November 19, 2010

Schizophrenia: Reason v. Religion

As someone who has witnessed as a child, and then as an adult, close family members torn apart by schizophrenia and subjected to inhuman treatment in the hands of religious quacks, I have a personal interest in medical advances in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. Here are two contrasting approaches to schizophrenia, reason v. religion:

The Insanity Virus The Christian Approach to Schizophrenia
The facts of schizophrenia are so peculiar, in fact, that they have led Torrey and a growing number of other scientists to abandon the traditional explanations of the disease and embrace a startling alternative. Schizophrenia, they say, does not begin as a psychological disease. Schizophrenia begins with an infection.

The idea has sparked skepticism, but after decades of hunting, Torrey and his colleagues think they have finally found the infectious agent. You might call it an insanity virus. If Torrey is right, the culprit that triggers a lifetime of hallucinations—that tore apart the lives of writer Jack Kerouac, mathematician John Nash, and millions of others—is a virus that all of us carry in our bodies. "Some people laugh about the infection hypothesis," says Urs Meyer, a neuroimmunologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. "But the impact that it has on researchers is much, much, much more than it was five years ago. And my prediction would be that it will gain even more impact in the future."

The implications are enormous. Torrey, Meyer, and others hold out hope that they can address the root cause of schizophrenia, perhaps even decades before the delusions begin. The first clinical trials of drug treatments are already under way. The results could lead to meaningful new treatments not only for schizophrenia but also for bipolar disorder and multiple sclerosis. Beyond that, the insanity virus (if such it proves) may challenge our basic views of human evolution, blurring the line between "us" and "them", between pathogen and host. Read more...
Sin, the violation of God's laws, has both direct and indirect consequences that account for all of the bizarre behavior of schizophrenics. That is why Christians must refuse to ignore the biblical data. From the perspective of these Scriptural data all faulty behavior (which for the Christian is behavior that does not conform to the law of God) stems ultimately from the fundamental impairment of each human being at birth in consequence of the corruption of mankind resulting from the fall. No perfect human beings are born by ordinary generation. They all inherit the fallen nature of Adam together with its organic and moral defects that lead to all faulty (including all bizarre) behavior.

No aspect of a human being, no function has escaped the distorting effects of sin. To some extent, therefore, the same problems seen in schizophrenics are common to all. The differences lie in (1) what bodily functions are impaired, (2) how severely, and (3) what sinful life responses have been developed by the counselee. It is also vital to ask whether the individual is redeemed by the grace of God, since redemption involves a gradual renewal of human nature (cf. Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:10).

The identification of the problem of schizophrenia as a theological difficulty points toward a theological solution... Wrong labels point in wrong directions which, in turn, end only in more frustration... If it indicates that the problem comes from sinful living, the term "sin" points in the direction of a theological solution. It is a serious fault thus to suggest that anything less than God Himself can solve a problem that fundamentally has to do with one's relationship to Him. Read more...

Idle polemics? If you are a parent, and your child shows signs of autism, schizophrenia, or any mental or physical illness, would you like to be told that she was a sinner, possessed by demons that ought to be exorcised? Read this news from Trinidad and Tobago Guardian:

Panic broke out at the Moruga Composite School yesterday as 17 female students fell mysteriously ill and began rolling on the ground, hissing and blabbering in a strange tongue, after suffering bouts of nausea and headaches...

Form Five student Kern Mollineau, who attends the Lighthouse Tabernacle Church, said he got worried when the girls’ eyes began rolling up in their heads and they began beating up on the ground...

Mollineau claimed he actually communicated with the “devil which had possessed the girl. “I asked the Devil what he wanted with the girls and the voice said he wanted a life. He kept saying to send the girls in the toilet and to leave them alone,” Mollineau claimed.

Roman Catholic priests, as well as pastors from nearby churches, including Josephine Charles, Deborah Charles and Pastor Gordon, visited the school and began showering the children with holy water and prayers.

Still dismissive of god delusion? Watch this video.

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