How OCD affects my Atheism
I’ve heard the saying “no Jesus, no peace, know Jesus, know peace.” I think it is clever saying, but incorrect. There are many of those who “know Jesus” and do not have peace of mind. I myself went through a confusing period in regards to Christianity. I was raised primarily Catholic (was baptized, did communion and confirmation), but then adopted a Seventh Day Adventist outlook; encouraged by my fathers’ side of the family. I would attend SDA services for a while and, at some point, prayed the sinner’s prayer with a few friends who identified themselves as born-again (which would imply some Evangelical Christian mindset or similar identity). I can only say that I was sincere in my attempts to “find the Lord” and get right with God.
I’m now an atheist and have been one for over 18 years now. As an atheist, it is harder for my OCD to pin guilt on me. That said I’m still somewhat “scrupulous.” I wouldn’t be the scrupulous atheist if I wasn’t scrupulous or an atheist :). At an OCA meeting I advised a Catholic regarding their religious OCD. While my advice was based completely on the tenets of Catholicism and uncontroversial (I advised them to accept their confessor’s absolution without question and not to look for past sins that haven’t been “confessed” and to take the host as long as he has completed the requisites for it, despite feeling “guilty” or “sinful” etc…), I still felt guilty that I didn’t come out directly as an atheist to this person. The constant guilt one has with religious OCD can be difficult to overcome. Generally scrupulous people are sensitive people who want to “please God.” In my case, I value honesty very highly. I don’t know if my advice would be looked at as an attempt to deconvert or subvert one’s faith. The fact of the matter is that atheists are not viewed with high regard even by other atheists despite the knowledge that one can be atheist and a very moral person. The fact that atheists represent such a small minority of prison inmates and are some of the most productive members of society belie the way they are viewed.
OCD forces me to constantly examine my personal intentions and thoughts. Nowhere is this more confusing than with regards to religion. It wouldn’t be wrong to say I obsessed my way out of religion. It is extremely hurtful to me personally when atheists are accused of rejecting religion because they “want to sin” or know that God exists, but just want to “live in rebellion against God.” With someone with OCD, this can be devastating and can leave one easily open to manipulation. After all, guilt is one of the strongest emotional triggers to religious compulsions. While I wouldn’t go so far as to label theists as “delusional,” in the dictionary sense, theists must understand that their religion has a non-rational aspect to it. For me it has always been a source of amazement, bewilderment and, now, skepticism bordering on contempt with regards to how people claim to know what God actually wants. Do they hear God’s voice? Do they feel God’s presence like in the “hotter/colder” game, analogous to a Ouija board system? How do you know you interpreted “God’s word” correctly? How do you know you are not being manipulated by clergy or your own emotional desires and fears?
The crux of what made me an atheist was that God loves me but is willing to burn me in a conscious torment for an eternity for a transgression of some type. It would be one thing if scripture just portrayed God as just sadistic (as it would be easier and more coherent to believe in). Likewise, a solely loving God would be reasonably easier to believe in as well. It’s God’s capriciousness that causes the “does not compute” aspect in me personally. Intense fear and unconditional love could not co-exist in me as demanded by Yahweh. This in turn caused me to dig deeper into religion and apologetics. At some point the apologetics became ridiculous and, simply stated, redefine words from their plain meaning to mean (usually) the exact opposite. This started to make me think that either the bible is not God’s word or God is an imbecile. It makes no sense for “God’s word” to require such intense mental gymnastics because it loses its ability to be a practical guide to human morality.
6 responses to “How OCD affects my Atheism”
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Yes! Thank you, I completely agree.
Great post! When I read Imp of the Mind I was so interested to learn that scrupulosity is more common in America than in Europe. There’s so much guilt and fear tied up in religion that it’s no wonder that religious obsessions are common.
That is a great book!! Although some have found it to be a book of triggers, so not recommended if one is shifting between themes, but it explores intrusive thoughts of all shapes and sizes
A major problem I have with Christianity is “salvation through faith”. Why does God play hide and seek and if you don’t accept a certain belief on faith you will be doomed to an eternity in Hell? What is the virtue in faith? Is it such a terrible sin to accept incredible claims only on incredible evidence? Does that really deserve such a harsh punishment of an eternity of torment? How can Christians worship and adore such a god?
Faith as a system of judging humanity seems so arbitrary and immoral to me too. God playing peek-a-boo is absurd and to have faith in such a being as a measurement of virtue is orders of magnitude more absurd.