Thursday, June 20, 2013

My Answer to Austin Cline: Kind God Makes You Kind

  photo seventhsealblog1.jpg
 Dancing over the hill with death from Bergman's Seventh Seal

On the CADRE blog to today BK argues with atheist pundit Austin Cline who says that cruel people choose a cruel God. He's quoting Bertrand Russell. BK says:

If I understand this argument (which isn’t really so much an argument as an assertion), Cline believes that non-belief in God allows the Atheist to be kind. Yet, his paragraph on kindness does not really support this idea. He apparently agrees with Bertrand Russell’s statement (which I believe to be nonsense) that, “Men tend to have the beliefs that suit their passions. Cruel men believe in a cruel god and use their belief to excuse cruelty. Only kindly men believe in a kindly god, and they would be kindly in any case.”(CADRE comments, "Does Atheism Promote Kindness?" June 19th, 2013).

I basically agree with you BK but there are a couple of things I want to add.

The statement by Russell was not original.When I was at Agape Force in the East Texas Branch (their golden age: Keith Green and Second chapter of Acts lived next door) they had us read an old 19th book by some evangelist, can't remember the name, called "Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation." He argued the very same thing. He was saying that pagan religions do this. That's why violent people like the Thugees had Kali goddess of evil as their goddess. That's really a misunderstanding of Kali and of Indian culture.

In any case I don't think that atheism frees one to be kind, but makes it "cool" to be cruel. Look at the rationalizations for using mockery and ridicule--we have to stop stupid ideas so it's ok to hurt people because its so important they emulate our brilliant ideas. Atheist guru Keith Parsons say:

I am. I ain’t a Christian. I don’t turn the other cheek or love my enemies or pray for those that say mean things about atheists.

What justifies ridicule? The ridiculous deserves to be ridiculed. Well, we should spare the innocent ridiculousness of those who cannot help it–the genuinely, pathetically dimwitted or uneducated. But pernicious, aggressive ridiculousness by smart, educated people who are attempting to foist their ridiculousness on the rest of us–that richly deserves ridicule. Those who attempt to use the power of the state to cram their fatuous, hateful ideology down the throats of everyone else–by having creationism taught in the public schools, say–are contemptible and fully deserving of contemptuous laughter. I heard Lewis Black do a terrific rant on creationism. Priceless.
Ah, yes the soul of kindness.

We need to use empirical study to compare populations. Cline's statement, no surprise, is anecdotal. The empirical facts show that religious people are much less likely to depressed or mentally ill. Of those religious people who are depressed or mentally ill or have low self esteem it's more likely to be those with a  negative God image.

It is true that Christians can have a negative view of God. A huge body of empirical study shows that those who do have low self esteem. That is not limited to atheists but is true of atheists as well.

I notice that atheists are quite likely to mock the idea of "happiness" when they attack the religious experience studies. As though happiness is just nothing at all we don't even need it. Then we find Cline using it as an inducement to become an atheist. You will be happier, of course if Christianity makes you happier then happiness is something we don't need. The empirical facts are that studies show religion makes one happier, like it or not.

Kind God Makes you Kind

Those have religious experiences, especially those labeled "mystical" tend to be more socially conscious and kinder than those who don't have such experiences.

State of Unitive Consciousness
"Furthermore, Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being. "
A major aspect of mystical experience is an overwhelming all pervasive sense of love and being loved. We should take this as the sense of God's love, thus loving God makes you kind.

Religion and Happiness

by Michael E. Nielsen, PhD

Many people expect religion to bring them happiness. Does this actually seem to be the case? Are religious people happier than nonreligious people? And if so, why might this be?

Researchers have been intrigued by such questions. Most studies have simply asked people how happy they are, although studies also may use scales that try to measure happiness more subtly than that. In general, researchers who have a large sample of people in their study tend to limit their measurement of happiness to just one or two questions, and researchers who have fewer numbers of people use several items or scales to measure happiness.

