New Religion of Our Time
Church attendance has plunged from 70% 30 years ago to just 24% today. This trend can be seen everywhere. Even Italy, where strong Catholic dominance over the population had prevailed for more than 15 centuries, is now suffering from heavy loss of new-devotees. Almost all the western countries are not spared from this universal decline of traditional religion.
Why did it happen? Of course, many people have predicted this since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution; material affluence would never fail to deprive people of their piety, unspeakable awe to what they could not understand or grasp. If poverty had been the main force of religiousness, then it is natural that people are no longer in need for its help and assistance. People seem to identify the disappearance of anxiety based on want with that of anxiety about problems of their life and death.
It is no wonder that many people in the civilized world, enjoying their luxurious life to their content, are indulged in the pursuit of pleasure with higher intensity. The result is the lost faith in God and their separation from the spiritual world. Mankind has never experienced such conditions of life except in the case of only a few privileged people. And this has brought about new problems as to what we are and where we are going.
As a natural consequence, many modern people are suffering from various kinds of mental disorders, ranging from neurosis to schizophrenia. Now psychology and psychoanalysis are called for preventing and treating them. More and more Americans visit shrinks casually as if they had a slight cold relieved. To modern man, this substitute of modern science for traditional beliefs seems making sense, because most of them come to see religious notion as something superstitious.
Like it or not, they largely believe in modern methods of natural science just as people of pre-modern era worshipped various gods. Even if they are well aware of the essential difference between psychology and God Almighty, they, nevertheless, bent on confessing before modern "Fathers".
Their approaches to the "believers" are entirely different from their traditional counterparts. First of all, man is supposed to grow up to become "mature" and harmonizing himself with those around him. By maturing they mean whatever ability to cope with various conditions "reasonably","justly" and "fairly". To be mature is not like commandments as those of Mose's, but rather a desirable bundle of expectations. It is true that modern man may behave properly if he follows the doctor's suggestions, but "harmonious human relationship" or "balanced personality" sound somewhat phony. There was a glimpse of shadow of conformism, or the loss of individual uniqueness. Anyway, modern psychology is based on the notion of "Economic Man" or "The Capitalism-Oriented". The social trend also greatly affects the formation of its "ideal man".
For example, we usually regard neurosis as a form of mental illness, and we are often taught that it should be "treated", because it does not belong to normal patterns of behavior; it is somewhat abnormal, so we have to push it back to the horizons of being "normal". But just as we cannot prevent cases of asthma in a contaminated air, so we cannot stop the proliferation of neurosis among heavily stressed businessmen. Neurosis may be purely defensive reaction to the abnormally pressing circumstances and therefore is not something that should be corrected but his surroundings should be changed to the effect that he can keep his mental health.
Many psychological, or psychiatric theories are based on the notion that every individual suffering from mild mental disorder is curable only if proper treatment either by medicine or counseling. The results are not only they are convinced that they will succeed in converting the "abnormal" into the "normal", but the "fanatic" or the "eccentric" into the "normal" as well.(See Figure 1) This dangerous arrogance reflects the growing supremacy of psychiatry, which seems to advocate "working-bee mentality", that is neither emotional nor egoistic, but flat or faceless, often smiling and well-balanced, way ahead in the severe competition.
What is wrong with the people who quick-tempered, hysterical, passionate, eccentric, bohemian or solitary? The society which does not allow the existence of the "fanatic" or the "eccentric" is as good as dead!
The future of mankind depends on this tolerance towards outsiders and heresies. The threat of modern witch-hunt is always keenly felt whenever effective and apparently legal measure is taken against those idealists and so called gadflies. As we see in the former Soviet Union and other countries where government and education are highly centralized, many political dissidents are languishing in so-called mental hospitals. In Western countries, through such drastic means may not be taken, we are, nonetheless, often under constant scrutinizing and supervision.
It is hardly an exaggeration to say that so long as we live in a secular modern world, we have no chance to acquire freedom in a true sense of the word. On the other hand, traditional religions, though sometimes under strict control of churches and other institutions, allow man to put himself in a position to face God Almighty. Even wild beasts, which are the works of Creator and therefore at the mercy of nature, are absolutely free compared with people in a civilized society... In this light, man whose only master is God is also absolutely free once he gets out of the tentacles of modern world. We should not have more than one master. Otherwise we would be forever entangled into web of struggle for freedom and tug of war.
There is no such things as atheism, because man's thinking always depends on some absolute principles, conscious or unconscious. If he does not believe in God in a metaphysical sense, then he will have to look for some other idol, so to speak, the substitute for God. Modern man, most of them indulged in material luxuries, have stopped thnking about metaphysical world, seem to be free from any controlling agent, but in fact he is very vulnerable to subtle mind-manipulation or blunt brain-washing,and may collapse at any mental threat.
But traditional religion nor modern psychology does not seem to offer any decisive way to free mankind from conformism. Any institution on this earth is doomed to restrict human mind; the more centralized and systematized the society becomes, the less freedom will we enjoy. This is an irony of advancement. Only, in no other than individual human mind can we find source of absolute freedom; conscience.
First Written in November 1986