My contempt for religious answers to psychological issues

February 28, 2008 at 5:17 pm 86 comments

Psychology1“We have the answer!”

“If you have any problem coping in any way, there is a quick and obvious fix. It is free. All you have to do, is just take it. Let it rule your life and you will be free. Compulsive thoughts? No problem, just pray. Depression? No problem, just fast and pray. Addictions? No problem, just learn a couple of New Testament letters off by heart. All the supernatural power outside the world is waiting for you. All you have to do is access it in this simple way. Of course, in former times we might have told you to flagellate yourself, but you don’t need to do that these days. We have moved on. And we do have the answer.”

There is a very interesting post by Lorena – Addiction Recovery: Can It Be Supernatural? – where she describes her contact with a Texan pastor who condemned her contact with a psychological counsellor for depression and recommended a behaviour modification program of prayer, fasting, and memorizing large chunks of the bible instead. Lorena explains her anger at this suggestion, and develops her reasons. So much of her experience and reasoning resonated with my own. It echoed my own anger at a religious faith which occasionally seems so blind to what it is encouraging people to believe and do.

Being a former evangelical church leader, and now a humanist and practising therapist, I think I can write about both of the worlds that Lorena describes with some insider knowledge. However, let me say at the beginning, in discussing the inadequacies of faith and religious ritual as a means of bringing about deep, lasting change in people, I don’t want to imply that therapy is necessarily THE answer either. It won’t solve all things for all people. However, in contrast to religious faith, many talking therapies have a rationale behind them that doesn’t involve talking to imaginary friends, and the one I am involved in (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) has a substantial basis in empirical research.

I am angry at the way some Christians treat all the psychological learning of the past 100 years with such suspicion and contempt and offer up something so illogical in its place. If you read and learn you are delving into the dark arts that will destroy you. For some, going to a secular counsellor is like making a pact with the devil. You might get some benefit, but your risk losing your soul. It is far better to go to biblical counsellors where they will tell you what the bible says about your problem (if you have been going to church for years, you probably know that anyway) – but at least you will be safe. And at least you will know THE answer, even if it ultimately proves worthless.

There are at least five reasons for my contempt for simple religious answers, and for the rejection of a more reasoned and empirically based approach to helping people help themselves move forward.

First, Christians are often inconsistent. Just as they reject parts of the bible they don’t like and only apply the parts that they do, so too they are happy to use learning and knowledge when it suits them, but not when they fear it might challenge what they believe. So, if you are a Christian executive, you will happily trust the modern knowledge that developed the aeroplane and allow yourself to be flown to the conference; and you will happily use what you learned about communication theory to maximize the impact of your presentation; but seeing a psychological therapist in order to help you explore your long-standing depression or your relationship problems could well be regarded as dangerous.

Secondly, religious people often present solutions that are simplistic. All you have to do is select any one, or any combination of the following: pray, pray, pray more, pray again, pray with faith, pray with persistence, pray without sinning, pray and believe that when nothing happens god knows best, pray, fast and pray, read the bible, learn the bible, pray, be holy, pray, give your money away, get baptised in the Spirit, pray, wear culturally strange clothing, pray some more etc.. Of course, many, many Christians and ex-Christians will tell you that they have been doing these things for years, and yet still have not found a way of adequately dealing with what is troubling them. Even if something goes away in the short-term, it doesn’t seem to last.

And such solutions almost seem insulting – insulting to the 67 year old woman who has prayed all her life and is still traumatized by the sexual abuse at the hands of her father over 60 years ago, insulting to the successful graduate business woman in her forties who is trying to understand why she destroys every close relationship that she engages in and has been told by her pastor it is sinful and has nothing to do with the horrendous childhood she experienced, insulting to the Christian research scientist who has been told that he must pray more and that he is sinfully lazy because for the past 30 year he has had to battle to get out of bed every morning and fight serious depression in order to go to work where he is highly respected and where he often stays late into the evening.

Thirdly, even when there is temporary change or improvement, Christians are sometimes unwilling to accept that there is a perfectly logical explanation for any change without the need to recourse to imaginary friends. As Lorena cogently argues, getting people to do religious things provides a temporary distraction and behaviour modification program that may result in short-term change. Talking of supernatural aid is only one way of interpreting the data. More straight-forward and rational explanations exist.

Next, whenever the simplistic solutions fail, they generate a guilt and a further sense of inadequacy. “Ok, I prayed, but perhaps I didn’t pray enough … I fasted, but I knew I shouldn’t have eaten that chocolate bar … Perhaps I should wear a hat in church … I knew that my conversion wasn’t real … ” Sometimes they encourage people to move from one destructive dependency to another. Addiction to drugs is replaced by addiction to religion.

And finally, any solution which encourages dependency on supernatural aid and looking to an imaginary friend discourages responsibility. And without responsibility people become infantalized and believe that they are powerless (and of course, they can always blame god).

Let me leave you with the wise words of Irvin Yalom, Psychotherapist, and Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Stanford:

  • Only I can change the world I have created.
  • There is no danger in change.
  • To get what I really want, I must change.
  • I have the power to change.

Many therapists are working with people to help them realize and achieve the above.

- A Thinking Man

Entry filed under: AThinkingMan. Tags: , , , , .

The need to help each other, regardless of faith or creed. Happy 1st Anniversary to d-C

86 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mec  |  February 28, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    As a Christian-of-sorts, in therapy for major depression, I thank you for your post.

  • 2. amandalynn727  |  February 28, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    I’d like to add something, if I may.

    Simple solutions to complex issues are seldom, if ever, the correct solution. Isn’t that one of the signs of a cult? You cannot rely on anything that says “this will fix everything” simply because there is no panacea for life’s hardships. Though I would agree that therapy and councelling isn’t best for everyone -some people just don’t benefit- it’s far better to do that then rely on something that quite possibly may not exist at all. At least if you’re attending therapy, you’re taking it upon yourself to get help and not relying on muttered praise and begging.

    Thank you for the post, it was a pleasure to read.

  • 3. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 28, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Excellent post, Thinking Man! I would like to add (and I’m sure you know already) that our physical natures contribute greatly to any spiritual well being or ill feeling we may be experiencing at the time. Christian “therapy” which includes all you mentioned above, ignores how closely our spirituality is tied to chemical processes in the brain or to immunologic disorders, etc., and how some conditions, once thought spiritual in origin, are really cured easily with drug therapy.

  • 4. paulmct  |  February 28, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Very good post about a very true disservice churches do by offering god as a replacement substance to rely on. Spiritual methadone.

    I think this is actually part of something more insidious. It’s part of a predatory recruitment practice focusing on the desperate, as discussed here:

    http://paulmct.wordpress.com/2008/01/17/charity-with-strings-attached/

  • 5. rysprouddad  |  February 28, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    I think contempt is quite an appropriate word for your feelings. There is no hiding that but you paint Christians with a broad brush I feel in this post, and that is undeserved in my opinion. Sure Lorena’s pastor may have given poor guidance in her case, but he is ONE example. There are plenty of churches, mine included, who have credentialed, reputable, and reliable therapists who not only pray for the patient but treat them medically, psychologically etc. acknowledging that science has SOME answers but I would caveat that by saying that God is the giver of all wisdom. So, I pray that as a therapist God would make you skillful in what you do so that ultimately your patients get the most competent care.

