I Believe There’s a Gene for Psychosis… And We All Have It!


Man’s success is mostly credited to his superior reasoning ability. Although a crucial factor, this was insufficient, since man’s intelligence likely peaked 30,000 years ago, as implied by frontal lobe measurements in fossil braincases.1 He also likely had language by then.2 Yet he didn’t start to dominate the planet until 5,000 years ago. He did so by transitioning from tribal life to large-scale cooperative societies (civilizations). These provided safety and strength in numbers, coordinated teamwork (as in division of labor), sharing of resources and infor-mation, and handing down of accumulated knowledge to future members, who thus didn’t need to reinvent the wheel and could easily add innovations.3

What enabled civilizations to arise? Throughout the past 5,000 years, each of the hundreds of civilizations, wherever on Earth they independently occurred, included an official religion. This implies that it’s essential. Sociologist E. Durkheim called religion the glue that holds society together.4 For example, Charlemagne led Europe out of the Dark Ages by unifying warring tribes into a Christian society.

How does religion do this? It offers comfort, belonging, serenity, meaning, and hope of a blissful afterlife to followers, so people seek it. Due to joining, adopting its rigid norms and doctrines, and practicing its regular rituals, they become alike/cooperative/organized, they overcome their selfish/barbaric nature, and they loyally surrender their will to the group. Even as their numbers grow very large and dispersed, they still think and act as one. Chaotic infighting thus ends, and is replaced by a spirited solidarity that’s bent on spreading the state religion.5

What enabled religion to arise? The foundation of nearly all religions is faith in God(s) — fixed illogical belief in things with no basis in reality. Oxford dictionary says “a belief maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument” is a delusion. It does qualify that to be called this, the belief must be idiosyncratic. It thereby acknowledges that some unlikely/irrational beliefs are common (a probable reference to religion). I instead use ‘delusion’ to mean all illogical/unlikely firm beliefs, no matter how popular, since things aren’t made real merely by many people’s believing in them.6 Ubiquitous faith in God implies that we’re all innately capable of delusional as well as rational thought, with an ability to adaptively turn to whichever a situation calls for. Don’t we all delude ourselves to believe what we wish was true, and deny the reality of things we wish weren’t? Don’t we all become psychotic nightly (have dreams)?

Without a capacity for delusional thinking, official religions likely couldn’t have thrived, and civilizations couldn’t have developed and flourished. So I conclude: 1) Man evolved an ability to think delusionally between 30,000 to 5,000 years ago. 2) The formula of two parts rationality plus one part delusionality was essential in helping man to ultimately outcompete all other species. In support of this, the first ever organized religious site (temple), Gobekli Tepe, was built 11,000 years ago. Several more were built around the world 6000-5000 years ago.7

But how do societies respond when people come up with delusions that don’t conform to the state religion, and thus disrupt the social order? Also through religion: they’re likely the ones who were called witches or devil-possessed. It justified their being forcibly removed or killed. Now they’re called mad or insane; it still condones removing (and/or tranquilizing) them.

Some may argue against this by claiming that the West remained civilized despite religion weakening after Darwin’s ideas were accepted. But in the first half of the 20th century, the post-Darwin world did descend back into barbarism/chaos due to two horrible world wars. All hell really did break loose. But this trend didn’t persist in the second half of the1900s. Why not?

Maybe we didn’t really discard religion, but just converted from faith in God and the holy scriptures to faith in modern psychiatry’s medicalization of emotions, and in modern medicine’s “all-knowing, all-seeing, all-healing” doctors overall. In hopes of attaining chemical nirvana via miracle pills, we accept brain disease and other newly-created illness labels with no basis in reality (physical exam, lab, or xray findings). MDs ritually administer daily serenity- inducing (anti-barbarism) pills to the masses (sedatives or opioids). 38% of Americans take opioids;8 they’re the new ‘opium for the masses’.9 Nearly as many use antidepressants, which, being placebos, give comfort only due to faith in them. Medical marijuana’s here too.