What do they find? In a nutshell, they find that people who are involved in religion also report greater levels of happiness than do those who are not religious. For example, one study involved over 160,000 people in Europe. Among weekly churchgoers, 85% reported being "very satisfied" with life, but this number reduced to 77% among those who never went to church (Inglehart, 1990). This kind of pattern is typical -- religious involvement is associated with modest increases in happiness

Religion is the most powerful Factor in well being.

Poloma and Pendelton The Faith Factor: An Annotated Bibliography of Systematic Reviews And Clinical Research on Spiritual Subjects Vol. II, David B. Larson M.D., Natiional Institute for Health Research Dec. 1993, p. 3290.


"The authors found that religious satisfaction was the most powerful predictor of existential well being. The degree to which an individual felt close to God was the most important factor in terms of existential well-being. While frequency of prayer contributed to general life satisfaction and personal happiness. As a result of their study the authors concluded that it would be important to look at a combination of religious items, including prayer, relationship with God, and other measures of religious experience to begin to adequately clarify the associations of religious commitment with general well-being."
Recent Empirical Studies Prove Religious Believers have less depression, mental illness lower Divorce rate, ect.

J. Gartner, D.B. Allen, The Faith Factor: An Annotated Bibliography of Systematic Reviews And Clinical Research on Spiritual Subjects Vol. II, David B. Larson M.D., National Institute for Health Research Dec. 1993, p. 3090


"The Reviews identified 10 areas of clinical status in which research has demonstrated benefits of religious commitment: (1) Depression, (2) Suicide, (3) Delinquency, (4) Mortality, (5) Alcohol use (6) Drug use, (7) Well-being, (8) Divorce and marital satisfaction, (9) Physical Health Status, and (10) Mental health outcome studies....The authors underscored the need for additional longitudinal studies featuring health outcomes. Although there were few, such studies tended to show mental health benefit. Similarly, in the case of teh few longevity or mortality outcome studies, the benefit was in favor of those who attended least 70% of the time, increased religious commitment was associated with improved coping and protection from problems."

[The authors conducted a literature search of over 2000 publications to glean the current state of empirical study data in areas of Spirituality and health]

2) Shrinks assume religious experience Normative.
Dr. Jorge W.F. Amaro, Ph.D., Head psychology dept. Sao Paulo


a) Unbeliever is the Sick Soul

"A non spiritualized person is a sick person, even if she doesn't show any symptom described by traditional medicine. The supernatural and the sacredness result from an elaboration on the function of omnipotence by the mind and can be found both in atheist and religious people. It is an existential function in humankind and the uses each one makes of it will be the measure for one's understanding."

b. psychotheraputic discipline re-evalutes Frued's criticism of religion



"Nowadays there are many who do not agree with the notion that religious behavior a priori implies a neurotic state to be decoded and eliminated by analysis (exorcism). That reductionism based on the first works by Freud is currently under review. The psychotherapist should be limited to observing the uses their clients make of the representations of the image of God in their subjective world, that is, the uses of the function of omnipotence. Among the several authors that subscribe to this position are Odilon de Mello Franco (12), .... W. R. Bion (2), one of the most notable contemporary psychoanalysts, ..."

[sources sited by Amaro BION, W. R. Atenção e interpretação (Attention and interpretation). Rio de Janeiro: Imago, 1973.

MELLO FRANCO, O. de. Religious experience and psychoanalysis: from man-as-god to man-with-god. Int. J. of Psychoanalysis (1998) 79,]

c) This relationship is so strong it led to the creation of a whole discipline in psychology; transactionalism

Neilson on Maslow


"One outgrowth of Maslow's work is what has become known as Transpersonal Psychology, in which the focus is on the spiritual well-being of individuals, and values are advocated steadfastly. Transpersonal psychologists seek to blend Eastern religion (Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.) or Western (Christian, Jewish or Moslem) mysticism with a form of modern psychology. Frequently, the transpersonal psychologist rejects psychology's adoption of various scientific methods used in the natural sciences."
"The influence of the transpersonal movement remains small, but there is evidence that it is growing. I suspect that most psychologists would agree with Maslow that much of psychology -- including the psychology of religion -- needs an improved theoretical foundation."

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