Saturday, May 14, 2005
One of the things about humans that I think is among the most interesting, is the fact that two intelligent, sincere, well-meaning people can live in the same Universe, have access to nearly the same facts, and yet hold diametrically opposed opinions. I have known for some time that there is a certain tension between Christianity and psychotherapy, but it always has perplexed me. Most of the therapists I know are observant of some organized religion; most of those who are not, consider themselves to be spiritually informed in some way. Although I have neither seen nor looked for an actual survey, my experience would indicate that atheists and agnostics comprise a minority of psychotherapists.
It may be that the proportion of atheists and agnostics is higher among psychotherapists than among other helping professions, but I don't know what conclusions could be drawn from such a finding, if it is even true. One of the characteristics of a good therapist, is a willingness to ask difficult questions. Another is the ability to question things that seem obvious, just in case the obvious explanation is not the correct explanation. Atheists and agnostics tend to have those traits, perhaps a bit more commonly than religious people, but they don't have exclusive claim to those traits.
Anyway, I read a couple of the articles, and through some convoluted and probably illogical train of thought, ended up writing about Intelligent Design.
Perhaps as a result of randomness, but probably not, thx then visited here and wrote a comment. I found his comment to be helpful in my quest of trying to understand this phenomenon of intelligent people holding different opinions.
What he wrote was entirely consistent with my thesis. If a person starts out with the axiomatic belief that humans were created in God's image, then intelligent design and creationism make sense. Within the realm of pure logic, axioms are always true; anything that follows from the axiom makes sense, within that particular construct.
If you start with the assertion that humans were made in the image of God, it is not too big of a leap to say that there was an intelligent designer. I have absolutely no objection to that. If you want to believe that, go ahead. Put it on a t-shirt, bumper sticker, whatever. Really. If you want, I'll show you how to print bumper stickers on your inkjet printer.
I don't wash my car very often.
Does that mean that secular humanists are bad?
On the other hand, the whole flap about Intelligent Design is a different matter entirely. Intelligent Design, at least as I understand it, is based upon the assertion that mathematical and scientific principles prove that there must have been a designer.
A lot of secular commentators have said is that it is OK to teach Intelligent Design, but it should be taught in a comparative religion class. The axiom, that humans were created in the image of God, is a religious principle, not a scientific one. If that turns out to be an important concept for students of religion to know, then by all means, teach it and its corollaries. The notion, that the complexity of life proves the existence of a designer, is not supportable with current knowledge. It does not have a place in science class. This has led me to conclude that Intelligent Design is not the same as intelligent design. The former is an inappropriate attempt to introduce state-sponsored religion into schools; the latter is a perfectly reasonable construct that follows naturally from a belief that many people hold dear.
Serious comments welcome. Other comments should be made here.
(Note: The Rest of the Story/Corpus Callosum has moved. Visit the new site here.)
E-mail a link that points to this post:
First of all, thanks for reading my blog. Sometimes I feel like giving up on it because it seems like no one’s reading, and I don’t know how to make it as interesting as the other blogs I read. I’ve been following yours for over a year, I think, and I’ve learned a lot. I have a lot of respect for you.
I’m interested in disagreement, too. In fact, I’m at least as interested in the worldviews behind these disagreements than I am in winning an argument or convincing someone else that I’m right. One of my favorite books is James Sire’s (1997) “The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog.” He list’s these questions as the basis of worldview formation:
1. What is prime reality--the really real? (i.e., God, the gods, the material universe...)
2. What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?
3. What is a human being?
4. What happens to a person at death?
5. Why is it possible to know anything at all?
6. How do we know what is right and wrong?
7. What is the meaning of human history? (quoted from Ch. 1)
(I posted these and what Sire sees as the answers of a Christian theistic worldview on virusdoc’s blog here: http://www.virusdoc.net/archives/000400.html )
Louis Smedes once said that, “All facts are interpreted facts, and most facts are felt facts.” Because we all filter facts through our worldview, we can come up with some wildly different interpretations. Since you and I come from different worldviews, I’m not surprised when I don’t agree with you on something. However, I really struggle when someone who identifies as a Christian holds a “diametrically opposed opinion,” or when a church that I identify with more than most tells me that they basically think psychology is incompatible with Christianity. Perhaps there’s more to factual interpretation than worldview alone.
Besides one of the articles that you mentioned on my blog, I found a great refutation of that attitude in this article: “Why Biblical Counseling is Unbiblical” here: http://www-students.biola.edu/~jay/bcresponse.html . The church I was speaking of uses “biblical counseling” exclusively; they never refer anyone for professional counseling (with the rare exception of suicidality), and they seem to be against psychiatric medications as well.
While there may not be a higher proportion of atheists or agnostics in the mental healthcare professions, studies have shown that psychologists are less likely than most other healthcare providers to be open to using a client’s religious or spiritual orientation as a resource for healing, and that 70% of them would not pray with clients, even if the benefits of prayer were empirically supported. The same study showed that most physicians would pray with their patients, even if the physician was a non-believer (Shafranske, lecture, 2004). The increased awareness of and sensitivity to cultural diversity, including religion and spirituality, has helped alleviate this avoidance among therapists, as have many forms of explicit integration of religion/spirituality and psychology. The preeminence of Christian researcher/practitioners in this area makes this “tension” even more perplexing, but it seems to be growing in some circles of the church. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (an early proponent of the integration of psychology and Christianity) recently announced that it’s counseling programs will be biblically based and will no longer follow requirements for state psychotherapy licensure.
“Perhaps as a result of randomness, but probably not,” I attended a church this morning where the message series was entitled: “Believing the Unbelievable: How Can the Old Testament Stories be Accurate.” (I used to attend there for about eight months, but haven’t been for the last two years, and had no idea what the message would be about.) Audio files of the sermons are available here:
http://www.hdcnet.org/index.php?page=archive_harbor , but the pastor said something interesting. He had a high school biology teacher who he constantly argued evolution/creation issues with. Then 15, he even wrote one paper entitled “Evolution: A Crutch for the Weak Mind.” The teacher filled the margins with angry red comments—the two didn’t get along well. After finishing seminary, the pastor was invited back to a church in his hometown to speak, and was shocked to see his old teacher enter the sanctuary.
“What’s Mr.___ doing here?” he asked someone on the stage.
“Oh, he’s a Christian now.”
“How did that happen?”
“Oh, the class after yours just really loved him.”
The pastor was immediately convicted, and realized that no amount of evidence would bring someone from skeptic to believer; only love could do that.
I don’t know how to put this, but it hurts when a view of science that supports my worldview is relegated to a comparative religions class while at the same time I’m forced to learn as fact a theory that denies my belief system. I’d like to think that science is more than able to contain both ID/creationism and evolutionism. Also, both approaches seem to require some degree of faith.
Thanks again for the discussion.