Kids are less indoctrinated into Christianity, but illogical, fictitious dogmas about chemical imbalances and defective brain-hardwiring are now instilled into them at school. Instead of daily prayer, they’re often trained by age six to partake in daily sedation. Viewing this as our culture’s official religion, with its own bible (the DSM, ca 1952), explains why clients unquestioningly accept its irrationality and blindly/unwaveringly obey its oft-lethal orders. As with religion, it gives purpose to their lives: they become devoted to ‘fighting battles with mental illness’ (or chronic pain). Faith that God is in control is replaced by faith that genes/biology are. But the result’s the same: they meekly follow society’s collective will instead of their own.

It may seem crazy to say: “Psychiatrists don’t really treat psychosis; they preach and promote it.” But being a high priest pays well, hence many other doctors are getting in on it: Two of the top three drug classes dispensed by all doctors are now mind-suppressors rather than real meds.10. Just like ancient priests, they mainly practice religion, but also some medicine.

Show 10 footnotes

  1. Lacaux, N. “The Brain of Cro-Magnon Versus Modern Man: A Matter of Size” Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique, 1-26-2011.
  2. Leslie, M. “Suddenly Smarter” Stanford Magazine, July/Aug 2002.
  3. Boyd, R. Richerson, P. “Culture and the Evolution of Human Cooperation” Philosophical Transactions Royal Society of London Biologic Sciences, 2009 Nov 12;364(1533)3281-3288.
  4. Durkheim, E. “The Elementary Forms of Religious Life” 1912.
  5. Moore, T. “Placebos, Faith, and Morals, Or Why Religion” Hoover Institute, Stanford Univ.
  6. Dawkins, R. The God Delusion, Bantam Books, Oct 2006.
  7. “8 Oldest Temples in the World” Oldest.org.
  8. “2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health,” National Institute on Drug Abuse, Anns of Int Med, 1 Aug 2017,167(5)1-24.
  9. Marx, K. “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel; Philosophy of Right” 1843.
  10. IMS Health National Prescription Drug Audit, 2010.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. Delusional is in the eye of the beholder Dr. K.

    So, why do you suppose mainstream religions have embraced psychiatry instead of regarding it as a threat? Most Christian preachers wouldn’t urge members to convert to Buddhism for example.

    Yet I have heard preachers urge people to seek “help” from psychiatry. Directly from the pulpit.

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    • Rachel777

      All of society’s authorities benefit from the populace continuing to meekly follow society’s collective will rather than their own, and from the populace remaining docile/calm/civilized. So of course religious authorities, school authorities, government, etc. all love psychiatry. A sedated populace won’t question/complain/rebel.


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      • A lot of religious people are scrupulously honest too. Because of their kindly, simple hearts they don’t believe nice Dr. Brown could tell outrageous lies and sell mind altering drugs by comparing them to “insulin for diabetes.”

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    • “why do you suppose mainstream religions have embraced psychiatry instead of regarding it as a threat?” Because the “mental health” leaders made a faustian deal with the religious leaders long ago. The “mental health” workers promised to cover up the child abuse and rape issues of the preachers and their wealthy, for the preachers. While both the “mental health” workers and the religious hospitals profiteer off of turning millions and millions of child abuse survivors into the seriously “mentally ill” with the psychiatric drugs.

      This was confessed to me, by an ethical pastor, to be “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.” And these “mental health” worker, child abuse covering up crimes, have been going on for a very long time.


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    • “why do you suppose mainstream religions have embraced psychiatry”

      It is about where the drugs are coming from.

      because the elite in the church still sin, still suffer from “depression” and need someone to turn to for excuses and the solution of legal drugs coming from read doctors, not drug dealers.

      and also the children of the elite have problems , so they need psychiatry to drug(called medicine) the children.

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      • Rossa:

        This doesn’t suggest that Scientology is not a religion; It’s only the mainstream (official), or status quo religion which supports psychiatry and which psychiatry supports, since psychiatry’s longtime role has always been to make sure that people only follow/submit to the official, status quo delusional system. Christianity has been the entrenched official/state delusion of Western society for nearly 2,000 years, and it’s doing whatever it can to still hang in there. New delusional systems like Scientology are threats to these authorities in power since they’re the upstart rebels looking to unseat them – to change the status quo. So of course Western authorities brand them as “crazy”, and vice versa. What’s interesting is how both psychiatry and Scientology invoke pseudoscience to trick followers into accepting their delusions.


