The Psychology of Religion

Hi again – It’s Saturday again.

My last post was different to most.  In dismay I responded to a deletion warning on a site that was set up for the express purpose of discussion – which includes the discussion of  contoversial issues. Dismay that they would in fact stifle and censor one side of an argument. The moderator was concerned that I was implicating the Lutheran Church of Australia as a cult. I was giving the church the benefit of the doubt, but what can I say now? If you don’t want to be seen as a cult, don’t act like one.

To maintain some kind of  congruity I will continue expanding the psychological line of reasoning I was using.

I initially began to think about psychology without knowing it, I noticed the fear our church has in the face of women’s ordination issues and the issues associated with the LGBTI community – I noticed them because I had them. I brought this to voice in a previous post which you might want to read here. The idea presented was that religions were originally created/made up to appease the gods – in the face of uncertainty and death religions grew to console our “existential fears”.  The title of the initial post was “Lutheran – a Primitive Made Up Religion?”  For me, all these fears stick out like a sore thumb and  prove a point. Little did I know that Psychology has  had a keen interest in studying religion and a lot empirical research has been carried out already. All of which – surprise surprise – confirms my suspicions – so much so that the church really should take heed and listen.

My post title was left with a question mark – really? Is that all we are? A made up religion?

It was and continues to be my belief that Christianity is more than a fear based, made up religion. So when I seen a book about psychology that sought to challenge Freuds “The Future of an Illusion” and other works, I quickly bought it…….well, I downloaded it as my second ever e-book.  “The Authenticity of Faith” by Richard Beck.

Beck has this to say: ” Let me state the issue clearly: Freud was right. Maybe not totally, 100% right, but right nonetheless. That is going to be a hard message for many religious believers to internalize……”  He goes on to say that it would be wise for believers to listen – Freud has placed his finger on a legitimate dynamic within the religious experience which has important ethical consequences.

Without conscious awareness of this dynamic we will have:

1. Inability to listen to other views / consider others as deviant or ignorant (or worse)

2. Intolerance/exclusion

3. Violence (Not necessarilly physical)

4. Fundamentalism – drawing lines in sand

I imagine as I write this that some of you may respond: “But Tapman, you don’t listen to our point of view, you are intolerant and your tone is one of anger and violence”  If you were thinking that, thank you. I don’t pretend to be anything different – but I do say this – I am not scared to question a religion that hurts people and blindly stands behind the Bible and says: “The Bible says it so I believe it”  As a direct result in reactioanl defense, we cling to the Word of God. This sounds like a good thing doesn’t it? However, this is not faith, faith has the courage to question! As Gay acceptance rises, the voices of our world challenge the walls of our faith – the “faith” that consoles fear –  and as we see, it is an unfaith that dares not venture out and see the person in front of them. An unfaith that seeks to exclude and draw lines in the sand, an unfaith that censors information that it doesn’t want to hear. An “unfaith” that denigrates  the “ideological other”  The unfaith of a growing cult.

Is this just my opinion? No, it can be proved in a lab. Not just by Freud but many others.

Part 2 is coming….”Is it time to give up on Christianity?”  Just so I don’t leave anyone in despair, the answer is no. But stay tuned because the answer may surprise you – not in the “shit I wasn’t expecting that” kinda way, but in the “Gee, I always knew that to be true but couldn’t put words to it” kinda way.

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