For the past few weeks on Facebook, I have seen dozens of posts trying to shame people into not saying that they are “sending thoughts and prayers,” after a disaster or shooting. I can understand people’s frustration with politicians who repeatedly send thoughts and prayers and then vote down gun control or funds for disaster relief. That makes sense to me, but to criticize everyone who says, “thoughts and prayers,” shows a lack of understanding of people who have faith. Not everyone can send money and people who truly do pray, believe their prayers are powerful and that they get heard. I can understand if someone else thinks that praying is useless, but it isn’t useless to others. Why can’t people just have that without it being another way to shame, insult, divide, criticize and act “smarter” than someone else?
When someone has schizophrenia, arguing or insulting them about religion or faith can be cruel or mean. Many of us who have been psychotic have a unique view of religion because many of us have spent time believing we were the Messiah, talking to God, talking to angels, talking to demons or had a unique perspective into the fate or creation or many other things about the world. After our psychosis is cleared up by medication, it can take awhile to “close” that open door in the mind. The past two times I was recovering from psychosis, I watched Christian television for sometimes 8-10 hours a day. The stronger my mind got, the more I saw it as Christian entertainment and less as “the truth.” For instance, I don’t believe people are “overcome” by the Holy Spirit and fall shaking on the ground at the “touch of a man.” I don’t believe it, but when I am healing my mind, it is a good thing for me to watch, a safe thing for me to watch. If you do believe that please forgive my skepticism.
When an atheist argues with someone who has schizophrenia about religion they don’t know where that person is in their healing, or if they still hear angels, demons, God – medication doesn’t always clear up voices and delusions for everyone. To tell that person that God doesn’t exist and then try to argue with them about it and “prove” why is an exercise in arrogance (which I will say I see a lot of in atheists. The atheists I know think they are smarter than everyone else. Instead of respecting differences, they call religion, “believing in fairy tales” and other condescending things. I have never, not once, met an atheist that wasn’t condescending in their arguments with me. And each of them said they weren’t condescending even after telling me my beliefs were a “crutch” “magical thinking,” etc.).
No one but the person with schizophrenia knows what it is like to go for weeks, months or even years with religious hallucinations, delusions, and voices. It is possible when a person starts to heal; they will reject religion altogether, but with most people that isn’t my experience. Those of us who have had, in many cases, intense and profound religious experiences tend to remain religious even if we know that our former experiences were not part of a “healthy” mind.
I think if you want to argue or debate religion it is best to do it with people who haven’t experienced a psychotic break that involved religiosity. No one can say how we have been altered and changed by that experience and which parts of it were Biblically accurate or completely formed from the disease. It is best to allow people with schizophrenia to work out their complex feelings about religion with someone who is compassionate and extremely educated about theology, not someone looking to argue, debate and “prove” how intellectually superior they are.