The Clash of Science and Religion
Last week, one of my cousins opened up to my parents, an aunt and an uncle about what’s been happening to her for the past two months. It turns out that my cousin has been seeing a psychiatrist for the past two months. The psychiatrist diagnosed her with depression with anxiety and has begun prescribing medicines for her to take. If it’s Major Depressive Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder or Seasonal Affective Disorder, I’m not sure. However, I believe it’s Major Depressive Disorder as my cousin meets most of the criteria needed for a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder.
My parents and relatives, of course, tried identifying events that might have triggered her depression. Aside from that, they recommended that my cousin, as well as themselves, resort to praying. They suggested that my cousin continuously pray and seek guidance from the Lord while trying to get herself back on track. My parents and relatives, on the other hand, promised to pray for her recovery by praying at a certain time. In this case, my parents and relatives agreed that they would offer a prayer for her everyday at 9 in the morning.
What was I doing? Well, this might seem insensitive of me but I was glued to my phone as she was opening up her condition. But hey, I was listening.
As I was listening, I found two conflicts.
1. One opinion is not enough.
My cousin said that she consulted with only one psychiatrist. Furthermore, she said that the psychiatrist focused on giving her medication. Aside from this, no other approaches were used.
Since she said “medication”, I would assume that the psychiatrist views abnormality using the biological perspective. Okay, so what about the cognitive or the psychodynamic perspective? Personally, I believe my cousin’s condition can be explained by negative thoughts and beliefs (cognitive) and by painful memories of the past (psychodynamic).
I would suggest that my cousin see another psychiatrist who does not focus on the biological perspective. This is so that she has opinions from different perspectives which leads to her treatment as being unbiased (not mainly from the biological perspective). Also, relapses are not uncommon in depression and medication alone may not prevent a relapse. It’s possible that medication relieves the symptoms of depression but it does not ultimately change the negative thoughts and beliefs of the person. Also, medication does not work well with coming into terms with painful memories.
2. Does resorting to religious activities really work?
I grew up with parents who always thought me that there is a God. That God should be thanked for the many blessings that come our way. That it is important to hear Mass every Sunday. That it is important to trust and have faith in God.
Aside from this, I also came from a high school that had Christian Living as a subject. So yeah, all my life, I was exposed to religious events and activities.
At this point, one would expect me to say that religion plays a big role in my life. But no. I’m a non-believer. I don’t believe that God is responsible for all things.
That high grade you got in the hardest subject is not the result of prayers; it was the fruit of all the effort you put in studying for that subject.
“Aren’t you going to thank God for helping you remember all those concepts?”
No. That is the result of sensory information successfully entering your short-term memory. As it entered your short-term memory, you were able to rehearse the information which led to the information being stored in your long-term memory.
By this time, I guess it’s pretty clear that I’m a man of science, and not of religion.
Having said that, I highly doubt that resorting to religious activities will help my cousin with her condition. But my relatives seem to believe otherwise. According to them, their daughter also had depression when she broke up with her boyfriend. Her episode was characterized by frequent crying, loss of interest in daily activities and vulnerability (she started crying and shouting to the person she was talking to). My relatives went on to say that their only form of treatment, if it can be considered as such, was that they frequently prayed that their daughter would get better. To them, it seemed to work because their daughter seemed to have recovered from the break-up.
My take: What if it wasn’t really depression? Was there an actual diagnosis from a psychiatrist? Did the behavior last for at least two weeks so that a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder can be made? More importantly, what if it’s just a normal response to a sad life event? Because really, who would not feel sad after breaking up with a boyfriend? And hey, from the way they talked, she seemed to have recovered quickly which even supports my hypothesis that it’s just a normal experience of sadness.
“How can you explain how she managed to recover?”
Well, my aunt was telling us, including my cousin diagnosed with depression and anxiety, that the person her daughter was talking to was consoling her over the phone. When my aunt saw her daughter crying and shouting, she grabbed the phone and thanked the person and that he/she should continue talking to her daughter. Well, folks, that’s a perfect of example of social support. By talking to that person, her daughter was able to turn to friends who helped her cope during that painful life event.
So what’s my point? Do I want you people to start believing in science and ditch religion? No. All I want to say is that this is where I believe in and I would really appreciate it if everyone respected my opinion. Honestly, I tried looking at things in a religious perspective but it didn’t work. Remember, I had religious parents and I studied in a religious school. But with science, everything made sense, at least for me.
I have come out to my parents about this and they were quick to tell me to try to change this orientation of mine. This, I believe, is a form of injustice. Everyone is entitled to their own thoughts and opinions. I have always acknowledged and accepted their religious orientation so why not acknowledge and accept my own orientation, right? I mean, it’s no big deal that one family live with different views, right? So why can’t they seem to let go of the issue?
The same goes for everyone else. If you don’t seem to appreciate a view that is quite different from yours, just deal with it because not all people will have the same thoughts. That’s one factor that makes us all so different from each other.