  • 7. Thinking Ape  |  February 29, 2008 at 12:40 am

    rysprouddad,

    I think contempt is quite an appropriate word for your feelings. There is no hiding that but you paint Christians with a broad brush I feel in this post, and that is undeserved in my opinion

    I don’t think Thinking Man was trying to do this at all. Even at the expense of annoying repetition, he constantly added “some” to his qualification of “Christians.” The fact is, this is extremely pervasive in the fundamentalist subculture. ATM does not say “all Christians” or even “most Christians.” However, as fundamentalism is becoming the mainstay within evangelical Americans, this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

  • 8. Marge  |  February 29, 2008 at 12:43 am

    Thinking Man, Although I agree with most of your points and believe they apply to 90% of evangelical practice, I hesitate to make such blanket statements. What you’ve said seems tainted with bitterness. I have witnessed religious-based counseling that acknowledged the science and effectivness of modern psychology.

    When I sought advice regarding my divorce I was very surprised to find my curch leaders at actually giving me logical healthy advice instead of a laying-on-of-hands or something akin. I also wholly support a local homeless outreach that helps people become productive members of society again. I support them because their program provide well-balanced therapy and does not require religious transformation of its participants.

    I am no longer religious and have plenty of distaste for the evangelical ilk, but I prefer judge each ministry on its own merits.

  • 9. LeoPardus  |  February 29, 2008 at 1:09 am

    ATM:

    You make some good points here. In places you do paint with a bit too broad a brush though. An example of what I mean is:
    any solution which encourages dependency on supernatural aid and looking to an imaginary friend discourages responsibility

    This can discourage, or even undermine, responsibility. But it can also allow a person to transfer psychological problems or baggage that they really aren’t able to deal with. Alcoholics Anonymous is a good example of this. Alcoholics often can’t take on the full weight of dealing with their addiction, so they transfer some of the weight to “a higher power”.

    BTW, I don’t know Yalom. I trust that his statement, “There is no danger in change.” isn’t meant as a universal. There are certainly times where change can be quite dangerous.

  • 10. athinkingman  |  February 29, 2008 at 5:02 am

    Thanks for all your comments.

    rysprouddad, Marge
    I thought I did go some way (perhaps not far enough) to mitigate my language – some Christians … for some … often inconsistent … often present solutions … sometimes unwilling (thanks Thinking Ape). If you have found exceptions, that is great. I am genuinely pleased about that – but in my experience, it is rare. I have been to far too many national Christian conferences where people wanted to cast demons out of psychotic people.

    Marge
    Bitterness? You may, of course, be right. I would argue that I am angry and contemptuous because of the damage I have witnessesed (Richard we are of one mind), but I personally don’t equate anger and contempt with bitterness. In earlier times I might have called it ‘righteous indignation’.

    LeoPardus
    I’m not sure I feel too comfortable about encouraging people to transfer baggage to a myth. For me, a refusal to face existential reality is always part of the problem.

    I would interpret Yalom’s statements in the context of his therapeutic work where people often resist positive change and believe they are helpless.

  • 11. pistolpete  |  February 29, 2008 at 7:38 am

    I can appreciate that it is unwise to simply use spiritual/theological jargon to address psychological issues. I can say first-hand, however, as a person with Bipolar Disorder, that exploring the spiritual dimensions of my illness has helped me move toward wellness. I continue to seek psychological help, yet with faith I have hope that I can and will get better.

  • 12. Terry K. Moore  |  February 29, 2008 at 11:10 am

    I’d have to agree with you. But as I read what you were saying something came to mind. . .

    What about the contempt for psychologist/doctors to psychological issues? For example, it seems like nearly a third of the children in the US are being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.

    What’s sad is that doctors and psychologist are very experimental with us, trying to “try” something to solve a symptom, and churches shouldn’t be doing the same thing. Telling something to pray, fast, etc. is okay, but even the Bible makes references to getting medical attention first and then have others pray for you (James 5:14; contrary to popular Christian teaching the “oil” here is referencing a “healing salve” and not the same oil that David was anointed with).

  • 13. orDover  |  February 29, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Terry,

    I’d be careful with throwing out statistics. According to the CDC website, the percent of children ever diagnosed ADD/ADHA is only 7.4%. That far less than 1/3.

    I would like to know how exactly, outside of clinical trials, psychologists are “experimental with us.” If you see a psychologist they might prescribe a drug and then see how it affects you, but that’s how it goes with pretty much every drug, because everyone’s body chemistry is slightly different. When I first started taking birth control pills I tried on prescription, but it didn’t work, so I was given another. Do you think I was experimented on?

    This post reminded me of how my mother was very resistant to take me to a psychiatrist even thought I was very depressed and having suicidal thoughts. She told me repeatedly that my mental issues were “demons fighting over my soul” and that I had to win the battle through prayer. After staying up all night with me a few times during my panic attacks she finally realized that I needed real medical help.

  • 14. karen  |  February 29, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Great post, TM. I definitely experienced this paranoid fear of “secular humanist” counselors in the churches I attended. Anytime someone mentioned psychotherapy, marriage counseling, or the like, there was a quick warning given: “Make sure you see a Christian counselor!”

    The implication was that non-Christian counselors were dangerous.

    Richard, I had much the same experience as you recount. Although by the time I got into therapy I deliberately chose someone outside the approved fundamentalist pastors/counselors recommended by my church. I was already questioning my religious beliefs and didn’t want to be railroaded back into them in therapy – I also didn’t want to be told to “pray about it” because I had tried that ad nauseum and was frustrated at the utter lack of results.

  • 15. TheNorEaster  |  February 29, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Thinking Man:

    Have you ever read “The Third Strike” by Jerry Grey? (Or Gray, can’t remember the exact spelling.) He was an alcoholic who lived and wrote during the 1920s, which was before AA was founded–by Christians, as I recall–in the 1930s. His self-analysis of his disease (alcoholism) is considered brilliant by some recovering alcoholics. He had said at one point–this is a paraphrase–”This thing called alcoholism needs more than doctors, medicines, courts, and psychologists to treat it,” which many recovery alcoholics take to mean a spiritual intervention, hence the third step in AA–”Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, AS WE UNDERSTOOD HIM” (emphasis not added). Obviously the founders of AA decided not to limit the program to Christianity because the disease is not limited to, say, the western world (for lack of a better term). It is also possible that the founders of AA believed that God is so gracious, so merciful, and so loving that He would not turn His back on those who seek Him, regardless of the spiritual specifics and the religious details (but that’s another discussion).

    Of course, I would never support a simplistic point of view that says prayer and fasting are the answer to all your problems. That’s impractical and stupid. But, coming from a family of alcoholics, I suppose I understand the disease as much a clean and sober individual can (by that I mean that I am not an alcoholic). AA works for some, not for others. But the point I’m making is simply the role of a Higher Power in the process of recovery. Now keep in mind that although I am a Christian, I do not specfically refer to YHWH or Jesus in this particular instance, just the role of the Higher Power–as recovering alcoholics understand Him–in the process of recovery. Because I have known a whole lot of people who have quit drinking because of AA and they continue to live that third step. And yet, that third step is seldom exclusive of psychotherapy and the other things you mentioned. But the disease is so strong a recovering alcoholic needs all the help that he, or she, can get. So while some might debate the value of reason over the value of faith, many times both perspectives–and more–are used by the addict to aid in recovery.

  • 16. Yurka  |  February 29, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    So, if you are a Christian executive, you will happily trust the modern knowledge that developed the aeroplane and allow yourself to be flown to the conference; and you will happily use what you learned about communication theory to maximize the impact of your presentation; but seeing a psychological therapist in order to help you explore your long-standing depression or your relationship problems could well be regarded as dangerous.

    This is highly inaccurate. You cannot equate technological advancements, which depend on hard science and empirically verifiable results, with psychology which depends on subjective value judgments that vary with the vagaries of culture. Basically you are saying the values of your materialistic religion trump the values revealed by God in scripture, without telling us why.

