May 30, 2002 3:58 AM   Subscribe

Speaking of organized religion: Scientists claim there is a link between piety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
posted by costas (13 comments total)
Like counting beads?
posted by pracowity at 5:06 AM on May 30, 2002

pracowity, that was very unpious--30 Hail Mary's as penance.
posted by ashbury at 5:42 AM on May 30, 2002

30 Hail Mary's as penance.

Obsessive or Compulsive?

Definitely a disorder, though :)
posted by bittennails at 5:46 AM on May 30, 2002

I was diagnosed with OCD maybe 7 years ago, at a young age. It's easy to see how these symptoms can lead to obsession with divine powers, but this has not been the case for me..In fact, I was brought up with only a general notion of religion rather than under one specific system of beleifs, and I still haven't settled on one way of looking at God. I'd say my case is much less severe than the poor people cited in the article (those were classic cases, another example is the excellent movie "As Good As It Gets") but Tourrettes and similar symptoms have been in the family for years. Anyways, that's my story =)
posted by t0rn at 5:51 AM on May 30, 2002

I'd think it's more likely that OCD causes religiously-inclined people to gravitate toward particular kinds of piety than it is that piety causes OCD. Particularly given the known genetic links to OCD.
posted by straight at 5:57 AM on May 30, 2002

Didn't Orson Scott Card imply this in _Xenocide_?
posted by mecran01 at 7:38 AM on May 30, 2002

Yes, I was thinking the same thing.
posted by yonderboy at 8:43 AM on May 30, 2002

The title of the article is misleading. Piety is not the same as "a strict, possibly even God-fearing upbringing."

Plenty of people grew up with Fundy parents and broke away from it, and I'd consider myself an example of a fairly pious (but relaxed about it) person who wasn't raised religious.
posted by Foosnark at 9:01 AM on May 30, 2002

mecran01 and yonderboy, yes. life imitates sci-fi again.
the godspoken are also supposed to be genii, as well as pious.

some other investigations into the religious experience involve this:
'When the meditator felt the sense of oneness developing—usually after about an hour—they would tug on a string. This signalled the researchers to inject a radioactive tracer through the intravenous line. Within minutes the tracer bound fast to the brain in greater amounts where the blood flow, and hence brain activity, had been higher. Later a scanner would measure the distribution of the tracer to yield a snapshot of brain activity at the time of binding. '
And this:
'Through trial and error and a bit of educated guesswork, he's found that a weak magnetic field—1 microtesla, which is roughly that generated by a computer monitor—rotating anticlockwise in a complex pattern about the temporal lobes will cause four out of five people to feel a spectral presence in the room with them.'
posted by asok at 11:33 AM on May 30, 2002

oh, and alien abduction:
'Something seemed to get hold of my leg and pull it, distort it, and drag it up the wall. It felt as though I had been stretched half way up to the ceiling. Then came the emotions. Totally out of the blue, but intensely and vividly, I suddenly felt angry - not just mildly cross but that clear-minded anger out of which you act - but there was nothing and no one to act on. After perhaps ten seconds, it was gone. Later, it was replaced by an equally sudden attack of fear. I was terrified - of nothing in particular. The long-term medical effects of applying strong magnetic fields to the brain are largely unknown, but I felt weak and disoriented for a couple of hours after coming out of the chamber.'
posted by asok at 11:36 AM on May 30, 2002


It seems to me that those experiments have nothing to do with spiritual experience and everything to do with identifying the range of human sensory potential. We have more than 5 senses (sense of hunger, sense of balance, etc.). It's not surprising that our brains can also react to magnetic fields.

You can zap someone's brain and make them hear Mozart symphonies or see butterflies. That doesn't mean that electricity explains where butterflies come from. All this demonstrates is that if spiritual beings exist, they might be contacting people by acting magnetically on their brains. It's no different than assuming that if someone hears the voice of God, God must've created vibrations in their ear drums, auditory canal, or the air around them.
posted by straight at 2:16 PM on May 30, 2002

So all of us atheists who have OCD can now refer to ourselves simply as "anal-retentive." Sorta like calling poor people "crazy," but rich people "eccentric!"
posted by davidmsc at 3:26 PM on May 30, 2002

i always thought this was pretty obvious, personally. but maybe that's me just generalizing all forms of ritualized behavior as reminiscent of OCD.

(of course people like jumping on that "reminiscent" argument; it's one being leveled against stephen wolfram's alleged computer- based discoveries.)
posted by zerolucid at 5:49 PM on May 30, 2002

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