18 October 2006

Further reflections on Christianity

(copy of a letter)

You seemed to agree that there was a parallel between the ‘happiness’ aimed at by Cognitive Therapy and that of Catholicism, both achieved by a resolute disregard or repression of the problems. However, I think there are also differences ...

It would appear that Saint Paul, and anyone else concerned in putting together the package that has survived as modern Christianity, did not get a higher level. But it must be supposed that he, or they, had an insight into what would make an idea system widely acceptable, and many elements in Christianity probably appeal to psychological syndromes which I do not understand. The trap was baited with genuinely positive and attractive higher level side-effects, although in a weak and unmotivated form.

By the ‘higher level’ side-effects I mean the freedom from anxiety and consequent capacity to enjoy life, as well as the association of this enjoyment with contexts in which the belief in an assured and expansive future is reinforced by social solidarity (this latter association not being higher level). This focuses emotional interest on the social, but without one’s self being so strongly defined by one’s power to refuse others what they want - as it is in the case of the successful exponent of cognitive therapy. It is the enjoyment of this power to refuse that seems to constitute the emotional reward offered by the otherwise bleak cul-de-sac landscape of the reductionist socialist.

The exponents of cognitive therapy, materialistic monism, socialist reductionism, etc. do not bait their trap in this way (with ‘higher level’ side-effects) but, I think, more implicitly with the power of refusal towards other people (‘Learn to say No’), and the observation of their oppression by society and their finite (especially physical) condition.

Of course this is not explicitly expressed as an attraction. In practice, however, there is a strong tendency to obstruct and frustrate other people, especially when they know what they want. I think this is a crucial element in the psychodynamics.

Making lists of the few people who have provided any favourable influence in my life, however temporary, ambivalent and halfhearted, and those who have tirelessly opposed me with energetic and enduring motivation, the favourable list is almost universally Christian or ex-Christian, with a high proportion of Catholics, and the list of inveterate enemies almost universally atheistic and socialist.

(It is also the case that upper-class men dominate the list of feeble supporters, and women and a lower-class man the list of tireless antagonists.)