Woman Murders Baby Because the “Devil” Told Her To July 28, 2009

Woman Murders Baby Because the “Devil” Told Her To

***Update***: I’m getting taken to task for some of the comments below. Some of it is deserved. I don’t know the histories of these murderers, and I don’t know how religious they are and if they go to church on a regular basis.

As some commenters below note, people are told by pastors often that the Devil is real and that God exists and talks to us. We’re taught to admire Abraham because he obeyed God when told to kill his son. He would’ve gone through with it if God had not stopped him. Is that different from what some of these parents are doing? What makes Abraham sane and these women insane?

I shouldn’t say the church is responsible for the deaths in the stories referred to below. Others are right in saying those women were insane, plain and simple, and religion not the problem here.

I am worried, though, that if people are taught to obey a god and fear a devil, and that is mixed with a spark of insanity, bad things could happen. To me, neither is a good thing… but together, it’s a frightening combination.

Thanks to everyone for calling me out on this.

You know, the baby thing is only funny because it’s all a joke.

When someone does indescribable things to a baby in real life, it’s horrifying.

When someone does it because she thought a devil told her to, it’s even scarier. Partly because she wouldn’t have stopped at anything… You wonder how much further she would’ve gone.

The scene was so gruesome investigators could barely speak: A 3 1/2-week-old boy lay dismembered in the bedroom of a single-story house, three of his tiny toes chewed off, his face torn away, his head severed and his brains ripped out.

Officers called to the home early Sunday found the boy’s mother, Otty Sanchez, sitting on the couch with a self-inflicted wound to her chest and her throat partially slashed, screaming “I killed my baby! I killed my baby!” police said. She told officers the devil made her do it, police said.

Sanchez, 33, apparently ate the child’s brain and some other body parts before stabbing herself, McManus said.

Sanchez had been “in and out” of a psych ward for unknown reasons.

The death is disturbing enough. But when this article mentions other incidents where a mother killed her own children, you can see the common thread:

Andrea Yates drowned her five children in her Houston-area home 2001, saying she believed Satan was inside her and trying to save them from hell. Her attorneys said she had been suffering from severe postpartum psychosis, and a jury found Yates not guilty by reason of insanity in 2006.

In 2004, Dena Schlosser killed her 10-month-old in her Plano home by slicing off the baby’s arms. She was found not guilty of reason by insanity, after testifying that she killed the baby because she wanted to give her to God.

So if this plays out in a similar way, Sanchez may also be found not guilty by reason of insanity.


You kill your child directly because God or the Devil wants you to, and you’re not guilty.

You kill your child indirectly because you think God will rescue her (Which is also insane to me, but not clinically so), and you’re also found not guilty.

I don’t know if these cases could’ve been prevented, but at some point in their lives, these killers were told that God and the Devil speak to humans. And if God tells you to do something, you’re supposed to follow it.

I’m not blaming the churches for this, but to paraphrase Voltaire, if you believe in absurdities, you’re likely to commit atrocities.

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  • grazatt

    That bitch ate her sons’s BRAINS!

  • BZ

    When people are declared not guilty by reason of insanity, are they committed to mental hospitals? That is clearly a better place for these people to go than jail.

  • They’re ill because they listen to the voices in their head. The double standard is not with how we treat these poor unfortunate sick people, but how we allow religious people to claim that they act on the voices they hear in their heads but society does nothing about them. Ok, we complain about them, but it’s not like anything ever gets done about them, is it?

  • Kaylya

    I’m no expert on psychosis, but it seems like saying “the devil made me do it” is just how it manifested itself in this particular case. If she’d never heard of the devil, it would have been some other manifestation (or interpretation), like space aliens or just “the voice in my head”.

    Mental illness is the issue here, not religion.

  • maria

    So if this plays out in a similar way, Sanchez may also be found not guilty by reason of insanity.


