Hey! Sign in to get help with your study questionsNew here? Join for free to post

‘Voices are not proof of God but evidence of psychological neurosis.’

Announcements Posted on
Why bother with a post grad? Are they even worth it? Have your say! 26-10-2016

    (Original post by the bear)
    the reductionists always manage to pull a gene outta their ass.... no doubt there is a gene to explain why some people support Manchester United.
    Well actually they don't have a gene for everything. They have genetic factors that may increase one's inclination towards certain things.
    However if there was such a gene that increased one's inclination towards the colour red, then actually there may be genetic factors that play into supporting Man Utd.

    Outline what voices are/ characteristics of it's form of Religious Experience e.g. Catholic Church say it is a supernatural communication from an external realm. Some argue that voices are proof of God because they are knowledge/ instructions from God. Use example such as Bible (Luke 11:28) “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it” noetic message/ disembodied existence/ authoritative. Others argue that they are not adequate forms of Religious Experience because psychological neurosis is scientifically proven/ most likely. Then outline what your essay will argue/ outline

    Paragraph One:
    Teresa of Avila- tested for supernatural or natural source. If they have a natural source such as mishearing/ imagination/ neurosis then they should be dismissed and cannot be used as evidence for the existence of God. However, if they have a 'supernatural' source - there is no other reasonable explanation for the voice/ no diagnosis of psychological neurosis- then one must differentiate whether the voice is from God, or the Devil. Way in which this is decided is from the impact/ values of the voice/ message on the person and the two criteria- does it fit in with the christian church teaching/ does it leave people feeling at peace with the world. If did not fit these two criteria then voice from Devil- (leave person potentially wanting to become a SINNER) whereas God is authoritative/ tranquil/ good and all that ****. Then refer back to your argument/ outline of points in intro so 'Therefore, Teresa of Avila suggests that voices have the capacity to prove the being of God and that they are not always incidents of psychological neurosis'.

    Paragraph Two:
    In contrast; many uphold the view that voices are not proof of God, but solely a result of misinterpretation or psychological neurosis. Skeptics, specifically atheists/ those who work in the profession of mental illness, would outline the correlation between those who 'claim to hear voices of god' and those who are experiencing schizophrenia/ psychosis. The psychiatric explanation is to refer to the part of the Conscious mind which becomes overwhelmed by unconscious content which takes precedence over the conscious ego- centre to the extent where they feel powerless to control it and therefore experience the psychosis in the form of hallucinations/ voices which interferes with the autonomy of the person. Moreover, Teresa Avila fails to consider that the two criteria she provides does not necessarily apply to those who do not agree with the beliefs of the Christian Church/ are undiagnosed mentally ill people.

    Paragraph Three:
    Now speak about Willy J (william james)- 'The Varieties of Religious Experience' 1902 William James draws on the knowledge of psychology and neurology in accepting that religious experiences are psychological phenomena that occur in our brains- echoes the experience of someone undergoing psychosis draws parallels between the two- e.g. speaks of John Bunyan who was 'sensitive of conscience, beset by doubts, fears, insistent ideas and a victim of verbal automatisms....which would come as if they were voices'. This is William James' argument of the 'sick soul'. Nevertheless, this does not mean the voices are just psychological/ they may have supernatural/ spiritual element.

