Psychology: A (Quasi-) Religion . . . ?


#1

Might Psychology be considered a Religion – or at best, a quasi-religion?

Two of the “giants” of that particular field, Freud and Jung, both considered religion of any (other) kind to be a form of mental aberration – Freud wrote that it was a “neurosis”; Jung held that it was a mental illness (as most of the world’s people hold some kind of spiritual belief, it would take a lot of chutzpah, IMO, to believe with certitude that everyone else is wrong).

Common in psychological circles today is the belief that the individual is best served by holding him/herSELF in a position of (often unearned, unmerited, unwarranted) “esteem” – which is, of course, the exact opposite of the principle of Humility held by most of the world’s religions (Christianty included, of course). Don’t get me wrong, self-RESPECT is very valuable – especially when coupled with the assurance that one is a Child and Creation (albeit a sinful one) of Almighty God.

Though “respect” and “esteem” have similar meanings, there is a subtle, yet important difference: One may respect anyone no matter how seemingly “unworthy”, simply because of that “Child of God” element I mentioned earlier – respect is reality-based. But when we hold someone in a position of “esteem”, we are saying that that person is better, greater, more important, *more * worthy of consideration than others – when applied to ourselves, isn’t it nothing more than what we once called mere narcissism, ego-centrism, or plain old Sinful Pride? This constant focus on self may be valuable to an infant, who has no way of solving his/her problems and must draw others into his/her orbit to get them solved. Traditionally, though, the parents’ job has been to gently (and sometimes not so gently) lead that child, over time, into the Bigger World Beyond Self.

Much of the study of Psychology has traditionally been the study of behavior; that, in itself, has value, of course. But there’s another side to it: the field of Psychology now seems awash in a sea of out-of-the-blue hypotheses and unproven theories which have found their way into popular culture including, sadly, our educational system. Children are taught the “you-are-special” mantra and lavished with praise for Nothing At All, it seems (indeed, at one of my kid’s school, nearly all the children ended up on some kind of “Honor Roll” – leading me to wonder what the “honor” was suppposed to be; sort of like handing out trophies to every kid who merely showed up). Even the kindly, late Mr. Rogers (God rest his soul) encouraged children to express their feelings – but, to my knowledge, didn’t spend anywhere near enough time telling those same children about the feelings of others.

At the turn of the last century, one of America’s greatest problems was quackery in Medicine – are we now seeing a similar situation in the field of Psychology? At roughly the time I was majoring in Psych the American Psychological Association, in convention, took a vote on a resolution that homosexuality was not a mental aberration, but merely a “lifestyle preference”; one’s personal opinions on the matter aside, it did not seem to occur to anyone present that scientific matters are not determined by vote.

Many centuries ago, in another area of study, those who studied the heavenly bodies were known as “astrologers”. In time, some of these began keeping their charts and making their computations without regard to any supersttitions – and became known as astronomers. Perhaps it’s time for a similar move here: those who study behavior using valid scientific methods may continue to do so, while those who’ve come to believe in psudoscientific pontificating can join the astrologers, phrenologists, mind-readers, and others of their ilk.


#2

You may be on to something. Religion in its most basic definition can be expressed as “The relationship between a man and his god.” If “self” is the object of one’s highest regard and affections, then it might be safe to declare this a form of idolatry. Self worship or idol worship would probably fall under the aforementioned definition of religion.


#3

I asked a practicing Psychologist from Johns Hopkins this question. He said , YES – it is a religion. There are priests, creeds, a hierarchy, a worldview, a belief system. He said, “I cannot even get together with other secular psychologists.” It is a false religion out of the same time as Rousseau’s Utopian stuff – ie, 'Let’s create a world without religion, one that is secular. So we can be free of religion, (which is ‘the opiate of the masses’ etc.)." Once you start to look at it in this lens, it will become stunningly apparent.

And Jung was a “Hexe-Meister (pagan).” He claimed ‘that evil (Satan) was a spiritual entity on a par with good (God).’ This is Gnosticism, folks. Jeffrey Satinover, MD, examines this in detail in The Empty Self: Gnostic Foundations of Modern Identity, a small book I got at a Leanne Payne conference in Wheaton. Dr. Satinover was a Jungian Scholar, MIT, Harvard, Yale. Also wrote Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth in which he examines this further.


#4

[quote=ecs 220]Might Psychology be considered a Religion – or at best, a quasi-religion?
[/quote]

Might it be considered one? - Yes, some do.

Do therapists act like it is? - Yes, some do.

Do false religions spring up from this discipline? - Yes, just look at the Scientoligists and their foundation.

Is it? - No.

Don’t be fooled by either those who are paranoid of psychology, or by those who believe solely in psychology. There are great, holy Catholic and Protestant psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists. Dr. Ray is a great example of a holy psychologist and there is no doubt that he is a Christian and not a follower of some psychology as religion nonsense.

However, you need to always be careful…there are more non-religious/Christian psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists than there are religious/Christian ones.

Your unworthy brother in Christ and by the Grace of God a future priest,

Donnchadh mag Eochadha, Psy.D.

(my last post until I can figure out how this MB enforces its rules)


#5

I work as a substance abuse counselor, I do not possess a PH.D. so I cannot call myself a psychologist strictly speaking but the only difference is the letters after my name. So I can understand your impressions. I am also a traditional Catholic.

