Worshipping At Freud’s Altar

Nov 25 2012 @ 7:19am

Christopher Harding considers the role of psychology in religion:

[P]sychologically naive spirituality can be destructive in its own way. Buddhism’s ‘no-self’ insight, like the contrast between ‘false’ and ‘true’ selves sometimes found in Christian teaching, can give the impression that, with enough meditation or prayer, mental health problems will simply go away. Very often the reverse is true. Meditation in particular can show you things that you really ought to take to a psychotherapist or psychiatrist, or perhaps work through, painfully and embarrassingly, with your family.

That brings us to what might be the most useful role for psychology in religion. It offers perspective that stands outside religion’s enticing, evocative conceptual networks: it can show us when our talk of humility, surrender and dismantling the ego are really masking, perhaps even facilitating, their polar opposites — despite our best intentions.