Religion and Mental Health

I’m not atheist.

Those of you who follow me and have read a lot of my posts (and the various about me sections) know this.

I choose the label “Pagan” because it’s the easiest one to explain my unlabeled belief.  And my mother is Pagan.  But I don’t really like labels.  I believe in a higher power.   I don’t exactly know what it is.

But moving on.  My issue today lies mostly with the way some Christianity, particularly Catholicism, feels about mental health, particularly depression and suicide.

This is not to say I have an issue with Christians or Catholics.  I do not.  I have family, friends, coworkers- many persons I care for greatly that are active Christians and I respect them wholeheartedly.

When I first saw the movie “Constantine” I was drawn in by the idea of angels and demons walking among us.  But then I became horrified and disturbed by the idea of someone being condemned to hell for taking their own life.  Being raised by a Pagan mother and atheist father, I’d never heard of this belief before.
(Note: I’m actually unaware of a lot of common Christian-based beliefs.  I wasn’t ever taught those things.  Not even basic bible stories.  The only one I really know is the flood, but that’s because there’s a Pagan equivalent.  Someone tried to explain the whole J-dude and the whale to me a couple months ago and I just didn’t get it.  They were like “He was swallowed by a whale” and I was like “You mean like Pinocchio?”  and they were like “Well, that’s the reference Pinocchio is making.”  to which I replied “Huh. Weird.”
I make an ass of myself frequently.)

Suicide happens when the pain is greater than one’s coping abilities.  Simply put, the person is struggling, reaching and reaching, and no one is grasping that hand and pulling them out from the hell they’re already in.

And then you want to say that they have to continue that suffering (that was not their choice in the first place) forever???  That is not a religion I can get behind.  At all.  I wish this narrow minded idea that mental illness is not “as real” as physical illness didn’t exist.
And to have religion, a powerful force in itself, perpetrate this belief that persons suffering from mental illnesses can just shake themselves free of it by simple faith and reading of a religious book…is just incomprehensible to me.

My spiritual beliefs are dear to me.  They’ve gotten me through some rough patches.  But they were not enough when I miscarried last year and decided I wasn’t worth the life I had been given.  I lost my faith.  A lot of persons I’ve known to have depression and suicidal thoughts have followed this pattern.  Faith is swept under the rug.  Not because we don’t believe or don’t want assistance from the Great Divine.  It is merely that our mental illness makes it impossible to care about and grasp those greater ideals.  We consider ourselves worthless- why would we want to draw attention from a higher being to that?

But to be punished eternally for that self-hatred?

I cannot believe the Great Divine, in their loving kindness, in the beauty they’ve handed to us, would truly punish like that.  How can some who hates only themselves, harms no others, be on the same level of hell as a mass murderer?

But there is a flip side to this.

I heard this beautiful story this morning and it opened my eyes to acceptance.  That everything has two sides.

Here is the story (I’ve paraphrased it a bit):

Two soldiers were stationed together for many years.  They became good friends, brothers-in-arms.  When they were sent into battle, one of them didn’t make it out alive.

The soldier left living found out that his friend had no relatives or other friends to handle the funeral arrangements.  So he took his fallen friend to his own family Catholic church and requested the priest handle the arrangements and eulogy of his friend.  The priest first asked,

“Was your friend Catholic?”

“He was not.” Answered the soldier, meeting the eyes of the priest bravely. The priest nodded.

“I will take care of your friend.”

The soldier then had to go back to his base.  Years later, he returned to the church to look for his friend.  He scoured the graves outside the fence, since he knew that since his friend was not Catholic, he wouldn’t be permitted within the fence’s boundaries.  He couldn’t find his friend’s grave and went to ask the priest.  The priest nodded and led the soldier to the correct grave, securely within the bounds of the fence.

The soldier looked at the priest in confusion.

“But I told you my friend was not Catholic.”

“I know.” said the priest, “And by the rules of the church, he is not to be buried within the boundaries of our fence.  But I searched the bible many times over for the answer.  No where did I find a passage that forbade the moving of the fence afterwards.”

8 thoughts on “Religion and Mental Health

    1. penpaperandcrazy Post author

      I agree. I didn’t mean to rip exclusively on Christians. I’ve also heard self-proclaimed agnostics and atheists (my father being one of them) that also dismiss mental illness as something that “just needs to be sucked up”. I just dislike the whole stigma in general.

      Reply
      1. penpaperandcrazy Post author

        May I ask if you’ve heard that story about the soldiers before? It was a tidbit I stumbled across and I wonder if it’s something taught or just a general anecdote?
        I found it extremely inspiring and beautiful.

      2. penpaperandcrazy Post author

        I’m trying to do some research on it. I’m interested in whether it’s simply an anecdote, or based on an actual event. Either way, I think it’s a great story, but I like to know the origins of such things 🙂

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