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 distorted delusions, or that god is simply an alien that they regularly communicate with.

    In the past, there have been believing psychopaths, such as Hitler and atheist psychopaths, such as Stalin.

    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 pain.

    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 also means 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 following reasons:

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 consequently hell.

4.      Some are angry with God by association. They are upset with former 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 existence.

     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 the pain. 

     How do atheists use defense mechanisms to negate God? What follows are what I believe to be the major ways.

DENIAL: 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 is to deny that it could be true. Atheists do the same: they intensely and persistently deny that God could exist. They block out the possibility and fight it with all their might.

RATIONALIZATIONS:  This 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.

REPRESSION: This mechanism entails forcing painful material into the sub-conscious unconsciously. The person who uses this mechanism is not 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.

SUPPRESSION: Suppression 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 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.

DISPLACEMENT: 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 develops 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 peace.

     Finally, 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 them greatly along the way.

FREE LITERATURE

Heaven and hell: What does the Bible Teach?

Why does God allow suffering?

Does God exist?

Who is God?

 

INSIGHTFUL QUOTE PROVIDING AN ALTERNATIVE VIEWPOINT

“Further, neurological research indicates that a particular part of the brain is connected to religious experiences. Perhaps atheists are the product of a genetic deficiency or disorder – and if so, one can only wonder what else is wrong with them. After all, most atheists seem to suffer from delusions of grandeur, convinced that they hold the keys to humanity’s march toward utopia. They are also quite happy to embrace programs to “improve” humanity to suit their own purposes – hardly a coincidence, one would have to suggest, that the most repressive regimes of recent days have all been formulated along atheistic, humanist principles. One can only hope that the possible link between atheism and mental illness is examined honestly before countless others suffer needlessly.”

 Is Atheism a Sign of Mental Illness? Wallo’s World, <http://www.walloworld.com/index.php?p=327>  (28 September, 2008).