Friday, April 11, 2008

Healing with the Divine Therapist

A friend who has been wrestling with depression wrote to me, "Sometimes I think God doesn't want me to be happy."

Yep. He's right. God doesn't want him to be happy. That's not nearly good enough.

Happiness is fleeting, and relies too much on outer circumstances. Happiness is a pale flicker of light compared to the bonfire of joy God wants for us. God wants us to be so filled with this joy that nothing the world throws at us can keep us down. And building a closer relationship with God can make that possible.

Father Thomas Keating has written of prayer as an encounter with the Divine Therapist. In the depths of contemplative prayer, we experience the loving acceptance that heals our wounded emotions. (I should point out that Keating is not at all opposed to human psychotherapy as well, especially for those with serious emotional issues.)

On a much lighter note, beliefnet columnist Therese J. Borchard has written a delightful piece on "10 Reasons Why Catholicism is the Best Religion for the Mentally Ill." For example: "1. There is a saint for every neurosis. You have a neurosis? We've got a saint! St. Joseph takes care of those prone to panic attacks while traveling. For twitching, Bartholomew the Apostle is your dude. Those roaming the house in their sleep can call on Dymphna. The venerable Matt Talbot is patron saint to those struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction. And, of course, St. Jude covers the hopeless causes."

Sure, I've heard people say you have to be crazy to believe in God. Sometimes the behavior of believers makes that all too credible.

But there are also many who have found wholeness in the presence of holiness -- and sanity in being fools for God.

24 comments:

Iztok said...

"10 Reasons Why Catholicism is the Best Religion for the Mentally Ill."

Only if you think mentally ill enjoy exorcism.

pornstudent said...

Atheists can also find peace and joy in meditation. Keating's description of "centering prayer" is much like Zen. Some quotes from the interview:

"While doing centering prayer, the practice is to let go of any thought or perception."

"But reflecting on the experience usually diminishes it. So you let it come and go; you don't get attached to it."

Whether the experience is called "Christian" isn't important, "If you want to call this higher states of consciousness or if you want to call it advanced stages of faith, hope, and charity that is up to you."

Belief in God helps many people get through the inevitable anxieties and sadness that comes with being alive. Fine. But the religious can let go of the idea that everyone needs religion.

Anonymous said...

The endeavor of going within to look for answers to the unanswerable rather than seeking them in the external world gave rise to meditation and later to religion. Everything in this creation is nothing but pure consciousness. When someone says that God is everywhere, inside you or outside you, they are pointing towards the self. In the deeper state of meditations anybody can feel this supreme consciousness.

Pornstudent, congratulations! You’ve found God!

Iztok said...

"The endeavor of going within to look for answers to the unanswerable rather than seeking them in the external world gave rise to meditation and later to religion."

Congratulations anonymous, you've just lost your God.

Glad you admitted that some things just don't have an answer (and perhaps never will). This means that god is not an answer either. Now next step for you is dismiss extra step that you don't need anymore (Occam's razor).

coexister said...

By normal psyshological standards belief in somethiong that cannot be seen, heard or touched is crazy. If Moses were alive today, it would be prozac and a straightjacket for him. (after all, halucinations? the voice of God?...) By "normal" standards, infants are insane. They babble, drool, scream for no aparent reason and mess themselves without seeming to mind sitting in it. We don't exorsize the devil out of our babies. Perhaps if we just realized that we are infants of the divine, children learning the language of the One, happiness would just be a byproduct of faith and joy a natural side effect. Maybe there is a reason they call a reverend, priest, minister, or pastor "Counselor"

Rev. Mike said...

"10 Reasons Why Catholicism is the Best Religion for the Mentally Ill."

Yes, it did wonders for Martin Luther. ;)

(Sorry, I just couldn't resist a chance to tweak Catholics AND Lutherans at the same time.)

Seriously, though, given many of the self-help exercises through which people put themselves, there certainly are merits to the efficacy of Catholicism's rites of absolution and the act of confession that Protestants lose by being our own priests.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I've got the answers. Obviously you're bitter that you don't. God bless you, Iztok.

Gamecock said...

Great column Jane. amen

Iztok said...

Anonymous: "Oh, I've got the answers. Obviously you're bitter that you don't."

So you have answers to unanswerable? I also bet you think you are humble?

Why would one be bitter not having an answer to unanswerable? I am not the one wanting to have all the answers at the first place. I readily admit that we can't answer certain things (either now or ever have an answer). I am not the one who hastily runs to imaginary being when I can't answer. Let's face it, it is you who want all the answers at any cost (and for the answers you don't have you fit in your god). This approach is called "god of the gaps".