    What’s so incredible about it? She’s mentally ill, and belongs in an institution, NOT jail. I don’t support putting the mentally ill in jail. Just b/c religion is mentioned doesn’t mean the person belongs in jail. The above poster is right. I don’t know if I’d say religion is not an issue, but mental illness is the PRIMARY issue.

  • ayer

    if you believe in absurdities, you’re likely to commit atrocities.

    This cuts both ways; Pol Pot, who believed Marx’s absurd dictum that “religion is the opiate of the masses”, slaughtered millions to build an atheist utopia

  • jason

    Well, given that belief in God, Satan, or any other spiritual being is “Delusional”, it’s right to consider it insane to act on the voices that one believes those beings are saying. Sad, but the mental ward is the place for these poor people.

  • Having heard of atheists who in the midsts of psychosis belive that they are jesus or something, I doubt religion had anything to do with it.

  • The woman is clearly clinically insane, Hemant. This has nothing to do with her religious beliefs. She *should* be found not guilty by insanity, because she is actually insane.

  • Gavrilo

    One thing that’s noteworthy is that if you claim god told you to do a murder, you’re decleared insane.

    On the other hand, if you claim that Jesus is constantly with you, that you hear the voice of god, that the virgin Mary appeared to you in your dreams, not only are you not automatically considered insane, but you stand a chance of becoming famous among religious people.

    Am I the only one to find this incoherent??

  • She has mental illness and belongs to a group that teaches her that supernatural creatures intervene in the world.

    If people are told that God/Satan can speak to them directly, if gives them less of a reason to question any mental issues they may have. It is a dangerous doctrine and churches should know this since this sort of thing has happened before.

    I saw a report last year that said that a surprisingly large percentage of churches taught their member that there was no such thing as mental illness; that it was all demons and sin that caused them any confusion in their lives. Scary.

  • It’s clear to me that people don’t really believe the stuff that they say they do about Satan being real and that God speaks to them. If they did they would be rushing to these people’s aid and defending them. If the crap in the Bible were true what this woman did would not be insanity. Yet we intuitively know she is insane. Religious belief should stop getting the free pass it has gotten, and should be classified as a mental disorder. Obviously you must be crazy to be a believer. The only question is How much do they really believe it? I would suggest these women really did believe, and therein lies the problem. But then which came first, the mental disorder, or the religious belief?

  • Andrew

    Keep in mind that hyperreligiosity, and especially a sudden take-up of religious beliefs, is one of the standard markings of a case of schizophrenia.

    Religion in this case is the symptom, not the problem.

  • Shannon

    Your title is wrong. She murdered her baby because she was obviously insane. This isn’t a religious issue at all. And you don’t have to be religious to become mentally ill.

  • Peregrine

    The baby thing has always bothered me, even though I know it’s a joke based on their misconceptions about us.

    But this is just sick.

    Still, the notion that “the devil made me do it” or “God made me do it” is all too pervasive in these cases. And it’s rooted in their mythology, after all; Abraham is celebrated for his willingness to sacrifice Isaac.

    Wow. That’s out of character for me. I must be in a cynical mood.

  • We don’t know that firmly held religious belief doesn’t CAUSE mental disorder, because it very well could. And if my father’s siblings are any indication their religion has made them crazy.

  • There is a thin line between insanity and REALLY believing that ideas that pop in your mind are put there by supernatural entities. In other words revelation.

    Fortunately, most religious people have enough sense (aka doubt) to make human (secular) judgments to filter the ideas that pop in their minds. The insane lack this human secular judgment. In a sense, the insane are perfectly religious. Their self doesn’t “get in the way” of the “revelations”.

  • Ubi Dubium

    Post-partum psychosis is definitely real. Many mothers get post-partum depression, what with the extreme hormonal changes that occur after childbirth, coupled with severe sleep depriviation and the stress of caring for a newborn. For a few it spirals into full-blown psychosis. Religion or no religion, a few new moms sinply lose their sanity.

