Several years ago I had a schwanoma in my spine, I underwent surgery, it was removed, but a couple of days later I developed an infection of my central nervous system and had to be confined to bed. Hallucinations, delusions, impaired thinking were interesting experiences considering my training as a therapist, and my experience running a transitional home for the chronically mentally ill. I was getting first hand experience with psychosis. But one experience in particular sticks with me. I was laying in bed about 11:30 PM, listening to my son, Nick, drive his ATV through the woods behind our house. I could see the lights shining on the trees as he moved around. When my wife, Carole, came in I asked her what Nick was doing riding the ATV so late. Carole said: Nick's upstairs watching movies. Now, I had never had any cause to question my wife's veracity, she is a very honest person, But my first thought when she said Nick was upstairs was to think: Why is Carole lying to me? I mean, I could hear the engine, I could see the lights, so Carole must be lying to me, WHY?

I realized the next day, that I had been hallucinating, fortunately the psychotic symptoms only lasted as long as the infection, but what struck me was how sure I was that Nick was riding his ATV and Carole was lying to me. That was reality for me at that time. Psychosis is defined as an inability to differentiate between reality and fantasy. So, the next time you're talking to some fundamentalist and you think your cogent arguments might make a difference, consider the possibility that they may be psychotic. Of course that makes one ask the question: can one choose to be psychotic?

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Comment by Steven Knapp on October 14, 2009 at 12:21pm
Thank you for sharing this. It's interesting to hear how psychosis, though temporary, affected someone who is usually rational. It also shows me, once again, that my attempts at reasoning with fundies is a fools effort. And I don't think they choose to be psychotic; I think they are raised on religion or in a culture heavy with religion and the group delusion makes the individual delusion more real. It's like victims of child abuse who grow up and beat their wife or children; it seems to be a psychological thing that people don't choose but are forced into by others in one way or another.
Comment by Misty: Baytheist Living! on October 14, 2009 at 12:52pm
People don't choose to be drug addicts......but....
I think there are two major factors: Genetic pre-disposition and environmental/exposure.
One without the other is pretty sketchy, but if a person winds up with both? Look out.
Religion is it's own form of sickness. Really and truly. Some latch on to it way harder than others of the same school of thought. There has to be a reason for this.
Comment by Doug Reardon on October 14, 2009 at 1:39pm
Genetics can predispose someone to some behavior, but the environment must flip the switch. One may have all the genetics for alcoholism, but if he never takes a drink, no problem. I think that most behaviors have a genetic component, if you have the gene for something you will want to behave as it is expressed, but if you do not have the gene for something you will never understand those who do. I for one, do not have the gene for sports, I have no interest in watching sports, and I surely don't get excited by watching them, but every week half my friends are happy cause their team won and the other half are depressed because their team lost.
Comment by Nix Manes on October 14, 2009 at 9:37pm
I do think that some people who believe have a mental disorder as a basis for their belief. But I think it's a minority. People do change and become non-believers, and without any major change in their brain chemistry other than more knowledge being consumed.

In the past, when belief was much more universal, some people probably believed just because it was easier. What would they gain by fighting it if someone's life is toiling in the fields for some feudal master? That person thinks there's no god. How is his life changed by that? Until the advent of the printing press and then democracy, there was no power to assert yourself successfully and, therefore, no incentive to do so. Would we say that all of those people were delusional, too?

We sometimes believe when it's convenient. We just do. We have so many battles in our lives, we need to be selective about where we put our engergies. Unless we are conscious of every belief we hold, we will continue to hold some. I have purposely tried to purge myself of all beliefs, and it's a battle. But just being aware of them helps. But, sometimes we just don't care and let them sneak it. For those folks, it's just a choice (conscious or not), not a delusion.
Comment by Reggie on October 14, 2009 at 11:56pm
Psychosis is defined as an inability to differentiate between reality and fantasy.

But the fundies would assert that we are the crazies and they have a true grasp on reality!


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