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Dear Dr. Robert--

Since first coming across your "ask the psychologist" blog last June, I have been checking it often. I find your answers both educational and witty, and often your words help in considering my own life as well. So thanks for publishing this.

I do, however, have one question for you. You wrote about "spiritual unfoldment," and yet you seem to have a hostile attitude toward religion. This doesn't seem to make sense. After all, isn't the purpose of religion to help people to recognize and pursue spiritual concerns? Am I missing something here?

H.R.--Seattle, Washington



Dear H.R.--

Thanks for your kind comments about "ask dr-robert." I am glad you enjoy reading it.

I do think you have missed the point of my comments about religion. My objection to religious ideas is not to the ideas themselves, but to the attitude that wants to put religious ideas into a special category, different from any other kind of ideas, so that the religious ideas are somehow seen as deserving extraordinary protection from examination and criticism. In other words, somehow human beings have fallen into a kind of strange superstitious attitude which holds that calling into question ideas in this one exclusive category, religion, is somehow especially intolerant, and abusive of the so-called "faith" of the people who believe in them.

But why should any idea at all be immune from open-eyed, intelligent consideration? And why is one person required to have "respect" for another person's ideas in just this one special category, so-called "faith," when all other kinds of ideas are allowed to be examined freely and criticized fully?

I say "so called faith" because that kind of "faith" does not seem to me to represent anything useful or positive at all. In that usage, "faith" is simply another word, a better sounding one, for credulity, which means to believe in something simply because some authority has commanded that you do so. In my view, this attitude is the death of intelligence, and explains to a great extent why the life of the world's societies seems so absurdly unworkable. After all, if my "faith" tells me that it will all come out OK in the end (I will go to heaven, or the messiah will descend to save humanity, etc.) why would I take seriously the real problems of real people? In other words, unexamined "faith" most often comprises a collection of ideas which, to me, seem dangerous, wasteful of the opportunity to be alive as a human being, and even (as we see all over this planet) deadly.





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When "faith" is examined with full attention and with real intelligence, one may find some of the religious ideas useful, while discarding, or at least revisioning, those which are not. This is what I recommend: Don't take anything on faith. Believe only that which you, personally, have examined. As I wrote this, I recalled that it comes directly from one of the Buddhist sutras, in which Buddha says:

"Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true."

And yet millions of Buddhists recite magical words, and practice magical ceremonies intended to ensure a better rebirth in the next life without ever having tested them. Is not this the height of stupidity? These religious people cannot even follow the direct instructions of the person they consider to be the wisest being of all time. Why is this kind of foolishness worthy of respect or immune to criticism?

And obviously the same kind of foolishness can be seen among Jews, Christians, Muslims, and adherents of every other religion.

When I refer to spiritual unfoldment, I am speaking of something completely different from so-called "faith." In fact, "faith" can be a serious impediment to spiritual unfoldment which requires being present and mindful in this very moment, not believing in some eventual salvation by means of magic.

I hope this helps to clarify my words, and, again, thanks for your comments.

Be well.











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This page last modified: February 28, 2006




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