Monday, September 23, 2013

Wall of Anxiety; or Why the Bible Sucks at Psycology

While this seems unrelated to the Bible, or religion, and its bullshit, it really isn't if you think about it. This was found on the internet. I'm sharing not just the graphic, but what I placed in the comment. And then I'll share why this is relevant here:

When people project their own mental health into another, it's unrealistic and damaging. Everyone's phenotype and genotype is so different that nobody can expect the same results from virtually anything. That's actually the whole point of evolution, inasmuch as you can say an undirected force has intention. Evolution is driven by biological processes that create incredible diversity, from the random mixing of chromosomal sharing in sperm and egg, to which sperm reaches which egg, to the recombination of those chromosomes in the creation of those gametes during meiosis, evolution wants diversity. The reason is that what might kill you will not kill me, and vice versa. So no one thing should be able to wipe out our whole species.

Also consider, the brain needs to be remembered as a physical organ, not a metaphysical one like we seem to think it is. We need to treat its ailments as physical ones. They are routed in real physical chemicals and reactions after all, not in will and voodoo and prayer. It's complex, but it's not a crystal ball. It's a physical organ. Just because we don't fully understand them doesn't make them less physically real. So I like to call the brain type a menotype (mental type), and all menotypes are different as well. This diversity makes it so some people survive that which others cannot, and vice versa. As a sufferer of PTSD, for instance, I have been damaged by that which might not damage others, but I have also survived things many others would not have been capable.

The real statistics about PTSD, just one of many mental disorders, is this: while over 40% or more of people will experience life damaging trauma, only 5-15% of those who do will develop PTSD from it, and nobody's PTSD is the same. For instance, my flashbacks don't bring mere terror to me. I relive them uncontrollably and experience immense amounts of anger, where in the flashback I'm damaging them instead of me. I've also experienced PTSD flashbacks since I was in fourth grade, and probably before that. 

The common error when mentioning PTSD is to assume the person was in battle, because we think that's the most traumatic thing we can experience. It most certainly can be, but trauma is relative. PTSD usually damages those who feel helpless against the pain they experience, which is exactly what abused kids feel. Those in war were prepared by basic training and mental conditioning to at least feel trained, so their PTSD situations are often far less severe than that of an abused child (and again, sometimes, not always). But people will try to tell you PTSD isn't real if you weren't in war, and that's horse shit too.

People need to stop making diagnoses if they're not trained to. Judgments need to stop. Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura ain't real fucking doctors and neither are the people who judge you.

Now, what has this to do with religion and biblical shit? You already probably have several religious experiences that came to mind yourself. You may be thinking about the variety of ways people have different religious experiences in the same way we all have different reactions to trauma. You may be thinking of how your own mental disorder was made worse by religious delusions, or how yo were told to pray it away, or that it was from your own sin, etc.

Clearly, however, peoples reactions to things cannot be easily classified and categorized. PTSD or no PTSD, for example, is far too simplistic, as even PTSD is different in everybody, and usually misdiagnosed. So I'm going to share a situation where people tried to use a badly interpreted biblical verse to categorize people in my old cult... ahem... church. You'll see why it didn't work at all.

Keep in mind, our goal wasn't at all different from AMWAY. We were to make more members at every opportunity and bug everyone to make more members. If you weren't making more members, you were masturbating with Satan, so you had to keep doing it. And of course my social phobia made that hell for me. I don't walk up to people to talk to them, and I sure didn't enjoy trying to do it to talk about shit they didn't want to talk about, like Jebus Crispy.

So I was considered idle. But they tried to find a way to help me break out of my shell. Suddenly the sermon of that weekend was based on this verse:

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 

Here's now to not gain wisdom from a verse. Let's make this into a way to diagnose people, in clear, cold categories. Are you idle? Are you weak? Timid? (At the time the NIV's word was timid, but because this is from a more recent version I see they've changed it to disheartened).  Let's certainly not just use our heart and patience with people.

So my discipling partner (yeah, like I said, it was a cult) decided to give me a run down. Was I just timid? Of course. So we'll just encourage. You can do it! And because then I couldn't do it, then I was just idle. And now we just go to the verses about how you should have nothing to do with idle people. Oh well, I encouraged you, you still fail, I write you off. Weirdly, this was all in a single afternoon.

It makes sense what our guy in the pulpit said though, as he compared this to weightlifting. You don't help the guy who's simply scared about the weight but clearly physically strong enough to lift it. S/he's gotta learn to lift it on their own, right? Of course. And you don't encourage the person who's too weak to lift it, because they can clearly hurt themselves.

But what if you're timid and weak? And what if my fear isn't just merely being shy (and I'm not shy) but an actual mental disorder, which after what I said about the brain above is clearly a physical weakness? Then you're going to be idle, because you're in need of the most help. And that's when you apparently discard the person instead:

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away fromevery believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 

Not to mention as you can see, physical help takes effort, but going You can do it! takes none. So what did people want to do most? Diagnose timidity. Nobody wanted anything to do with the weak. That'd mean having to be a real helpful person.

And tell me how this isn't a criticism of Christianity today? They've recently used this verse from the same chapter to justify cutting off food stamps:

“The one who is unwilling to workshall not eat.”
2 Thessalonians 3:10 

This is clearly a stupid way to discard millions of people who, in fact, are often hard working people in jobs that merely don't pay enough. Like Wal-Mart workers. Or airline pilots (and I wish I were kidding about that one). Or the many in Right to Work states who find they're doing huge jobs and making next to nothing for it. But it also cuts off those who cannot work for disabilities, some of which are mental. And are therefore, no less physical.

The verses above are stupid anyway, as they are creatively sliced out of a much bigger message that, if used in these bad ways, directly contradicts the point of 1 Thessalonians. Warn the idle doesn't mean the same as cut off the idle. And one doesn't just cut off the idle. Even a closer look at the second of 2 Thessalonians 3, from which they came, shows that a big step must come first:

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to workshall not eat.”
-----We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
-----Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 

Before even giving that rule, they worked, toiled, and labored to teach and set an example. This is what is missing in many people who have to draw food stamps or need help in this country. They are unguided, unloved, uncared for, and in need of something more than just judgmental 'tough love,' and yet they are treated like the enemy. The Right treats them like a Commie, which is the Capitalist's equivalent of Satanist.

Basically, leave the Bible out of it. We can learn something from this, as I've shown, but we're not. We're just casting judgment. And the Thessalonians from that time, as well as the people who wrote this shit, are long dead and don't live in our time.

And we understand something they didn't. The brain is physical. Mental disorders are real. And Christianity is no excuse to be an asshole to people anymore. And I no longer try to bring people to Christ, because I now know that doesn't actually do any real good to anybody. Except for those who benefit from the placebo effect. And many do not. I am one of them.

I prefer reality.