Monday, March 25, 2013

The Materialist Hegemony in the Psychology of Religion

A recent Salon article by  titled  Militant atheism has become a religion 
 is interesting and provocative. The subtitle used to inform us of the basic premise states, "Prominent non-believers have become as dogmatic as those they deride -- and become rich on the lecture circuit."
The science that looks at the material world as physical stuff really can say nothing about religion. Religion arises from and in the mind, not the material world.The science that looks at mind or psyche is called psychology. Psychology can speak about religion but unfortunately, today the materialist scientists have exerted a hegemony over psychology and usurped psychology in the name of neurophysiology. 
For example, de Waal writes,
Neo-atheists keep pitting the two against each other, however. Their audiences pee in their pants with delight when the flat-earth canard gets trotted out. This is not to say, however, that religious narratives are much better. They, too, play fast and loose with the facts. In Puebla, D’Souza featured near-death experiences as scientific proof of the afterlife. After a brush with death, some patients report having floated outside of their bodies or having entered a tunnel of light. This surely seems bizarre, but D’Souza failed to bring up new neuroscience of a small brain area known as the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ). This area gathers information from many senses (visual, tactile, and vestibular) to construct a single image of our body and its place in the environment. Normally, this image is nicely coherent across all senses, so that we know who and where we are. The body image is disturbed, however, as soon as the TPJ is damaged or stimulated with electrodes. Scientists can deliberately make people feel that they are hovering above their own body or looking down on it, or have them perceive a copy of themselves sitting next to them, like a shadow (“I looked younger and fresher than I do now. My double smiled at me in a friendly way”). Together with the hallucinogenic qualities of anesthetic drugs and the effects of oxygen depletion on the brain, science is getting close to a materialist explanation of near-death experiences.

Explaining the psyche as merely brain functioning is the hall mark of materialist science and here de Waal is actually proud of his materialism.  This face off between materialist science and materialist religious views is what makes for the unbridgable gulf between the two points of view on the opposite ends of the materialist spectrum.
The genuine psychology that takes mind as both the basis of observation and the field to be observed --and not the physical world as the basis-- are the streams of psychology that flow from Carl G. Jung analytical psychology of the archetypes.  "God" as an archetypal image of the psyche is the analytical starting point of a genuine scientific look at religion.  So far, I have not heard Hitchens (RIP), Harris, or Dawkins (and neither does de Waal) acknowledge this necessary starting point for any scientific analysis of religion. Instead, the professional atheists simply deny the existence of God as a physical fact and ignore the existence of God the archetype as a psychical fact.  For example, materialist scientists don't understand Jung's psychology and think the archetypes are merely metaphors and not actual autonomous psychic organs that are every bit as necessary and every bit as autonomous in their functioning as the physical organs of the body like the heart, stomach, and liver.
As a Buddhist practitioner, I see Buddhism as a religious psychology and as a psychological religion.  Buddha was a man who did not deny the Gods and did not worship them either. He was known as "the teacher of Gods and Humans" so show that his awakening was something that can be taught to both the religious and the nonreligious. When the Lankavatara Sutra states that all manifestations are nothing but mind, it is stating the psychological basis of Buddhism. The analysis of the 8 conscousnesses and the 5 skandhas are analytical and psychological views of the structure and function of consciousness.

So far professional atheists like Dawkins say they don't know enough about Buddha Dharma to have an opinion about it, but until they learn about their own Western heritige of analytical psychology of the archetypes, they won't be able to understand the Buddha Dharma much less the Christian, Moslem, and Hebrew religous eachings.