    What’s really sad is that this woman may fully recover her senses once she’s past the post-partum stage. But she’ll never recover from killing her child. How horrible for her.

  • In cases of tragedy in post-partum psychosis, I always wonder where the father was. When my kids were born, I took time off and did all of the diaper changes and stuff in the first few days so my wife could recover and get some sleep. I’d be willing to bet that in many of these cases, the father was very “traditional” or absent altogether.

  • Miss Addict

    While it is awful that the child is dead I think this case is more about Mental illness than religion.

    If these women didnt believe in God would that have stopped the Illness? I doubt it.

    These women are very and while that illness may be manifesting with religious themes I don’t think religion itself can be blamed.

  • Still makes me sick to think about this. I don’t really want to repost what I put on the forum, so I will just paraphrase: either she is fucked up and using the devil as an excuse to avoid Texas’s legendary justice system, or she genuinely believes this, and some people might do the same.

    Scary, either way.

  • I agree with those who say that it’s likely that regardless of whether or not she had the religious superstitions, she may have had the same sorts of psychotic episodes but interpreted them in a different way. I tend to think of our psychology as structured such frequently we think, act, or are impelled to act, and only after getting the impulse do we start to interpret what it means, or only after the act sometimes do we start to interpret what it means, etc.

    In other words a psychotic impulse to do heinous things to her child took over this woman and she interpreted it within the categories available to her without their being the cause at all. I have a hard time seeing the religious beliefs specifically as causal here.

    And you do a disservice to Voltaire’s quote with both the way you paraphrase him and the way you employ him here. The quote is “those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” That has nothing to do with the “likelihood” of those who believe in absurdities committing atrocities. Billions of Christians have believed in absurdities without personally committing any atrocities. They’re not likely, that’s empirically false.

    The point, however, is about the persuasive powers open to those who make others believe in absurdities. What’s the difference? The difference is that belief in absurdities does not lead to unrelated atrocities like the psychopathic ones in this horrible story of its own. The point rather is that anyone who you are willing to trust enough that you accept even what they say which is absurd has the power to make you do things which also contravene your reason. It’s an argument about the political connection between commitment to reason and commitment to moral conscience and about how authoritarianism in reason leads to submission to authoritarian commands in behavior.

    Since I’m certain no one giving this woman religious training instructed her to eat children’s brains and stab herself (there’s some awful stuff in the Bible, but nothing THAT awful), this has nothing to do with what Voltaire warns about.

    I’m all for pointing out the genuine culpability of religious influences where they lead to atrocities and I’m all for criticizing religion’s role in reinforcing the worst habits of human thinking and justification, but to all appearances in this case this woman was simply psychopathic and no one is to blame but her violent brain chemistry.

  • BowserTheCat

    A couple of comments on this one.
    1). I don’t think religion really had anything to do with it. It’s mental illness, if it wasn’t the devil it would be other ‘voices’ in her head.
    2). I was on a jury here in Texas where the defense was insanity. In our case we found that the defendant was sane at the time of the offense (assault on a police officer) but the point is that in Texas a verdict of ‘innocent by reason on insanity’ will in all likelihood see the defendant spending the rest of their life in a state mental institution instead of a prison which is probably the right place for such a person.

  • llewelly

    Listen. You all think the Zombie Apocalypse is a joke. That’s why this has happened. Because people are in denial of the Zombie Apocalypse. If people would face up to the facts that ZOMBIES ARE REAL, that everyone must have a loaded double-barreled shotgun on their person at ALL TIMES, EVEN WHEN ASLEEP OR ON THE TOILET, and that everyone must shoot at anyone who says “BRAAAAINS” – then terrible things like this wouldn’t happen.
    You’ve been warned. I know you won’t listen, so more tragedies like this will happen in the future, but you have been warned.

