Emotions—-
–Feeling detached from your own body (depersonalization)–Hypersensitivity to criticism, insults, or hurt feelings
Examples of Mood—-
–Sudden irritability, anger, hostility, suspiciousness, resentment
Changes in Behavior associated with schizophrenia ——Inability to form or keep relationships–Social isolation- few close friends if any. Little interaction outside of immediate family.–Increased withdrawal, spending most of the days alone.–Becoming lost in thoughts and not wanting to be disturbed with human contact–Replaying or rehearsing conversations out loud- i.e. talking to yourself (very common sign)–Finding it difficult to deal with stressful situations–Inability to cope with minor problems–Functional impairment in interpersonal relationships, work, education, or self-care–Deterioration of academic or job-related performance–Inappropriate responses- laughing or smiling when talking of a sad event, making irrational statements.–Frequent moves, trips, or walks that lead nowhere
Examples of Cognitive Problems
–Ruminating thoughts- these are the same thoughts that go around and round your head but get you nowhere. Often about past disappointments, missed opportunities, failed relationships.–Making up new words (neologisms)–Becoming incoherent or stringing unrelated words together (word salad)–Frequent loose association of thoughts or speech- when one thought does not logically relate to the next. For example, “I need to go to the store to buy some band-aids. I read an article about how expensive AIDS drugs are. People take too many street drugs. The streets should be clean from the rain today, etc” The need to go to the store to buy band-aids is forgotten.–Lack of insight (called anosognosia). Those who are developing schizophrenia are unaware that they are becoming sick. The part of their brain that should recognize that something is wrong is damaged by the disease.–Racing thoughts –Trouble with social cues- i.e. not being able to interpret body language, eye contact, voice tone, and gestures appropriately. –Often not responding appropriately and thus coming off as cold, distant, or detached.–Difficulty expressing thoughts verbally. Or not having much to say about anything. –Speaking in an abstract or tangential way. Odd use of words or language structure–Difficulty focusing attention and engaging in goal directed behavior–Poor concentration/ memory. Forgetfulness–Nonsensical logic–Difficulty understanding simple things–Thoughts, behavior, and actions are not integrated –Conversations that seem deep, but are not logical or coherent
Examples of Delusions—-
The most common type of delusion or false beliefs are paranoid delusions. These are persecutory in nature and take many forms:
–Overpowering, intense feeling that people are talking about you, looking at you–Overpowering, intense feeling you are being watched, followed, and spied on (tracking devices, implants, hidden cameras)–Thinking people are working together to harass you–Thinking that something is controlling you- i.e. an electronic implant–Thinking that people can read your mind/ or control your thoughts–Delusions of reference- thinking that random events convey a special meaning to you. An example is that a newspaper headline or a license plate has a hidden meaning for you to figure out. That they are signs trying to tell you something. –Religious delusions- that you are Jesus, God, a prophet, or the antichrist.–Delusions of grandeur- the belief that you have an important mission, special purpose, or are an unrecognized genius, or famous person.
Examples of Hallucinations—-
–Hallucinations are as real as any other experience to the person with schizophrenia. As many as 70% hear voices, while a lesser number have visual hallucinations. –Auditory hallucinations can be either inside the person’s head or externally. When external, they sound as real as an actual voice. Sometimes they come from no apparent source, other times they come from real people who don’t actually say anything, other times a person will hallucinate sounds. –When people hear voices inside their heads, it is as if their inner thoughts are no longer alone. The new voices can talk to each other, talk to themselves, or comment on the person’s actions. The majority of the time the voices are negative.
No. I am not advocating that we round up all the religious people and institutionalize them. That would be plain stupid. However, what I am attempting to show is that religious thought operates like a mental illness. Religious thought must be challenged no matter how much they will kick and scream about their feelings being hurt because of it. “The time of respecting beliefs of this sort is long past”-Sam Harris, Idea City ’05