God-of-the-Gaps (God as a “free lunch”)
Almost every “proof” for the existence of gods relies, at least in part, on a god-of-the gaps argument. This argument says that if we don’t know the answer to something, then “God did it.” “God” gets to win by default, without any positive evidence. But is saying “God did it” really an answer? Intelligent design, god-advocate William Dembski has authored a book entitled No Free Lunch. However, “God” is the ultimate “free lunch.” Consider the following: We don’t know what gods are composed of. We don’t know what gods’ attributes are. We don’t know how many gods there are. We don’t know where gods are. We don’t know where gods come from or, alternately, how it is possible for them to always exist. We don’t know what mechanisms gods use to create or change anything. We don’t know what the “supernatural” is, nor how it is capable of interacting with the natural world. In other words, we know absolutely nothing about gods – yet at least one god is often given credit for many things. Thus, to say “God did it” is to answer a question with a question. It provides no information and only makes the original question more complex. The god-of-the-gaps argument says that not only do we not have a naturalistic answer today, but we will never discover a naturalistic answer in the future because no naturalistic answer is possible. Thus, to rebut a god-of-the-gaps argument, we only have to show that a naturalistic answer is possible. For example: We open the door to a room and observe a cat sleeping in a corner. We close the door, then open it again five minutes later. We observe that the cat is now sleeping in another corner. One person says “God did it by levitating the sleeping cat” (without offering any proof). Another person says “It’s quite possible that the cat woke up, wandered over to the other corner, and fell asleep again.” Thus, although no one saw what actually happened, the god-of-the-gaps argument has been rendered implausible by a possible naturalistic explanation.

Anonymous said...

Well, it seems the Iztok forum is alive and well. The atheist who has nothing better to do than espouse his disbelief to people of faith. Take it elsewhere, please.

Anonymous said...

“We don’t know what _____ attributes are. We don’t know how many ____ there are. We don’t know where ____ are. We don’t know where ____ come from or, alternately, how it is possible for _____ to always exist.”

First of all, who are you (or even Mr. Dembski) to be so inclusive as to specify “we”? Are you privy to everyone else’s experiences?

And secondly, in order to make the above statement meaningful, one has to fill in the name the thing of about whatever it is he professes not to know. Fill in the blanks with “god” and read the statement again. If you don’t believe there’s god or gods, how come you (or Dembski) believe that they have attributes, or that here may be one or many, or that they come from somewhere or exist?

I don’t know what Iztok’s attributes are. I don’t know how many Iztoks there are. I don’t know where Iztok is. I don’t know where Iztok came from or, alternately, how it is possible for him to waste so much time trying to convert theists to the religion of atheism. So therefore Iztok doesn’t exist?

I don’t believe you’re quite as smart as you believe you are.

Iztok said...

Anonymous, you commit at least two logical fallacies here. Issue are not my attributes but what I point out and you try to avoid it. You bring up god of the gaps argument and when I point it out why it is not valid you try ad hominem and red herring instead.

It doesn't matter if I exist or not. It has no bearing to you, it doesn't change the facts that your "god of the gap" argument is not a valid one. Me pointing it out and explaining why it is not a valid one stands on its own merit, it doesn't require my existence.

Iztok said...

"First of all, who are you (or even Mr. Dembski) to be so inclusive as to specify “we”? Are you privy to everyone else’s experiences?"

We are talking about knowledge, not experience here. However feel free to answer the questions posed and we'll see if you really know the answers that so far no one else managed to scientifically explain.

Anonymous said...

The same old weary argument you continually make in this blog – day after day after day – is that you can’t comprehend the faith of others. Well, Duh! You get upset when others use logic to successfully refute your “logic”, saying we’ve created fallacies, rather than responding to the point we’ve made. Reminds me of how my cousin made up his own rules of hide-and-seek as the game progressed.

The main thing your atheistic musings reinforce in most of this blog’s readers is that our Faith, and our belief in God, doesn’t always follow your rules of logic. So according to the Iztok Rules of Logic of the Sacred Space Blog, I guess that means we’re living a lie! May God bless you just the same!

Anonymous said...

"First of all, who are you (or even Mr. Dembski) to be so inclusive as to specify “we”? Are you privy to everyone else’s experiences?"

I'll rephrase:

"First of all, who are you (or even Mr. Dembski) to be so inclusive as to specify “we”? Are you privy to everyone else’s knowledge?"

So, are you? Answer that question.

Anonymous said...