I think it is possible and very beneficial to bring a religious, Catholic perspective to the infant science of psychology.
I am persuing a MA in Pastoral Counseling as soon as I complete my undergrad work. I have found those who enter the field from that angle to be far and away the best. There are some books on the FSSP website I would like to examine in detail:

] ** Philosophical Psychology** D.Q. McInerny, Ph.D.
Provides the basic principles of human psychology from a philosophical point of view.
Softcover. 338 pp. $20.00

**Introduction to the Science of Mental Health
**Fr. Chad Ripperger, Ph.D., F.S.S.P. ** ] Vol. 1: Philosophical Psychology

**From the foreword by Most Reverend Fabian W. Bruskewitz, Bishop of Lincoln: “While the book is not an exhaustive treatment of the subject of the philosophy of man, it does a good job of tying together various parts of St. Thomas’ thought and shows how necessary it is as a proper foundation for the science of psychology.”

Softcover. 326 pp. $30.00

** ] Vol. 2: Sacred and Other Spiritual Causes

**This text addresses the various aspects of Catholic theology as they affect mental health, including the relationship of psychology to theology, sin as it affects mental health, the infused virtues, sacraments, gifts of the Holy Ghost, prayer and demonic influences.

Softcover. 274 pp. $30.00


#6

[quote=ecs 220]Even the kindly, late Mr. Rogers (God rest his soul) encouraged children to express their feelings – but, to my knowledge, didn’t spend anywhere near enough time telling those same children about the feelings of others.

At the turn of the last century, one of America’s greatest problems was quackery in Medicine – are we now seeing a similar situation in the field of Psychology? At roughly the time I was majoring in Psych the American Psychological Association, in convention, took a vote on a resolution that homosexuality was not a mental aberration, but merely a “lifestyle preference”; one’s personal opinions on the matter aside, it did not seem to occur to anyone present that scientific matters are not determined by vote.
[/quote]

ECS,

While I have no particular opinion on your principal premise, there are 2 points on which I want to comment.

Fred Rogers, memory eternal, whose television shows were a wonderful ministry to children, devoted enormous amounts of time and energy to teaching children not only to care about and respect themselves but to be equally conscious of and caring toward others. I sincerely regret that my 2 youngest children will have the benefit only of watching reruns of Fred’s neighborhood, rather than experiencing the continually evolving window on the world in which their older siblings (10 to 28 years) had the opportunity to participate with Fred, his cast, and his puppets.

Scientific matters are not determined by a vote, but it is still a stretch to term most psychological (and many psychiatric)diagnostics as scientific, since subjective observation continues to play a much greater role than do objective, quantifiable facts. It is for this reason that many would term psychology (a discipline for which I have the greatest respect and in which I am educated) an art rather than a science. Thus, the APA decision to remove homosexuality from the DSM is not such a leap as you suggest. Further, you need to remember that psychological/psychiatric conditions did not fall into the categorization of disorders/diseases by divine revelation. Persons in those disciplines elected to so categorize them; thus, it is their prerogative to declassify the same.

Many years,

Neil


#7

I have an undergraduate in psychology and am still a student member of the APA today.

First I would like to say that at least in America most of the work done by Jung and Freud is generally discounted. In my first Psychology class my teacher went up to the chalkboard and said, “Sigmund Freud did two great things for psychology, he said childhood was important and he died.”

Some people on this message board might remember a famous magazine cover with a picture of Freud on it begging the question, “Is Freud God?” or something to that effect – I cannot remember the exact wording.

Freud, Jung, and other psychotherapists do not practice very good science proper. I agree with the statement that it resembles early medicine where people were draining humors and the like; however, much of the contemporary study in psychology is not in the area of psychotherapy.

Does psychology study how individuals react and behave to other people’s feelings or behaviors. You bet it does… There is a whole field of study dedicated to social phenomena, social learning theory, etc… Some psychological studies have practical applications some do not; unfortunately, some people grab onto those studies that do not have a practical application and try to use them as such.

As far as the classification of homosexuality in the DSM IV, I respond with the apathetic “whatever.” Psychology and other behavioral sciences have held onto the archaic practice of “operational definitions.” Operational definitions are a remnant of the “Logical Positivism” a philosophical movement made popular by the British Empiricists. I do not have the time or want to explain what that is right now but it has huge flaws and unfortunate side effects. Operational definitions prove Thomas Kuhn’s theory of paradigmatic shifts of which he spoke of in his dissertation “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.”

So in the end, yes there are people in psychology that practice bad science and could be considered almost an atheistic religion in itself. However, most of the world of Psychology is based on strict scientific practices using statistics, careful experimentation, and practical hypothesizing. Whether or not ‘science’ is a type of religion is a whole different debate.


#8

Thanks to all for your commentary thus far. I love the opinions of people who think – even when they’re whacking me upside the head :whacky:

The reference to the APA’s vote re homosexuality was merely an example of what I would term Bad Science. We don’t have all the answers on this issue, and aren’t likely to for awhile; it merely seemed that voting on it was an error in the APA’s collective judgement.

It seems to me IMHO that, at the time I was slogging through my Psych studies, the field was somewhere on the cusp between being a) a genuine attempt – using valid scientific methods – to understand the workings of the mind and subsequent behavior, and b) a New-Agey mishmosh of pseudoscientific opinion masquerading as “fact”. At that time, Menninger wrote eloquently of Guilt – that it is, in fact, often well-placed and necessary. Now, in our increasingly Oprahfied society, the sole aim of life would seem to be remaining guilt-free and “feeling good about yourself”, whether one really has a *valid reason * for good feeling or not.

In the year 2004 (again, IMHO) Psychology – in which the self-serving, profit-chasing Self-Help Gurus are lumped together with the Researchers & Thinkers – looks less and less (and less) like a Science – which is profoundly unfair to those who’d like it to be one.


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