Over a decade ago I was having lots of problems with my marriage, my job, and of course my school. So I went to speak with the school psychologist to see what was wrong. My school’s psychiatrist said that she thought I had severe depression – something that I know runs in my family. But unlike my father or his sisters, I could do something about it with medication and treatment.
So my GP doctor found a psychiatrist for me, and I started doing the research to learn about the mental health profession and to find a psychologist for me. I went to see the psychiatrist my doctor recommended.
The psychiatrist’s office was a standard doctor’s office in a standard doctor’s building with other doctors and mental health professionals around. I didn't think much of it until I actually entered the doctor’s treatment room, where she talked to her patients.
It was designed to be a comfortable room, comfy couch, a nice overstuffed chair, her chair, a desk. But it was decorated in India style, with a Hindu shrine, bright colors, the “Om” symbol, and lots of plants in pots decorated in a matching style. It seemed very exotic, and I love that.
The doctor was an older woman, dressed in India fashion, with a discreet Hindu Bindi on her forehead.
We introduced ourselves, and sat down for a discussion. She was very professional. We discussed what I was experiencing and she asked questions, and finally confirmed that I was experiencing very severe depression. We discussed different medications, and lifestyle changes, and the need of a psychologist. She was happy that I was already searching for a psychologist, and she gave me a little advice in that regard.
Then she asked about my spiritual state.
As background, I grew up in a Christian home. My parents divorced when I was twelve, and then mom stopped going to church. But Dad had us kids on the weekend, and we went to CHURCH! I was active in the youth group, and was baptized at 14, and still have the bible my father presented me on my baptism day. I was required by our church to take a series of classes before my pastor would perform the baptism. Later on in my life, I've been a bible study teacher, a church Deacon, and have worked on the steering committee of my church.
And now I’m an atheist. I became an atheist in my mid to late 30’s, just a couple of years before seeing this psychiatrist.
Protestant reformation leader Martin Luther once said,
“Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.”
He was right. My faith could not withstand my questioning, my reasoning, and my skeptical inquiry. I came to atheism unwillingly, but I got there because I couldn’t prove my beliefs to be true.
So when this psychiatrist asked me about my spiritual state, I gave Carl Sagan’s answer to the question of spirituality. That I was filled with awe and wonder at the universe, but that the universe is all there is.
She didn’t like my answer. I explained a little of my background, and she asked me how I could “know” that there is “nothing”. The answer is I don’t know. I also don’t know that humans in the future didn’t use time travel to go into the past and start the first Big Bang in a time paradox worthy of Star Trek.
Not knowing is not a good reason for belief.
This seemed to unsettle my psychiatrist, and she waved at her shrine, and said that it didn’t matter to her which higher power that I chose, only that it would be best for my mental health if I chose one.
I asked her if it bothered her that I could choose a higher power that came with a religion that demanded that I see her as a heathen, a heretic, or worse? She replied that they were all paths to the same destination, and I was free to choose which ever. I again pointed out that I could choose a “path” that condemned her, and that basically required me to witness to her at best, or do her physical harm at worst.
Inside her nice safe office here in America, she didn’t seem nearly as bothered by the chance of physical harm as she did by me not having a deity to worship.
We left the conversation unsettled. I told her I would keep reading about deities and looking for one that is sufficient for me. She wrote a script to an antidepressant.
The antidepressant helped.
And I picked up the habit of collecting many different types of religious “holy” texts and lots of apologetics texts. I keep asking questions, and so far all the answers are the same. Gideon and David Wilkerson are both wrong – as is Judges 6:33-40.
The only answer I’ve found is this: if I want to believe, I must first believe. Unfortunately this is the same answer to every single supernatural religion that humanity believes.
Her response did clue me in to a possible problem during my search for a psychologist. So I interviewed ten different psychologists during my search, and I included as one of my questions, “I’m an atheist. Is this going to be a problem as part of my treatment?”
Out of the ten I interviewed, three said outright that they couldn’t, or wouldn’t feel comfortable in treating an atheist. Two of them gave doubtful answers in the vein of, “I don’t know, I guess it will be okay…” And five of them gave responses that amounted to, “What? Why would that be a problem?”
This was when I learned that psychologists were just people, with different skill sets, and varying levels of competence. Years of education, training, residency and testing just show that a person can jump through the hoops successfully. It is still up to you to find someone who can actually help you.