Religious mania is a mental illness
Christian blogger Elizabeth Esther takes medicine for her bipolar disorder - and becomes an atheist. But then comes the rash ...
In one of her healthy, lucid phases, Elizabeth Esther writes it in capital letters on her blog as if it were a perpetual reminder, an insight that should not be lost:
People will tell you they know their belief is true. But what they mean is: you believethat their belief is true.
Elizabeth is a devout Christian, grew up in an evangelical cult as a child and wrote her first book about it. The Christian faith has remained true to her. She goes to mass every Sunday, her God has helped her through many difficulties. One of her concerns is her health: Elizabeth is bipolar, manic-depressive, and while her manic episodes help keep the apartment clean, she has started taking medication to control her wild mood swings.
That also works quite well. But there are massive side effects: Elizabeth barely has access to her emotions, feels less alive, firstly. A rash appears on both legs, which in rare cases can lead to death, secondly. And third: Elizabeth Esther becomes an atheist. She reads biographies of people who have lost their faith, deals with neuroscience, processes everything on her blog: She understands very well that God is a product of our brain. "Neuroscientists say: the brain doesn't care if the things it sees are really real. Instead, it just wants to know if they help survive." In addition, the belief deepens through the rituals that go with it, because these strengthen certain neural connections. Believing, like athletic performance, is a matter of training.
Elizabeth allows the deep insight that many religious deny, the insight into the underlying uncertainty of their faith. She says: Her belief has given her experiences of unconditional love, complete peace and the assurance that everything is fine: "Even if my brain conjures it all up, I trust and believe in it." She comes to an astonishingly honest distinction, a twofold way of thinking that makes it possible to believe in a deity in a realistic, non-fairytale world: "I still don't know whether God is really-real. For me he is real. But IS God really? I don't know. "
Your faith is fading. The feelings remain dull. The rash doesn't get better. She consults with her doctor. And stop taking the medication. A few weeks later, she reports on her blog:
Your faith is back.
The drugs, she says, seemed to have turned off the God receptors in her brain. She felt very, very small and very alone in the universe. Now she pray again, prayer and faith would nourish her and keep her alive, the question of true or false no longer bother her.
Elizabeth Esther, it seems, has made up her mind. It is her life. Is what one might call free will. She deserves respect because she has shown an openness that combat believers never allow, since her super-conviction only hides the deep-seated doubt that every belief must lead to thinking people. She then shows that one can get the decisive things clear even with faith and bipolar disorder, when an atheist from the vast expanses of the Internet appears on her page and comments briefly: "Religion is a mental illness, and if you stop taking your medication you have a relapse. That makes sense. "
Elizabeth sits down and answers the fundraiser in a friendly and open manner: Yes, maybe religion is a mental illness. You don't know. It doesn't matter to her either. Her belief gives her real happiness in her life, makes her a better person: "And when strangers from the Internet leave derogatory comments on my blog, she helps me not to take it too personally."
The point goes to them. For tolerant and respectful interaction. And if religion, as in her case, spread nothing but a general kindness and serenity around the world, there would not be much to be said against it either.
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