The video of my talk from Skepticon IV has been circulating around the intertubes. I’m flattered. I’m also touched at all the support I’ve gotten as well as the numerous people opening up about their own afflictions. The best so far has been the people who are mentally healthy asking what they can do. The atheist/skeptic community has seen a place where suffering abounds and has decided they want to help fix it. Pretty impressive for a group we’re told has no moral compass.
Of course, it didn’t take the faithful long to tell me where the problem truly lies.
If you do not accept the concept of a sin nature, it makes sense that you would have to find something on which to blame your shortcomings.
This has, of course, happened before. Whenever I write about the strife in my life, there are always believers who detect the scent of possible weakness and rush in to prey on it under the disguise of Christian concern. What else is to be expected from an idea that can’t survive on its merits alone? In the video on the post I explained why clinical depression, anorexia, etc., is the product of a physiological malfunction in the brain. This is why medication and therapy work to manage it in the same way that insulin shots help the diabetic to manage their diabetes.
But to Mark, it’s not a medical condition, it’s a shortcoming. If I just acknowledged that I am sinful (and presumably accept Jesus), why, this shortcoming of anorexia would just evaporate. It does make me wonder why a web site exists for detecting anorexia in Christian teens. The existence of Christian anorexics is simply bizarre if the problem is not accepting that we’re sinful beings.
This is exactly why the atheist movement needs to be paying attention to this. Look at web sites talking about how to deal with anorexia from a Christian perspective.
If you are a Christian, you need to understand that bulimia, anorexia and binge eating are all forms of self-abuse. This violates God’s will.
Seriously, google “Christian anorexia” and read the drivel that comes up. At the very best (which is in short supply) you’ll get “Take what works by itself (medicine) and combine it with what doesn’t work by itself (prayer) and see how the lord cured you!” It never occurs to them that maybe we should stop trying to leech the credibility of medicine for the impotent prescription of faith. Of course, what we usually get is exactly what Mark implies: no mention of medicine, blame the victim, and tell them they just need more Jesus. This is not just a harmless, inaccurate opinion; it is a contemptible, dehumanizing idea that costs lives.
Remember the church in England that told AIDS patients that Jesus, not meds, was the cure? Remember how well that went? Same thing here. By telling people that mental illness is a flaw, a deficiency in faith instead of serotonin, you’re keeping people from getting the treatment that may save their lives! Why pursue treatment if you don’t believe you’re sick? How many Christians spend more and more time in prayer rather than an hour in the emergency room trying to combat mental illness? The answer is a lot, and it’s not a sad by-product of an otherwise positive worldview. The results are so deleterious that they should not be ignored by any person possessing a hint of compassion. This scenario is unforgivable.
Bad beliefs, even well-intentioned ones, are the means to evil. Inaccurate beliefs spread across our populace are why so many sick people are convinced its their own fault. This is why I oppose religion every day: I want to see the best, most compassionate outcomes for the world I share, and religion is a sanctuary for inaccurate beliefs.