    Psychiatry is a legitimate branch of medicine, since people can have chemical imbalances that require medical treatment, but it is my understanding that talk therapy has been shown to be largely ineffective. Do you have any statistics to back up your claims?

    Christianity is the very opposite of “infantilizing”. It tells people they are morally responsible for their actions. It is psychology that encourages irresponsibility and self indulgence by encouraging people to blame things on their parents and giving them the Stuart Smalley ‘I’m ok you’re ok’ pabulum.

    Sigmund Freud is every bit as much a dangerous idiot as Tom Cruise, and history has born this out.

  • 17. athinkingman  |  February 29, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Yurka

    Any psychology student will tell you one of the first things they do is a lot of statistics because the whole subject is empirically based.

    There are thousands of empirical studies behind the effectiveness of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. (See, for example: http://www.apa.org/pi/aging/empirical.html.) The UK Government is now investing millions in it and it has been approved by the UK Centre for Clinical Excellence which determines how the country’s National Health Budget is spent on treatments.

    I agree on one level Christianity, like therapy, does encourage responsibility. Unfortunately Christianity robs responsibility because so much depends on the will of god and give people a reason for not accepting responsibility.

  • 18. Yurka  |  February 29, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Psychology claims to deliver value judgments (in that it attempts to “cure” people), but it is completely amoral: here is an example of where it may lead:
    http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/10408/

  • 19. athinkingman  |  February 29, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Yurka

    I think you neatly illustrate my main points!

  • 20. Yurka  |  February 29, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    So, it doesn’t bother you to be a part of a system that might go in that direction? That anything might be “ok” as long as people “are comfortable with it”? Please tell me if push comes to shove, you can rise higher than that.

  • 21. Yurka  |  February 29, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    Everyone should read “Abolition of Man” by C.S. Lewis. It shows the absurdity and horror of putting us all into a Skinner box. Pretending to address issues of value while treating human souls as mere mechanisms.

  • 22. athinkingman  |  March 1, 2008 at 4:15 am

    TheNorEaster

    No I haven’t read the book you mentioned, though I am familiar with the AA program. Regardless of its popularity I know of several professionals who have become very uneasy with it. With regards to the central topic of this posting, I still do have a problem with any resort to a mythical friend.

    What happens when you lapse? Do you say that your mythical friend let you down? Or that you didn’t have enough faith? Both of those answers encourage an unrealistic appraisal of the situation and make change more difficult or precarious.

    I am passionately committed to being real with people. Encouraging them to cling to a fantasy is ultimately a betrayal of my respect for them.

  • 23. debbyo  |  March 1, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Yurka said: “Psychology claims to deliver value judgments (in that it attempts to “cure” people), but it is completely amoral: here is an example of where it may lead:”

    Yurka, the web page you linked to is a conservative, anti-homosexual Christian organisation that (abuses) psychology to “cure” the homosexual. NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality) opposes the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 declaration that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. The claims it makes about the acceptance of paedophilia in the fields Psychology and Psychiatry are wrong and not backed by any evidence and are made only to link (disgustingly and erroneously) homosexuality and paedophilia.

    If you despise value judgments then you should hate these guys because the whole organisation is based on the judgment that homosexuality is evil and should be eradicated.

    A bunch of gay-hating Christians abuse psychiatric treatment to make people conform to their value judgments and you blame psychology?

    It would be like saying medicine is immoral because of Dr. Mengele.

    “So, it doesn’t bother you to be a part of a system that might go in that direction? That anything might be “ok” as long as people “are comfortable with it”? Please tell me if push comes to shove, you can rise higher than that.”

    I should ask you the same thing.

  • 24. tobeme  |  March 1, 2008 at 10:18 am

    What you wrote here is important. The key is that there are no magic bullets, everyone has different needs and can be handled with different methods. Religion can often get in the way of a persons spiritual path and understanding their authentic self.

  • 25. Richard  |  March 1, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Yurka-

    Your posts are a melange of destructive Christian stereotypes about psychology and psychotherapy and are exactly the sort of thing this discussion is trying to point up. Your misinformation is exactly why these sorts of discussions are necessary.

    “You cannot equate technological advancements, which depend on hard science and empirically verifiable results, with psychology which depends on subjective value judgments that vary with the vagaries of culture.”

    No one disputes that psychology involves value judgments. But then, so does physics. But more to the point, psychotherapy is a form of clinical medicine and thus, like **all** medicine, necessarily involves some value judgments as to what a desirable goal is in the first place. But it is just goofy to suggest that psychology qua psychology (i.e., the theoretical body of observation and inference) is *nothing but* value judgments or subjectivity, that have nothing to do with observation.

    “…but it is my understanding that talk therapy has been shown to be largely ineffective.”

    I challenge you to back up this claim, or at least make an effort to study it – from people who know something about it – before making these sorts of assertions. You can pick up almost any journal any month from Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Journal of the American Psychiatric Organization, and dozens of others, and find hundred of hundred of articles demonstrating the effectiveness of psychotherapy.

    “Sigmund Freud is every bit as much a dangerous idiot as Tom Cruise, and history has born this out.”

    Freud was a brilliant and thoughtful clinician who, to his everlasting credit, took his patients seriously and attempted to help and understand them, in an age when virtually everyone else dismissed them with moralizing, misogynistic, & condescending bromides. A lot of his thought has been superseded (although almost all of us – you included, I’ll wager – employ far more of his ideas that we realize) but the entire idea of *talking* about a problem as a means of effecting change came from him. Thus, even Christian counseling owes a debt to Freud. Neither Calvin nor Augustine nor Lewis — nor Jesus himself – utilized such a concept. The fact that Freud was pretty hard on religion has not exactly endeared him to believers, but that does not invalidate the originality, value, and human compassion of his work.

  • 26. Yurka  |  March 1, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Richard – let me clarify what I mean by value. psychology has no underlying brake, no moral compass, no moral plumb line to keep it on track even if it develops valuable techniques in helping us to control behaviors (and I’ve got nothing against that. I wouldn’t deny the contribution of men like James Dobson).

    I’m saying its techniques can be a two edged weapon; that since psychology has no moral grounding, these techniques will be used to get people to make peace with the evil they do (helping them feel better about divorce, the drift towards normalizing pedophilia in the link I provided above) *as often as* they will be used to do good (conquering addictions, destructive behavior, etc.).

    It is very short sighted. Short term self esteem, short term “being comfortable with oneself” is valued above struggling with sins, since psychology really doesn’t have a doctrine of sin.

    But this is not (at least currently) how sane people function in the world. We all currently believe it’s better to be neurotic and moral, than a complacent doer of wrong. But psychology devoid of mooring in a value system (such as Christianity) is trying to whittle away at this.

    Let me use a pop-culture example that illustrate even secular society instinctively knows this: Captain Boyd in the movie Ravenous. He ultimately rejects making peace with sin, and symbolically destroys the one who has. Weren’t you rooting for him?

  • 27. Yurka  |  March 1, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    And Freud was a drug addict. Physician heal thyself. Then get back to me.

  • 28. LeoPardus  |  March 1, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Yurka:

    And Freud was a drug addict.

    Another popular, but false, legend.

    Freud did try cocaine. Partly as a treatment for depression, partly to explore its effects. He wrote a paper on it. (At the time, cocaine was a rather new and unknown substance.)

    Freud did discern cocaine’s addictive properties. But as to him being personally addicted; some think he never was, and others say he was briefly addicted but was able to break it. In any case, he was not an addict (except perhaps very briefly, if the latter opinion was correct).

    Before spouting off popular legends that you’ve heard, you should look up the real history.

  • 29. Richard  |  March 1, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Yurka-

    Again, the problem, as far as I can see, is that your view of psychology and psychotherapy (they are not the same thing, you know) is tremendously tainted by Christian simplifications and caricatures.

