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.