At first, you might find it impossible for a psychologist to be faithful. That’s primarily because the most common approach is that of Sigmund Freud, whose viewpoints on faith are widely known. According to Freud’s psychology essays, religion is an interpretation of underlying psychological distress, being a means through which the masses can be controlled, and provided with a sense of fulfillment.
With that said, are there any psychologists that convey faith in a positive manner? For example, Carl Jung has different viewpoint. It appears that God is a psychological construct that mirrors an image of our own Self. Thereupon, according to Jung, when a believer encounters the depths of his/her own minds, he/she believes that he/she communicates with God.
How Do Psychologists See Faith?
Approximately 50 percent of the psychology professors at US colleges and universities don’t believe in God. In the meantime, 11 percent are agnostic. Therefore, from a statistical viewpoint, this would make psychologists the least religious sector amongst physicians. Apparently, studying the way in which the human mind works makes psychologists convey faith in a skeptical manner.
Additionally, it seems that specialists that are more oriented towards research are less likely to believe in God, and to attend religious services or to believe in the accuracy of the Bible.
Religion and Faith
Even so, in spite of the skepticism associated with religion, and the negative implications associated with it, religion has withstood more than 100,000 years. Therefore, it is present in every society, in a form or another, over 85 percent of the world’s population practicing a kind of religious belief.
But what is it that makes religion enduring, in spite of all the negative things that happened over the course of time? In essence, we could argue that we are predisposed to believe in a greater force. It is our garden-variety cognitions that facilitate the impetus for religious beliefs. Therefore, we are inclined to perceive the world as a place that was made with an intentional design, being created by someone or something.
For instance, young children want to assign a purpose for even the smallest things. We are constantly searching for meaning, especially in times of uncertainty.
Aside from that, as human beings, we have bias for strongly believing in the supernatural. Children as young as three years old are likely to attribute supernatural abilities to God, whether they have been taught about that or not. What is more, they tell detailed stories about their lives before being born.
Psychologists Face Doubt and Skepticism
Considering that psychologists learn the way in which the human body works, they want to explain everything in a logical manner. A psychological approach to faith could lead one to doubt or question, at the very least, one’s faith and belief in the supernatural. You might be prone to believe that your faith is triggered by self-serving motives. What is more, faith is confronting, in the sense that it challenges you to acknowledge its transcendent nature.
According to Pope Benedict XVI, faith is a risky enterprise, because it asks of you to accept what you cannot see as being fundamental and utterly true. It provokes you to take a leap out of the tangible world – the world in which you feel intellectually comfortable and capable, the world in which you feel secure. This is utterly true especially in our culture, in which reality is assessed in a concrete, palpable form.
It is the psychological approach of faith that makes it really difficult not to try to define faith in terms of psychological needs, wants and inborn inclinations. So, if, in the past, a person would assess that a condition came from God, nowadays, we are more inclined to seek the palpable motive, looking at that person’s background and dysfunctional family conditions.
In truth, it is psychoanalysis that allows us to determine both the good and the bad inside the human mind and in ourselves, as individuals. For example, dealing with our self-destructive side is a painful and complicated process. One way of addressing this is by acknowledging how much we love and have been loved.
In a way, it is striking that, in this viewpoint, psychoanalysis isn’t 100 percent morally neutral, as it is usually presented. It would be safe to say that psychoanalysis invites us to assess both the good and the bad in human nature, whilst hoping that the good will overrule the bad. Hence, even if psychoanalysis does reject faith, it does value love.
On a final note, each individual responds to God differently. Surprisingly, a study conducted in Finland pointed that when a range of non-believers read statements such as I dare God make me die of cancer, they were really anxious, as anxious as believers whilst making the same statements. What I’m trying to say is that it’s not human nature to be indifferent to God. Therefore, even if psychologists are less likely to have a faith, this doesn’t exclude the likelihood altogether. It’s a matter of perspective.