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        • “What’s interesting is how both psychiatry and Scientology invoke pseudoscience to trick followers into accepting their delusions.”

          I am so cynical that I would go further and say that just about all human endeavor these days evokes pseudoscience to shut down all dissent and accept their particular delusions. (I’m not even sure what is pseudoscience and what is “real” science, as science is constantly reinventing/clarifying itself.)

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        • I’d say that Scientology is trying to change the balance of power in the area of corporate religion, but hardly interested in changing the status quo in general. They want to replace psychiatry with their own brand of mind control. It’s another scenario of “meet the new boss…”

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  2. First I have to say this is the first time I’ve seen “man” used to denote the human race for some time.

    Beyond that, I think that western religions are one version of spirituality, albeit highly restrained and controlled spirituality, and the characterization of people “believing in things that aren’t there” is a western materialist bias. Animists see “god” in everything, as do many other systems of belief and perception.

    Anyway, yes it is certainly true that many “modern” folk have discarded standard religion out of embarrassment and have adopted psychiatry as a “rational” materialist religion based on a mythical belief system.

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  3. I do agree, “pharmakia” based psychiatry has replaced the religions, as our state “religion.” Wish someone had made the announcement sooner, however. I didn’t realize that the mainstream religions had ended their belief in the Holy Bible and God, and gone off worshipping the DSM and psychiatrists, while hypocritically pretending they were still believers in the real Bible and God.

    But I do now know why. And today’s “mental health” workers do absolutely believe all dreams, gut instincts, thinking and even belief in the Holy Spirit and God are “psychosis.” I have proof of this in my medical records. I had no idea that’s what today’s non- “holistic Christian talk therapists” believed, how counter intuitive.

    We do need to get those “illogical” lunatics that are teaching “fictitious dogmas about chemical imbalances and defective brain-hardwiring” out of our schools. Psychiatry is the wrong religion to believe in, America. Both psychology and psychiatry are child rape covering up religions. So this goes especially for all the mainstream religions that are now espousing belief in today’s, highly DSM delusional, largely child abuse covering up, “mental health professionals,” who are actually mental illness creators.

    Our society would actually be better served, if the religions believed in financially supporting the actual creators, rather than those who, with scientific fraud, cover up your child abuse crimes.

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  4. I think what secular and maybe some religious authorities want the most is to stay in power, so they will go with whatever is the most popular thing. If most people believed psychiatry was useless and harmful, I think the authorities would be saying that. It seems like down through history, some wars had religious aspects to them, so I’m not sure I would call all religions civilizing. I wouldn’t compare religions to psychiatry, I would compare psychiatry more to culture. I define culture as the way people do things, for no reason other than that’s the way they are doing them.

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    • No, the facts, the information, the science comes from the top down. A PBS show on breast cancer said everyone was in favour for radical mastectomy to cure cancer. The doctor who proposed lumpectomy is just as good, was derided by his fellow brainwashed doctors. Only when the patients heard of a scientific trial, and got the science to prove the survival rates are the same for both radical mastectomy and lumpectomy did things change.

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  5. When i came to the hospital with acute psychosis, the first thought is that i got into a female religious sect.
    Everybody in white clothes and it seems somewhat arrogant. I think everyone thinks that when they get there.
    Now I think that the main thing that unites religion and psychiatry is the degree of fanaticism.
    In my country, for example schizophrenia is when you take so many drugs that you feel an overdose every year in the spring.
    This happens because the brain is damaged, arguing with that is useless.
    P.S. Also doctors will write in the card that you scattered something on the floor (salt for example) because in the old Soviet textbooks such an example of schizophrenic behavior was given, this can be compared to false religious rites when the fire is lit by itself

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  6. The problem is much deeper and far more serious. We have a theology in a psychological disguise. We do not even have a proper picture of what psychology is.