  • midwestatheist

    Seriously, Hemant, this is an ignorant post. You usually impress me with your intelligent insights and observations, but I’m going to have to give you a big, fat, red-inked ‘F’ this time. You can boost your grade with me by doing some extra credit research about mental illness, particularly about postpartum depression and psychosis, as well as schizophrenia. The ignorance that you have displayed in this post is part of what keeps people with mental illness from getting treatment. This sort of ignorance only encourages the stigma of mental illness that is still so prevalent in our society — a prevalence highlighted by the fact that an otherwise intelligent, educated, rational person such as yourself could have such a birdbrained perspective about this horrible incident.

    You want to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again? Start by actually not blaming religion and theism, and then educate yourself and those around you about mental illness. Just like any other body organ, the brain can malfunction. To think otherwise is completely irrational. If this woman killed her baby as a result of suffering a heart attack or stroke while driving with the baby in her car, would you find it “incredible” that she would be found not guilty of murdering her child? If you can honestly say that you would, then you are believing in a different sort of absurdity. And the atrocity committed as a result of that belief is the perpetuation of the myth of mental illness as equal to moral failing — and then innocent children die because their mentally ill parents are afraid to ask for medical intervention.

    You don’t have to be a participant in that atrocity, Hemant. Please educate yourself.

  • Um…no. Religious imagery is common in delusional psychosis (in these cases, probably post-partum psychosis). We can’t responsibly blame religion for this. Rather I think this speaks to the larger issue of the stigma of mental illness and the lack of recognition of warning signs before “odd behaviour” turns into “dismembering children”.

  • Peregrine

    I agree that it the root cause is obviously mental illness, and religious belief is being used as an excuse. But the failure of religion in this case, and cases like it is in the failure of religious institutions combine their spiritual framework with effective contemporary psychology in a way that’s beneficial to their members.

    And it’s not just a failing of religion, admittedly. Contemporary psychology, in my experience, is an underfunded and under researched field. Psychological successes are possible in the most text-book cases. More extreme cases requiring constant psychological care are often left to their own devices, because the resources to provide the necessary attention are simply not available. Worse is the pervasive stigma attached to psychological disorders, discouraging people from seeking the care they need while what little care is available can still do the most good.

    Religious belief thrives in this environment, in the absence of proper understanding and treatment based on contemporary science. Psychological care is barely covered by even the best health care plans western civilization can provide, and religious piece of mind is available at the cost of a handful of pocket change in the collection plate. But you can’t blame religion when religious institutions are as much in the dark as the rest of us.

    Locking someone up in a psychiatric hospital for life is only a stop-gap solution little better than a prison. As long as such a solution is necessary, humanity has failed.

    Society needs to put more emphasis on psychology as a science. It is probably one of very few fields where science, religion, and any other process of human understanding is consistently prone to failure.

  • jemand

    I know in Yates case, she BEGGED for weeks before the murders that someone else take the children, that she was afraid she would hurt them, that she felt something wrong with her mind. No one really listened and her husband forced her to be alone with them anyway.

    I’d be astonished if there weren’t cries for help in this case too, and if so, the blame lies squarely on those of sound mind who ignored her asking for help, and probably insisted on traditional gender roles that forced her to be in the situation of sole caregiver when her mind finally snapped.

    I SUPPOSE you could blame religion for the deeply patriarchal views that figure into such tragedies, and the denial of the reality of mental illness… but I don’t think religion is at all the smoking gun here.

  • Sage

    You honestly think she SHOULD be found guilty, simply because she chose to express her mental illness in a religious context? She is very clearly out of her mind, and deserves help. This is NOT a very good example of our legal system going easier on religiously motivated crimes, it is an example of our legal system accurately refusing to imprison the mentally unbalanced.

  • I don’t think the woman is clearly mentally ill. I think it’s highly likely – but as I am not an examining psychologist on this case, I can’t tell you for sure. We need to remember that people who are sane have committed very terrible crimes like this in the past. I think we may be somewhat predisposed to hope she is crazy, because nobody wants to think of a mother destroying her child like this as purposeful.

