Post Author: Bill Pratt
Critics of Christianity and of religion, in general, like to take a page from Sigmund Freud and accuse believers of forming their beliefs for purely psychological reasons. Freud held that believers are projecting their need for a father figure on God. God is merely a psychological projection of the ideal father. God, in other words, is just a crutch for those who can’t face the difficulties of life. Larry King once asked a Christian pastor if Christianity was a crutch, and the pastor replied, “No, I see it as more of a hospital. We are all in serious condition and desperately need help!”
Are there psychological reasons for belief in God? Of course there are. There are psychological reasons for everything we do and everything we believe, but this fact has nothing to say about whether God really exists. That, my friends, is an entirely different question.
I may very much want to believe that my wife loves me, for psychological reasons, but does the fact that I have this need prove my wife does not love me? No. It just doesn’t follow. Likewise, I may yearn for a heavenly father, but does my yearning prove he doesn’t exist. Obviously not.
Christians may have their psychological reasons for wanting God to exist, but atheists have their psychological reasons for wanting God to not exist. According to Paul Vitz, a psychologist who has extensively studied the psychology of atheism, many atheists don’t believe in God because they have unresolved hatred for their earthly father figure. I have seen this in my friends who are atheists. Philosopher J. P. Moreland recounts his experience: “I have spoken on more than 200 college campuses and in more than 40 states in the last 40 years, and it has become apparent to me that atheists regularly have deep-seated, unresolved emotional conflicts with their father figures.”
Moreland continues to explain a second psychological reason for atheism. “People want to be liberated from traditional morality so they can engage in any sexual behavior that satisfies them without guilt, shame, or condemnation.” If you are a person who is engaged in all sorts of illicit sexual activity, it is absolutely in your interest to reject God. A few atheists that have visited this blog have admitted that they enjoy sexual pursuits that Christians would find objectionable. They argue that what they are doing is harmless, and that any religion which tells them the opposite cannot be true.
There are undoubtedly other reasons for denying God’s existence, but the point is that atheists, like believers, have psychological motives. We all do.
What do we do with this information? Well, first of all, we should all look within ourselves and reflect on what our motivations are. Let’s face them and not deny them.
But let’s all remember that at the end of the day, all of these psychological reasons are not ultimately why we should believe or disbelieve. Our view of God should be based on solid, rational arguments. We should all know why we believe what we believe and we should stop accusing those who disagree with us of being completely irrational. It gets us nowhere.
Debating psychology will never determine whether God exists or not, or whether Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Psychology can only tell us some of the motives for our beliefs. While that is interesting, it is not the most important question.