My Mother’s Depression

Mother’s Day has me thinking about my mother. When my daughter was diagnosed with clinical depression my mom revealed that she also struggles with depression and has been on medication to treat it for a long time. She says the drugs help and will help our daughter but she also says God helps her cope with it all. I don’t usually focus on my family in this blog but I do bring some of this agnosticism to my talks and emails with my mother. There’s a good natured back and forth between us on belief. Recently I sent her Julia Sweeney’s excellent DVD Letting Go Of God. She responded by sending me The Real Face of Jesus on DVD and we had some good emails back and forth about that. The Shroud of Turin is still a big mystery but so are other things like the pyramids and Stonehenge. The shroud is a thought provoking proof of the possibility of Jesus, but I don’t see it as proof of resurrection or the leap of faith that Jesus was the son of God and all of that proving that God exists and created the universe.

My mother believes it and believes God is there to help her through her troubles and through the darkness of her mind that depression brings. This makes me rethink my approach to her religious belief. Some of my e-mails with her were starting to go on the attack as far as saying it’s really stupid and useless to believe in religion and hold on to those ideas. My atheistic outlook to Christianity leads me to not simply let it go. But she does admit that there are still more questions than answers to religion and she gets more out of her church community and the human fellowship they give her than she gets from the comfort of the prayers and personal relationship she thinks she has with God and Jesus.

So if there is good to be had in her life with religion then who am I to try to break that? Who am I to say that what she feels works for her doesn’t “really” work and she should stop believing it? I do think that religion is all in the mind but should we try to eradicate it completely from the human psyche when it’s a set of thoughts and beliefs that appears to help some people. Some people use an external framework like religion to define their lives, their definitions of right/wrong and good/bad, and their motivations for living. They’re just a set of thoughts and beliefs regardless of their truth. I’m using the word “thoughts” instead of saying she follows the Bible because my mom’s life matches an American Christian society view of living and not the exact written words of the Bible. If you really tried to codify modern Christianity you would have a whole new law book that doesn’t match the Constitution or the Bible. Believers including my Mom are following their own evolving and collective view of what “Christian” belief really is. How they believe is really about how they follow a crowd and conform to a different kind of community or family than just conformance to our family and country’s citizenry. It’s just another facet to what makes up my mom’s way of life that I don’t personally share in. She doesn’t try to change how I live my life without the Christian God so I think I should let her live her life with that belief if it does help her live it.

I’ve never sought treatment for depression for myself. I probably have it to a certain extent looking at my mother and my daughter. But I don’t need the comfort of God and Heaven to motivate me through life and the darkness that sometimes invades my mind. I value truth and believe that religion is fantasy just like Santa Claus or any other myths I’ve discussed in this blog. Once I had shed the external framework of religion and entirely thought for myself I didn’t find it difficult to decide what was right and wrong. I can also determine what is really good and bad in the world using the framework of the society we all fall under. I think I’m a better citizen than many modern Christians because religion often tries to make black and white out of a grey and nuanced existence. However, there are plenty of theists that operate in society just like I do and our only difference is they believe in a god and I don’t. I’m not sure I really care enough to say religion should be gone just because it’s false. I just want the freedom to not believe to be as protected and accepted in the world as the freedom to believe. That will allow my mom to have God support her through her depression and for me to not bother with such nonsense as I deal with things in my own life. I think we’re both better people with that arrangement.

5 thoughts on “My Mother’s Depression

  1. Any psychologist can testify to the power of belief. It can motivate you to murder (bin Laden) or it can drive you to suicide (low self esteem). I think it’s great that you and your mother have a close relationship, but, my mother is a JW and she doesn’t speak to me BECAUSE I rejected her religion. You see, religion is not so benign.

    But, I’m not saying I don’t appreciate your point. On the surface denying your mother her religion would be tantimount to denying her medication. Of course, I don’t know your mother, but, I tend to believe that the benefits she reaps from religion are more from the social network, peer group, if you will, that welcomes her despite her mental struggles. In her perception, the church is the tool of god, so she gives him the credit.

    If I were to take you to task on your point of view, I would ask the question, “If religion in western culture had not been stripped of its authority, do you believe for one second that they would not be executing blasphemers routinely (you and me), burning witches, and stifling science as an enemy of the church? In the middle east, where religion still holds power over the unenlightened, it happens every day. Religion is the enemy of peace and enlightenment.

