Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Münchausen Ministers?

Are religious clerics suffering from a form of Münchausen syndrome by proxy? This question is not as strange as it may seem.

Firstly, the parallels between the Abrahamic god of the Jews, Muslims and Christians and the personality disorder known as Münchausen syndrome by proxy (MSP) are really quite striking.

The god of the Bible, according to its followers, created humans then immediately rigged a 'sin' by putting temptation in their way before letting them have the ability to tell right from wrong, which anyone with the IQ above that of a plank could have worked out was going to result in them yielding to temptation and so falling into their putative creator's trap. Muslims believe Satan tempts us to disobey Allah and, although Allah is infinitely merciful, he won't forgive you unless you are strictly obedient and submissive. Although Muslims say we aren't born with 'sin' like Christians and Jews claim we are, nevertheless we have a character flaw which makes us tend to yield to 'temptation'. If someone can split that hair for me, I'd be grateful.

So, having metaphorically harmed those in its care, the Abrahamic god then poses as the hero by 'saving' them from the consequences of this deception and demands love and adoration, and above all, attention and praise, for being such a loving, hunky super-hero.

This situation is an exact analogue of someone cutting you so they can sell you a bandage.

MSP is a variant of Münchausen syndrome in which the sufferer feigns illness as a form of attention-seeking behaviour.

Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a form of child abuse in which a parent induces real or apparent symptoms of a disease in a child.

This syndrome almost always involves a mother abusing her child by seeking unneeded medical attention for the child. It is rare and poorly understood. The cause is unknown.

The mother may fake symptoms of illness in her child by adding blood to the child's urine or stool, withholding food, falsifying fevers, secretly giving the child drugs to make the child throw up or have diarrhea, or using other tricks, such as infecting intravenous (given through a vein) lines to make the child appear or become ill.

These children are often hospitalized with groups of symptoms that don't quite fit any known disease. Frequently, the children are made to suffer through unnecessary tests, surgeries, or other uncomfortable procedures.

The parent is usually very helpful in the hospital setting and is often appreciated by the nursing staff for the care she gives her child. She is often seen as devoted and self-sacrificing, which can make medical professionals unlikely to suspect the diagnosis of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

Her frequent visits unfortunately also make the child accessible to her so that she can induce further symptoms. Changes in the child's condition are almost never witnessed by hospital staff and almost always occur only in the mother's presence.

Munchausen syndrome occurs because of psychological problems in the adult, and is generally an attention-seeking behavior. The syndrome can be life-threatening for the child involved.

In one such case in England a low-grade nurse killed 4 children, attempted to kill three others and seriously injured a further six children over a period of 59 days. She is currently serving thirteen life sentences in a secure psychiatric unit.

The term MSP is normally confined to the medical and related manifestations of the syndrome but in its broader application, it could equally apply to anyone who creates a problem in order to 'solve' it, especially by heroic efforts, such as a fire-fighter who starts fires.

How often do we hear gods being praised for saving the odd victim of a hurricane, flood, earthquake or volcano by those who also give it the 'credit' for causing the disaster in the first place? What would this be if not Münchausen By Proxy if done by a person other than a god?

The similarity between the actions of a person suffering from MSP and the Abrahamic god in causing us harm so that it can demand love and adoration for 'saving' us, is too close to be a coincidence. But whatever would induce this god's advocates to present it as having a potentially dangerous personality disorder?

The answer is probably to be found in yet another parallel, by considering answers to three simple questions:
  1. Who exactly tells us that we have the problem which needs to be solved?
  2. Who exactly offers us the solution for this problem?
  3. Who wants us to believe we need their help (and so admire them for their skill and humanity)?
The answer to all three questions is the same: the priesthood of course.

The priesthood tells everyone that that we have a problem which needs urgent attention. The priesthood are the heroes who shoulder the burden of solving the problem and the priesthood expect to be admired for their skill and humanity in having dedicated themselves to caring for us. This is especially true in rigidly hierarchical Catholicism where the priests are the only people with the self-proclaimed power to 'cure' us with absolution.

In reality, of course, there is no problem other than one of their own invention. That sounds a lot like Münchausen syndrome by proxy to me.

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  1. according to Wikipedia (german version), the islamic version of genesis does not have the parts of the story with the original sin and the need for salvation.

    That means that that the statement

    "The god of the Qu'ran, according to it's followers, created humans then rigged a 'sin' by putting temptation in their way before letting them have the ability to tell right from wrong"

    is false.
    Your observation and analysis is more correct directed at the christian faith.

    Greetings, Walter (athiest)

  2. Your reasoning is right on (and amusing). Going further, should we consider it mental illness or just plain fraud?


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