    This is a broad topic, probably beyond our discussion here, but in general no psychotherapist worth his or her salt sees his or her goal as to just “make you comfortable with youself” or, as you say, “short term self esteem.”

    The most serious flaw in your view of psychology is that, from what you’ve said, you see only two options: chemical imbalance or sin. But human beings are much, much, much more complex than that.

    There is nothing in psychology that speaks of sin, that is true, but there is nothing that argues *against* sin in particular, either. I.e., it is entirely possible — and I personally know many people like this — to be a CHristian, believe in sin, and yet still utilize the methods of psychotherapy.

    What your psychological view misses is that there is such a thing as *misplaced* guilt, *irrational* shame, low self esteem that has nothing to do with alleged sin and everything to do with the way the human mind incorporates and is affected by its experience.

    To take an extreme example, imagine someone who was abused repeatedly all throughout childhood. Such a person is highly likley to grow up with serious struggles with what we call “self -esteem”, a realistic valuation of the self and ability to evaluate, again realistically, ones strengths and weaknesses. One would have to be a hardcore Calvinist indeed to suggest that that individuals cripplingly low self esteem is appropriate to their (presumably Original) “sin.”

    If I had to simplify, myself, I would say that above all, the goal of psychotherapy is to remove the barriers of unconscious irrationality that drive so much of our behavior , to get you to the place that you can make a free choice about your behavior — be it to repent to the God you believe in, or to sin. But at least you can then take responsibility for your behavior and *choose* it.

    This is not incompatible with most versions of Christian belief. God doesnt want robots, right?

  • 30. Richard  |  March 1, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    One more quick thought-
    Another way to state the goals of psychology and psychotherapy is that it is an attempt to understand *why* you feel and behave as you do. It is not to tell you *what* to do. Yes, this is, of course, amoral. But not immoral, and theres the difference.

    And its the same difference, by the way, that exists in every other science. There is nothing intrinsic to physics that tells you not to make mustard gas. Physics, also, has no brake or moral compass. You can be a physicist and still believe in sin — or, in less overtly Christian terms, in ethical behavior. But the same goes for psychotherapy.

  • 31. Yurka  |  March 1, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    You might be right that it’s exaggeration LP (I apologize I had never heard that before), but this is not. This is psychology without a “super ego”. But then we can ignore what the super ego says since it is merely a survival mechanism, correct? It has been debunked, as C.S. Lewis says in Abolition of Man.

  • 32. Yurka  |  March 1, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    #29, I think I agree with much of your points. If someone’s low self esteem were caused by abuse, it should be cured. I just wish there were more self policing so people like Kinsey would not ‘slip through’.

  • 33. LeoPardus  |  March 1, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Yurka:

    That article looked like it might have had something interesting in it, but it was so poorly organized, that I couldn’t make sense of it. [Of course one can't expect much from anyone who went to a conference in Swansea in the country of "Whales" (sic).]
    I have however seen other analyses showing the skewed populations of the Kinsey studies. Why he wasn’t long ago just swept away for the quack he is, I don’t know.

  • 34. Richard  |  March 1, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Again, psychotherapy, very broadly speaking, does not tell youto listen to the superego over the id, nor to the id over the superego. It just seeks to make you aware of the existence of both and their influence on your emotional life and your behavior. What you do with that information is up to you, but now you truly have free choice.

    As Freud said, “Where id was, there ego shall be.”

    None of this does away with the need for ethics. No more than understanding how to build atomic bombs. The question remains: what do you do with your knowledge?

  • 35. Iris  |  March 1, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    The “Global Gynarchy”?? LMAO, you have got to be kidding me. You must see empirical evidence and objective reality and run screaming in the other direction, huh, Yurka?

  • 36. Iris  |  March 1, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    I visited Whales once; soggy sort of place it was.

  • 37. Rob N.  |  March 1, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    You’re obviously an intelligent individual and I’m sure you realize you’re preaching to the choir. Your overconfidence in your ability to discern the true and the false is strikingly similar to the fundamentalist you so cavalierly dismiss. You’ve changed sides but you haven’t changed tactics, probably because you’re still targeting the weak, the damaged, and the simple. Your ongoing need for certainty is your stumbling block, and that’s a shame. With your experience and just a dash of humility, you could help a lot of people.

    Peace.

  • 38. Richard  |  March 1, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    Rob N.

    Who are you speaking to specifically?

  • 39. Rob N.  |  March 1, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Richard,

    I’m sorry. I was addressing the author of the post, A Thinking Man.

    Peace.

  • 40. debbyo  |  March 1, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    Rob N said (to athinkingman): “…you’re still targeting the weak, the damaged, and the simple.”

    Who? Christians?

    It looked to me like he was defending the damaged (I think “weak” and “simple” are your value judgments. I wouldn’t call people needing psychological counselling either of these things. It’s mean.)

    “Your ongoing need for certainty is your stumbling block, and that’s a shame.”

    You, on the other hand, are the epitome of open-mindedness and humility. I can tell by the way you pronounce judgment on the character of athinkingman without the need to back up anything you are saying with substance. Ending with “Peace” doesn’t alter that.

  • 41. debbyo  |  March 1, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    As for Yurko, you come armed with nothing but dodgy evidence from associations that are homophobic, misogynistic – just plainly bigoted.

    It’s groups like this that turn many reasonable and ethical people away from religion. These Christians could be devoting their lives to the poor, the sick and the truly mentally ill – instead of using medical treatment to change people to fit their prejudices.

    And the number of anti-gay preachers that have been caught with their pants down with rent boys (it’s not me being vulgar here. I’ve never been caught with my pants down with a rent boy) makes we wonder about the curative properties of prayers. Check out this link for yet one more study on the uselessness of prayer in curing anything: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4681771.stm

    So we know, that psychiatry and psychology has improved the lives of countless people who might have previously been locked away or lived lives of misery. We know from numerous studies (and even our own lives: my cousin has schizophrenia and without medication would be howling at the moon).

    And we know prayer doesn’t work (except for the placebo effect). So, let me put it this way: If your child had schizophrenia, would you put her on medication or pray for her? And if your son was gay, would you use psychology to fix him?

  • 42. Rob N.  |  March 2, 2008 at 9:31 am

    debbyo,

    “And we know prayer doesn’t work (except for the placebo effect).”

    How do we know that? Have you discovered how to prove a negative? Are we supposed to take the word of a few militant atheist as gospel? Or should we believe the 4 plus billion people of various faiths who think prayer does work? Peer reviewed studies have shown that religious people are happier, have a better chance of surviving a serious illness, and even live longer. Of course there are studies that say just the opposite. Again, why should we value the opinion of a small minority over a vast majority?

    It’s childish to hold unassailable opinions and/or ideas. It’s what the religious fanatics do. I agree with much of what the humanist have written here. The cocksureness with which they are expressed, however, is both amusing and pitiful.

    Peace.

  • 43. On therapy and Christianity « Unsaved  |  March 2, 2008 at 10:25 am

    [...] therapy and Christianity There was a great post over on de-conversion this week, about the way that many Christians believe the answer to all [...]

  • 44. LeoPardus  |  March 2, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Rob N:

    debyo perhaps overstates the case, but she did cite s decent study to back up her position. In the past, I took the time to pull up several dozen studies on the efficacy of prayer, or effect of religion in lives. Like the ones you allude to. They all assessed things like recovery from illness or injury or surgery, mental health (like depression, anxiety, etc.), overall health (number of flus, cancers, etc), quality of life reports, and so on.

    The reports varied from slightly significantly better results for prayer/religion to slightly significantly worse. Most found no significance at all.

