Is Faith Delusion?  A Look at the Book by Andrew Sims -

Summary: He inadvertently shows that that religion is an illness or helped along by disorders

Andrew Sims is the author of Is Faith Delusion?  He is a former Professor of Psychiatry and President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and has also been Chairman of their Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group, so is exceptionally well qualified to address the subject.

Page 61 reminds us that Freud in Moses and Monotheism stated that faith in the one true God is a delusion. This helped lead to warfare between psychiatry and Christianity. In the 1960's, most psychiatrists were hostile towards the Christian faith (page 65). The psychiatric text books ignored religion generally but in one instance stated that religion is for the hesitant, those suffering from strong guilt, those who were afraid or unable to attain the right attitude and beliefs with cope with life (page 65). Of course all of this is correct. The fact that belief in God and doing good have no real connection proves that.
Sims would agree with the following reasoning: "People usually tell the truth. Even a liar has to tell the truth most of the time in order to seem believable when he lies. We don‘t assume that somebody is lying as our default position. Those who want us to believe that the witnesses of Jesus' resurrection were lying carry the burden of proof. Those who believingly assert that religious people are lying or deceived when they think religion is good for them carry the burden of proof."

But you may be able to prove a person is wrong to say something but you can never prove that they are lying. To lie means you have to intend to lie. Telling what is untrue when you think it is the truth is not lying.
If you meet a drunk who says he played cards with the Devil the night before and you decide that he is deluded or dreamt it and assert as much, it is stupid to say the burden of proof is on you to prove it.
Page 71 says there should be no proselytising of patients. This directly contradicts the teaching of Christianity that promoting the faith is of paramount importance and that God is to be prioritised and loving him matters ultimately and not you or your neighbour. Hellfire and brimstone teacher, Jesus treated everybody as if they were in grave danger of Hell and even ransacked the temple to make this point. Christians are hypocrites and counterfeit their religion for their own ends. They say Jesus was infallible God and they still pick and choose his teachings and try to improve on him. If the faith is the most important thing ever, they say it is - and if the Holy Spirit has the miraculous power to change hearts and minds so that people see and embrace the truth - then it should be propagated among the sick and the infirm and the dying as a matter of priority. Upsetting them is better than just saying nothing and letting them go to Hell.
I don't know if he sees evangelism as okay when it is about advertising the faith through good works and prayers as opposed to trying to bully anyone to believe. It may be that he sees proselytism and evangelism as the same thing.

Page 131 states that hearing voices does not necessarily imply that a person is hallucinating or mentally ill as long as the person doesn't think other people can hear them too. It says it is experienced not as something outside oneself but as something interior.
Christianity regards people who never sensed any such voice as prophets of God. For example, the Bible authors are supposed to have felt that God was inspiring them but they did not hear any voices. Surely then somebody that hears a voice and thinks its God's should have more authority than any of those people? Surely if the voice could be God's then the more people hearing his voice the better? This is a disturbing thought and shows that belief in God is harmful for implying that the answer is yes.
Many would argue that mothers who kill their children because they believe God told them to are not guilty of a crime but are insane. That would be okay if there was scientific evidence that their brain chemistry was faulty but if the person could be taken for normal it is not fair to categorise her as insane just for having a belief! It is not the voice that is the problem but her belief that it is reliable and from the infallible God. If it is fair and correct, then why say she is insane just because she had a strange belief and acted on it? It is the acting on it that leads to her been seen as insane. This makes no sense. You can be crazy in your mind without doing all your illness tells you to do. If she is insane, then those who believe in stopping women from having abortions to save their own lives should be seen as insane too when they think God wants them to be that anti-abortion.
And what do the mothers mean if they say that God told them? It does not necessarily mean they heard an audible voice. Whatever they think is telling them to do it, the problem is not what they are being told but their willingness to heed and obey.
Yet we cannot start seeing people who kill in the name of God as sane.
The only conclusion is that the sense that God is communicating with you is a mental illness. This is the problem - the person who thinks they are being told to kill and the person who thinks they are being told to help people still have the same perception. The perception is the same though the content of the message is different. And it is the perception that is the problem. If poison makes some people feel good and others feel awful it is still poison. If John is drunk he is drunk even if he acts normal. To say the mothers are insane because they kill their children out of a sense of obedience to the divine message is like saying John is only drunk if he dances on the tables.
Page 136 states that those who are always praying and preaching religion are not suffering from religious mania. Those who have a melancholy attachment to religion are.
This assumes that prayer is not delusion which it is. The praying person refuses to let themselves see that they are manipulating God. They are convinced they are holy and good though they can't be. Preaching religion is preaching prayer first and foremost so it adds salt to the horrid wound of prayer. I hope Sims is not suggesting that praying and preaching are never signs of mania? Anything can be!

If religion is a delusion then we need to break it down into its components and test the essential ones.  If more are deluded than not deluded then the religion is a delusion.  A major proof of that is how gratitude is a two edged sword.  You give it when the person does good while being prepared to deny it if they do bad.  Gratitude is gratitude because the person can do bad but did not.  The core value of gratitude to God is a fake for it assumes all he does is right and he cannot let you down.  Even worse it involves saying that no evil or cruelty ever proves God bad.  If he sent a vial full of a deadly virus and labeled it, "I hope it kills many" he would still be called good.  See how personal the delusion is - it is a lie told to yourself and impacts on how you see yourself and therefore others and so is not a private matter.


The case for religion not being inherently delusional in the pathological sense.

1 There is no obvious evidence against what it says in its main teachings.

Yes but what about when one of the main teachings is that God has sanctioned and given its its doctrine?  Christianity claims to offer salvation from man-made religion as well as sin.

2 It does not require huge mental effort and a lot of thinking to justify accepting it.

That is irrelevant.  Laziness with important claims and bad thinking lead to delusions.

3 It discourages and works against individualism and wants you to fit in a community for that is good for you and everybody.

But what use is this?  If individualism is not a mental problem, then it does not matter what religion says about it.  So we don't know either way if this would make religion good or bad or healthy or unhealthy.

Even if these three stupid and lazy points did manage to rule out religion being inherently risky or stupid, what of it. It does not rule out that it may make the sea for extremist religious fish to appear in.   There is still a link to mass delusion and gross derangement.

That sums up Sims and his terrible book.


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