    “The difference between psychology and religion boils down to the same as between psychology and science: literalism. Theology takes Gods literally and we do not… In archetypal psychology Gods are imagined… They are formulated ambiguously, as metaphors for modes of experience and as numinous borderline persons. (RVP:169)”

    “The notion of human being as centred in the moral person of free will is also a mythical fantasy, an archetypal perspective given by a single Hero or a single God; our freedom to chose, our moral center and decisiveness, our free will… Here I am attempting to de-moralize the psyche from the moralistic fallacy which reads psychic events in terms of good and bad, right and wrong. (RVP:178)”

    James Hillman


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  7. Rather than, as Allen Ginsberg with his theory of spontaneity put it, “First thought, best thought”, I think it works the other way around, that is, “First thought, wrong thought.” Religions usually contain creation myths, not because there couldn’t be another explanation, but rather because there isn’t another explanation until somebody comes up with one. Coming up with a differing explanation for a creation myth is, in religious terms, heresy, and, therefore, cause for reprimand.

    I realize this is the opposite of expectations where the expectation is that one is born wise and acquires stupidity. I should hope that one’s klutzy steps were most likely to come early, and one’s more graceful moves might develop from those with practice. If one grows wise after missteps, okay, then maybe madness was never as “chronic” as we took it to be to begin with. Maybe madness is something we can move beyond.

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  8. As a non-denominational Christian, I have to say I really appreciate this article.

    By nature, many major monotheistic religions DO call for faith in their followers, rather than reliance on physical “proof” to justify the call to unity and compassion. From a purely logical perspective, “delusional” as it is used here is probably appropriate.

    Yet, still a common goal for egalitarian (not barbaric) society is for religious people to continue to be held accountable for any violence or oppression they cause. Psychiatry knows no such bounds.

    My faith brings me so much purpose, resiliency, and will to be kind and forgiving, like faith does for many people. What does psychiatry offer except for indoctrination & conformity? A manufactured “acceptance” at the cost of our own minds?

    A true dogma – it’s amazing how quickly and nearly completely the West has accepted this Kool-Aid in the absence of science.

    God doesn’t ask me to hang on to false “proof” of his power and goodness. Psychiatry maintains that no faith is required for the pills to work; they have been “proven effective.”

    Thank you for the article, as always.

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    • Psychiatry purports to be “rational”; however the rationality seems to fade into “a thunder of seem” when death comes into the picture, as there is no uniform psychiatric position on or explanation of death. Is it a transition, or the permanent end of consciousness? One would think that the “appropriate” or “healthy” approach to life would be quite different depending.

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    • Faith is not about the irrational but the invisible. Not all faith can even be called religious.

      I have faith a country named China exists though I have never visited there. I have faith the food I eat is not poisoned though I can’t run lab tests on it. I have faith that the earth is a sphere and revolves around the sun. Yet I have never been to outer space.

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  9. “Psychiatrists don’t really treat psychosis; they preach and promote it.” And they create it with their drugs.

    “The symptoms of an anticholinergic toxidrome include … hallucinations … psychosis … Substances that may cause this toxidrome include … antipsychotics, antidepressants ….”

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  10. Great Read! We won’t really understand this stuff until we take it out of the dark ages! This means understanding the known and the unknown because to neglect or oppress the unknown leads to a failure. Louis Pasteur was thought to be delusional about invisible bugs until he invented the rabies shot and pasteurized foods for example. We need to find a better way to make meaning of what sometimes may be nonsensical!
    Old head above notes so articulately that people have discarded religion to adopt psychiatry, and while this is powerfully true… The problem is the restraint with both! Life is Dynamic! Once you label something it becomes stagnant so we need a language that is more representative of the creative process to describe factors like these, and a new mode of measurement would be useful too! 🙂

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      • Both are based on what cannot be scientifically proven and promise to cure the dark side of human nature. Many people “choose” to follow psychiatrists’ orders despite the sickness and misery it produces out of fear the “mental illness” will make them do horrible things otherwise. Even harm other people.

        FWIW my religious faith stopped me from suicide. Not any “help” from my (mostly) well-meaning but clueless psychiatrists.

        Dumping my faith in psychiatry has given me a new lease on my original faith in the Man of Galilee.

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  11. In his book, Shamans Among Us: Schizophrenia, Shamanism and the Evolutionary Origins of Religion, Dr. Joseph Polimeni provides a brief description of the role of shamans in hunting and gathering societies. Those with schizophrenia characteristics were highly involved in religious leadership (many might say they still are). They

    heal the sick.
    institute magical curses
    carry out divination rituals
    lead religious ceremonies

    I interviewed Dr. Polimeni last year on my blog. (One of my more engaging reads!)

