ARE ATHEISTS MENTALLY ILL?
Some have proposed that atheism is the sure way to mental illness and that,
in fact, atheism is a sign of mental illness, This author simply proposes
that atheists over-rely on too much of a good thing that "can" lead to
mental illness over time.
This is the parallel
question that some atheists have also posed about believers. There is no
doubt that in both groups there are psychotics (People who are out of touch
with reality), psychopaths (People without a conscience), and neurotics
(People prone to anxiety, depression, etc.).
There are psychotics who
believe in God. Some believe that they talk to him on a frequent basis. Some
may believe that they are god. One individual I dealt with many years ago in
one of my psychology practica believed that he was “greater” than God.
Some atheist psychotics, on the other hand, may believe that God does not
exist and thus they have no one to fear as they pursue their dangerous distorted
delusions, or that god is simply an alien that they regularly communicate
In the past, there have
been believing psychopaths, such as Hitler, and atheist psychopaths, such as
I am sure that there are
lots of neurotics in both camps.
Though there are mentally
ill people in both camps, I would like to propose that to succeed in
negating God's existence atheists play mental games by over-using
psychological defense mechanisms which neutralize high levels of mental
It is the view of this
author that the existence of a Creator is the most provable of all realities
and that the proofs are "many and sufficient." But accepting God’s reality
for many atheists means also accepting corollary realities that are too
painful to confront. The mind of many atheists protects itself from these
realities by rejecting God’s existence. To accomplish this very difficult
feat, atheists rely heavily on the psychological defense mechanisms of
denial, rationalization, repression, suppression and displacement.
The human mind has been
given the capacity to neutralize painful mental pain by using defense
mechanisms. Such mechanisms are many and they are very effective. They help
the human mind to block out the source of pain and, thus, the mind is able
to function without being overwhelmed by mental discomfort.
Why is accepting God’s
existence so painful for many atheists? I would like to propose the
1. Accepting God’s
existence means accepting a God that permits worldwide suffering to occur on
a daily basis, whether caused by other humans or by natural disasters. To
some such a God is too painful to fathom, as it is painful to fathom that
one’s parent may have done heinous actions.
2. Many feel betrayed by a
God who they feel should have protected them and who instead allowed them to come close to extermination. I am referring to the Jews in
particular. (52 % of Jews are either atheists or agnostics.)
3. Some are afraid of God
-- the God of the Bible in particular. They have read and heard
terrifying descriptions of hell, and they are horrified that they may be
deserving of it because of their sinful ways.
Rather than mend their ways, they block out God’s reality -- and
4. Some are angry with God
by association. They are upset with fellow believers who may have hurt
them. They may be angry at a minister, or a priest who may have hurt or betrayed
them. They may also be angry at the hypocrisy of many religious people and
transfer their anger at God for allowing it all. They finally punish Him
for allowing their pain and disappointment, and they do so by negating His
There might be more, but
I would like to propose that these are probably the "major" reasons that
lead many atheists to rely on defense mechanisms to block out their
How do atheists use
defense mechanisms to negate God? What follows are what I believe to be the
This mechanism is
very simple: one simply denies reality and does so with intensity and
persistence. There are people who are told by doctors daily that they have a
terminal illness. Their way of coping with the shocking news is to deny that it could be true.
Atheists do the same: they intensely and persistently deny that God could
They block out the possibility and fight it with all their might.
is a favorite mechanism of atheists. It is simply the reliance on
“logical-sounding” but false reasons to negate reality. Atheists will
offer countless “logical-sounding” reasons why God does not exist, or why
they cannot accept the existence of God. They are very creative at doing so,
and they specialize in using “pedantic” language to sound convincing to
others and to themselves.
They fool themselves that they are of
"superior" intelligence and that they must be correct in their conclusions. In
reality, they are simply "rationalizers."
mechanism entails forcing painful material into the sub-conscious,
“unconsciously.” The person who uses this mechanism is not aware of it, as
it happens without him or her being aware of it. All of existence yells
out "design." Every little detail in nature offers evidence of the Artist’s
touch. One only has to stop, observe and see that we are not surrounded by
the "grotesque" but by beauty, unity and harmony. The atheist mind will not
stop and observe and see the connection.
If they do stop to look, they will acknowledge the art
but not the artist.
is similar to repression, but with one exception: it is “conscious.” Science is
continually offering evidence of intricacy and brilliance on the Creator’s
part. The concept of design is daily being reinforced by all the physical sciences.
Accepting the evidence, for former atheist Anthony Flew, may have
been painful at first, but he finally accepted the glaring reality. Most
atheists will not.
They will consciously “reject” the evidence,
without any fair and sufficient analysis.
This mechanism has to do with transferring feelings from one deserving
object to another undeserving one. As explained above, many believers are
angry and hurt, because of abuse or mistreatment by religious people or
religious leaders. In time they transfer their anger to God who “allowed”
the events that caused their pain to take place.
The end result of this mechanism is to abolish what they see as the
"ultimate" source of their pain: God.
Having an awareness of these and other defense mechanism is critical in maintaining a level of mental
health and of emotional maturity. Over-relying on them to cope with life and
specific pains in life can lead to disjointed thinking and emotional
immaturity. It is crucial that one develop an awareness of the mind’s
proclivity to neutralize pain by relying on these defense mechanisms.
It is essential, though, that we recognize that reality must be confronted
-- be it painful or not -- and that the causes of the pain must be faced
head on, in a courageous, honest and mature way.
I would like to encourage
atheists to "consider" the "possibility" that they may be over-using the
above defense mechanisms to cope with psychological pain relating to
religion and God. I would like to encourage them to confront the realities
that are the source of their turmoil and, by so doing, I believe they will
enter a new phase that will bring relief from the pain and greater mental
I would also like to suggest to them some free literature provided by an
organization that produces high quality material for free and without
follow up, that I believe will help some of them greatly along the way.
© Copyright, Michael Caputo, 2009