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Do We All Think We’re Rational about Religion?

July 19, 2013

Why is there so little interest in psychology when it comes to religion? Especially psychology about oneself? 

I have to admit, I’ve been pondering this a lot lately.  Rather than share the few insights I’ve gained over the decades (which I do think have value), let me just pose a few questions.  (I continue on a quest for understanding, myself.) Maybe publicly raising questions is what it takes, many times over by many people, to get more people reflecting on both their religious affiliation (or lack of one) and their personalized form of religion…. We all have a personalized form of beliefs about “ultimate” or “meaning-bearing” things — “religious” or not, on a conscious as well as largely subconscious level.  And this drives a lot of emotion and behavior… worth coming to understand better, don’t you think?


Think (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, do we “do” little psychology on ourselves or our religious (or non-religious) tradition because we think we’re quite “rational” about it all, thank you very much?!  (Everybody who disagrees with us is irrational, but we are rational!)  Some people have a little more claim to that last thought than others: those who have put their own beliefs through the same kind of critical examination they give to others’ beliefs and practices.  (P. S. This is not easy, either mentally or emotionally… when one does it seriously, it is likely to prompt some changes which may be scary or inconvenient.)

Do we not know or forget that our view of God tends to be highly influenced by our experiences with our parents (especially our father, given that God is so much painted as of male gender though supposedly gender-less)?  And this in the first couple years of life, so mostly beyond conscious memory? Of course, our conscious memories are likely to be along the same lines, so often a good clue.

Do we not remember that “no man [or woman] is an island”? If we take this to heart, we know we do not come to our religious beliefs or “affections” (what they used to be called in the 18th century) by our own rational thinking, but as heavily influenced by childhood, adolescent or even adult friends and family.  Or do we know this but think it doesn’t apply to us? Do we forget that this works both ways: influencing what we affiliate with or adopt as well as, often, what we rebel against? (If we are of the independent sort, do we think, “Not me, I make my own decisions… I’m not just reacting”?)

Does any of this strike a chord with you? Have you done much analysis of your own belief system, looking to its critics seriously, as well as its supporters? 

What other questions have you perhaps dealt with? How has it helped you, if it has? 

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