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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Honorable mention — Grad student essay contest: Amber Osborn

The loss of self

FFRF awarded Amber $200.

Amber Osborn

By Amber Osborn

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” — Luke 9:23. Variations of this same verse are repeated in Luke and Matthew in the New Testament. These verses call for humankind to deny themselves and give control of their lives to their god. This loss of self is detrimental to the individual psyche, produces a group mentality that excludes outsiders to make them feel isolated, and gives people validation of their bigotries. As a whole, the teachings the bible support only a group mentality, losing the individual along the way.

The psychology of religion has been studied by many of the most notable psychologists throughout history. Carl Jung, Alfred Adler and Sigmund Freud were colleagues with differing views on the subject. Jung’s work confirmed his personal affiliation as a Christian, but contradicted the typical teachings. To Jung, religion was a way for individuals to find themselves, yet the bible paints humans as here to serve God. Adler never addressed the subject in his own writings, but his co-author Ernest Jahn asserts that Adler’s point of view was that God is an ideal, not reality. Most of Adler’s concepts revolved around the individual and the distinct need to succeed. Meanwhile Freud, like Adler, viewed religion as an illusion, that humans’ infantile need for a father figure was the behind the need for religion. Each psychologist found the good with the bad in religion, explaining the uses for the social self and our connection to the past. They also felt that there was an element of delusion and deflection with religion that hindered the growth of the character.

This group mentality created by isolation and losing one’s self to the greater church can cause anxiety and fear in individuals who don’t agree. A great example of this is the Westboro Baptist Church, notorious for harassing the funerals of veterans and protesting against LGBTQ rights. People from all over have stepped up to protect individuals from their protests in recent years. When grieving the loss of a loved one or for those working towards being accepted for their sexuality, this can be a harmful message. Churches use the bible to support anti-LGTBQ, racist, sexist and many more views that judge others life choices. They band together to fight against these people’s rights, sometimes splitting families apart along the basis on religious belief.

We often find that people use the bible for their own prejudices. We often find people citing the bible for controversial issues like abortion and LGBTQ rights. These people turn to their church for support, hiding behind the group instead of admitting their own bias. This is extremely harmful when there is a large assembly of people seeking to alter another’s lives to their own desires, all based on a book written by humankind centuries ago. Within the bible there are many viewpoints some conflicting leading most to pick and choose their truth to their perspective. There are also the issues created from transcribing the texts. Transcribing can cause messages to be misunderstood between languages when there is no equivalent meaning in the language being transcribed into. It is believed that often times the transcribers would choose to copy it in a way that conveyed their own interpretations.

Putting oneself aside may seem like a novice idea to those who choose to be Christians. The reality of losing oneself to the church and giving it control can be much more frightening to society as a whole. This ideal causes a group mentality that shuns outsiders, and allows people to blame biases on their religion, without repercussions. Psychologists throughout history have had their reservations regarding the bible and its teachings due to the lack of individual growth it coaches.

Amber, 29, is from Piedmont, Kan., and attends Butler Community College, working on an associate’s degree in nursing. She has worked mostly in the service industry, but hopes to get into research nursing.