Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Christianity is just a psychological crutch - part 2

In part 1 I looked at what people mean when they describe Christianity as a psychological crutch. In this part I'll start to think about how we can respond to this idea.

Firstly, this idea that Christianity is just a psychological crutch assumes that God is therefore just an invention of the minds of the people who need something as a comfort. It makes God into merely a psychological projection. The problem with that is, when you say to me, as a Christian, that God isn't real but is just my invention to help me, you assume that you are coming from a neutral position. It assumes that you can stand back and give an objective analysis of the situation, without the bias of the way that you look at the world.

But the fact is that, to a certain extent, we are all shaped by the lives that we have lived and the way we view the world. Let me try to illustrate that for you.

So Freud thought that Christianity is just a psychological crutch. One way he tried to show this was by arguing that our view of God stems from our view of our father. So he says that, when we grow up and leave the comfort of a family, we're thrust as adults into a world where we can no longer go to the comfort of a father for security. It's a lonely and frightening place, and so we create the idea of a God who can be that comfort to us, that friend in a friendless world, that father figure we can run to when we can no longer run to a real father. Christians invent God to provide that comfort they crave.

That may be true. It might be that Freud's analysis is correct. However, Freud's argument against the belief in there being a God could equally be used as an argument against the belief in there being no God. You see, just as Freud argues that Christians invent a God to deal with their need for a father, it could be that Freud's atheism springs from a desire to flee a father figure, from a unconscious desire for no father figure to exist. And so he invents a reality where there is no God, as that is what is comforting to him, that's his psychological crutch. But inventing that reality doesn't make God cease to exist, if he is in fact real.

That's just one example, but there could be a whole load of other psychological explanations for why some come to the conclusion that there is no God and that Christianity isn't true. The conclusion could well be a consequence of your fears or hopes for life, which God would get in the way of if he was real. You could believe there is no God as a way of dealing with feelings of guilt – you don't like the thought of being faced with your guilt so you project a reality where there is no God. Or whatever it is.

The point is this: noone is neutral. Everyone has beliefs that they hold, and are influenced psychologically by all sorts of things, and these things undoubtedly shape other beliefs. And so it's not a fair argument to say that you, the sceptic, come from a neutral position whereas the Christian is subject to psychological factors, using his or her faith as a psychological crutch.

So that's the first thing I want to say – to assume that Christians are influenced by psychological factors whereas those who don't believe in God come from a neutral position is not a fair thing to assume.

So, if that's the case, how can we break in to this cycle? We'll look at that in the next and final part.

1 comment:

Zac Wyse said...

Bravo! I'm loving this.
No neutrality is spot-on!