    At the age of seventeen, I, too, was diagnosed with clinical depression, and the drugs did VERY little to help me. It’s more like they blurred my perception of the world rather than give me a more positive outlook. My freedom came when I quit focusing on the things that made me sad. Not entering into denial, just quit obsessing on them. Like, “stop picking your scab” or stop “rubbing the sore spot”, and let it heal. I’m probably oversimplifying her crisis, but, often, the simplest solution is the best. It worked for me.

    Anyway, webhost, whatever your name is, I think we are kindred spirits, and I would love to open a dialog. Rather than you making a statement, I respond, end. This is wordpress software, and I know you can make further entries on the thread. Let’s get to know each other.


  2. Well, you didn’t respond, I was disappointed. So I went searching the web for other freethinkers who don’t call themselves atheist. I stumbled upon this:

    I quote: ” Now I’m telling there is a little fairy sitting on the edge of your hand with her little pale legs dangling off the side. What you don’t believe me? Why not? You can’t see her? Well, that’s easy, she’s invisible. Can’t feel her? You’re not sensitive enough, but she is there. And how can you argue with me, can you really completely deny the existence of that little fairy sitting on your hand if we’ve agreed that she’s invisible? Of course you can’t, you’ve got nothing to say that the invisible fairy isn’t there. I’m telling you she is, and what’s more she’s probably an invisible and probably slightly pissed off fairy by now as you don’t believe in her. Wouldn’t you be annoyed if I didn’t believe in you? I would apologise to her if I were you.”

    Why would a fairy be a “she”? I know lot’s of guys in San Diego who would take acception :-). Seriously, though, Richard Dawkins, in his book, “the god delusion” stated he was 6 out of seven an atheist. In his famous promotional appearance with Bill Maher, he said was nine out of ten because he could not prove that there were no fairies or unicorns. I found it somewhat insulting to the sanity of agnosticism. Both Mary and Dawkins seem to accuse doubters of accepting the possibility of fairies. I don’t. I don’t believe in any classic goatherder myth. What I see, is that if there is a force behind origin, it does not care about the outcome. If it created the dinosaurs, it watched them fail and disappear. If it created us, neither will it care if we disappear. Judging the artist by the artwork, what it is a god of evolution which is the most sociopathic force of nature. No forgiveness, no patience, just adapt or die. Millions of years of history prove it. So, for me, it’s not about whether you can prove fairies don’t exist, it’s about whether or not you can offer an explanation of how an entire universe blasts into existence out of nothing.

    One could rightly ask, if you do not believe in religion, and if god does not interfere the course of nature, why do you resist calling yourself atheist? It is a promise I made to myself, as a recovering fundamentalist to never adopt as belief that which has not been proven by science. Therefore, fairies and unicorns are a non-issue. Origin is, but, not a big one. Our future is in our own hands, and that is a flag under which all freethinkers can rally. I find atheists, in general, too arogant to accept such an alliance. Too busy calling agnostics trolls. Shooting themselves in the foot. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him think.


  3. Neowolfe, I’m sorry that I don’t have a lot of time for this hobby of mine. I’m not a professional full-time Agnostic. 🙂 I have read your replies and I agree with much of what you say. I’m a technical atheist of the “weak atheist” variety in that when we talk about “belief” I am a person that is without a theistic belief. I’m more interested in what we know instead of what we believe and in that regard I am a strong agnostic.

    In response to your first reply, I’m leaning towards the opinion that religious people are the enemy of the peace and enlightenment and if they didn’t have Jesus and Allah it would be Scientology and the FSM. I think the root of the problem is the people themselves and not the unprovable ideas they hold as truth.

  4. So now instead of webhost, I will call you Jeff. My name isn’t NeoWolfe, it’s Norman. My parents obviously could have named me Sue, but they hated me too much. :-).

    I do not know if you appreciate that I check back on this tiny site because I suspect that I found a soulbrother. Here is what I have discovered, you can go associate with the atheists, the nearest thing to a peer group that we think we have. Some will admit to the same doubt that you have, awaiting science to fill the gaps. Many will accuse you of intellectual cowardice, because you do not extrapolate that if religion is false, the opposit must be true.

    Stick to your guns, but when you get a moment, look into humanism. It is a banner under which all freethinkers can unite.


  5. Don’t blame the idea blame the people. The bible never directly incriminates science, witchcraft, etc it is the people who interpret it bending words to fit their will. This statement was under limited knowlege that i’ve only read the bible once and church 3 times at most. My grandparents were either athiest or taost (pagan if you’re christian) and parent are non-theist. Correct me if i’m wrong. ( stopped reading when i opened a chapter that literally said treat your master as if you were slave to christ himself)

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