Mental Illness and Religion. Wed, Oct 02 2013 #(2124)

Oct 2, 2013

I am an atheist.

I met you when you visited Duke University in Durham, North Carolina in the Autumn of last year. I gave you a handwritten card.

I wanted to thank you again for coming to the American “South”. I was born in Connecticut but now live in North Carolina and it is very different in many ways. My Dad always joked that Connecticut was “50 years behind the progress of New York City” and if that is true, North Carolina must be 100 years behind…

I have two points:

1. I am so grateful for you speaking out because atheists do not have to judge or hate other people because their religion “tells them to do so”. For example, I’m glad atheists don’t by default have to dislike transgender, bisexual, gay and lesbian humans. There is so much evidence that biology dictates one’s sexual orientation and that biological sex (your sex organs) may not match what gender your brain believes you are. I can’t see how people can deny the biology, especially when other species also exhibit different sexual behaviors and orientations and have great biological diversity.

2. I was diagnosed with a psychiatric disability (mental illness) 10 years ago. I have bipolar I disorder (formerly known as manic-depression). Because of scientists and researchers, I am on wonderful medications that allow me not only to exist, but to thrive in life. If we relied on Christianity to “save me”, especially if it were 100 years ago, I would probably been categorized as some evil demon or possessed by the devil.

I know other people with the same illness I have. Some of them rely on Christianity so much and think it rules their lives. They pray a lot and think “God” is in control of everything and “God” will help them. I don’t want to say that all people who are Christian and believe in “God” have a psychiatric disability, but on the flip-side I do know of so many who have mental illness and devoutly believe in a supernatural “God”.

At times in the past I have been very manic and very depressed. I tell you this private information because I want you to know that books like “The God Delusion” give me more assurance in my atheism and give me confidence that if I do become manic or depressed in the future, I have a strong backbone and won’t be drawn in to relying on a “God” as others who struggle with mental illness. I surely don’t want to fall into that pattern. I was in an inpatient psychiatric unit when first diagnosed and remember so many of the other patients obsessed with God and the Bible or even thinking they were Jesus. My roommate in the hospital was a woman who was studying biology as her major in college, but told me she wanted to change her major to religion and was thinking of becoming a minister or nun. That is very scary to me- majoring in biology, then becoming mentally ill, and then wanting to go into religion as a profession.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that my belief in atheism is a gift and keeps me strong in times that I am not at my best.

Does someone actually read this letter? I would love a quick reply just to know it went through and that someone actually read it.



P.S. Your youtube videos of reading your “hate mail” are hilarious! I enjoy watching them when I need a good laugh!

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