Commenter Mark on how the church is helping those with mental illness

Speaking of taking comments to blog posts, Mark gave us this one regarding therapists.

Secular culture has a lot of catching up to do in this regard. There are churches that offer free courses on lay counseling as a Sunday School curriculum. So, what you get is armies of people equipped at a basic level to offer free, “religion”-based peer-to-peer counseling services, in the trenches, where people live and work. When it comes down to it, it isn’t the paper certificate, but the effectiveness of the tools that make the impact.

Really?

There are churches that offer free courses on lay counseling as a Sunday School curriculum.

Places with no qualification to teach the subject offer courses in a discipline for which it takes over a decade of study for someone to acquire a license to practice?  Sign me up!  And just in the course of a Sunday school curriculum?  Holy shit!  The church is either centuries ahead of its time in their ability to educate or something is really fishy here.  I’m gonna go with fishy.

So, what you get is armies of people equipped at a basic level to offer free, “religion”-based peer-to-peer counseling services, in the trenches, where people live and work.

If they’re getting religion-based treatment, rather than evidence-based treatment from someone trained in a Sunday school class, even “free” would be a rip off.

You say secular people need to catch up to this practice, but I think it’s clearly the other way around.  These churches are sending people out who, though vastly ill-equipped to handle those with mental illness, are giving the impression that they are prepared to counsel someone.  This is harmful.  The victims of mental illness need real help from people who have studied the subject in a university with experts in the field, not from people who attended a fucking Sunday school class.  The latter is not a behavior the secular community should want to emulate.  We would be descending to be more like these churches.

A better solution, call me crazy, would be to insist in evidence-based treatment and to get the sick people to someone qualified to deal with their sickness.

When it comes down to it, it isn’t the paper certificate, but the effectiveness of the tools that make the impact.

Sure.  Why go through 10+ years of expensive school with homework, lab work, rigorous time-consuming research, tests, and more?  I mean hell, it’s just a piece of paper, right?  Why go through all that when all you need is a Sunday school class and 20CCs of Jesus?

Listen here and listen good, Mark: church is not the equivalent of education.  In fact, in this case, when you’re saying the tools acquired in Sunday school class are either equal to, or superior to a doctoral degree, church is clearly the antithesis of education.  The piece of paper is representative of a shit load of work to make sure that the people licensed to counsel/treat those with mental illness are ready to deal with this very complex subject without doing harm to the patient.  The study, and the ability to demonstrate that they know the material and can apply it are signified by that piece of paper.

Are you really going to sit here and tell me that these “tools” can be achieved in the course of a Sunday school class (or that the bible is more effective)?  Are you even listening to what you’re saying?  Fuck, is your Sunday school going to start qualifying people in the fields of nuclear physics, cardiology, and/or chemistry too?  At least with physics and chemistry they wouldn’t be taking a huge shot at fucking up another human being even worse.

This is what kills me about religion (particularly Christianity): it produces this kind of monumental arrogance and then treats it as if there are no consequences.  Not only that, it looks on someone’s illness not merely as a travesty, but as an opportunity for the believer to evangelize so that the compassion is diluted with self-interest (“Of course we’re helping them get better! That’s what Jesus does!”).  The faithful, as you paint them Mark, are unconcerned with the irresponsibility and potential damage of sending someone out with a few hours of training (And who is providing this training?  Sunday school teachers?)who think they can even come close to doing the job of a trained professional.  And I am supposed to believe this is done because the church (and people like you) really think this is the best way to help the afflicted?

Give me a fucking break.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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