Psychiatrists Replacing Clergymen—Why?
AMONG the current trends in America, as well as in many other lands, is that of the clergy losing ground, both in numbers and in influence. A parallel trend is that of the gains that psychologists and psychiatrists are making.
Thus we are told that in the past twenty-five years the persons involved with the people’s mental and emotional health in the United States have increased more than sevenfold, whereas the number of clergymen has decreased 20 percent, and this in spite of a 40-percent increase in the population. Equally significant are the figures relating to college degrees. In 1961, American institutions of higher learning handed out as many degrees in psychology as in religion, 10,000 in each. But, in 1971, they handed out three times as many degrees in psychology as in religion.
Is there any relationship between these two figures? Indeed there is! Fewer and fewer people are going to clergymen to ask them “What shall I do?” Thus a psychoanalyst who is at the same time a Roman Catholic clergyman states that in 1963 about 70 percent of the people with problems first went to their clergyman for advice but that ten years later the number that do is quite likely less than 40 percent.
Indicative of these trends is the decrease in church attendance on the one hand and, on the other hand, the increased popularity of books, magazine articles, radio and TV programs by psychologists and psychiatrists telling people how to gain peace and happiness and how to treat their wives, husbands, parents, children, as well as what to do about such problems as abortion adultery and homosexuality.
Why these contrasting trends? For one thing, the clergy have lost their voice of authority by downgrading the Bible as the Word of God and as man’s infallible guide. (Ps. 119:105) This calls to mind the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “They have rejected the very word of Jehovah, and what wisdom do they have?” (Jer. 8:9) As one report puts it: “There are far fewer ministers who will say: ‘The Bible says so-and-so. Therefore you should do it.’” ‘When people came to their minister asking, “What am I here for?” they used to answer in clear and unequivocal terms: “You are here because it is God’s will. The meaning of your existence is to carry out that will, live a good life, and glorify your Creator.”’ But no more. Lacking in confidence, the ecclesiastics are unable to satisfy the people who come to them.
Another reason why many more people are going to psychiatrists and psychologists is that they are more concerned with what appears to be rewarding than with what is right. Professional men in the mental health field, by and large, do not make moral judgments. For them, actions are not either right or wrong but are either wholesome or injurious to one’s mental and emotional well-being.
But is the turning of people from the clergy to the psychiatrists a healthy phenomenon? No, for it really is a case of jumping from the frying pan into the fire. They are worse off than they were before, for, as has well been noted by The National Observer, people need a “fundamental religious ground for their existence, the reason why you can still go on living in the face of tragedy.” The increase in crime, in sexual immorality, in gambling, in drug addiction, in alcoholism, and what not, all testifies to the folly of this trend away from belief in God and in the Bible as his inspired Word.
Psychiatrists and psychologists cannot answer such questions as “Why am I here?” “What is life for?” “What destiny awaits me?” “Why do wickedness and injustice abound?” Unless, of course, they give religious answers. That they are not the ones to go to for help when one is depressed and beset with all manner of problems is to be seen from the fact that suicides among them are twice as frequent as among the population in general.
The blind egotistical folly of many of these professional men is seen from the fact that, in 1970, 55 percent of American psychoanalysts interviewed agreed with Freud that belief in God is “so patently infantile, so incongruous with reality, that . . . it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life.”
Blind, egotistical folly? Yes, for it flies in the face of reason and fact. For example, we are told that “most historians of science would declare at once that Isaac Newton was the greatest scientific mind the world has ever seen.” (Dr. Isaac Asimov) And did he consider belief in God infantile? Far from it! In fact, he wrote a friend that in penning his Principia he had an eye on such principles as would cause men to believe in the existence of God. In that masterpiece he states: “From his true dominion it follows that the true God is a living, intelligent, and powerful Being; and, from his other perfections, that he is supreme, or most perfect. He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient.”
That a ‘fundamental religious ground for one’s existence’ can support one in the face of tragedy, the Bible shows time and again. Particularly making this point is the account of ancient Job. Because of his faith in God, Job did not despair in the face of tragedy. And what losses he suffered! In one blow all his children and all his material possessions were taken from him. Then a loathsome and painful disease covered him from head to foot. His closest friends turned against him, and his own wife urged him to give up, saying to him, “Curse God and die!” that is, commit suicide. But because of his faith in God, Job was able to weather it all and come out a winner.—Job, chaps. 1, 2, 42.
The Bible is filled with sound principles and good advice on how to get along with one’s family and with others. It spells out the duties of husbands, wives, parents, children, servants and masters (employees and employers). It warns against loose conduct: “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.” Those who practice what is obscene will receive “in themselves the full recompense, which was due for their error.”—Gal. 6:7, 8; Rom. 1:27.
It also warns against greed. “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things.”—1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
Yes, indeed, when turning away from clergymen who are without faith in the Bible as God’s inspired Word, instead of turning to psychiatrists and psychologists who likewise, for the most part, are without such faith, let lovers of righteousness turn to the Bible for wisdom, comfort and hope. The Christian witnesses of Jehovah stand ready to help all such lovers of righteousness.