Religious Conversion Disorder is a Psychological Malady

Religious Conversion Disorder is a psychological malady.
A psychiatrist at Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California wrote the Discover magazine article, “Paralyzed by Faith”. If you missed this intriguing article here is a summary.

I never heard of it before, but there it was, an article in the reputable Discover magazine. The title of the two-page article was called “Paralyzed by Faith”. A young Mormon missionary in Africa suddenly could not move his legs, couldn’t explain why and neither could the local doctors. He was flown home to the USA to get expert treatment but his disease still could not be diagnosed and therefore there was no treatment that could be recommended. Finally, an experienced psychiatrist had a hunch, which proved to be true. The young man was suffering from RCD, Religious Conversion Disorder.

The article claims this condition happens in general populations from 11 to 500 times per 500,000 people each year. That’s not very definitive. This disorder undoubtedly happens in both Mormon than Evangelical populations. We know this malady effects impressionable youth sent out to evangelize. They all face the same stress. Church leaders, family, and friends anxiously await to hear of their success in saving souls and converting pagans. To fail this mission is a personal failure; it is an indication that the young missionaries are not with God; they are failures and their mission is a failure.

It is estimated that there are 70-80 million evangelicals in the USA, so there might be a minimum of 1,540 evangelicals suffering from religious conversion disorder in any one year in addition to the Mormon population. The number of kids with Religious Conversion Disorder is significant. Are these kids just casualties of a conversion war and their lack of faith? Should some kids get a pass on their mandatory mission orders? It is true anyone can suffer from this paralyzing condition, which resembles a neurological disorder. The onset is fast and frightening to those affected and their families. It usually goes undiagnosed. It is more frequent in those religions that vigorously prosthelyze and send their youth into the field to find converts.

We have all been confronted by groups of these annoying evangelical kids, but remember, they have the right to of free speech in public places, and if they knock on your door you have the right to shut your door. Put yourself in their shoes. Their church and their family expect them to do this for the Lord. They have little choice. The most withdrawn and unconfident kids are expected, in some cases to leave home, travel to a foreign land, confront strangers, plead with them to reject their present religion and convert to the evangelical’s religion. I might add here that even nasty atheists don’t try to convert religious people to atheism by personal encounters and argument in public places and in their doorways. Atheists respect the right of all to believe what they wish without pressure to change.

Atheists are a strange lot; they’re disorganized, split into many small organizations, and the groups are independent but all have a common message. The message is not preached from a pulpit, it is not preached in the streets or on your doorstep. The atheist message is only heard in the defense of human rights, against infringement of the Constitution. If fundamental/evangelical religions were to back off and cease trying to make our government into a theocracy, the atheist movement would recede considerably and its voice would be diminished. Atheists are manning their gun ports because they have to defend their rights and the rights of all religions.

I pity the poor kid with RCD and I pity his family, which in this particular case were forgiving and supportive. They did not insist he return to Africa to complete his holy mission. The Mormon boy gradually recovered with counseling and time. I don’t know how other “missionary failures” made out. Were they forgiven? Were they scarred for life with their failures? I’ll bet many are, but who knows? Fortunately, all the missionary failures have a place to recover. Organizations such as CFI, Center For Inquiry welcome them with open arms without pressure tactics, without pleading, or threats, or bribes. CFI Indiana has several such enlightened members.


About cgosling

I am a retired medical/scientific illustrator and creator of patient teaching simulators, who has given up illustration to write about science, superstition, and secular humanism. I consider myself all of the following: atheist, agnostic, secular humanist, freethinker, skeptic, and nature lover. I have several published books but the mass of my writing is unpublished. I write children's fiction, poetry, essays, and several plays and radio theater shows, that are available as free downloads to be used on secular podcasts and meetings. They can be heard on Indy Freethought Radio or on YouTube “secularradiotheater”. I hope some of my writings will be of interest to like minded freethinkers who I cordially invite to respond. I am also a Darwin impersonator. I invite readers to listen to and use the Darwin script for secular purposes.
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2 Responses to Religious Conversion Disorder is a Psychological Malady

  1. I couldn’t resist commenting. Perfectly written!

  2. cgosling says:


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