Wendell W. Waters, M.D. CautionChristianity may be hazardous to your health.
The Christian religion presents itself as the way to contentment, spiritual health, and salvation. But is this really true? In Deadly Doctrine: Health, Illness, and Christian God-Talk, Dr. Wendell Watters offers a powerful argument, based on his many years of clinical experience with individuals, couples, and families, that Christianity's influence actually militates against human development in such vital areas as self-esteem, sexuality, and social interactions. The tragic end result of Christian conditioning is too often antisocial behavior, sexual dysfunction, poor psychological development, anxiety, and even major psychiatric illness.
Christian indoctrination is not simply a problem affecting individuals or single families; the noxious effects of its teachings over nearly two millennia pervade society at large, even those who are not Christians, and in ways that seriously undermine human welfare and the quality of life. Christianity's aggressive pronatalist policies have encouraged large families regardless of parents' ability to cope either emotionally or financially. With this the Christian church has formulated rigid sexual roles, forbidding all practices not leading directly to conception. By actually promoting sexual ignorance and irresponsibility, Christianity has allowed the proliferation of such social ills as rape, child molestation, and pornography.
Recent research data in the fields of psychology and religion are adduced to show that patients with rigid belief systems manifest greater racism and less openmindedness and flexibility than those with a more questioning scientific attitude toward life. Biological predispositions toward severe depression and schizophrenia may also be aggravated by Christianity's promotion of an extreme body-soul dualism, self-denial, and narrowly defined social roles.
The Christian church cannot, however, remain wholly impervious to society's demands for change. Borrowing from the futuristic novel 1984, Dr. Watters describes how Christianity has reluctantly undergone a process of "rectification," altering its official views on slavery, democracy, psychoanalysis, sexuality and reproduction, and religious toleration. Nonetheless, despite efforts at whitewashing, Christianity's bloody record of inquisition, authoritanianism, and repression remains unchanged. Indeed, during the last decade, church policies have moved toward greater conservativism.
In the face of so much human suffering resulting from Christian doctrine, it is imperative that health care professionals, recognizing the Christian belief system as an addictive disease, develop a religious status examination to help evaluate how notions about life derived from Christian god-talk compromise individuals' healthy functioning. In failing to determine the role of oppressive religious beliefs in mental illness, physicians and other health care workers actually promote Christianity's continued stranglehold on human happiness and self-fulfillment.
If we are to free ourselves from the destructive end toward which god-talk is leading us, we need to cure ourselves of our addiction to religious doctrines that teach us to deny self-responsibility in all areas of our lives. Dr. Watters' suggestions for restructuring social education provide a much-needed corrective to addictive religious programs. Only with proper education comes the promise of recovery that will restore the primacy of reason and critical thinking.
Wendell W. Watters, M. D., is Professor Emeritus in Psychiatry at McMaster University,
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
This book (cloth cover, 198 pages, bibliography, index, ISBN 0-87975-782-5) is available from Prometheus Books, 59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst N.Y. (USA) 14228-2197. Phone orders (24 hrs) (800) 421-0351, FAX (716) 691-0137, e-mail PROMETHEUSBOOKS@Worldnet.Att.Net and Website www.prometheusbooks.com
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