    Now no one can measure “peace in my spirit” or “God spoke to my heart”, but whenever anyone uses measurable parameters in a prayer/religion study, the very best they ever come up with is a difference that requires mathematical analysis to detect. To me that says, “prayer doesn’t work (except for placebo effect)”

    For my part, I am willing to believe a minority who use observation and analysis, over a majority “who think prayer does work”. And realistically, do you believe majorities just because they are majorities?

  • 45. Thinking Ape  |  March 2, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Rob N.,

    Again, why should we value the opinion of a small minority over a vast majority?

    I thought Christians were against the “democracy of truth” – oh snap, that was only during the first 300 years of the religion.

  • 46. Rob N.  |  March 2, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    LeoPardus,

    We both know there are enough studies and statistical tricks to prove any point a clever individual wanted to make concerning the efficacy of prayer.

    Rest assure that if I had syphilis, and the choice of some Jesus-salesman praying over me, or taking a round of antibiotics, I’d go with the penicillin every time.

    My point, originally, is that A Thinking Man has merely exchanged one set of prejudices for another. Once God was everything. Now God is nothing. He doesn’t care for gray areas. And although he makes some excellent points, the resentment and condescension in his tone almost certainly turn off anybody who doesn’t agree with him. He’s still a fanatic.

    Peace.

  • 47. orDover  |  March 2, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Every time I hear someone call another person a fanatic as a defensive argument it makes me think that the accuser is a fanatic themselves. Hmm…

    Anyway, is it just me, or does Yurka seem to be against psychology because it doesn’t operate within a world of moral absolutes? It seems like one more case of a Christian not being able to comfortably wrap their head around the idea that for what is right for one man might not be right for another. I was particularly sickened by their comment that psychology was bad because it made divorce excusable.

  • 48. debbyo  |  March 2, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Rob N. said: “My point, originally, is that A Thinking Man has merely exchanged one set of prejudices for another. Once God was everything. Now God is nothing. He doesn’t care for gray areas. “

    And it was open-mindedness, not fanaticism (as you suggest), that led him to his current beliefs. I also have no gray areas about the tooth fairy – does that make me an anti-tooth fairy fanatic?

    “And although he makes some excellent points, the resentment and condescension in his tone almost certainly turn off anybody who doesn’t agree with him. He’s still a fanatic”.

    Although I don’t see that at all in his blog – not one iota – I must say, anyone who has been brainwashed and comes out the other side should feel some lingering resentment for the damage done to their minds and psyche. I’ve had to struggle my whole life with it. But I’m proud to have fought against my indoctrination and can now reason for myself.

    I notice you do what all people who fear to question their religion do: insult non-believers without examining any of the issues raised.

    By the way, what would make you change your mind?

  • 49. Rob N.  |  March 2, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    debbyo,

    “And it was open-mindedness, not fanaticism (as you suggest), that led him to his current beliefs.”

    Again, my point, which I’m obviously doing a terrible job of making, is that when A Thinking Man was active in the evangelical community, he almost certainly thought he had all the answers about God. (Don’t all evangelicals think they have all the answers about God?). Now that he has acquired some education, he still has all the answers about God. The demeaning tone he takes towards belief in God (the imaginary friend thing) makes it clear, at least to me, that he is a man with the answers. Whether they’re the correct answers is certainly subjective, but he, and apparently you, don’t realize that.

    “I also have no gray areas about the tooth fairy – does that make me an anti-tooth fairy fanatic?”

    No, that makes you atooth fairy ;^/

    ‘“And although he makes some excellent points, the resentment and condescension in his tone almost certainly turn off anybody who doesn’t agree with him. He’s still a fanatic”.’

    “Although I don’t see that at all in his blog – not one iota”

    I suppose we all see what we want to see.

    “I notice you do what all people who fear to question their religion do: insult non-believers without examining any of the issues raised.”

    You and I have more in common than you realize. I wrote about my beliefs recently at what i believe. Disagreeing with you doesn’t necessarily make someone religious.

    “By the way, what would make you change your mind?”

    My mind isn’t made up, especially about things that are unknowable.

    Peace.

  • [...] issue of Christian psychotherapy is complex. In fact, most religions, especially conservative ones, have a built-in psychology. This [...]

  • 51. LeoPardus  |  March 3, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Rob N:

    We both know there are enough studies and statistical tricks to prove any point a clever individual wanted to make concerning the efficacy of prayer.

    You’re probably right. Every day I wade through the data, statistics, study structure, and so on. It’s fairly easy to me now. But if you don’t have such familiarity, it would be very hard for you to assess all those studies and determine what, if any, truth is in them.

    My point, originally, is that A Thinking Man has merely exchanged one set of prejudices for another. Once God was everything. Now God is nothing. He doesn’t care for gray areas.

    This is a common affliction for the de-convert. Or for converts to religion for that matter. We humans have a sad tendency to demonize our former beliefs once we’ve changed. It’s not at all a balanced approach to life.

    And although he makes some excellent points, the resentment and condescension in his tone almost certainly turn off anybody who doesn’t agree with him

    I think you’re right. I don’t think such people are his intended audience though. Of course it’s not really helpful to encourage contempt anywhere, but I think that it is part of any de-conversion, or conversion, process. One sort of needs to “get it all out” before one “gets over it”.

  • 52. me and jesus « Cracked Head Blog  |  March 3, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    [...] been following a couple of posts at de-conversion, My contempt for religious answers to psychological issues and Fundamentalism, Psychotherapy, and De-Conversion. One in particular has spurred me to think [...]

  • 53. Ned  |  March 3, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Psychology is the new religion. Got a problem that you didn’t have until the pharmaceutical corporation made a commercial… what is that called? Original sin? Well, just take this prayer, I mean, pill. But don’t take the ones you get off the street from those heretics, no, no. You must visit a certified, highly educated member of the papacy, you know, the American Psychiatric Association.

    You put in the disclaimer that psychology is not necessarily the answer… but seems to be the basis of your argument.

    I like cognitive therapy, but it is not all that far off from what is elucidated in the Serenity Prayer.

    God forbid, we think for ourselves. We use religion, psychology to our own advantage and guess what? That’s kind of the point.

  • 54. TheNorEaster  |  March 11, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    To ATM (from Comment #22):

    “Encouraging them to cling to a fantasy is ultimately a betrayal of my respect for them.”

    Hmn. Even if that, uh, that “fantasy” plays a significant role in keeping them clean and sober…? So…What matters more…? Your “respect for them” or thier sobriety?

    By the way…”professionals” may be “uneasy” with AA, but the people who got sober because of it certainly aren’t.

  • 55. Prester John  |  March 11, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    And to put just a little emphasis on TheNorEaster’s point – certainly the vast majority of professionals working in the alcohol and drug field would be uneasy with any approach that minimized the importance of the 12-steps, which are of course designed to bring about a spiritual awakening.

    Still, I think I was too hard on ATM. As is often said in recovery circles, “some are sicker than others”. If ATM and his minions want to spend their time and energy resenting people and institutions that are oblivious to their very existence, more power to them.

    Peace.

  • 56. paulmct  |  March 11, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Here’s a real, recent example of this. It involves an addict who mugged an old man *in a church*:

    http://paulmct.wordpress.com/2008/03/09/spiritual-methadone/

    There’s no reason the 12 step program couldn’t be an 11 step program, without the reliance on god. Alternatively, acceptance of responsibility and vowing to trace and address underlying problems could replace acceptance of god in a 12 step program.

  • 57. TheNorEaster  |  March 11, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Paul:

    An 11-step program?!?! You really don’t know much about AA, do you? Without God, you’d have to get rid of Steps 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 11, and 12. That would pretty much make it a 4-step program, which would be completely useless. And by the way, “acceptance of responsibility and vowing to trace and address underlying problems” falls under Steps 4, 8, 9, and 10. (I wasn’t kidding when I said I was the only sober child from a family of alcoholics.)

