Religious belief is psychological/evolutionary

Letter in this week’s Irish Catholic

Dear Editor,

In her praise of a finding by researchers that religion is good for people’s health Mary Kenny is unwittingly supporting the argument made by many atheists that religious belief is simply a psychological phenomenon (Irish Catholic, August 30).

Atheists would have no problem with the finding that spiritual beliefs are ‘a coping device to help individuals deal emotionally with stress’.

The atheistic view is strengthened by the fact that the researchers came to the same conclusion after surveying people from a variety of different religions.

This strongly suggests that it is not belief in any particular god or religion that is responsible for improved mental health but rather the psychological capacity bestowed on humans by evolution to appeal to an imagined greater power, particularly in time of need.

This evolutionary capacity to find solace in gods is, of course, not confined to the many current religions of today.

Ancient Egyptians and Greeks, for example, would have enjoyed the very same mental health benefits as a result of their unwavering belief in Isis and Zeus respectively.

This research cannot be accepted without also accepting that spirituality does not originate from any particular god or religion but is simple an evolutionary capacity common to all, believers and non-believers alike, to feel an enhanced sense of well being and a oneness with the universe.

Yours etc.,

Anthony Sheridan