PSYCHOLOGY OF RELIGION AND MENTAL HEALTH:
SACRAMENT OF PENANCE IN PERSPECTIVE
OKOJIE EHINOMHEN PETER
Between psychology and religion, any connection? For one who considers religion as having no manifest behaviour, the answer cannot be in the affirmative. As far as can be chronicled of man’s history, religion has always occupied and influenced human behaviour. Through history, we find scholars who at one point or the other made allusion to this fact. Some have argued from various perspectives or disciplines that man is a by nature a religious being. Karl Marx is popular for his quote: “religion is the opium of the masses.” Psychology as a systematic study of human and animal behaviours recognizes the place of religion as it relates to man. If psychology as so defined remains as such, then it is adequate at least for it to be concerned with empirical data gleaned from human behaviours. But the question is: what business has psychology with religion which poses itself as having to deal with the metaphysical and not the empirical? The answer is obvious: psychology of religion comprises of the application of psychological methods and principles to religious traditions, as well as to persons whether religious or irreligious. In other words, psychology of religion studies the manifest human behaviours connected with religion and religious beliefs. The science attempts to accurately describe the details, origins, and uses of religious beliefs and behaviours.1 Consequently, it places psychology of religion on a firm foundation to address human explicit behaviours that stem from religious beliefs and practices. The Sacrament of Penance is a practice held within the Catholic Church. The mental wellbeing of any Catholic faithful has a strong dependence on this practice. The extent to which this practice influences behaviours particularly of Catholics is the extent to which they key into this practice. Following from this, the concern of this work is to point out the human behaviours resulting from the practice of the Sacrament of Penance and see how it secures mental health for persons who adopt it. In order to behold this feat, I shall follow this sequence in my presentation:
1. Between Psychology and Religion: The Freudian Paradigm
2. The Question of Mental Health
3. The Sacrament of Penance
4. The Relationship Between the Sacrament of Penance and Mental Health 5. Evaluation and Conclusion
D. M. Wulff, “Psychology of Religion” in D. A. Leeming, K. Madden, & S. Marian (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion ( New York; London: Springer, 2010), pp. 732–735.
1. BETWEEN PSYCHOLOGY AND RELIGION: THE FREUDIAN PARADIGM
While it is the case that natural scientists have been concerned with the interaction of human behaviour and the world outside the person, “psychologists have been concerned with the interaction of human behaviour and the world inside the person.”2 This applies significantly to the founder of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud. Human existence is not simply an issue of knowing what to do and then, deciding to do it. There are unconscious drives, forces and motives that influence, most likely even determine, our choices and our behaviours. This is the basis upon which we can connect religion and religious implications. Freud understood the interjection religion could rouse on behaviour. Hence, he always had a cloud over his head in religious circles. This outlook is echoed in some of his works such as Moses and Monotheism and The Future of an Illusion. For him, religion is the product of wish fulfillment. God in heaven replaces the flawless and weak human father; by this Freud views the idea of God as being a version of the father image, and religious belief as at bottom infantile and neurotic. By becoming and remaining religious, a person can prolong the status of a child into adult life. Religion, therefore sustains immature behaviour patterns,...
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