Selfometer Articles

Does narcissism underlie all religious behaviour?

by B M Oldfield, 2007

A form of self-centredness is at the heart of many religious and other pressure groups, which in turn may display some or all of the features of narcissistic behaviour. This means that group members tend to share such features as:

This narcissism partially sums up bigoted or prejudiced behaviour, i.e. narcissism has a wide spectrum of features and bigoted behaviour can fit in degrees or vary anywhere inside these features.

It is well known among the psychiatric community that bigoted behaviour is a psychological disorder, but this distracts from the real underlying issues. These are the social and political issues that confound and contribute to prejudice and bigotry. To change religious and other bigoted views and behaviour we must change social, economic and political inequalities, which derive from the complex nature of social conditions and relationships. This is outside the scope of this commentary.

I believe that narcissism is a pervasive feature of most human behaviour. It is necessary that we get rid of this narcissism or at least reduce the effects of it on both the individual and on society. But now back to religion.

Religion is generally a subjective or self-centred value or belief system, which has, throughout history and right up to the modern day, been repeatedly used in a bigoted and inhumane way against other people, especially children. Since this still happens routinely and globally, religious adherers and their religion may both be described as discriminative bullying and purveyors of uncivil and even cruel behaviour. Religion and religious behaviour can be analysed generally on three distinct hierarchical and re-cyclical levels. These are, personal, social and cosmological. Personal or cosmological religious beliefs may be acceptable but with some humanistic qualifiers, which I shall come to shortly.

Since personal religious behaviour is self-centred it will affect and be forced upon the social and personal lives of the people surrounding that individual, usually the family. Some family members might rather have the choice to do something else more personally important rather than sit down to pray or perform some religious ritual. This is especially so for young people or children, who may not understand the reasons, the purpose or even old enough to have the sort of attention span that will be needed for such activities. The family and their extended social network have no choice in adopting such religious beliefs and rituals, which then becomes recycled.

All religions are based on the premise that a cosmological god is the only solution to any social or personal problems. This reinforcing and recycling of religious beliefs is a breeding ground for personal and social problems. Examples include, the isolation of the individual within the family, which in turn may be isolated from the wider local community and society. Individuals both within the family and in the community can as a result of this isolation, feel personal rejection and this may even lead to depression.

Some of these problems can be seen in the political and social correctness surrounding the acceptance of religion and religious views. This pervades much of the world. Any of the social levels of any bigoted religious beliefs and systems should never be allowed to influence or dictate any aspect of society's 'civil' way of life. The pope and his catholic religion should not be allowed nor should he be tolerated in dictating to millions of people across the world that they should not use condoms to protect themselves from AIDS or from pregnancy. Nor should he allow or be allowed to have his priests tell millions of people that they will go to hell if they used condoms for any sort of protection. Protection, Mr. God Almighty Pope, is one of the most important features of nature's, including human, evolutionary processes. It is also despicable and unbelievable, that the entire democratic and supposedly civilised modern world, has allowed the pope to get away with his collusion, in allowing catholic priests and nuns to physically and sexually abuse, thousands of children across the globe for decades and still continues to occur.

On the other hand, adhering to religious views and rituals on the personal level should never be debarred from or by anyone as it affects our human rights. However, religious individuals who use violence or other dehumanising behaviour and rituals, especially for children who might suffer devastating emotional, social, bio-neurological or other bio-physical effects from such behaviour should not be tolerated.

This can be observed in the major concern for the world, which is the heinous multi-religious ritual of mutilating the tiny bodies of young children. This is carried out daily and routinely by millions of inhumane 'unnamed' people all over the planet. I am speaking about the perversely acceptable rituals of circumcision and female chlidorectomy. It is beyond belief and I am utterly, utterly ashamed to be a member of the human race regarding this behaviour! It is uncivil, barbaric and, to use the religious original term 'evil.' It seems that we are still living in and by the identity of, pre-historic, animistic, ancient biblical warring and tribal days. We are by definition, such un-adaptable and un-evolutionary specie, who recycle evil, again and again, without respite, with nasty spite and with a great deal of narcissistic sadistic personal pleasures. This behaviour makes me despise religion to my inner most being and, hope that one day, we can totally eradicate and wipe the human slate clean of all bigoted religions and cruel religious rituals. I will not apologise to anyone or for anything regarding this subject of child body mutilation, abuse and neglect. Those who might regale me are in denial, guilty, lack any form of human empathy and therefore, fits in with many, if not all of narcissistic and other discriminative inhumane tendencies.

These are unacceptable violation of children's rights, which should never be acceptable in any civilised society. To continue to accept this violation means that children are pervasively denied their physical, social and emotional autonomy, de-sensitised and de-humanised. This is how narcissism is perpetuated and recycled.

Further dehumanising of children is the fact that adults force their personal religious ideological baggage, beliefs and values onto children. Children should be allowed to freely discover religious ideas for and by themselves and, then only by philosophical debate. This debate should only be based on scientific historical developments of all religious events and ideas, depending of course, on the age of the child. It should also be based, first and foremost, on the development of children's intellectual skills including ideas of human tolerance and equality, which is based on selflessness.

Since religious views, rituals and other associative religious behaviours are so diverse and in direct opposition to each other it would be impossible for any society to choose which of these views could and could not be inclusively dictated to one and all. To do this would be to make laws that are intolerant but inclusive and exclusive only to certain groups and individuals. These groups are often afforded certain protection and accommodation, simply because of their personal beliefs, which is most definitely, socially irresponsible and, therefore, based on selfishisness.

