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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Psychology of Atheism

A friend of mine sent in this link on the topic of atheism:

His approach goes something like this: if religious beliefs, particularly Christianity, are based on neurotic tendencies in a person, then to not believe must also be neurotic in origin unless one can demonstrate that one is cured of one's neuroses before one makes the decision not to believe.

Then he goes through a number of explanations of both what 'neurotic atheism' looks like, and how most famous atheists clearly made the decision to not believe in God out of a process that was clearly neurotic in origin: personal suffering and emotional reaction to it.  The truth is that very few, if any, atheists go through years of psychoanalysis and counseling to rid themselves of their neurotic tendencies before making the decision.

Rather, they make the decision, then work very hard to back it up.

Now, the honest truth is that most religious people do the same thing.  What it does do is places most religious belief on even footing with atheism, something which generally annoys atheists who usually revert to the I'm-too-smart-to-have-imaginary-friends stance when their facts start to shake under the the weight of their proposition.

However, in the case of addiction, most addicts in recovery find out that their rejection of God as he is was indeed neurotic.  Addicts don't want to really believe in God because that would interfere with drinking or using, yet the addiction itself is the coping mechanism for living a life without God.  The addicts process of overcoming his neurotic tendencies is directly linked to his belief in the 'Higher Power.'

That's the main problem for psychologists who take on this notion that believing in God is neurotic in origin: the most effective treatment for addiction is the 12 Step model which relies on belief.  A wholesale rejection goes contrary to their own evidence, and also violates a tenet of psychology: neurotic beliefs cannot make a person psychologically 'healthier.'  

What this means is that if a neurotic belief is preferable to reality in terms of its benefit to the patient, then the psychological process of returning the patient to reality also means confining the patient to a life of torment.  Do psychologists want to leave their patients stranded in a world of torment?  They'd be out of business if they advertised such a thing.

This article points out that the philosophers involved in the atheistic movement were indeed tortured people, many having a father problem which led to their rejection of the Christian God and thus a Higher Power as a benevolent force in the Universe.  This stand, naturally, means that addiction recovery would be impossible as a rational process from their perspectives.

In the end, we are left not with the evidence of God's reality, but rather the effect of beliefs (there is more than one particular religious belief) on the believer.  We must then ask that if the belief in God is helpful in curing neurotic behaviors (like addiction), then can one really classify it as neurotic?

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