Religion is all about therapy!
In Psychotherapy, East and West, British philosopher and writer Alan Watts makes one interesting observation. Beneath the details most of the religions are “more nearly resembling psychotherapy” than “either philosophy or religion.” The most significant area of resemblance that he found between them was about the concern they had for bringing about changes of consciousness in people's relation to society and the natural world. With a small difference: whereas a psychotherapist is interested in bringing about changes in the consciousness of psychologically disturbed individuals, religious disciplines are concerned with changing the consciousness of those who are NORMAL and socially-adjusted.
But why bring about a change in `NORMAL' people? Because, said Watts, the accepted sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed inside a body was a delusion, against all known experiences—we arrive here on earth depending on our parents, then thrive on the services of the society, and lead lives of dependency during old age, and exit DISILLUSIONED leaving behind everything we thought we owned. Yet all along people were ruled by the thought that I did this & that, I owned this and that ….. which is actually a delusion! No wonder Bible contrasts the spirituality with egoism! (Galatians 5:25, 26; James 3:14-16; 4:16) Interestingly, another FAMOUS Scripture calls egoism as a “mental disease.”
Yet very little is accomplished by religions which are themselves egoistic as they are more concerned about safeguarding each one’s separate identities [even worse are JWs who view all other religions are instruments of Satan the Devil]. This is why the concept of spirituality without religions is getting momentum nowadays. Surprisingly, this is almost the same thing that atheists from Bertrand Russell to Richard Dawkins - people whose moral fibres at least have never been doubted - have been saying: that we require an independent approach to ethics that is not necessarily associated or reliant upon religion. They've proposed, instead, that the deeper roots of all moral behavior predate religions.
It has also been proposed that secular places of peace and love are established, a sort of "Church" for non-theists and for believers who don't want organized religion. I believe a number of such places exist, one at least, in London, others elsewhere.
This approach to the demise of Religion seems sensible to me, retain the aspects that are good, and get rid of the dross.
I agree wholeheartedly with the basic premise that religion is psychotherapy. Even the Witnesses, I believe, taught me some useful lessons. They encourage people to look inward and consider their motivations. They encourage humility and pacifism, which I believe are desirable attributes at least 90% of the time.
I disagree that religions are about changing normal people. The word "normal" is easily abused. Everyone has some issues:
- Someone who has abandonment issues may take solace in the idea of a Father who will never abandon them (shades of Loesch's life story here) or a Jesus who can be their never-cheating boyfriend.
- Someone who is afraid of death will embrace a hope of living forever (in heaven, on earth, wherever).
- Someone who is unhappy with their disvantaged life situation is reassured that by being a good person they will be rewarded in the next life (AKA the original "poverty gospel" that Jesus preached). I could go on and on with more examples.
Basically, religion fills in the holes in our psyche that could otherwise be destructive. Whether it fills those holes with good/better things is a separate, more complex discussion. But I do think that religion is psychotherapy invented by ancient man before anyone conceived of psychology and psychiatry.
The therapy that the WTBTS insists on is one that calls for 'normal' people to be indoctrinated within a group context, one that ensures decisions and beliefs are in terms of the Societies' frame of reference and any non Society considerations are not considered true.
What is believed are all of the things that are most favorable to the Society....since no one else has the Truth. Within the group no one is encouraged or able to argue against a belief be it scriptural or simply a life style choice. Any nonconformity is viewed as an aberration.
The circle closes on these normal people and when critical thinking is lost delusional thinking is the replacement.
Well, it's true that the things the Society teaches JWs are for their own benefit. For instance, humility is really only required of the rank and file. The elders don't have to show much humility downward, only upward. The COs don't need to be that respectful of the elders, only their superiors. The GB doesn't need to be humble at all. So when looked at closely, it's not really humility at all or else it would be a two-way street; it's just "obedience to authority" that's being drummed into us.
That being said, I think the lessons I learned as a JW can still be accidentally beneficial. I can see the real benefit in my life by being patient, respectful, and careful in my speech, for instance.