If you don’t believe there’s god or gods, how come you (or Dembski) believe that they have attributes, or that here may be one or many, or that they come from somewhere or exist?

Anonymous said...

Trying to have an intelligent discussion on faith with Iztok is like trying to talk to a rock about love. The sooner you realize this the sooner you will save yourself an ulcer.

Remember, Christ said that there would be those sown among us as are weeds -- to try to choke the good seed. But woe to those who attempt to lead others astray, he said.

Iztok said...

anonymous, do you take any other part of your life based on faith or just religion?

Do you jump off the cliff with faith that you will survive 300 ft drop? Or do you depend on knowledge that such a fall is most likely fatal? See, for me I don't really separate life like that. I don't have different rules of evidence.

As far as attributes of god(s). I use definitions (and I assume everyone else) of religious people. This is pretty standard thing when it comes to science or any other debate. So to avoid this, could you tell us what are the attributes of your specific god?

Danbo59 said...

Iztok asks (for the hundredth time), "...what are the attributes of your specific god [sic]?"

I can answer that.

God is patient, God is kind. He is not jealous, is not pompous, He is not inflated, He is not rude, He does not seek His own interests, He is not quick-tempered, He does not brood over injury, He does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. He never fails.

Based on 1 Cor 13:4-8

That about covers Him.

On the other hand, what is the correct question to this Jeopardy answer?

He is impatient, he is unkind. He is jealous, pompous, inflated, rude, seeks his own interests, is quick-tempered, broods over injury, rejoices over wrongdoing and denies the truth. He bears nothing, believes nothing, hopes for nothing, endures nothing. He fails.

Let's see what our contestants came up with....

Iztok said...

"Trying to have an intelligent discussion on faith with Iztok is like trying to talk to a rock about love."

Perhaps it would be helpful to write down some unconvincing arguments for God that we've heard before.

(1) God-of-the-Gaps (God as a “free lunch”)

(2) Leaps of Faith

(3) Holy Books

(4) The Argument from Historical Settings

(5) “Revelations” of Others

(6) “Revelations” of One’s Own (Personal Testimony, Feelings, “Open Heart”)

(7) Most People Believe in God

(8) Evolution Would Not Favor a False Belief

(9) The “God Part” of the Brain

(10) Ancient “Miracles” & Resurrection Stories

(11) Modern Medical “Miracles” & Resurrection Stories

(12) “Heaven” (Fear of Death)

(13) Fear of Hell

(14) “Pascal’s Wager” / Faith

(15) Blaming the Victim

(16) The End of the World

(17) Difficulties of Religion

(18) The Argument from Martyrdom

(19) The Argument from Embarrassment

(20) False Dichotomies

(21) Meaning in Life

(22) “God is Intangible, Like Love”

(23) Morality/Ethics

(24) The Argument from Goodness/Beauty

(25) Altruism

(26) Free Will

(27) A Perfect Being Must Necessarily Exist

(28) Why is there Something Rather than Nothing?

(29) The Argument from First Cause

(30) The “Laws” of the Universe

(31) The “Fine-tuning” of the Universe

(32) The “Fine-tuning” of the Earth

(33) Creationism / “Intelligent Design”

(34) The universe and/or life violate the second law of thermodynamics (entropy)

I've personally heard all of the above so called arguments. They just don't hold water.

Iztok said...

"God is patient, God is kind. He is not jealous, is not pompous, He is not inflated, He is not rude, He does not seek His own interests, He is not quick-tempered, He does not brood over injury, He does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. He never fails."

Hm... 1 Cor 13:4-8 does have nice thoughts about love (or charity in case of KJV). But it would be far fetched that this has anything to do with attributes of God.

1 Cor 13:7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Proverbs 14:15 The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good

So I guess there is no clear answer weather we should believe everything?

1 Cor 13:8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

Paul prophesies that all prophecies will fail. But since this itself is a prophecy, it also will fail (if the prophecy is correct), making it a false prophecy.

Anonymous said...

Iztok spewed forth, "helpful to write down some unconvincing arguments for God that we've heard before.

(1) God-of-the-Gaps (God as a “free lunch”)
(2) Leaps of Faith
(3) Holy Books
.
.
.
(34) The universe and/or life violate the second law of thermodynamics (entropy)."


A shame he couldn't think of these 34 reasons for himself. His rant is cut-and-pasted from

friendlyatheist.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/34UnconvincingArgumentsforGod.pdf

Why not be honest for a change and give credit where credit is due.

pornstudent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pornstudent said...

Here's another link: 34 Unconvincing Arguments for God. Also see August Berkshire's website.