I’ve heard many Christians claim many times that their life would be meaningless without God. That God and/or Jesus give their life meaning or that without their faith they would have nothing to live for or would lead an aimless existence. I’ve always found this notion a very curious thing but haven’t been able to satisfactorily articulate what precisely the problems were with that way of thinking.
Recently, I came across this quote by Dr. Peter Boghossian, a philosopher at Portland State University and author of an upcoming book “A Manual for Creating Atheists”:
If life has no meaning for someone unless they pretend to know something they don’t know, then I would strongly and sincerely urge extensive therapy and counselling. This is particularly true if feelings of meaninglessness and lack of purpose lead to depression, which is a serious illness. Absent a mental disorder, or head trauma, there is no reason an adult should feel life is meaningless without maintaining some form of delusion. — Peter Boghossian
That quote adequately explains what I’ve felt but have been unable to properly articulate. A person who has to pretend to know something they do not and maintain that pretence just to feel like their life isn’t completely worthless has some psychological problems. Of course, most religious people don’t think they’re pretending but having spent considerable time at youth groups myself and experiencing first hand the bizarre behaviour of impressionable young people in such an emotionally charged, peer pressure environment, it’s not surprising to me that people are able to convince themselves that what they’re feeling – which is real – must be caused by what they are being told – a supernatural, spiritual force – which clearly isn’t real.
Pretending that something is real, however, is not the same as deriving self-worth and life meaning out of that pretence. People who’s self-worth and life-worth is dependant on pretending to know something they do not, have psychological issues and religion is fundamentally constructed and finessed to play to those psychological issues. The whole concept of faith, prayer, divine knowledge and a relationship with an unseeable, un-hearable, intangible being that speaks to you in your mind is a dangerous and perfectly positioned proposition for people who have psychological problems. Is it any wonder that people with psychological problems are drawn to religion?
A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything. — Friedrich Nietzsche
What is the difference between Christians who talk to their god and derive life worth from that relationship, Muslims who speak to Muhammad and derive life worth from that relationship and clinically insane people who speak to carrots and derive life worth from that relationship?
I would venture that there is little distinction between them. Opinion certainly as I am not a qualified psychiatrist but it does go some way to explain why religious observance, rules and customs are generally so far removed from what should be normal human behaviour, that to those who are not caught up in it… it mostly seems bizarre and insane. Eat the body of a deity and drink his blood? Magic underwear? Exorcisms? Transferring your sins to a freaking chicken? Baptising the dead? Refusing life saving blood transfusions?
Not all religious people are clinically insane, I’ll admit that. It does however seem to me that a great many religious people have psychological issues and it seems pretty clear to me that people who have psychological issues are drawn to religion because religion has been constructed in such a way so that it will appeal to them.
Religion. What’s the harm, right?