Religious Schizophrenia- American Style

This morning I read an article on CNN’s Belief Blog with the title, If you hear God speak audibly, you (usually) aren’t crazy. The word in parentheses, usually, is the operative and questionable modifier here. The title I chose for this post, Religious Schizophrenia, implies not that fundamentalists ought to be full-time residents of the county home, but they often blur the line between real and unreal, and often that blurring can be lead to serious psychopathic, anti-social behaviors. Schizophrenic psychosis is rare, but intensive religious delusion is much more common. The dividing line between the two is slender.
The National Institute for Health definesSchizophrenia as a mental disorder that makes it hard to: Tell the difference between what is real and not real; Think clearly; Have normal emotional responses; Act normally in social situations. 
Further in the NIH article: 
Call your health care provider if:

  • Voices are telling you to hurt yourself or others.
  • You feel the urge to hurt yourself or others.
  • You are feeling hopeless or overwhelmed.
  • You are seeing things that aren’t really there

Voices and seeing things that aren’t really there! How often do fundamentalists and evangelicals ‘experience’ both of these symptoms. Granted, the depressive factors may not exhibit themselves and their interaction in social situations may be ‘normal.’

Yet, religious dementia can produce many schizophrenia-like behaviors. A peer-reviewed article in the Swiss Medical Weekly, The relationship between schizophrenia and religion and its implications for care, notes: “Religion (including both spirituality and religiousness) is salient in the lives of many people suffering from schizophrenia. Religion is relevant for the treatment of people with schizophrenia in that it may help to reduce pathology, to enhance coping and to foster recovery.” Later in the article is this statement:  “Studies performed on inpatients with schizophrenia…a rate of 36% of religious delusions was observed among inpatients with schizophrenia in the USA.” Wow!

In 1994 a new diagnostic category called “Religious or Spiritual Problem” was introduced into the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association). Note that it was not until 6 years prior to the 21st century that this connection was at last formulated and placed into that manual. Imagine how many millions of people went to their graves during all of the centuries before [sans] this psychiatric diagnosis!  Imagine still further, how many thousands [? tens of thousands] citizens of this nation are yet un-diagnosed  with this mental disorder.

Yet, here in the United States, we find idiotic statements from well-known ‘religious’ leaders such as those spoken after national tragedies. One came before the bodies of the 20 children from Sandy Hook were cold. Mike Huckabee apparently has it all figured out. “We don’t need fewer guns in the hands of killers, we need more God in our public schools.” Apparently an ‘all-powerful and all-knowing God could not penetrate the windows and doors of Sandy Hook Elementary School, but a deranged human being could.

“Religious or Spiritual Problem.”

Frequent writer on this blog, Microdot, lives in France and often reminds us that, although France is a ‘Catholic country,’ fundamentalist and evangelistic Christians are in a minority. Here in the U.S., according to the recent Pew Poll, 26.3% of Protestant sects are ‘evangelical.’ One-in-four!

Math: U.S. population- 311 million;

Christians- 78.4%.  Multiply = 244 million;

Fundamentalist Christians 26.3%  Multiply = 64 million.

So there are 64,000,000 American citizens who are fundamentalist/evangelical. Sixty-four million is more than the populations of France, UK, Italy, Spain, Ukraine and Canada. Imagine that.

And, what percent of those 64 million might be classified with DSM-IV: “Religious or Spiritual Problem.”

It is not easy to dismiss this common American-style mental illness without pointing out that our nation, compared with those of the EU, is one of the most heavily religious as well as one of the most violent nations! Perhaps our tendency towards disdain of our fellow citizens has its roots in that religious pall that hangs over us like a miasmic fog.’What hath God wrought?’

Damned if I know!