The question behind this text may surprise some, but the truth is that it is
a doubt that often attacks people who study psychology, Especially during his first years of university or before deciding on this career. And yes, there is a logic behind this kind of concern.
After all, the study of cognition and psychological mechanisms has historically been linked more to atheism than to other areas of knowledge. For example, the atheism of figures such as Sigmund Freud and BF Skinner is well known although it was rare in its day, and today two of the five great representatives of the absence of faith in the divine are seekers of the spirit: Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett.
On the other hand, there are incisions that indicate that analytical thinking, Necessary in any field of science and therefore also in psychology, weakens faith in God. More generally, moreover, we have seen that psychologists who teach in American universities are the least religious group of professors. What is happening?
Psychological professional and consistent believers?
After all, one of the great sources of religious faith is the idea that the mind and conscience are on the fringes of the material world.
It is very easy to naturally assume that “the mind” is something separate from the brain., Something spiritual or from an extraterrestrial reality. However, psychologists are responsible for finding out how the mind works and what rules guide it, and they do it like a geologist would study a rock: by the scientific method.
In other words, for a psychologist, no god enters into the equation of the functioning of the mind.
Does this mean that one cannot be both a psychologist and a believer? In this article, I will not try to resolve the question of whether there is a higher intelligence or not (it depends entirely on what one chooses to believe), but I will reflect on the relationship between religion and the work of psychologists in their professional field and on how this can be mixed with personal beliefs.
The debate on atheism and agnosticism in science
If we look at the kind of discomfort that we are starting from, we will realize that the debate is really broader. When we ask ourselves if psychologists can be believers, we are really asking ourselves if scientists in general can be believers.
The reason is that
one of the pillars of scientific progress is what is called the principle of parsimonyAccording to which, on equal terms, the simpler explanation (that is, the one that leaves fewer heads to tie) is better. And, when it comes to religion, belief in a specific god can become extremely difficult to support without generating more questions than answering.
Although the idea that the universe, human beings and what some call the “psyche” is the creation of a higher intelligence is not a totally crazy and reprehensible idea of science as such, which yes it is practically impossible to defend from science
is that this god fulfills a number of concrete characteristics that come written in the sacred texts. This is why it is considered that scientists, during their working hours, should exercise as if they were agnostics or atheists.
In other words, religious belief cannot play a relevant role in the theories and hypotheses with which one works, because
religion is based on faith and not on reasoning derived from deductions what types of explanations are most useful to describe reality with what is known and verified. Faith is based on ideas in which we believe a priori, while in science any idea can be revised or rejected if, by contrasting ideas with reality, better explanations emerge. This also applies to psychology.
Beliefs or proven facts?
According to what we have seen of how science works, if defending the idea that our minds are actually entities created in a simulation carried out by a large computer the size of the universe means already engaging, establishing ideas about what is worked in psychology in believing that not only does this god exist, but that he is also as described in the bible (who watches over us to see if we are doing right or wrong, who loves us, etc. ) is extremely unhappy.
And it’s unfortunate because,
scientifically, take for granted very sophisticated ideas about how we behave without having any evidence Supporting them is an exercise in intellectual dishonesty. For example, offering solutions to a patient based on the idea that certain acts will cause a god to reward that person by “healing” them is not only a violation of the psychologist’s code of ethics, but is also totally irresponsible.
Now what can believing in a god and getting involved in his religion not mean doing it 24 hours a day? For some people, this may be the case; as I said, everyone lives their religion as they see fit. However, the important thing is to keep in mind that religion, based on beliefs that one decides to embrace by one’s own decision,
it cannot be imposed on others. And science, which is a collective effort to create knowledge that is not entirely dependent on faith and beliefs, cannot be distorted by the influence of religion.
There is no one way to believe
So the question to be answered is whether psychologists can believe in God: it depends on how you create.
For those who believe in God literally means believing in religious dogmas and acting on them all the time, the answer will be no, because
psychology, as a science, is about questioning all ideas and not taking any explanation for granted on the functioning and origin of mental processes, all without making value judgments based on religious texts on certain behaviors and tendencies (homosexuality, polygamy, etc.).
Anyone, on the other hand, is clear that no action derived from belief in a god can harm others, religiosity should not be an issue. It may be that the cognitive dissonance of leaving aside certain beliefs that they are considered fundamental and that the structuring of one’s own identity is uncomfortable, but it is a sacrifice without which progress in this scientific field cannot exist.
The idea, in short, is this: during the working hours of psychologists, they should keep religion (not morality) completely at bay. If you think you can’t have this because it causes you great cognitive dissonance into thinking that you have to be dedicated all the time and submit all ideas to faith, psychology is not for you.