The idea that God is more likely to answer prayer if you pray harder or more frequently or with more people seems to have negative consequences for mental health

Great post, and I'm glad you're no longer struggling with that issue.

Growing up in a family where around half of the people had OCD, I've seen some very bad interactions with religion. I think that their particular brand of literalist Protestantism and their constant focus on the worst case scenario/worst possible interpretation were an inescapably bad combination. One relative is nearing 90 and literally spends all but 2 hours a night in prayer (no idea how she's kept this up for 40 years), and it's absolutely heartbreaking.

As for my own experience, I only exhibited OCD behavior in relation to religion as a child — I was unaware of my family's issues with religion, although I knew about other OCD behaviors, which I did not mimic. However, even though I wouldn't say that I ever really believed (my "official" deconversion was in 2nd grade), I still spent all my time trying to silently pray myself out of hell in some twisted version of Pascal's Wager. I've never had any other tendencies towards OCD behavior, and I stopped as soon as I stopped believing in hell. So, I would argue that religion is powerful enough to trigger obsessive behaviors, when other things might not — the stakes of eternal hell are a lot higher than leaving your car door unlocked, after all.

I do think that a form of Christianity that had a more structured/guided system of interpretation or even just more of a focus on education would be far less likely to lead to these issues. I'm long past my angry atheist phase and really enjoy studying Christianity, but getting a family member to watch a lecture from Yale Divinity School with me or read a book from a Bible scholar is literally impossible.

TL;DR Encouraging people who obsessively worry to interpret the Bible with nothing but a copy of John Hagee's Jerusalem Countdown and the Passion of the Christ on VHS will never end well.

/r/DebateReligion Thread Parent