[extropy-chat] Putting God to Rest

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Wed Apr 25 06:14:33 UTC 2007

On 4/25/07, Rafal Smigrodzki <rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com> wrote:

I am pretty sure that only a very persistent and multimodal sensory
> experience, well integrated in my general perception of the world,
> would be necessary for a religious conversion in me. Any transient
> discorporeal voices would immediately prompt me to get an MRI scan,
> since at my age such symptoms are likely to be due to organic rather
> than primary psychiatric causes. I would order an EEG to look for any
> suspicious temporal spikes, and in the absence of objective finding, a
> psychiatric evaluation and a stiff dose of neuroleptics would be in
> order. Angels, especially little ones scuttling around in the
> periphery of my vision, would make me suspicious of Charles Bonnet
> syndrome, or perhaps the beginnings of Levy body dementia.

The formal definition of a delusion in psychiatry is interesting: a fixed,
false belief not in keeping with the patient's cultural background. That
last part is added to avoid calling all religious and superstitious beliefs
delusions. There are, of course, associated features in psychotic illnesses
which help make the diagnosis, but in cases of doubt the only test worth
anything available to psychiatry is a therapeutic trial of a neuroleptic. I
don't know of any study determining the false positive rate for such a test,
but I am sure it would be very low; otherwise, we would be able to cure
religion using haloperidol.

Stathis Papaioannou
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