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Psychology of religion

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What do you believe or foresee will eventually happen to religion and/or spirituality? Do you think it is likely that religion will one day cease and humanity will live through the virtue of reason? Or is the reverence and self-sacrifice towards a mystical element just an inevitable attribute within men's psyche? Is the most we can expect in terms of change just the further growth and development within the whole established new-age/neo-mysticism cult following, taking upon the position that spiritualism and science are compatible?

Edited by Limelight
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I think we need to provide a rational outlet for spiritual needs.

Psychologically, many people seem to require a validation of self or purpose in order to live up to their potential. Ideally, reason could provide this validation, but I think many perhaps literally require more than their own reason to get past a certain threshold of self-confidence. If reason can provide a simple and consistent psychological approach to confidence/worth issues, people wouldn't turn to concepts of God as much. People, when feeling down, need some reason to start feeling up before they'll make an effort that will prove their own worth to themselves.

Another concept that religion provides for has to do with the notion of a malevolent universe. When the universe seems malevolent, people require a validation that things will get better, they need a reason to hope, in order to perservere. A benevolent God behind a malevolent universe, rewarding you in the end, is clearly one coping method. I think Rand's concept of a benevolent universe, from a psychological standpoint, is wonderful. But fairly tragic things do happen often enough, and these things are often very psychologically difficult. Coddling makes things worse, but reason needs to provide a psychological response to the times when the universe seems malevolent other than saying that it is in fact benevolent.

What are these things reason provides? A spiritual dogma, I think there needs to be one, if not more. Not philosophy, but something derived from it.

Objectivism and reason provide answers to metaphysical questions. These need to be translated into spiritual practice.

I'll give a couple examples that seem outlandish, but may one day be common. First, prayer may be enormously psychologically effective. Imagine, rather than praying to God, having a dialogue with the 'self' as if you are conversing with the ideal you that is really inside you. 'You' could reassure yourself through articulated mental - or even spoken - words, that you have what it takes. I imagine getting on you knees, and closing your eyes, and saying to yourself, "You have been through worse, you will be fine" might produce the same effect as if you had prayed to a God. I mean the actual act of saying it.

Second, metaphysical confidence is important. If there is no God to make sure things work out, then what is there? There is truth, reality. Everything good you have in life you have because reality is how it is, reality therefore ought to be worshipped in a way. So when bad things happen, that you cannot control, there should be a certain level of acceptance of those things, because they result from the same beautiful truth that you love.

These sort of spiritual ideas and practices need to be articulated into systems or dogmas that people learn and live by. When the day comes that people can find an alternative to church that is better than iffy self-help books, then perhaps they will stop going.

I envision this future, but it must be invented. Otherwise, as religion fades, people will turn to a new-age mysticism, and realign themselves with the religionists overtime, until established mysticism rules society, which will rebel, and on and on. Now is the moment to break the cycle and provide meaty spiritual answers that are based on rational philosophy. These answers, again, are not the philosophy itself, but something else, inspired by it.

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I envision this future, but it must be invented. Otherwise, as religion fades, people will turn to a new-age mysticism, and realign themselves with the religionists overtime, until established mysticism rules society, which will rebel, and on and on. Now is the moment to break the cycle and provide meaty spiritual answers that are based on rational philosophy. These answers, again, are not the philosophy itself, but something else, inspired by it.

I concur with your view (vision?) that the worthwhile aspects of prayer can be achieved independent of supernatural nonsense. By appropriate thinking clarity and focus can be reached. One thing that will disappear, given your premise, is prayer for things to be other than what they are will go away. "Please God, make things as they are, not be and make things as they are not, be" which is a common modality in religious prayers will disappear. Good riddance.

Bob Kolker

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I concur with your view (vision?) that the worthwhile aspects of prayer can be achieved independent of supernatural nonsense. By appropriate thinking clarity and focus can be reached. One thing that will disappear, given your premise, is prayer for things to be other than what they are will go away. "Please God, make things as they are, not be and make things as they are not, be" which is a common modality in religious prayers will disappear. Good riddance.

Bob Kolker

While I believe self reverence through self-affirmation and reflection is essential, shouldn't it be something that one practices automatically, where one is constantly self-aware yet mobile in a sense? Is it possible that man can achieve the same benefits of taking x amount of time in self-affirming meditation while remaining cognizant and engaged with the external world being the most possibly productive? Or does resting one's body and mind of the physical world, stopping and thinking, yield a more rejuvinating process of inner-reflection?

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What you need, my friend, is Rand's 1966 Ford Hall Forum talk, "Our cultural value-deprivation." The premise of the talk is that "...man's consciousness possesses a specific nature with specific cognitive needs, that it is not infinitely malleable and cannot be twisted, like a piece of putty, to fit any private evasions or any public 'conditioning'... ".

She compares an experiment, involving sensory deprivation, in which the absence of stimuli caused the subjects to be severely disoriented, and lose ability to 'follow' reality (my choice of words) to Americans' deprivation of heroic, moral role models and inspiring art. Obviously, I'm not doing it justice here, you'll have to read it yourself, but it does address the "needs" humans have, psychologically, if they are to become rational, moral animals in actuality.

If such conditions are not met, or are not prevalent in the culture, one must search them out wherever they are, tucked away or attacked, even ridiculed, children must be exposed to them, etc. When that doesn't happen, there is no guarantee that a person will become or remain rational. It's hard to imagine a world without any rational men (simply because people wouldn't survive, if for no other reason), but in a bad culture, it's not surprising that there are a lot of mystics.

More importantly however, it's not that hard to imagine a culture in which those values are prevalent, and in which a majority of people embrace reason, and reject mysticism.

P.S. Just found the link: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pag..._ar_deprivation

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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Thanks. Very interesting. I can personally relate to the detrimental effects of which stagnation and evasive behaviors produce. I have clinical depression and anxiety due to PTSD, and through experience a prolonged avoidance of everyday life (i.e. sleeping in bed all day) only exacerbates my symptoms with such catastrophic analyzation, revulsion and rationalization of a cynical existentialist, breaking my true spirit and system of values.

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