The Psychological Grip of Theism

By Faulkner, Charles W. | Free Inquiry, Summer 1993 | Go to article overview

The Psychological Grip of Theism


Faulkner, Charles W., Free Inquiry


As a child, Mary was made to feel inadequate. Even though she was a normal-looking woman, she got a facelift, then a nose job, then a restructuring of her cheekbone, jawbone, and forehead. But no matter what she did, she never felt adequate.

Roy broke his foot and had to use crutches for many months. When his foot finally healed, he could not break himself of the habit of leaning on a support. So he purchased a cane and, even though he did not really need it, he felt uncomfortable without it.

The cases above reveal the impact that behavioral conditioning has upon the human psyche. They also suggest the potent psychological grip that religion has on the mind. Many people cannot break away from the influence of their parents. They hold onto the apron string for dear life. Without their parents, they would simply be unable to survive.

For most people religion is the apron string, crutch, and guarantor of self-confidence. The primary reason for the stranglehold that religion has upon society is its early interjection into the lives of its subjects. Eighty percent of the personality is developed between the ages of six months and three years. After this time, behavioral crutches, self-assessment, and worldviews have concretized and make life either happy or miserable for the then-baby, but now-adult.

Religion is a family tradition that goes back generations. Parents indoctrinate the child very early into religious credulity. The Bible becomes the irrefutable source of philosophical truth and emotional fulfillment. Soul and body, hell and heaven, imperfection and perfection, moral imprisonment and fear of ultimate punishment guide and support the lives of most Westerners as surely as the crutch supports Roy, and continuous facial reconstruction provides hope for Mary.

These supports and perceived needs offer psychological strength to the individual, which is as necessary for emotional stability as are the legs for physical stability. Take away these supports, psychological or physical, and the human structure will crumble. For this reason, proponents of religion will fight violent battles to keep the underpinnings of their emotional structure intact.

It is clear, then, why atheists often find themselves in a condition of emotional inadequacy when the atheistic structure of their lives is tampered with. …

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