Can We Help Zoraya? Part 2

Can We Help Zoraya? Part 2 April 22, 2024

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Partial, Edited Transcript

Evidence of a soul, perhaps? Why else would it be that Christianity is so necessary for happiness? Why is religious practice tied to a happy, fulfilled, and meaningful life? You know? Why doesn’t exercise do it? Why do secular people have a hard time finding a substitute for Christianity? That is the question. And that is the most important question. 

Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche

I write about this in my book. In the 20th century, so many secular writers, particularly in the social sciences … and I’m thinking of Sigmund Freud. But there’s so many others. And, you know, there were some also, as well, very important in the 19th century. But so many assured us—and Freud did it in Civilization and Its Discontents—that Christianity is so easy to replace. You can easily replace Christianity. And  the the reward for that would be greater human happiness and fulfillment. 

The “Christian Substitution Thesis”

And yet we’re seeing exactly the opposite. We are seeing what I would call the “Christian Substitution Thesis.” It’s a thesis put forward by Karl Marx; put forward by  Sigmund Freud. I’m pointing over here because I can see his book, I’ve got Civilization and Its Discontents staring at me right over here. And same with Frederick Nietzsche in the 19th century. So many writers assuring us that we would be better off without Christianity. We can replace Christianity we can find better substitutes for Christianity that would do a better job of  providing happiness and fulfillment to humanity.

What Does the Data tell Us?

 And just the opposite is what we are now seeing in the 21st century. That that is proving not to be true. And I’ve I’ve written about Jean Paul Sartre and his deathbed reconversion to Christianity. (I believe he was baptized a Catholic.) And I think he made some kind of a deathbed confession and  recommitted himself to the Catholic faith.  Because he was convinced that he could not find meaning in his life. And here’s an intelligent man—a brilliant man—who admitted that he could not find meaning in life apart from the church, right?  This is a consistent statistical reality that cannot be ignored.

The New Atheists

And oh, by the way, I mean the last people to advance this Christian Substitution Thesis are the New Atheists. The New Atheists have in Sam Harris … I know I’m remembering a particular line of his. But it goes something like this. “If there’s anything good about Christianity, you can get that—whatever that good thing is—you can find it elsewhere. There’s a secular counterpart to it [Christianity] that’s just as good or better.

But the research doesn’t back that up. And people are becoming aware of the research showing how beneficial Christianity appears to be for mental health. But, you know, if you want to be intellectually respectable you have to, of course, say things like, “Well, of course, you know, that works for religious people…” Right? “I’m sure, you know, something else could do it too.” That is to say, if you want to be intellectually respectable, you can point out the health benefits of being a Christian as long as you don’t . . . [SEE THE SHOW FOR MORE CONTENT.]

About John Gravino
John Gravino is the author of The Immoral Landscape of the New Atheism, which was the topic of a health and spirituality seminar at Duke Medical School. He continues to explore the intersection of health and religion and the other big questions of life right here at Patheos. You can read more about the author here.
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