    It depends on the legal definition of “insane” as well. There’s clearly something wrong with her, but insane is a judgment that must be rendered by the examining shrinks, not the public at large. If she did know the difference to right and wrong, the attempt to appeal to the religious nature and claim “the devil made me do it” could instead be a devious ploy to avoid a sentencing.

    I don’t think that’s likely – I think she’s probably batshit loco. But I don’t know for sure. I think we should all be intelligent enough to know not to discount any possibility until an expert has had their say.

  • Shane

    Sanchez, 33, apparently ate the child’s brain and some other body parts…

    Holy ****. She is not insane. She is a ****ing zombie.

    And so the zombie apocalypse begins…

  • @Veritas, What if she had committed the same crime and blamed aliens? Inanity is a possibility, so it must be considered. But even if she is not insane, are the beliefs associated with religion to blame? Hemant said “I don’t blame religion, I blame magical thinking” (paraphrasing). So are people who believe aliens are talking to them as “guilty” as people who believe the devil is talking to them? “Not guilty by reason of insanity” is something that is used regardless of personal prejudice toward what kind of crazy thinking the person chose at the time. It’s nonsense to think that religion is special here.

  • Oh, I agree with you, Kimbo. My point is that with a calculated plea to religion, one might be able to sway a jury more easily than one might with a calculated plea to aliens. After all, if you believe in the Bible, you might believe the devil would actually talk to the woman, and that would suggest she was insane; and you might think she’s insane because she thought the devil was talking to her.

    I guess my point is that the appeal to religion is more likely to produce a favourable outcome, than the supposed appeal to aliens.
    Though, as I said, it’s most likely she’s off her rocker. I’m just reminding people that it’s possible she’s just a sociopath trying to get out of a needle or a swing.

  • ethanol

    As with most posters here, I agree that this is not a murder caused by religion, but rather by mental illness. But is true that religious environments – especially more conservative sects – can act as an enabler for psychotic disorders. When everyone in the group buys into the idea of the devil interfering in people’s lives and even in their minds, it can take a long time to realize that someone is actually batshit crazy.

  • When you’re found not guilty of a crime you go home. When you’re found not guilty by reason of insanity you’re locked up against your will and given psychiatric treatment. The insanity ruling exists, not as an out, but as a protection for both the clearly insane and the general prison population – would you really want a woman who ate parts of her own baby milling about in the prison system? Prison’s are dangerous enough, for both inmates and guards, without housing the criminally insane.

    I want to be clear, however, that I don’t think religion and other forms of magical thinking should get a pass in cases like this. A rational person who begins hearing disembodied voices is far more likely to seek psychiatric help than someone whose superstition allows them a ready explanation. Add to that the notion that many belief systems frame individuals who hear the voice of god, or who are tormented by demons, as special and you have a recipe for disaster.

    I once heard a pastor tell a congregation of more than 500 people how a demon (which they believed was originally housed in a bell given to them by a friend – the bell had previously been used in a Buddhist temple) caused their young daughter to convulse violently at the door of her room and then threw her down the stairs. No one even entertained the thought that the girl might have epilepsy, or was suffering pressure from an aneurysm, or any of the multitude of possible medical causes for the episode. Had that same child begun hearing voices her delusions would have been encouraged and reinforced by her family and community, her mental condition would have gone untreated, and we’d have another schizophrenic/psychopathic time bomb on our hands.

    The woman in this case may very well be insane – but her religion is just as culpable in that poor baby’s death for building a web of delusions for her insanity to hide in.

  • Michael

    If she is found not guilty by reason of insanity it isn’t like she will be roaming the streets again. She will be put into a mental institution. Which I think is a much better place for her that jail.

    I don’t really think this has anything to do with religion, I think she is just truly mentally ill.

