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Justin M. Stoddard


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Imbibable Criticism, a Response
January 10, 2007 — 8:16 pm

I completely understand where Eric is coming from. It’s very easy for me to imagine myself in his position. Let me put it in the best analogy I can think of.

For the sake of argument, let’s say there is an ever expanding base of psychologists in this country who believe Sigmund Freud’s works are the literal truth. For example, this sect of psychologists may interpret Freud’s psychosexual or Oedipal complex theories as literal fact. To them, applying and practicing any other form of psychology is heresy, earning both the patient and the psychologist an eternity of mental illness.

Of course, this is a complete bastardization of psychological thought. Though many of today’s psychologists realize the importance of Freud’s work, they also understand that there is so much more. To fundamentally follow Freud ignores 99.9% of everything else. Gone are Adler, Jung, Skinner, Rogers and Erickson. Absent are the fields of Cognitive, Evolutionary, Behavioral, Linguistic, Forensic, Educational and even Positive psychology.

In short, to exclusively follow Freud’s work, at the exclusion of everything else, would be complete madness.

Now, imagine if these “fundamentalist psychologists” were able to effectively force themselves upon society. They use the government to aggressively proselytize their message. They are able to organize and get legislation passed forbidding anything other that Freudian psychology to be practiced on the mentally ill in the third world. The list could go on and on.

Eric, a hypothetical skeptic of psychology (in this case), sees this trend developing for several years. He’s always been a skeptic of psychology, but he simply can’t take it anymore. He begins to speak out. He also has the idea of taking Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams to task by disassembling it page by page on this very blog.

As someone who has steeped himself in psychological literature for the past two years, at best I’d be slightly bemused. At worst, I may be a bit agitated over the whole practice. As Eric himself said:

Trying to give it a such a straight, superficial reading without ancillary reference and pretending to understand it is almost like having a whispered message garbled by a game of telephone into purple monkey dishwasher-esque gibberish.

So, yeah, I get it.

There are two points to be made here.

First…I’m not pretending. From a fundamentalist point of view, I do understand the Bible. Taken literally, it’s absolute madness. Fundamentalists have stripped the Bible of everything beautiful and turned it into one big misogynistic, homophobic, authoritarian nightmare. When someone says proudly that they are a fundamentalist Christian, I want people to know exactly what that means. When society at large is experiencing a fundamentalist groundswell of Christianity, I want everyone to know exactly what that means. If fundamentalists are deluded enough to actually believe that dinosaurs marched two by two onto Noah’s Ark, taking the leap to publicly stoning your wife because she was not a virgin on their marriage night cannot be far behind. After all, that is literally in the bible.

Second…If the field of psychology were being so maliciously abused by “fundamentalists”, I would expect a huge backlash from the mental health community. In fact, I would imagine that such a backlash would be so utterly devastating that “fundamentalist psychologists” would soon be relegated to the status of an obscure cult. And rightly so.

Right now, I don’t see such a movement in the moderate Christian community. You don’t see priests, preachers, nuns or aldermen standing up en-masse to counter the fundamentalist fervor. If such abusive harm were being carried out in the name of psychology, I would be agitating against it every day. Why? Because I love the field of psychology and I wouldn’t allow it to be taken over by zealots without a fight. We absolutely need moderate Christians to stand up and do the same. The fact that they aren’t can lead a person to any number of conclusions.

I am having second thoughts about “blogging the Bible”, however. I’ve been having a long running dialogue with myself on this very issue. Pulling apart certain passages and saying “See! See how insane this is!” is kind of silly. As Eric said, it doesn’t take long to deconstruct the Bible, and it’s been done so many times before. So, I’m still not sure. I have to think on it a bit more.

I admitted to Eric in an email earlier today that I had not read much of the ancillary scholarship surrounding the Bible. Is there any out there among you who could recommend a book or two?

— Justin M. StoddardComments (0)

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