M*W: Scientists have concluded that there is a deeply manifested relationship between religion and schizophrenia. Common symptoms of non-treated schizophrenics include delusions of both spirituality and religiousness. Religious belief delusions vary across cultures. The impact of religion does not always have a positive outcome. In fact, religious delusions may play a part in substance abuse and suicide attempts. Psychiatrists have found that using religion as part of a patient’s treatment can often have adverse outcomes.
The potential implications of statements such as this are, to put it mildly, bad. I just finished reading “Under the Banner of Heaven” by Jon Krauker (thanks for the suggestion Kelly) and one of the items discussed during the trial of the Lafferty brothers was the attempt to get them off on an insanity plea because he heard the voice of God talking to him that told him to commit murder. Luckily that did not happen, because if it had then anyone who commits a crime because of his religious fervor could claim the same, when it is in all actuality the fault of the person committing the crime.
While I may personally find the idea of belief in a supreme being a trifle silly, that does not mean I think that people who actually adhere to their religious beliefs are classified as insane by any stretch of the word. Here in the states, we are so inundated with religion that to not believe practically ostracizes you from society (see this Slate article for an interesting look at that).
Genetically, we are also programmed to believe what someone in a position of authority tells us at a young age. As we grow, and learn to think for ourselves, we find that we can learn through trial and error, but some of what was there as a child still remains. This, of course, is how our children become indoctrinated in religion, and in my opinion it would be far better if they were allowed to make that choice for themselves when they reach a level of maturity commiserate with such a large decision in their lives.
So, does this mean that just because our parents told us that someone was watching over us, and speaks to us, makes us insane? In my thoughts, no.