THE PEOPLE PLACE: PSYCHOLOGY OF RELIGIOUS BELIEF II
“We live in a meaning-rupture because we are human and the universe is not.” — “Doubt, A History,” Jennifer Michael Hecht
“The finitude of mundane existence cannot satisfy the human heart completely. Built into the human makeup is a longing for ‘more’ that the world of everyday experience cannot requite.” — “Why Religion Matters,” Huston Smith
Faber’s book is becoming a monumental discovery for me.
Here are more stunning passages, some direct quotes and some bulleted, paraphrased items. I am seeking the best way to present this information with the force it deserves for those who don’t have full benefit of all the background information. All emphasis is Faber’s unless otherwise noted.
From the chapter titled, “Infantile Amnesia.”
• “We must ask ourselves, what is there in the young person’s mind-brain after all to accede with emotion (my emphasis) to religion’s ‘story,’ to the narrative with the loving Parent-God at its center, if not the immediate context of the young person’s life? Clearly, there is nothing else.”
• At the affective, synaptic level the religious narrative presents us with another version and direct successor to exactly what we experienced as little ones. The unconscious associations impel us to judge the religious narrative as “true.” In other words, the narrative implicitly confirms what we’ve just experienced as people; it returns us to our familiar internalized reality.
• The religious narrative allies us with omnipotence once again. We will live forever, be loved forever, be guided forever, be housed forever in the mansions of our benign benefactor. All questions will be answered; all our wonderings about the nature of Nature will be met with some sort of explanation, thus allaying our anxiety over the shape of the unknown. We don’t have to wonder and question; we can rest assured in the reassurances of doctrine whenever we wish.
• Marion Milner observes in one of her characteristically wonderful passages that, “We build up our inner world on the basis of our relationships to people we have loved and hated, we carry these people about with us, and what we do, we do for them — or in conflict with them. And it seems it is through these internalized people that we carry on our earliest relationships, developing and enriching them throughout life; even when these people no longer exist in the external world, we find external representatives of them both in new people who enter our lives, and in all our interests and the causes we seek to serve.”
• Religion comprises, for countless millions of people, the chief, life-sustaining, life-enhancing substitute for the internalized people we are obliged to relinquish during the separation stage. • Such peopling is indeed religion’s chief psychological aim. It urges us to keep the parent at the center of the picture and thereby transfer the universe around us to a people place.
• Listen to the famous theologian John Polkinghorne as he expounds the “truth” in his Yale lectures: “God is not just one entity among many … available to be picked out and examined in isolation. The divine presence is the ground of the world’s being, and the Creator is party to every occurrence.” • “Could it be made plainer? The universe becomes a gigantic person as we map the object of the early time onto the Cosmos around us, thus preserving our attachment (my emphasis on this key phrase), our connection to the transformational presence* (my emphasis) we internalized at the beginning; and we do this because our mind-brain itself, at the neurobiological level, has been loaded up with emotive-perceptual associations that affirm the religious view in the way that can only be termed irresistible.”
• If religion is to be a living faith, as opposed to merely more a theological exercise, it must keep a human at the center, for in the recesses of our mind-brain, it is a human that we want at the center.
• “As I will endeavor to demonstrate fully in subsequent chapters, weaning ourselves away from our person-centered universe embodied in our person-centered religious narratives marks a gigantic and problematical step in our evolution as a form of life, for it engages simultaneously two of our most rooted evolutional urges, namely the urge to feel attached and secure (or free of anxiety) as we strive to cope with a difficult and sometimes hostile environment, and the urge to perceive the world around us accurately, to rely on impersonal analysis, to set aside our soothing fantasies. The time in which we live just happens to be the time when these potentially antithetical evolutional tendencies run directly into one another — producing a clash of titans, if there ever was one.”
*NOTE: Allow me to inject a preliminary idea in regards the “transformational presence.”
Faber speaks of the early care-giver as both protector and also as the thing that allows us to develop and transform ourselves. He cites a fascinating study about 3-year-olds at a museum, the upshot of which is that the more the child interacted with the care-giver, the more he remembered. No interaction, no memory; no memory, no growth or transformation. I am simplifying for the sake of brevity.
So it would seem possible that if one relates primarily to the protection aspect of the early years, he or she will seek out a security-based relationship with the world and occupy a traditional belief stance. But if one relates to the transformation aspect of the early situation, he or she may use the world as an arena for self-transformation and evolution. So perhaps this explains why some people believe and others wonder about belief. I think Faber would say that passion for either one is rooted — and must be — in the early stage somehow, otherwise there would be no emotional force to carry the project along.
Second preliminary idea: This whole thing — the theory that early care-giving hard-wires our brains in certain ways, giving birth to lifelong problems of anxiety and insecurity — go way beyond mere religious belief to influence our relationships with everything. In short, this monumental care-giving theory goes way beyond the topic of religion — it touches all we feel, all we think, all we do!
Related articles: Faber: The Psychology of Religious Belief •
Are You A Kitten or A Monkey? • The Psychology of Religious Belief II • Faber so Far • I don't recall posing for these pictures! • Faber: Art and Religion •