Religion and narcissism

From: Dace (
Date: Sat 21 Jan 2006 - 22:47:49 GMT

  • Next message: Michelle: "Re: Religion and narcissism"

    Ben writes:

    > A man believes he's the reincarnation of Elvis Presley. He's utterly
    > convinced of it. He brings his two young children up to believe he's
    > Elvis too, and demands that they address him as "The King". Every
    > Sunday, he takes them to the local music hall and subjects them to a
    > horrendous karaoke rendition of his favourite Elvis classics. He then
    > offers them each a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, in
    > commemoration of his past incarnation. He tells them that as long as
    > they stay true and believe in the Power Of The Quiff, they'll all go
    > to Elvis-land when they die and make some great rock-and-roll music
    > together.
    > It's a relatively harmless belief, just like Christianity, and just
    > like your faith in Christianity, it's a belief that is based on the
    > man's subjective personal experience.
    > OK, it's a hypothetical situation (I hope), but do you think this
    > man's behaviour is ethical?

    I hope Kate doesn't mind me jumping in here.

    It is absolutely unethical for this man to impose his delusion onto his children. But this says nothing about religion. The word "religion" is derived from the Latin "ligare" meaning to bind. The point of religion is bind oneself to divinity, to forge a link with a power greater than oneself. For this reason, the essence of religion is humility. To the extent that religion teaches humility and respect, there's nothing unethical about cultivating this belief in children.

    The Elvis man is doing exactly the opposite. Essentially, he's stolen the divine and incorporated it into his own inflated ego. This hypothetical example, strange as it seems, isn't very far removed from what actually happened with L Ron Hubbard and the "church" of Scientology. Hubbard made himself into the god around which his church revolves. While evangelical Christians aren't quite as bold as Hubbard, they tend to treat God as sort of an alter ego. The infantile need to be all-powerful is institutionalized in the form of cultlike churches in which humility is brushed aside in favor of taking pride at one's special relationship with the Almighty. Those who don't belong to the only true church are to be despised and cast into hell rather than being respected as children of God who took a different path.

    The main thing is not religion versus atheism but narcissism versus humility. Plenty of atheists are narcissistic, and plenty of theists are wise and humble. What's unethical is imposing a narcissistic worldview onto children, be it religious or atheistic or even Elvistic.


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