I recently finished up a second hospitalization for my bipolar condition, for which I have been medically retired from the Marine Corps (as of March 30th; I retired while in the hospital system of Chicago, the dates of my internment being from March 22nd to April 12th). Being that I was manic, I was again prone to religious delusion, believing I was (for lack of a better word) God. The first time this happened, back on February 14th, 2010, it was very disconcerting and I oscillated between belief that I was God and belief that I had been chosen by God to carry out His (technical aside; I prefer “Its” but am retaining Biblical standbys) plan.
This second time I was much more fully convinced I was the Lord incarnate. Thankfully, during both incidents, I never had thoughts, intentions or perform actions that would bring harm to myself or others. In this regard I was lucky, and while my stay in the hospitals both times hovered between 3 (for the most recent) and 4 (for the 2010 incident) weeks, most of that is because the medications I am on are very heavy and have a lot of nasty side effects. (Some 30% of people cannot tolerate my medication whatsoever.) Why would a self-described apatheist have religious delusions, you might wonder? And what does this have to do with you?
For the first question, my religious preoccupations almost certainly stem from my upbringing. I was a devout Baptist Christian until about the age of 12, when my parents divorced and I started to become dismayed with religion. While I abandoned my faith and tried out atheism, agnosticism and apatheism (in that order), I never abandoned the ethical and moral underpinnings I had been raised with. The upshot is that I often felt I was depriving myself of “Earthly pleasures” for “no good reason” and thus had a very negative impact on my mood and disposition. Of course, because I had a limited understanding of the Bible and actively avoided reading it or discussing it or studying it further, I thusly had drawn incorrect conclusions about the value of, say, celibacy. (PROTIP: take almost nothing in the Bible as literal.)
What this has to do with you is simple. Many intellectuals, particularly online, fall into the atheist camp. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One can be a spiritual person without belief in a deity, but generally speaking one needs to believe in some kind of power which is higher than oneself (for example, the human spirit, nature, or ancestors). Many atheists, it seems to me, fall into the trap of being atheists merely to attack other people’s belief systems in the sort of way a bully picks on others in order to feel better about him or herself. I’ve also noticed, at least as recently as a few weeks ago when I was more current on my reading, that the rhetoric from our MRA camp has become increasingly toxic and virulent towards women as a class. No, I’m not about to go white knighting or anything of the sort, but we would do well to remember that feminism is an ideology, not a class of human beings.
Spirituality was absolutely critical to my recovery and to my recent turn around and enjoyment of life. I have a very “open” sense of spirituality and incorporate all sorts of philosophies into my personal conception of metaphysics – from Hindu ideas of reincarnation to Christian resurrection, redemption and baptism to Taoism and Buddhist notions of Zen…the list goes on. The key to being happy and healthy rests in taking care of your mind (intellectual stimulation, which the MRA is great for), body (exercise, as I wrote about in my last piece) and soul (the focus of this piece). Again, you don’t have to believe in God (or Allah or Buddha or any other deity) in order to be a spiritual person, but it is vital that you find other people of your same spiritual leanings and enter into communion with them. Spirituality is best enjoyed in the company of others.
Amen, brothers (and sisters).