God Won't Cure Mental Illness: What's Wrong With Rick Warren's Sermon

“We’re all mentally ill.”

“You have fears, you have worries, you have doubts, you have compulsions, you have attractions…”

So said Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor of the megachurch Saddleback Church and author of “The Purpose-Driven Life,” in a sermon largely about his son’s mental illness and recent suicide.

Warren was clearly trying to help de-stigmatize mental illness, and I commend that. But this is not the way. We are not, in fact, all mentally ill. And saying that we are does not de-stigmatize mental illness. It trivializes it. It contributes to the stigma. And it makes it harder to recognize and treat.


Thus begins my new piece for Salon, God Won’t Cure Mental Illness. To read more about how Warren’s sermon trivializes mental illness, stigmatizes it, dismisses evidence-based treatment, and frames atheism and religious doubt as a mental disorder, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

God Won't Cure Mental Illness: What's Wrong With Rick Warren's Sermon
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11 thoughts on “God Won't Cure Mental Illness: What's Wrong With Rick Warren's Sermon

  1. 1

    To be honest, given how these dipshits talk, this sounds like he’s directly and literally demonizing mental illness by using exactly the same language about it as his ilk are prone to using about ‘sin.’

  2. 2

    Greta Christina, I urge you in the strongest possible terms to read and engage with some of the recent literature critical of biopsychiatry. If you don’t want to read any of the materials I suggest here, at least will you check out the recent Mad Science: Psychiatric coercion, diagnosis, and drugs?

    I’ve always seen you to be a person willing to challenge your beliefs by looking at the evidence, and I’m hopeful you’ll do so in this case. When you present the biopsychiatric model of “mental illness” and its assorted “diagnoses” as scientifically valid and psychiatric drugs as “medications” or “treatments” for medical disorders, you’re spreading false information.

    It’s extremely urgent that secular-humanistic social justice community take on psychiatric pseudoscience. All psychiatry has is public confidence, and this is crumbling with, for example, the admissions in May by the head of NIMH and the architects of DSM-5 that the categories lack validity. Psychiatry is (all too slowly, unfortunately) imploding, and religious and other nonsense ideas about psychological suffering and its causes will fill the void unless critical, reality-based, and justice-seeking people investigate and speak up and begin to build a humanistic approach.

    Please, please, please set aside whatever assumptions you might be making about me or my motives and engage with Mad Science and/or some of the other materials. There’s a lot at stake.

  3. 3

    @Greta: Well said, and thank you.
    @SC: There are many legitimate criticisms of current psychiatric practice (as several of the FreethoughtBloggers can describe far better than I can), but mental disorders do have specific diagnostic criteria and for many disorders psychoactive drugs can and do help with management. Peddle your woo elsewhere. I say this as someone who is neurotypical, but who knows and cares about a number of people who have various mental disorders

  4. 4

    Greta: Excellent piece!

    SC: You’re still pushing that paranoid anti-psych woo? The truth is, the biological model of mental illness, while imperfect, is the best we have, and it works. If I weren’t on meds, I’d have been dead long ago. I cannot function without them. And your constant banging on about how “meds don’t really work” and “you’re being scammed” and such? Really, really doesn’t help. At all.

  5. 6


    Today, Hannah Anderson’s 8 year old brother was identified, dead, burned to death in the fire in which her mother Christina had been found, burned, and shot.

    Hannah has been abducted and no one has seen her in a week.

    I would like to alert you to a truly disgusting, and racist blog post made by Sikivu Hutchinson.


    In that post, Sikivu Hutchinson, Ph.D., a woman born into a family with two successful, well known authors, decries Hannah as “Privileged victim”.

    This is disgusting. It is racist. It is foul and evil. It of course represents much of what the world has come to expect from Free Thought Blogs.

    Shame on any Free Thought Blogger that does not criticise Sikivu for her ugly, racist and highly privileged comments.

  6. 8

    One that I hear all the time is “We all come from a dysfunctional family”. So clearly not true. And it also tends to trivialize the pain, shame, and anger that many of us had or have to deal with just to cope in the day to day world when our expectations of social interactions have become so violently skewed.

  7. 10

    Dysfunctional family is a bit tight. A family is a small reflection of a culture. The christian, jewish and islamic cultures have gone past dysfunctional, they are broken. FUBAR if you will. I have no children that will have to endure the nightmare that is getting progressively worse.

  8. 11

    Excellent post Greta. It’s a shame the slate commenting culture seems to be all about sticking the knife into their favourite targets rather than engaging the substance. The points on harm being definitional to mental illness, and the point that it isn’t just emotion are vital ones.

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