Minor and major groups are important aspects of the political scene and some do have genuine grievances. However when any of the values and beliefs of these groups contradict the civility of human interactions and daily life, these groups should not be tolerated, particularly when it affects the lives of children. Religious groups who feel that their religion or religious beliefs are being discriminated against should deal with it lawfully but more often than not any such discrimination should first require self-reflection. A Bollywood filmmaker recently said "no one can insult you without your permission." Such groups should look at their own religion and beliefs including the behaviour associated with these and should not jump onto the bandwagon of the 'blame culture.' This creates more social divides, which means that such groups may, in fact, fulfil their own prophecy of being different. The more they cry 'different' the more they allow others to treat them as different. The more they isolate themselves from society the more isolated they will become. This is especially so when they use hatred and violence, which is nothing other than a heinous recycling of our differences.

On the cosmological level there are too many arguments, too many unanswered and debatable questions regarding the origins of the universe and, to simply put it down, just to ancient, innumerable and repetitive religious arguments is self-defeating, can be utterly mind consuming and boring. However the religious cosmological debate may be justifiable on the grounds that few scientific or religious leaders have so far reached any of their own definitive conclusions regarding the ultimate origins of the universe. Some religious leaders, quite rightly, question their belief in god when for example, the holocaust and the 2005 tsunami tragedies, viciously but realistically and morally struck our deep-veined humanitarian conscience. You can bet your bottom dollar that the answers to these tragedies and the picking up of the horrific aftermath, and the origins of the universe would, more likely than not, come from science and from individuals with a humanistic outlook on their fellow human beings. How on earth can an absolutist view with no evidential variables explain or fix anything, let alone try and predict anything? This is why religion is so self-defeating, self-destructive and narcissistic.

The stars in the skies are there to provide us with warmth, energy and life, to be admired, and to be explained by scientific endeavours and not by, an invisible, insubstantial, unknown, delusory and subjective anthropocentric god hiding behind the sun. An objective god yes, but not a personal god divorced from reality, which he or she (gods or individuals) might dictate that everyone else should adhere to, such as; any of their personal explanations and excuses for their personal god/s and their 'god beliefs.' This messianic goal of religious preaching and spreading of personal religious beliefs is a product of narcissistic tendencies.

I may have an inclination to believe in god but it does not entitle me to force it down the throats, the genitals, the heads and minds, the stomach and the entire bits of the bodies of my children or for that matter any other child or human being. Children's minds and bodies belong entirely and utterly to them, which need to be understood, provided for and gently protected. Of course, my children and every other child are human beings and, should never be treated as objects or objects for my personal or any other person's values, beliefs and other personal and social, invisible and unexplained emotional baggage.

No wonder so many young people are fighting for their freedom and/or use violence to free themselves, from this distasteful religious 'pate de foie gras'. This may be the true reason why so many young Muslims are turning to violence. They are not fighting to save their religion or their religious identities and beliefs, but are fighting to free themselves from the religious chains, forced around their bodies especially during their early development and to their young and vulnerable minds. It was most probably the parents and the adults in these young people's lives who bought and secured these chains, though sometimes not wilfully. These young people are fighting for their true 'human' identity, which may have been destroyed by parental neglect during their developmental years. Initially parents often neglect their children's emotional, social and biological development that is essential to physical and mental 'well-being.' This neglect is then sadly confounded by parental obsessive and self-centred adherences to religion, religious beliefs and rituals and the emotional baggage associated with these. This neglect is sometimes not wilful on account of the re-cyclical nature of handing down ignorance of child development and religious beliefs, from one generation to the next.

The emotional baggage can be seen in the false, ignorant and misguided reasons for, or meaning of religious beliefs. The true meaning of any religion should be based on trying to understand, not religious beliefs, life after death or the origins of the universe, but the meaning of how we interact and treat each other. It is the failure of and not knowing how to interact and treat each other that lie at the core of the recycling of religion and it's beliefs. We should, for example, treat each other with a great deal more of tolerance, respect, empathy and understanding and should do so, by looking at and sharing, our communal way of life, values and origins. History, music, dance, theatre, art and food are tastefully, good starters.

By pandering to religious and other bigoted pressure groups we are denying the truth about what instead, we should be doing. This is fostering the fact that we are genetically the same and similarly dependent upon our environment and, therefore, more similar than we are different. Furthermore before we can have a fair and just society we need to reinforce and recognise our shared human values and goals. I believe this fostering should be the family unit and, first and foremost, the universal human developmental rights of children. Religion and their adherers represent a classic narcissistic pandering to our differences and social divide. We are not different because we have different beliefs and origins but instead share our equal differences such as; life, death, gender, sexuality, race, education, class, religion, language, geography, ethnicity, nationality, biological and psychological features including any other differences we may care or not care to add.

Politicians please take heed, but first, put your own corrupt self-centred narcissistic PC and PR personal and political house in order before you could and should then deal, with all forms of local, national and international inequalities including the destruction of our planet.

Religious teaching in our schools is totally unacceptable, especially when this so-called education teaches nothing other than just the beliefs and meaningless rituals themselves, which is without comparison, rhyme or reason. Religious upbringing and education should be renamed religious indoctrination, religious brainwashing and religious abuse. Religion as a name and the general bigoted way it is used against others (sex, gender, class, age etc.) should therefore be described as indoctrination, brainwashing and abuse motivated by narcissism!