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  12. I found this a stimulating article. Thanks Lawrence.

    It could be expanded into a book to do the subject justice.
    With due respect for your effort here, it had many errors and shortcomings.

    You explain “delusion” but not “reality.” Here I think you mean “consensus reality?” How about substituting “creative imagination” for “delusion,” and what of “intuition?”

    You mention that some facts “imply” that religion is the glue of civilization. Could this implication be false–an illusion?

    I disagree with this statement: “things aren’t made real merely by many people’s believing in them.” In terms of self-fulfilling prophecy and things that are not substantive, existing as mental constructs, these are real. My psychological reality is not yours. Psychiatry denies individual experience, as you do with this statement. How can you judge my personal experiences?

    You say, “the first ever organized religious site (temple), Gobekli Tepe.” This is your belief, based on incomplete science. I think older ones will be discovered.

    Certainly an expansion on your ideas would better clarify these errors. Go for it!

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    • Don:

      There is a huge difference between creative imagination and delusion. When you imagine something, you know it’s not real but are pretending/fantasizing what it would be like if it was, which may enable you to make it actually become a reality through some real life effort. But if you have a delusion, you’re already convinced that it is real. As far as reality, what I’m alluding to is how most people believe in “chemical imbalances” and “defective brain-hardwiring” or “God”, even though no evidence of these were ever found, and how people accept a diagnosis of a “brain disease” without any physical evidence on exam, lab, or x-ray. As far as mental constructs, or concepts, I wouldn’t classify them as realities, but as ideas that only exist in certain people’s imaginations. If you broaden “reality” to include them, then you open the door to endless broadening of reality to the point of it becoming meaningless.


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  13. I think the idea of saying the formation of spirituality and faith is just mere delusion is pretty inaccurate and very prejudice. Many scientists have argued that spirituality and the formation of religion is based on a basic genetic need to socialize and share hope, love, and experience. Some brain chemicals like DMT have been linked to spiritual visions and are still in use by shamans and their “churches” today in Ayahuasca for visions, healing, and spiritual healing. There are so many things that some people truly do experience and call it a “spiritual awakening.” They are not delusional. Just because you as the author have not had one yet or even seem open to the idea that modern religion has become more of a social way of releasing things that people do not have control over in their lives, giving it up to “a higher power,” even if the higher power is the social concept of a church or religious experience.

    I think that to oversimplify every single religion or spiritual practice across time and the world by discounting it as just delusional psychosis even that is ingrained in everyone (why would evolution make people delusional for the sake of … what? Unity?), really means the author has not really studied the individual experience and group experience of non-commercialized religion across the world and throughout history. Surely, some people have been a little nuts and mad in their beliefs, but that cannot discount every single person and every single experience that has happened even if once in their lives.

    Not every spiritual practice is about healing the sick like you see on TV evangelical propaganda, nor about cursing others. Most people find themselves at least spiritual to some degree, even if there is no proof of a god or goddess or multiple deities. Not every spiritual practice lacks value or wants your money and gives false hopes and promises.

    I agree that some religions have waged war to spread their message to the unbelievers and even some of our holidays in the USA are based around pagan rituals that some major religion like Christianity has contorted by changing the details and making it their own (ie, Christmas, Easter, etc).

    Anyway, I just wanted to share that to call every spiritual experience as delusion and psychosis is to really undermine each person’s right to believe in the unknown as a possibility… I certainly wouldn’t discount some of the things I have seen and experienced myself as a situational one time delusion or psychotic moment, esp since I have had delusions and psychosis thanks to psychotomimetic psychotropic prescribed medications (not on purpose!) and know the difference.

    Some spiritual practices are designed to induce euphoria, ecstasy, and a feeling of being connected to life itself with compassion, not judgment. It’s true that you may have to really search these out nowadays, due to the way modern mainstream religions have become institutional and commercialized and about profit.

    Atheism is just another cult of structured beliefs in itself and not excluded by group membership and like-mindedness as a collective “belief system” that also isn’t proven either.