  • @Tanya: So what you’re saying is that a person who didn’t believe in the divine may have noticed their condition was abnormal and sought help?

    @Michael: Perhaps this woman does need help, but life in a mental institution is generally better than the short life in Texas’s death row. Regardless, I just hope that wherever she ends up, there’s no out.

  • IANAL, but if memory serves, the definition of legal insanity is that you are incapable, and the time of the crime, of understanding that your actions are wrong, as defined by society. So even though someone like Richard Ramirez or John Wayne Gacy were evil scum, they understood their actions were wrong, and therefore were not able to apply that defense. Whether that applies in this case is up to a jury.

    And yes, it makes me sick, too.

  • teammarty

    Actually, if she is found guilty but insane, she will be out in the streets after she has been found “cured” or after the next round of budget cuts when she is fould to be the least harmless wacko there. Or she just walks out the door and goes back home to have more babies.

  • LA la la

    I have not read the article(it sickens me to much to attempt), but this post is aimed at those that claim religion has nothing to do with it. This is a little thought experiment.

    Lets assume we have a friend who is insane. This friend hears religious voices in his/her head. If our friend is in our group we would try to help him/her. We would talk to them and most likely guide them to medical treatment. No doubt the most effective solution to deal with our friends problem.

    Now lets pretend to be an Evangelical southern fundamentalist baptist Christan Scientist or something similar. Our friend makes the same claims. As believers we might believe those claims as literal and feel that she is possessed. Now we would porably distance our selfs from her(hoping here witchcraft doesn’t wear off on to us) or maybe we will help by directing him/her to the church. Either way this will reinforce the delusions, and cement them firmly into the brain. Possibly making them so dead fast that he/she is emboldened enough to act on them.

    While religion is most likely not to be blamed for this incident, the hive mind anti-scientific mentality could certainly contribute to an awful outcome.

  • @veritas Yes. Not always of course, especially in those cases where hallucinations take “logical” forms.

    Generally speaking, however, a person lacking in superstitious support is more likely to seek professional help for the hallucinatory symptoms of mental illness – and even more so if their immediate community lacks superstitious support.

  • Anticontrame


    A defining characteristic of these conditions is an inability to reason. I know a skeptic who, while in psychosis, thought that they were alternately contacted by aliens and Jesus. In this state, all hallucinations and all ideations seem logical. It’s a scary thought, but sometimes brains break.

    I have no statistics on the likelihood of an atheist seeking help versus a theist’s, but I don’t think someones ability to reason prior to their break with reality would make much of a difference.

  • CJ

    Speaking as a mentally ill atheist who has experienced mania so severe that I heard voices and experienced tactile, visual and auditory hallucinations on more than one occasion, I can say that it’s really easy to take the step to assume they are a god/goddess. This is what we hear growing up, and the mind in psychosis is not capable of reasoning at an adult’s level. I retreated back to my catholic upbringing despite my complete lack of belief as an adult. You’d be amazed at how the saints can fly in my world.

    The psychotic break renders everything logical. The fear associated with the schizophrenic’s or manic’s loss of control drives them to the easiest conclusion – that god or jesus or zeus or satan or whomever is directing their actions.

    The woman is not sane. I may not be a psychologist or a psychiatrist or anything like that, but I don’t have a lot of doubt that she’s completely batshit crazy.

    On another point, though, through my personal observations and experience and not with any empirical evidence whatsoever, I think that atheists do tend to be more compliant in psychiatric treatment, but that variables such as gender and education levels do also play a part here. I function because I do what I need to do to control my brain. When it breaks loose anyway, I take myself to the hospital. If I’m not capable of that, I have set up a network to have someone who can intervene on my behalf.

    If I were still a theist, though, I can see myself trusting in god/goddess/zeus/whomever to take care of me instead of having contingency plans and medication on my side.

    Theist or atheist, you still have to be willing to put up with the medication side effects, and no religion or lack thereof will do anything to mitigate that.