  • 58. Prester John  |  March 11, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    paulmct,

    Rational Recovery and SOS were the media darling, godless recovery programs of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Don’t hear much about them anymore. Why is that? If there’s a better or even a comparable mouse trap out there, why aren’t more people using it?

    AA has been around for almost 70 years as AA. Literally thousand, and probably millions, profess to have been restored to sanity via the program. Most think that reliance on a Higher Power is essential for their recovery. Most agnostics that come to AA eventually come to believe in some sort of God. Why is that? Their Higher Powers run the gamut from God, Jesus, Buddha, the group itself, nature, ad infinitum. This is indicative, at least to me, that an 11 step program wouldn’t work.

    Maybe you’ll have the opportunity to find out for yourself one day.

    Peace.

  • 59. paulmct  |  March 11, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    Sorry, I hadn’t read the steps in about 25 years. I just looked them up. I don’t recall the god thing being so pervasive in them. It’s even worse than I thought. All the talk of asking god to remove your shortcomings and character defects is avoiding the issue and the responsibility. You have to remedy your shortcomings yourself.

    Anyway, the key to the program seems to be the sponsor and support group, so I maintain submitting to god is unnecessary. It’s just a predatory recruitment tactic, as I’ve mentioned in several posts. Living a lie doesn’t help. In fact, it could lead to further disillusionment followed by a fall, as discussed here: http://paulmct.wordpress.com/2008/01/19/disillusionment/
    They have to address the underlying problems that lead to self-destructive behaviour.

    Whether you’re addicted to substances, gambling, or god, you’re not dealing with reality.

  • 60. debbyo  |  March 12, 2008 at 1:26 am

    Prestor John,

    Rational Recovery and Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapy are forerunners to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which is considered by many therapists to be the most effective treatment for addictions. AA has a huge drop-out rate, many believe because of the religious element (it’s certainly the reason my sister dropped out). Many evidence-based therapies disagree with the disease model of alcoholism and complete sobriety for all and claim that this contributes to the high attrition rate.

    Nor Easter said: “So…What matters more…? Your “respect for them” or thier sobriety?”

    I would say that a self-respect is a precursor to sobriety. Self-respect involves taking responsibility for your own actions.

  • 61. TheNorEaster  |  March 12, 2008 at 5:40 am

    It is impossible for a de-convert/atheist/whatever to willingly, consciously acknowledge the role of God in such a successful spiritual program like AA because in order for a de-convert to do that then he, or she, would have to admit 1) God actually exists 2) God has actually helped people in recovery 3) God has done something medical and psychological science never will 4) God is compassionate 5) God has no prejudice 6) and so on and so forth…Instead, here you are, discussing the personal responsibilty of the 12-Steps while trying to leave God completely out of it. Well, that’s never going to happen. (Good thing I never mentioned Communion…)

  • 62. debbyo  |  March 12, 2008 at 6:22 am

    TheNorEaster,

    It is impossible for a theist to willingly, consciously acknowledge the role of science in successful evidence-based programs such as CBT because in order for a theist to do that then he, or she, would have to admit 1) that we don’t need God to recover 2) There is no evidence that it is God that has actually helped people to recover 3) Medical and psychological science has done something God never will 4) Medical science is compassionate 5) Medical science has no prejudice 6) and so on and so forth…
    Instead, here you are, discussing God while leaving medical science completely out of it. Well, that’s never going to happen. (Good thing I never mentioned the placebo effect…)

  • 63. Quester  |  March 12, 2008 at 6:51 am

    Debbyo,

    By any chance, do you have your own blog? I’d like to read more of your thoughts.

  • 64. Prester John  |  March 12, 2008 at 8:34 am

    debbyo – cognitive therapy predates SOS and Rational Recovery by at least 20 years. AA has a tremendous dropout rate as do all treatments for alcoholism/addiction. It is still the gold standard for recovery and no one with a little knowledge of the subject and an ounce of integrity would dispute that.

    To Whom It May Concern – the point I was trying to make in comment 37 (before I changed my handle to further protect my anonymity) has been made abundantly clear in this post and the subsequent discussion. There isn’t a dimes worth of difference between the hardcore, ignorant fundamentalist and the equally ignorant militant atheist. I offer Jimmy Swaggart, James Dobson, ATM, and debbyo as proof.

    Peace.

  • 65. Thinking Ape  |  March 12, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Prester John,
    The problem with you comment 37, and once again in 64 is that you fling mud without any substance. The result is that you are the only one getting dirty. If you want to accuse people of being ignorant, be it a fundamentalist or an atheist, back it up.

  • 66. TheNorEaster  |  March 12, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Tell you what. Go to a sleazy bar on a Monday afternoon–Friday nights are for amatuers–and find a man who looks like he hasn’t taken a shower or washed his clothes since the fall of Siagon. Sit down right there next to him. Order whatever you want to drink. And then start talking to him about self-respect and personal responsibility or whatever science or psychology you chose. He will shoot a look that could melt the polar ice caps. That’s assuming he doesn’t knock your teeth down your throat first.

    Maybe some of you were brought up in fundamentalism and were taught to think that sleazy bars are cesspools of sinners, but to a Christian like me, that’s the mission field. Because I can go to the same bar, meet the same man, have one beer for every eight he drinks, and by the time the night is over, I will have made a friend. And when he is hungry, I will give him something to eat. When he is thirsty, I will give him a glass of water. If he needs new underwear, I will buy him some. I won’t give him money because I know what he’ll spend it on. If he needs a job–and I’m convinced he can handle the work–I will hire him and give him the dignity and the self-respect of earning his own wages. And he will be so grateful for my friendship that he won’t steal from me. And weeks, or months, later, when he realizes my friendship is authentic and my intentions are sincere, he will ask, “Why are you doing this? Why are you being so nice to me? Nobody else gives a sh*t about me.” And I will say, “Because God loves you.” And then, if he is interested, I will start teaching him about Christianity. And when his girlfriend gets her ass kicked by a crack addict, I will tell him to let the courts handle it and teach him to show the same mercy that I have shared with him. Will he quit drinking because I did all these things? Probably not. But I will have given him something all the science in the world cannot: LOVE.

    His name is Chris. And he still works for me.

    And by the way…I’ve never heard of CBT, my mother quit binge drinking without ever getting seriously involved with AA, so do yourself a favor and stop trying to put words in my mouth. I have been roommates with alcoholism and addiction–unwillingly–since I drew my first breath and to this day I can take a drink or leave a drink. I don’t care if your way gets someone sober or AA gets someone sober. And I don’t care if a recovering alcoholic in AA choses Wicca or Christianity. I am who I am and I do what I do to help those I can reach. I just happen to believe in God.

  • 67. Prester John  |  March 12, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Thinking Ape,

    I’ve left a string of comments here as evidence. Just look for the avatar if the name change is confusing you. I think I’ve made it pretty clear that debbyo is an ignoramus and that ATM, at the very least, is a bitter wannabe-intellectual who still has the same childish need for certainty he did when he was pushing Jesus. The strongest evidence for this is their own words. You may dispute the facts. I think they’re self-evident.

    Peace.

  • 68. karen  |  March 12, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    I think I’ve made it pretty clear that debbyo is an ignoramus and that ATM, at the very least, is a bitter wannabe-intellectual

    Why do you barge in here and immediately start insulting people? You may disagree with their points, but it’s not cool to attack them personally.

    Peace.

    You’re not redeeming your nasty attacks by this kind of sign-off, sorry. We’ve seen Christians come in here spewing all kinds of vitriol and then end with “I’m praying for you” or some such nonsense. It doesn’t do anything for your credibility, believe me.