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    • djpurity666:

      I am sorry if I offended you, if I came across as prejudiced against religion. I respect how religion often is extremely helpful to people and society. To each his/her own, as far as I’m concerned. The words “delusion” and “psychosis” unfortunately convey a negative connotation, as a result of psychiatry’s creation of stigmas. I view delusionality, or faith, non-judgmentally, as an adaptive coping tool which we all turn to, just as much as rationality can be an adaptive coping tool. I chose to use the word “delusion” rather than “faith” to show how people labeled “delusional” are no different from people with faith in anything, except their faith is not in their society’s official dogmas. And as far as unity among billions of people spread out across the planet, I don’t see how that would ever have happened without organized religious faith/delusion.


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  14. I don’t understand why so many people blindly obey orders even when the rules and policies are totally illogical. I know some do it out of fear, fear of being kicked out, or fear of unseen, unspecified punishment. Usually people obey simply because most of the others around them are also obeying.

    Many policies are based on distrust of the constituents to think for themselves. Then when those in power see that one or two do think for themselves, the original thinkers are banished or shamed.

    It is the way that people are. We saw it in the schools and in most workplaces. Half of the USA is dissatisfied with their jobs. The main reason people quit is not because they leave for better pay. They leave mostly due to ingratitude of the management.

    Most shocking is the blind obedience of many nurses and lower staff who obey orders knowing that what they are doing is inhumane. Some get a kick out of it. Others go along with it out of fear.

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  15. “Due to joining, adopting its rigid norms and doctrines, and practicing its regular rituals, they become alike/cooperative/organized, they overcome their selfish/barbaric nature, and they loyally surrender their will to the group. Even as their numbers grow very large and dispersed, they still think and act as one.”

    This statement tells me you have had very little experience with the Christian faith(the only one I can comment on with any real knowledge). It actually made me laugh.

    If you have even a basic knowledge of Christian scripture, you’d know that the above isn’t taught/nor reality. We are not taught to give over our will to any group, just our Lord. It’s an individual pilgrimage to Grace, through grace.

    Wicked men use all religions (including Atheism, capitalized as it is a true faith/religion…a rigid belief, dogma, rituals, etc) to wield power over others. They always have and they always will. Some sheep are dumb, and fall for their line. That has as little to do with true Christianity as SSRIs have with real ‘mental health’. Bad men use anything they can to hold sway over others: religion, food, love, lust, loneliness, sadness, politics, etc.

    We all have our delusions. We all have our coping mechanisms. But some ONE thing is true. Either it all means nothing, or it means something. Can’t be both. Christian scripture tells us we are delusional, as natural men, btw. We are in darkness, and need light.

    Christianity is (at its core, not in man’s perversions of it) the ultimate clarion call of hope, bearing witness to goodness and wholeness and redemption for a ruined race. It’s quite glorious. Even if a pure delusion, with no basis in fact, it’s the best thing going (in its core belief, not in the perversions of it by wicked men).

    Time’ll tell which delusion is actual truth. We’ll see what happens.

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  16. “What enabled religion to arise? The foundation of nearly all religions is faith in God(s) — fixed illogical belief in things with no basis in reality.”

    Complete and utter nonsense. Dr. K has really outdone himself with this one. The only society in which such a false and misleading definition of faith would gain any traction is in a society like our own, namely, a society in which blind faith in secularism and the religion of secularism creates hostility toward the truth that it attempts to mimic. In fact, blind faith in secularism produces hostility toward reality, a reality to which many of the world’s religions are much more in tune.

    In turn, it is this blind faith in the religion of secularism that enables ideologies, false philosophies, and pseudo-religions such as psychiatry to thrive. Faith is not a fixed illogical belief in things with no basis in reality. On the contrary, faith in God or a higher power is the most reasonable approach to things as they really are.

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    • Hey DragonSlayer, it’s always good to see you around. I have to agree with you that blind secularism and scientism have replaced religious faith. They are rapidly becoming as fervent as any religious dogma, even as some religions are much more in tune with the needs of humanity than is secularism or atheism. And yes, secularism/scientism leads directly into the hands of psychiatry as we lean more and more on “evidenced-based” treatments while ignoring wholesale the shortcomings of the so-called evidence base.

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