Chesterton famously said that when people cease to believe in God, they don't believe in nothing; they believe in anything. I’ve talked before about environmentalism and leftist politics in general as a substitute religion. One of the most dangerous of all substitute religions is psychiatry.
Religion attempts to provide answers to many questions. Apart from spiritual matters religion tries to answer questions in the social and personal spheres. Why does evil exist? Why do people suffer? How can I find happiness? How do I make my marriage work? Unfortunately the answers psychiatry provides are bogus and often destructive.
Firstly we need to dispose of the idea that psychiatry has some connection with science. It doesn’t. That’s very obvious in the case of psychoanalysists like Freud and Jung. They were clearly working in the realm of imaginative literature (or possibly speculative fiction might be closer) rather than science. Freud was a brilliant man in many ways but he was making leaps of intuition, not doing science. Modern psychiatry is no more scientific than Freud.
I’m not arguing that mental illness doesn’t exist. There’s ample scientific evidence for the existence of a handful of conditions such as schizophrenia. But the hundreds of “disorders” listed in the DSM-IV are merely vague descriptions of collections of personality traits and behaviours. They change radically with each edition which is a valuable clue that we are not dealing with matters of science. Many of these personality traits and behaviours are in fact quite normal.
They get listed as “disorders” in the DSM if they are socially disapproved of, or if they are perceived as inconvenient. The classic case is ADHD. It used to be accepted that boys tend to be mischievous and extremely active and that they have a tendency to get into trouble. That’s what raising children is all about - teaching them to behave in a civilised manner. Today when boys behave like normal boys they can’t be disciplined because that would be oppressive. So they get medicated instead. And instead of learning to take responsibility for their own behaviour they learn to take a pill because it’s not their fault, they have a mental disorder.
People used to get sad and unhappy sometimes. That’s not allowed in the new religion of psychiatry. Unhappiness is a mental disorder. It’s depression. They have a pill for that as well. The notion that maybe unhappiness is something we all have to learn to deal with is no longer acceptable. That would mean taking responsibility. The core of the religion of psychiatry is that no-one has to take responsibility. We are told that we are facing an epidemic of depression. What we are really facing is an epidemic of sef-pity.
Or take addiction. It used to be thought that alcoholics were people who drank too much, and that drug abusers were people who used drugs to evade reality and responsibility. Now we’re told they suffer from a disease - addiction. And just about every anti-social behaviour, from promiscuity to gambling, is now a disease as well. Theodore Dalrymple has exposed the nonsense of all this in his excellent book Junk Medicine.
The result of all this is to concentrate a great deal of power in a new priesthood of doctors and therapists. Dr Tana Dineen reminds us of the dangers of this in her book Manufacturing Victims.
Crime used to be considered to be selfish or destructive behaviour that required laws and police in order to protect society. Psychiatry has been increasingly used to medicalise crime, so that now criminals are victims who need treatment.
The problems of evil, of sin, of suffering, are now seen as evidence of mental disorders that can be solved by taking the right pill. That not only allows people to evade responsibility, it also makes us a society that is increasingly unable to cope with the challenge of the real world.
Now I have nothing against religion, but a religion that merely offers excuses for vicious behaviour and that encourages us to wallow in self-pity, a religion that infantilises us, is not a healthy religion. A religion should give us the strength to come to terms with suffering and to confront evil. And a religion that goes on steadily increasing the powers of its priesthood is a danger to society. Psychiatry is simply a failed religion masquerading as science.