  • 69. karen  |  March 12, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    And then, if he is interested, I will start teaching him about Christianity

    NorEaster, I’m glad that you were able to reach this person and be compassionate to him. But I wonder if your main motivation for befriending and helping him was to proselytize, or just to help a fellow human being.

    What if he didn’t accept your teachings about Christianity? What if he relapsed and betrayed your trust?

    For what it’s worth, I know both Christian and non-Christian (and even non-theist) individuals who are involved in addiction therapy and have helped people kick alcoholism. It can be done without someone who’s convinced of god’s love, or any particular religious belief.

  • 70. LeoPardus  |  March 12, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Just ’cause it’s under discussion here, I looked up a number of abstracts reviewing the long-term sobriety of individuals post-AA. The percentage of people who remain free of drinking problems following AA varies from as low as 15% to about as high as 40%. Time of post AA follow-up in the studies varied from 1 to 5 years.

    Take home conclusion: The success rate for AA is below 50%. ‘Success’ being defined as no return to problem alcohol drinking within 1-5 years post AA.

  • 71. LeoPardus  |  March 12, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Prester John:

    I’ve left a string of comments here as evidence.

    Comments on a blog comprise evidence???

    I think I’ve made it pretty clear that debbyo is an ignoramus and that ATM, at the very least, is a bitter wannabe-intellectual who still has the same childish need for certainty he did when he was pushing Jesus.

    What you’ve made clear now, is that you’re a vicious, insult slinger, and certainly don’t show any evidence of “the love of Jesus”. Is there some part of your Bible that tells you to provide ungentle, insulting responses to people as part of your witness? [I beg your pardon if I've misread you and you're not remotely Christian.]

    You may dispute the facts. I think they’re self-evident.

    Again with ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’. People seem to have a very hard time understanding what those are.

    Peace.

    What about it? Surely you don’t mean to imply you’re doing anything so spread it by insulting people.

  • 72. Prester John  |  March 12, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    LeoPardus, Karen, and Company,

    You are all idiots. I’m no more Christian than the most skeptical of you. ATM started with the vicious insults with the sophmoric tone of this post. It deteriorated from there in the comments and from my perspective the atheist have been at least as nasty as the evangelicals. That’s the point, brain stems. Both camps are fanatical bigots who can dish it out but not take it. You are all certainly as stupid, vicious, and closed-minded as the fundamentalist you belittle.

    ” I’ve left a string of comments here as evidence.

    Comments on a blog comprise evidence??? ”

    Yeah, you moron. This is a blog, not Scientific American.

    I grow weary of you haters.

    Peace.

  • 73. Quester  |  March 12, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    NorEaster,

    But I will have given him something all the science in the world cannot: LOVE.

    Neither science, religion, philosophy, theology, psychology, psychiatry nor faith can give love. Only people can. This is no way lessens the values inherent in science, religion, philosophy, theology, psychology, psychiatry or faith, but it can remind us of the value of one individual’s choices.

  • 74. LeoPardus  |  March 12, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Prester John:

    Haw! Yu funny mahn!

  • 75. karen  |  March 12, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    I grow weary of you haters.

    Peace.

    Okay – whatever.

    We don’t typically attract trolls in here, but I’m calling it this time.

  • 76. TheNorEaster  |  March 12, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Karen:

    My main motivation has always been to help him, to be his friend–and many others just like him–not to somehow prostelyze (assuming I even spelled that right). If he, or anyone else, did not believe or accept what I teach, I would still do everything else that I have done and am doing And that has happened at times, though not in this instance.

    Just to clarify, he is no danger of relapsing because he has not quit drinking. I’ve never tried to get him to stop; my thinking isn’t that overblown. A great foundation for our friendship has always been that I have treated him like a human being, not a disease to be cured, an illness to be treated, or a lost soul that needs to be saved. I accept him for who he is so he accepts me for who I am.

    I told him what would happen if he steals from me and he knows I would fire him without giving it a second thought. But I also pointed out that he might steal, for example, a beer, but he’ll lose all the money I am paying him. Even in his eyes, that’s not worth it.

    Regarding your last point, Karen, I did mention that my mother kicked her drinking habit pretty much cold turkey. No AA. No therapy. No religious fundamentalism. Nothing like that. She reached her breaking point when she saw what it was doing to my siblings (mostly my brother). But my sister could not stop drinking until she got involved in AA. Whatever it is about the program that works for her, I can’t say. But even when her doctor told her that she had advanced cirrhosis, it wasn’t enough for her to stop drinking. Unless you’ve been through that with someone you love, you cannot imagine my joy and my relief and my gratitiude for AA–and God–when she passed her four-year anniversary a few months ago.

    Leo:

    I know a whole lot of people who have fallen off the wagon while they’re in AA. I’ll be the first to tell you that the program does not have a perfect “success” rate. Don’t you think I still worry about my sister? Don’t you know how scared I am that her seven-year-itch is coming up? If you–or anyone else, for that matter–want to condemn AA because it involves a Higher Power–or “God, as we understood Him”–then go right ahead. But you weren’t there when she went through that nasty divorce or when she lost her house or when she totalled her car or when she lost her kids or when she was found passed out at her friend’s grave. You still want to debate whether or not AA is a good thing or a bad thing because of its Higher Power steps, you go right ahead.

    I know people have quit drinking without AA and without finding religion–like I said before, my mother is one of them. But is there just one among you who can admit that some people–like my sister–cannot quit drinking without God “as [she] understood Him….?” And you know something? I’ve never even asked my sister what Higher Power she believes in. She might be Catholic, Lutheran, Wiccan, whatever. I don’t know. And as long as she’s sober, I don’t particularly care. Whatever she’s doing, it’s working. Even according to what I believe as a Christian, good things come from God. And it’s hardly my place to interfere with someone else’s sobriety because that is most definitely a good thing.

    Prester John:

    …..actually, you know what? I’m not taking that bait.

  • 77. LeoPardus  |  March 12, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    NorEaster:

    Up in post 9 I said that AA may have a point in allowing a person to transfer psychological problems or baggage that they really aren’t able to deal with. “Alcoholics often can’t take on the full weight of dealing with their addiction, so they transfer some of the weight to “a higher power”.

    So, while I don’t believe in a “higher power” I do believe that even an “imaginary friend” can help people with addictions. And I am all for that. So when you say, “She might be Catholic, Lutheran, Wiccan, whatever. I don’t know. And as long as she’s sober, I don’t particularly care. Whatever she’s doing, it’s working.” I’m right with you.

  • 78. debbyo  |  March 12, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    My goodness me. I wake up in the morning, check the blogs (I’m in another time zone, so I can never join in the discussions until the next day) and find that while I’ve been peacefully sleeping I’ve been called an ignoramus! Hell, it’s enough to drive you to drink!

    At least I’m in good company – ATM rocks.

    Will deal with accusations later. I just hope that NorEaster’s poor alcoholic friend never disagrees with him.

    And one more thing: Why would you ever assume that everyone here would think that “sleazy bars are cesspools of sinners”? (I can just imagine saying to my friends – anyone want to go down to the local cesspool of sinners? Hey, I think they’d be all up for it). That you think it’s your “mission field” is also hilarious. Someone should put a sign up no warn people.

  • 79. debbyo  |  March 12, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    oops I mean “to warn people”. Gotta dash. Will get back into the fray later.

  • 80. debbyo  |  March 12, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Terribly sorry to do this but I have to address the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy question I have been accused of being ignorant about. Don’t have time to summarise and link properly – but (at the risk I’ve been late for work, geez I’m turning into a blogaholic) I have to put this straight.

