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…