  • @Anticontrame You’re correct in saying that a defining characteristic of psychosis is an inability to reason – but psychosis usually isn’t the first symptom of severe mental illness. It’s during those early stages, when symptoms range from sensory hallucinations to an unexplained change in sleeping patterns, that rational individuals are more inclined to seek help.

    Andrea Yates was well aware of her rapidly progressing mental illness, Otty Sanchez may not have been.

  • Tom

    I have szchizo-affective disorder, essentially a milder form of szchizophrenia. I’ve been through many treatments and met many people far worse off than I. I have met 3 different people who at some point during their psychosis thought they were Jesus. Their religious beliefs were a mold for the symptoms psychosis gave them. I believe this to be true because I have experienced psychosis myself. As an atheist I was still challenged by irrational, attractive ideas during my psychosis, like being “unique,” being connected to everyone in a special way, being watched (by the government of course), and being searched for by aliens. When you are psychotic, all these things become more believable. And to prove that religious thinking isn’t necessary for someone to be “insane,” you only have to realize that these people can change back to “normal” with medication in a very short period of time. These people don’t become less religious as a result of the medication, they become less psychotic. It is mainly an issue of nature, not nurture.

  • GullWatcher

    In cases of tragedy in post-partum psychosis, I always wonder where the father was.

    In this case, being wilfully negligent and now screaming for the mother’s blood because “She killed my son. She should burn in hell”.

    He stated that she told him she had been diagnosed with postpartum depression (in addition to the schizophrenia she already suffered from) a week before this happened, but he left the baby with her anyway.

    Now he says that he “doesn’t buy it” that she did this because she was mentally ill, because she “seemed fine to him” and he’s hoping they execute her.

    He doesn’t effing BUY it?????

    She told him she was ill, he knew she had been in and out of psych hospitals repeatedly, and he himself is schizophrenic and on six different drugs for it (the actual number, according to the article I read) which you might think would give him some insight but apparently NOT, but somehow, even though she was in obvious desperate need of help that never came, this is all HER fault and she needs to be punished. Eternally and in hell, for what that’s worth….

    In my book, he is in clear and desperate need of a blunt object upside the head. Oh, and charges of child neglect and child endangerment, for leaving the baby with a woman he should have known was a danger to the baby and to herself.

  • Thanks Hemant for acknowledging the validity of some of our criticisms and taking my own sharp critique in stride. I’m a fan and am glad I did not alienate you but even got a link from you instead!

    Anyway—here http://camelswithhammers.com/2009/07/29/psychotic-reasoning-the-will-to-believe-and-religious-interpretations-of-the-mentally-ill/ I wrote a long reply with some further thoughts in light of your update if anyone is interested in more thoughts on what ways these tragedies do and do not open up a space to criticize religion. I’d appreciate anyone’s further challenges and other suggestions.

    thanks again, Hemant.

  • Autumnal Harvest


    I’m getting taken to task for some of the comments below. Some of it is deserved. . . Thanks to everyone for calling me out on this.

    I’m fairly certain that there’s some rule of the internet that forbids this sort of response to criticism.

  • Religion may not be directly to blame but these beliefs were not invented by the people who act on their psychosis. They have a grounding in common religious belief that is not only given a free pass but is actively encouraged. Would they have murdered their children without religion influencing their actions? Probably but it would have been much easier to spot their insane behaviour beforehand.

  • Jude

    As a mother who suffered from postpartum depression which was progressively worse with each of my children (I have 3); and as someone who never had a complete psychotic breakdown, but still lived through 8 years of homicidal ideation related to my children, let me give you an atheist’s perspective. I *never* believed it was my right to in any way end the life of my children. I didn’t hear “voices” but I had persistent thoughts about killing my kids several times a day every day for 8 years. It was extremely unpleasant for a rational person to be smitten with this irrationality. Therapy didn’t help, but a book by Jerilyn Ross did. She basically said, just because you have those thoughts it doesn’t mean you’re ever going to act on them. I’d tell myself that each night, and finally the thoughts went away.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    … and a jury found Yates not guilty by reason of insanity in 2006.