    “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a general classification of psychotherapy, and several approaches to CBT fall within this classification, including Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Therapy, Rational Behavior Therapy, Rational Living Therapy, Schema Focused Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Each approach has its own developmental history. The following is a generally accepted accounting of the history of CBT.

    The first discrete, intentionally therapeutic approach to CBT to be developed was Rational Emotive Therapy (RET), which was originated by Albert Ellis, Ph.D. in the mid-1950′s. Ellis developed his approach in reaction to his disliking of the in-efficient and in-directive nature of Psychoanalysis. The philosophic origins of RET go back to the Stoic philosophers, including Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. Epictetus wrote in The Enchiridion, “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” The modern psychotherapist most influential to the development of RET was Alfred Adler (who developed Individual Psychology). Adler, a neo-Freudian, stated, “I am convinced that a person’s behavior springs from his ideas.” Ellis was also influenced by behaviorists, such as John Dollard, Neal Miller, and Joseph Wolpe, and George Kelly (psychology of personal constructs).

    Ellis developed and popularized the ABC model of emotions, and later modified the model to the A-B-C-D-E approach. In the 1990′s Ellis renamed his approach Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.

    In the 1960′s, Aaron Beck, M.D. developed his approach called Cognitive Therapy. Beck’s approach became known for its effective treatment of depression.

    Also in the 1960′s Maxie C. Maultsby, Jr., M.D. (a student of Ellis’) developed Rational Behavior Therapy. Maultsby’s contributions were numerous, including his emphasis on client rational self-counseling skills and therapeutic homework. Maultsby’s contributions included his concept of “thought shorthand”, to which he refers as “attitudes”, Rational Emotive Imagery, Rational Self-Analysis, and the Five Criteria for Rational Behavior.

    David Burns, M.D. popularized CBT with his 1980′s best-selling book, Feeling Good.

    More recently, cognitive-behavioral therapy has been influenced by the work of Aldo Pucci, Psy.D. (Rational Living Therapy), Michael Mahoney, Ph.D., Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., Arthur Freeman, Ed.D.

    Copyright, 2008, by the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists. ”

    So, the Rational Recovery is one of the branches of CBT (an umbrella term encompassing therapies based on changing the way you think about your habits.) Therapists didn’t use the term CBT until the late 80s even though they had been using the theoretical underpinnings by other names. So, strictly speaking, yes, it did come before RR. But it didn’t disappear as a therapy, you suggested. It is still a very popular treatment and considered by many studies to be more effective than AA for many people (particularly those who don’t want an imaginary friend to help them).

    Sorry this is hurried. But I think we can see there is a history of helping alcoholics without god. But hell, if you want to hang around in sleazy bars picking up sinners, all power or you.

    Excuse any writing – I’m late!!

  • 81. TheNorEaster  |  March 12, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Debby:

    That “cesspool of sinners” was never my term. I once heard a fundamentalist call it that. So my “mission field” schtick was meant as a rebuttal to that mentality.

    That’s all.

  • 82. karen  |  March 12, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Unless you’ve been through that with someone you love, you cannot imagine my joy and my relief and my gratitiude for AA–and God–when she passed her four-year anniversary a few months ago.

    Actually a very close friend of mine is an alcoholic who just passed the 20-year sobriety mark, so I do know the joy and relief that you describe (she was a totally different person when drinking).

    My friend went through AA and is still active as a sponsor and strong supporter of the group. However, she is an atheist. The “higher power” for her was her family and friends who were supporting her.

  • 83. debbyo  |  March 13, 2008 at 1:21 am

    “Unless you’ve been through that with someone you love, you cannot imagine my joy and my relief and my gratitiude for AA–and God–when she passed her four-year anniversary a few months ago.”

    A lot of us know what it’s like. I hate to disclose personal details
    - but I have three family members that have had serious addiction problems, one of whom passed away at 23 years old. One has just come out of rehab (for the third time). It hasn’t stopped me from looking dispassionately at the evidence on addiction treatment.

    “It is still the gold standard for recovery and no one with a little knowledge of the subject and an ounce of integrity would dispute that.”

    From my research I don’t think AA is the the gold standard at all. I also have two family members who are professionals in drug and alcohol treatment, who claim that CBT is more effective than AA (and they are not atheists like me). I would suggest that they had a little knowledge and quite a lot of integrity.

  • 84. nater  |  March 15, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Hi Thinking Man,

    I enjoyed reading your post. As a Christian, I cannot say that I agree with most of it, but I agree that just giving people a quick spout-off of a Bible verse is hardly the correct way to handle dealing with addiction. If anything, it makes the subject feel even more inadequate and helpless than they did before, because it generally does not equip them to handle the situation.

    You can’t just say “here’s the answer” with things like addiction, you’ve got to work through it.

    That said, I believe there is great power in the scriptures and in the Spirit of God to deliver people from addiction. I have experienced it first-hand. You see, I was an addict. I have been an addict with many different things. I was bulimic (for me it was addiction to food, not so much desire to be thin), I was a sex addict, and addicted to pornography, and I was a smoker. I tried and tried and tried to overcome these things, and was not able to do it, no matter what I did. I prayed through them, I even went to non-christian therapy for a time.

    In the end, I was reading my Bible, and I stumbled across a verse in the 8th chapter of Romans that set me free.

    “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.” – Romans 8:12-13

    I read these verses and a light went off in my head. I realized that I did not have to smoke, I did not have to look at pornography or masturbate. I had already been set free by the blood of Christ (“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” Romans 8:2). I just had to accept my freedom and live in it.

    That marked by freedom. Not to say that I didn’t have a couple small relapses shortly thereafter, but God set me free from my addiction. I have been without any of those addictive habits for nearly 3 years now.

    Again, I think the short quick response to someone with an addiction is wrong. But from my personal experience, working through the issue with scripture and the Spirit of God as tools and guides in the journey has proven invaluable to my overcoming addiction.

    Thanks for listening!

    Love,
    nate

  • 85. karen  |  March 16, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Nate, I’m very glad you were able to overcome your addictions. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Sometimes it’s hard to know what idea or attitude will spark someone’s ability to overcome addiction. For you, after all the effort you had made, it was an idea from a bible verse. For others, it is something they hear in an AA meeting, or a comment from a friend, or a poem they read. It seems like it can be almost anything – or nothing, for those unfortunate enough not to be able to escape addiction.

    It doesn’t seem to me that anything supernatural is involved. I base this on the fact that I know several atheists who struggled with addiction and overcame it without believing in god or magic. I know several Christians who are lifelong addicts who cannot seem to kick their habits despite all the prayers in the world. There just doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all answer to the problem. If there were, nobody who didn’t want to be addicted would still be.

  • 86. Robert  |  April 22, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Oh it’s simply a distraction from the activity, that’s why it may work for some people. In no way is “god” taking a personal interest in our/your tired life to stop everything and fix your “rinky dink” problem.

    You really think you are that important, that some divine entity will stop everything to solve your life’s insignificant problems?

    Narcissism and religion do go hand in hand. Why of course God’s interested in me, I’m so damn special! :P

    If you keep anyone busy enough, they won’t have time to do the things they abused. And of course, then end up returning to a boring banal life that caused them to abuse drugs in the first place.

    Just me 2 cents, but people (including myself) abuse things because this world is dead boring at the daily macro level. How a person is supposed to enjoy 50+ years of working, coming home, working, coming home, shopping, coming home, working, coming home….without feeling like complete garbage…..that is a miracle. And if you have it (with your mystic belief or not) is a great bonus.

    I rich cultural diversity of driving, shopping, spitting out replicates, and that daily anemic cycle…blah…that’s why people get drunk and stoned.

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Attention Christian Readers

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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