The Foundations of Psychiatry

By Silvano Arieti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 46

PSYCHIATRY AND RELIGION

Kenneth E. Appel

PSYCHIATRY is the study of emotional and mental disturbance and illness. Religion is one's system of devotions, reverences, allegiances, and practices—whether avowed or implicit, conscious or unconscious. Psychiatry deals with illness, its treatment and prevention. Religion is concerned with the development of the spiritual aspects of personality and the enrichment of personal and social life. Ideally it should help the tolerance and endurance of pain and suffering, the maintenance of health, and the prevention of illness. Standards and values, the need to belong, the need for togetherness, the need to feel worthwhile and of value, the desire to be cared for— all of these are important in human life. They are the concerns of psychiatry and are related to religion as well.

Religion has many aspects11 and a varied history.19 The various parts of the personality are given importance by different persons and by different faiths. Reason, belief, faith, ritual, and church memberships are variously emphasized by different leaders as essential aspects of religion. With some the intellect is stressed, and such people require explanations, demonstrations, reasons, and logic, in part following St. Thomas. Others emphasize emotion, belief, conviction, and dogma. In these they find security, on these they are dependent, and so Schleiermacher believed a feeling of dependency was the essence of religion. For Pascal hope was a cornerstone. James wrote of the will to believe. St. Augustine stressed the will rather than the intellect. G. F. Moore thought the essence of religion was the conservation of social values. Santayana believed in the beauty of religion. Others emphasized rituals, ceremonies, and sacraments. Rules, taboos, and magic have been considered very important by some. Group belonging and togetherness have been emphasized by others. Protestantism finds mediation unnecessary and has stressed the individual's direct access to God.12,32,41 Catholicism emphasizes help from the group, from authority, from history, from tradition.8,34,37,42 Judaism exalts and insists on social justice.16,21,24,27 "Righteousness exalteth a nation."

The scientists and philosophers have by no means dispensed with religion, as is so often thought to be the case.22,31,38 Einstein writes of awe before the great unknown and reverence for the harmony and beauty that exists in

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