    Eventually. It was a bit more complicated than that.

    …Although the defense’s expert testimony agreed that Yates was psychotic, Texas law requires that, in order to successfully assert the insanity defense, the defendant must prove that he or she could not discern right from wrong at the time of the crime. In March 2002, a jury rejected the insanity defense and found Yates guilty.

    On January 6, 2005, the Texas Court of Appeals reversed the convictions

    (omitted) and that thus a new trial would be necessary.

    On July 26, 2006, after three days of deliberations, Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity…

    That bit about being able to discern right from wrong – that’s because she took instruction from the devil, not from God (like Dena Schlosser and Deanna Laney). Any Christian should be able to discern that God is good but Satan is evil.

  • Libra

    Interesting Blog.

    I know this post is last years but wanted to add to a little more about Dena Schlosser.

    Hers was a rare case. What most do not know (it was under-reported) is that after the 1st mistrial they were shocked to discover that she had an inoperable brain tumor. Medical experts testified that they believed it to have been the cause of her disillusion. Though of course the affect it had on her thought process could not be proven 100%.

    Be it by mental illness or brain tumor, they are still both diseases of the brain. Too bad only one shows up on a MRI or CT scan.

    She was ordered to be released and put into outpatient care over a yr ago if I’m not mistaken. She was to be supervised, on birth control at all times, and isn’t allowed to be around children.

  • GDchicken4

    this is something i’ve been looking at for some time: the idea that theists are more likely, or at least more reported, to kill or injure someone based on theistic deities or figures telling them to.
    to me, it’s a cop out for the legal system to see all of these psychotics coming in with the same story, and still accepting it every time. at one point, it’s like the boy who cried wolf: you have to say this isn’t acceptable as an excuse anymore. especially because people who are much worse and who do not ever commit any atrocities aren’t taken into account. if you think about the percentage of people who act on a theistic figure’s will, compared with those who are equally (if we can quantify psychosis in some way) insane who are also theists and have heard god’s or satan’s voice and do NOT act on that command, we would probably see that there probably aren’t many who do not in some way hurt themselves or others. then, compare that number to the atheists who do and do not hurt themselves or others. that ratio would be the opposite; more atheists would be like yourself, taking care of the situation as rationally as possible.what i’m getting at, here, is that psychosis isn’t the problem. i’ve noticed many atheist accounts of psychosis on this page, but no theists (as far as i’ve read, so i grant that i could be mistaken) who can say that they rationally dispelled this problem and are managing their illness.the problem is religion, especially organized religion. there are very few people who practice religion the way it should be (peaceful, loving, compassionate, empathetic, non-judgmental, right-doing) but there are SOOOO many more who take this mind control device and run with it, making others believe what they will about how god feels about them or just to what extent they should fear the devil, etc.it’s pretty obvious that religion is the problem; not psychosis.

  • I hate to say it. But you know damn well that you’re killing your own fucking child. There ain’t no damn bullshit about God and the Devil telling you to do it. You did it because you damn well wanted to. I don’t think they should get off by reason of insanity. They should get the chair.

  • honey

    horrible cant imagine a mother eating her baby’s  brain ,,,,,,it is nt even possible by a normal human den how can it b done by a mother to her own child …………..dont know what to say bt i m in a confusion whether to believe devils or not ….bt will people really
    kill others or themselves wen the devil is working on dem ,,,,,,,,i m asking dis bcoz recently an incident happened in my life tooo bt know how to judge dat death is it a suicide done by  himself or suicide done by some devil which occupied him !!!!!!!!!
    whatever it is we lost him foreverr n ever n cant get him bak……………………
    it is none other den my bro ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,i love you bro…………

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