The Burgeoning Religion of Psychology | Part One

December 7, 2015

Ronnie Rogers | Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church, Norman, OK

In this article I intend to highlight some of the spiritual dangers of our current psychological milieu. I do not intend for the following comments to dismiss any and all contributions of psychology or psychiatry, but rather to offer information to enable us to be biblically discerning.

Professor David Larson of Duke University Medical School draws attention to similar biases in the mental health professions as found in sociology. “Consider The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the standard reference manual for the classification of mental illnesses, which essentially defines the practice of psychiatrists, clinical psychology, and clinical social work and is central to the practice, research, and financing of these professions. In the third edition, religious examples were used only as illustrations in discussions of mental illness, such as delusions, incoherence, and illogical thinking. The latest edition has corrected this bias.”[1] (italics added) The fourth edition was right to correct this misrepresentation, but it did not correct the bias of the community that placed it there and allowed it to stand for so many years.[2]

Allen J. Frances, M.D., was chair of the DSM-4 Task Force and is professor emeritus of the department of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine. He wrote an article in Psychology Today which, although it does not seem to have been his intention, highlights the continued devaluing of religious faith in the DSM-5. Regarding the flawed developmental process of the DSM-5 he wrote, “This is no way to prepare or to approve a diagnostic system…. [The] APA has proven itself incapable of producing a safe, sound, and widely accepted manual.”[3] This level of dissatisfaction by such a qualified analyst should, at least, garner a healthy level of skepticism regarding the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues that would otherwise be seen as issues of normalcy, religion, and choice. He poignantly notes the seriousness of adding new diagnoses, “New diagnoses in psychiatry are more dangerous than new drugs….Before their introduction, new diagnoses deserve the same level of attention to safety that we devote to new drugs. APA is not competent to do this.”[4]

He gives his list of the “DSM-5’s ten most potentially harmful changes.” Several of which, either by diagnosis or medicalized treatment effectively undermine or are inherently dismissive of the actual reality and importance of religion. For example, Frances notes, “Normal grief will become Major Depressive Disorder, thus medicalizing and trivializing our expectable and necessary emotional reactions to the loss of a loved one and substituting pills and superficial medical rituals for the deep consolations of family, friends, [and] religion.”[5] Consequently, faith (trusting God’s love and presence) is no longer a viable and sufficient response to sadness, and the same can be said for many so-called disorders. Disorders do not require a savior or faith, but only a psychologist and a prescription. He says, “Excessive eating…is no longer …gluttony….DSM 5 has instead turned it into a psychiatric illness called Binge Eating Disorder.”[6] With this, the DSM erases the sin of gluttony (as it has a long history of medicalizing sin) and the need for repentance.

Regarding normal responses or other behavioral problems he states, “DSM 5 has created a slippery slope by introducing the concept of Behavioral Addictions that eventually can spread to make a mental disorder of everything we like to do a lot. Watch out for careless over diagnosis of internet and sex addiction and the development of lucrative treatment programs to exploit these new markets…. Painful experience with previous DSM’s teaches that if anything in the diagnostic system can be misused and turned into a fad, it will be. Many millions of people with normal grief, gluttony, distractibility, worries, reactions to stress, the temper tantrums of childhood, the forgetting of old age, and ‘behavioral addictions’ will soon be mislabeled as psychiatrically sick and given inappropriate treatment.”[7] Another example is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), “one of the most widely used of all psychological tests….All the positive religion-connected traits—self-discipline, altruism, humility, obedience to authority, conventional morality—are weighted negatively…Conversely, several traits that religious people would regard as diminishing themselves, at least in some situations—self-assertion, self-expression, and a high opinion of oneself—are weighted positively.”[8]

Albert Ellis, Executive Director of the Institute for Rational-Emotive Therapy (RET), says concerning “devout or pious religionists, or devotees of religiosity…. It is my contention that both pietistic theists and dogmatic secular religionists—like virtually all people imbued with intense religiosity and fanaticism—are emotionally disturbed.”[9] Ellis teaches that the concepts such as, “certain people are evil, wicked and villainous, and should be punished” and “you need something other or stronger or greater than yourself to rely on” are irrational beliefs. This conclusion makes anyone irrational who takes his faith seriously because these kinds of beliefs are essential to orthodox Christianity and many other supernatural religions. In addition, if a person with strong religious beliefs takes the RET Beliefs Inventory, the test results will indicate that the believer has some irrational beliefs, which in RET is a problem to be corrected.[10]

Add to this the profound role that psychology plays in developing the curriculum and pedagogy of state education; that it is also ostensibly based on science, and that knowledge of God is subjective not objective or knowable in any real way by the population at large, and you begin to get an idea of how destructive secular psychology can be and pervasively is. Remember Freud and many of his successors, psychoanalysts, psychologists, and even counselors like Carl Rogers, Ellis, etc., have basically atheistic (or humanistic) theories.

 

[1] David B. Larson and Susan S. Larson, “The Forgotten Factor in Physical and Mental Health: What Does the Research Show?” (Rockville, MD: National Institute for Healthcare Research, 1994), in Why Religion Matters: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability, by Patrick F. Fagan, Ph. D., http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/1996/01/bg1064nbsp-why-religion-matters.
[2] The DSM-5 was released May, 2015. For a survey of the literature regarding biases toward religion and suggestions of what can be done see http://pb.rcpsych.org/content/32/6/201.full accessed 9/17/14.
[3] “DSM 5 Is Guide Not Bible—Ignore Its Ten Worst Changes, APA approval of DSM-5 is a sad day for psychiatry” published on December 2, 2012 by Allen J. Frances, M.D. on his blog DSM5 in Distress, The DSM’s impact on mental health practice and research, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dsm5-in-distress/201212/dsm-5-is-guide-not-bible-ignore-its-ten-worst-changes, accessed 9/17/14.
[4] “DSM 5 Is Guide Not Bible,” Frances.
[5] “DSM 5 Is Guide Not Bible,” Frances.
[6] “DSM 5 Is Guide Not Bible,” Frances.
[7] “DSM 5 Is Guide Not Bible,” Frances.
[8] Larson and Larson, “The Forgotten Factor” in Fagan, Why Religion Matters.
[9] Albert Ellis (1983), The case against religiosity (New York: Institute for Rational-Emotive Therapy) 12-13, quoting himself (1984) “Rational-Emotive therapy (RET) and Pastoral Counseling: A Reply to Richard Wessler,” The Personnel and Guidance Journal, (January) 266.
[10] This is based on the RET “Beliefs Inventory” I have from Henderson State University, where I attended graduate school to obtain a M.S. in Counseling.