Healthy and unhealthy religion: summary and postscript

Firstly, apologies for that beast of a long post on healthy/unhealthy religion – at 3000 words, a record in verbosity even for me. Bonus points to anyone who has actually managed to trawl through all of it. For the less dedicated, hardy or time-rich among you, here’s a bald summary of the main points:

  • Religion is a basic part of human psyche and society; even atheist ideologies display characteristics of religion.
  • Religion is healthier or less healthy depending on how much it promotes or inhibits human wholeness and emotional health.
  • Religious believers are healthier or less healthy largely on the basis of their own psychological health. A person’s faith can only be as healthy as they are; an emotionally unhealthy person will interpret and practice even the best religion in unhealthy ways that reflect their own poor self-image, relationship with parents etc.
  • Christ was arguably the healthiest person ever to have lived, and the way he calls us to follow is the one that best leads to a true and restored humanity. Unfortunately we all fail to follow it. Christianity isn’t unhealthy; we are.

Or as G.K. Chesterton rather more pithily put it, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried”.

Viewing the spectrum of healthiness alongside the stages of spiritual development leads to one further, slightly surprising, insight. This is that fundamentalism (or black-and-white religious conservatism) isn’t always inherently unhealthy; neither is liberalism necessarily always healthy. Both relate to phases of the spiritual life cycle more than to positions on the health spectrum. What’s healthy or unhealthy isn’t being liberal or conservative so much as how you approach and practice them.

And now, as I’m sure we all want to learn how to be more unhealthy, in the next post I want to look at one of the least healthy forms of religion – superstition. I’ll do my best to keep it as short as possible…


About TheEvangelicalLiberal

Aka Harvey Edser. I'm a web editor, worship leader, wannabe writer, very amateur composer and highly unqualified armchair theologian. My heroes include C.S. Lewis and Homer Simpson.
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5 Responses to Healthy and unhealthy religion: summary and postscript

  1. dsholland says:

    I got my wading points, but there was so much it was hard to respond. Kudos to Eric!

    The one thing I missed was the impact of a healthy religion on an unhealthy person (and the converse). Like many things the company you keep matters.


  2. Eric says:

    One alternative to the hated conciseness (or to having to chop good material) is my favorite, Part I and Part II. My Canon articles ended up going to Part VI, but it would have been a real shame to cut the material I’d researched. Now, I post on an every-Monday schedule, so I already have an idea of how long I’ll wait to put up part II, but you could also put up the two or seventeen parts of an article spaced out so that people can reasonably read each section before the next one is made manifest.


    • That’s a very good point – I used to do part I and part II, but then I got lazy or impatient and just started putting it all up in one go.

      Did you have a word-count cut-off point for your posts?


      • Eric says:

        I compose everything in Word and my rule is three pages (I just checked an article that spills just over on to a fourth page, it was 1,792 words). If something goes just a bit over I let it, and I don’t cut something down so that one section is less than two pages. I try to aim at natural breaks in the argument so that sometimes dictates where, exactly, the cut lands.


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