It’s high time we put the most enduring myths about human behavior to bed, and see the mind—and the world—as it is.
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I agree with you John, and with Lindy West on this issue. Thanks for sharing the article. Many people desperately need their faith. And in many cases, for reasons over which they have little control (e.g. socio-economic disadvantage, lack of higher education, psychological vulnerability, and a whole lot of other reasons) they may not even be capable of grasping complex scientific concepts, let alone finding those inspiring and motivating. This blog post is not directed at those people. They should maintain their faith.
In my psychiatric clinic, I am not in the business of changing people's religious worldviews, unless they ask me to help them do so and if it's appropriate and helpful to do so. I'm primarily in the business of helping people to function better and to be less distressed. Quite often, this actually leads me to actively try to strengthen people's ties to their religious faith and reconnect them to their religious community, especially if that is their main support system.
I even share consoling religious ideas, when needed, to help patients whose faith has been shaken by cruel adversity and who are asking "Why did this terrible thing happen to me when I've tried so hard to be a good person?" I say things like "I'm not a religious person myself, but there are some wise metaphors that my religious family, friends and colleagues have shared with me which you might find helpful and consoling:"
"One consoling religious metaphor that can help a suffering person retain faith depicts our experience of the world as if viewed from the back of a tapestry. We see a tangle of fabric that appears random and purposeless. But someday, perhaps in the afterlife, God will show us the front of the tapestry in all its beauty and grandeur: in that moment, the pattern and purpose of all those seemingly random strands of our lives will suddenly be revealed to us. We will understand our role and the reasons for everything—the purpose of it all."
Another religious view on the question of why bad things happen to good people, which I share with such patients, is this one:
The mystical belief that in this narrow part of the whole transcendent reality inhabited by us in this little world, God had to give way or contract his power and presence to make space for free will and allow humans to help shape the universe. According to this view, God may nevertheless still be at each person's side comforting them and giving them strength during times of adversity (an idea also invoked in the famous "Footprints in the Sand" poem).
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