The Devil Made Me Crazy
Christian Self-Help Books, Demonic Depression, and Schizophrenia
Imagine perusing the extensive library of Christian self-help books, desperately seeking answers to life's pressing questions. What do you find? A plethora of explanations, it seems. But the most frequently cited reason for depression? It's none other than demonic influence. Yep! Forget therapy, medication, or a comforting bowl of chicken soup—according to bestselling Christian self-help books, demons are the real culprits behind your case of the blues. Who knew that your existential crisis could be solved with an exorcism!?!
Oh, and that "exorcism" bit isn't really a joke. Performing an exorcism is quite literally the answer provided in Neil Anderson's famous book, The Bondage Breaker, where he guides readers into performing a self-exorcism on themselves to banish the demonic forces oppressing their lives. Just make sure you get the Study Guide, Youth Edition, Devotional, and DVD experience to perform the ritual correctly! Hell, buy the entire collection and you'll probably get a free Haitian Voodoo doll to stomp out all the dark forces created by your use of the Voodoo doll.
Moreover, when asked what the leading cause of schizophrenia is, American Pentecostals overwhelmingly believe it, too, is demonic influence! Because, let's be honest, who needs medical treatment when you have the gift of speaking in tongues to exorcise schizophrenia? It's a classic case of when life gives you lemons, blame the devil for people sending you messages through the radio.
Satan's Silver Lining: A Positive Spin on Evil
Interestingly, research suggests that people with robust notions of a "Satan" figure have more positive experiences associated with God. It seems that attributing misfortunes to the Dark Lord might be the key to maintaining your faith. In other words, those with a strong belief in the devil are less likely to blame God for their pain and suffering.
Not only that, but belief in Satan and evil spirits are linked to lower levels of religious doubt. When people attribute negative experiences to the devil and his demonic minions, people hold onto their faith more because their notion of "God" is protected from criticism. Satan is the convenient scapegoat who gets all the blame . . . while God stays looking like the good guy. In this sense, attributing life's challenges to evil forces serves as a psychological defensive function to shield people's religious beliefs from the inevitable cognitive dissonance that arises from the so-called "problem of evil."
Beck, R., & Taylor, S. (2008). The emotional burden of monotheism: Satan, theodicy, and relationship with God. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 36, 151-160.
Harley, J.L. (2007). Pentecostal Christian view toward causes and treatment of mental health disorders. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Regent University.
Rose, E.D., & Exline, J.J. (2008). The defensive function of belief in the devil and supernatural evil spirits. Poster presented at the annual Mid-Year Conference on Religion and Spirituality, Columbia, MD.
Webb, M., Stetz, K., & Hedden, K. (2008) Representation of mental illness in Christian self-help bestsellers. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 11, 697-717.