    Moreover, he based this on three key principles
    EMPIRICISM: case studies are empirical evidence of the effects of religious experience which provide us with clues as to the reality beyond what we see/hear (thus can be used as means of suggesting God exists)
    PLURALISM: experiences differ from faith to faith e.g. christian may see holy spirit/ jesus or Muslim might refer to the being as Allah, either way those have experiences were having same reality (so they are the voice of god for those people, it is subjective to the individual)
    PRAGMATISM: truth was not fixed/ something is true if it has great value for us/ therefore there is truth to be found in religious experience. Therefore, being a pragmatist, James deemed the truth of something to be determined by its practical effects and consequences. (thus, voices can suggest experience of god if one believes it is true then it is true for that person)/ higher point of reality
    Paragraph Four
    You could throw in Swinburne's argument as a support of W.J.
    Swinburne 1934
    He suggests that there is no reason why claims to religious experience should be treated any differently to ordinary perceptual claims. He offers to supporting principles:
    The principle of credulity –
    we must accept what appears to be the case unless we have clear evidence to the contrary. The clear evidence might mean that you have good reason to doubt the person, you prove that God does not exist or you show the experience was not caused by God.
    The principle of testimony –
    unless we have positive evidence that they are misremembering or are untrustworthy, we should believe the testimony of the experience. He claims that “other things being equal, we usually think that what others tell us that they perceive, probably happened”
    HOWEVER James REJECTS Freud so..
    Paragraph Five
    Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, had a purely reductionist view of religious experiences, and locutions would have been for him a psychotic or neurotic manifestation of unresolved trauma from childhood.
    Freud felt that Religious experience is explicable in terms of psychological factors acting on the personality, factors that are ultimately based on childhood*traumatic experiences involving the parents. For Freud the human condition is one of fear in the face of our mortality, and helplessness in the face of nature. Thus we need comfort – as children this comes from the father, later in religion the father-in-the-sky. This religious comfort is wish-fulfilment – Freud believed that powerful wishes could find outlets in dreams, but also in other delusory states – essentially then religious visions, voices and experiences are hallucinations which come from our powerful need to feel control over our own helpless state.
    With this interpretation, it must be remembered, Freud did not mean to dismiss religious experience as untrue, he said that just because religious experiences are illusions, it doesn’t mean they are false, an illusion like this is not an error, as it is based on one of the oldest, strongest wishes of humankind. Presumably he meant by this that there is a certain meaningfulness or significance to religious experience because they come from such a deep-rooted and universal source, but it is hard to see how I can retain my belief in the veridicality of my experience whilst also seeing it as a wish-fulfilment. If it is caused by my desire for security and meaning in my life its source can’t be in the divine or supernatural realm.
    It seems to me that St. Teresa could very easily be updated for modern times to critique Freud. What she called voices from the devil, could be seen to be the voices that mentally ill people hear, as their effect is usually disconcerting and negative. Whereas if we apply her and James’ criteria of positive emotional and behavioural impact on the believer we have a way of easily distinguishing ‘real’ voices from false ones.
    Freud’s disciple Jung claims that the divine reality cannot be a ‘nothing-but’ – voices have important psychological benefits which can lead to the integration of the personality – a wholeness that the conscious mind usually resists at its peril.
    CONCLUSION/ finally
    'In conclusion.. is cannot be absolutely stated that voices are always a result of psychological neurosis, it is not applicable as it assumes reductive materialism (type identity theory, mind–brain identity theory and identity theory of mind) is a physicalist theory, in the philosophy of mind. It asserts that mental events can be grouped into types, and can then be correlated with types of physical events in the brain) which dismisses the epistemological problems with all experiences. It doesn't do justice to the voices in the context of the life of the believer. It is undeniable that yes, in some cases, voices are a result of psychological neurosis- however these are distinct from religious experiences as they do not lead to the same impact/ positive experience (as suggesting by W.J.). In my personal opinion- and another argument applicable to the statement- just because voices cannot always be evidence of psychological neurosis- does not necessarily mean their only other origin is God, like James AND Jung expresses- if there was a divine being/ side external to the reality of the mind then it can only be gained through an empirical experience. Therefore, the statement ‘Voices are not proof of God but evidence of psychological neurosis.’ is flawed, and too dismissive of the possibilities and alternative sources from which the voices derive.
Write a reply…


Submit reply


Thanks for posting! You just need to create an account in order to submit the post
  1. this can't be left blank
    that username has been taken, please choose another Forgotten your password?
  2. this can't be left blank
    this email is already registered. Forgotten your password?
  3. this can't be left blank

    6 characters or longer with both numbers and letters is safer

  4. this can't be left empty
    your full birthday is required
  1. Oops, you need to agree to our Ts&Cs to register
  2. Slide to join now Processing…

Updated: June 12, 2016
TSR Support Team
Cats: Yay or nay?

The Student Room, Get Revising and Marked by Teachers are trading names of The Student Room Group Ltd.

Register Number: 04666380 (England and Wales), VAT No. 806 8067 22 Registered Office: International House, Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3XE

Reputation gems: You get these gems as you gain rep from other members for making good contributions and giving helpful advice.