Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Studies on Religious Experience


A major philospher and friend of Brut Russell, Loren, makes these comments on the comment section in response to "Meaning and Truth."

Shouting "It's not a hallucination! It's not a hallucination! It's not a hallucination!" is a very bad argument, as is your waving away the serious epistemological problem that Bertrand Russell, Mark Vuletic, and I have tried to consider.

And becoming happy by believing something in no way indicates its truth. You could become very happy by believing that none of your miseries are any of your fault, blaming many of them on various conspiracies, but would your happiness indicate your faultlessness?

This is a hackney tactic of trying to hide the phenomena by re describing in ways the obscure what's important about it. I say RE results in "life transformation" she purposely reduces this to "getting happy" becasue the atheist can't face the facts or the truth that hundreds of studies demonstrate the superior nature of religious life.
What I'm talking about is mystical experience, not getting happy. You can get happy when you have a bowl of soup and good sandwich. I'm talking about something that totally changes your live, removes your fear of death, increases your socio us consciousness, makes you into a totally giving person, can cure you of heroin and other drugs (14%) gives your life meaning so that you feel its totally worthwhile to live. I know many atheists wallow in despair you know I'm right. not all of them, course not. But many do. studies prove that religous people have less mental illness, less depression, better sense of self actualization.

she wants to reduce this "getting happy" because it's the only thing she can say. She does not have one single counter study. not one single study shows different.

Religious experience indicative of good mental health

The “new atheists” put forth the notion that all of religion itself is a form of mental illness. This is the impression many love to cultivate. There is no basis for it in the data whatsoever. The effects are varied but over the entire range of research they spell out a healthy well-adjusted whole person. The qualities mentioned in the research over and over again include: less dogmatic, less authoritarian, more socially conscious, are about people, happy, healthy, successful, self aware, self assured, find life meaningful, enjoy their work, strong ego, strong sense of self, more self actualized. All the studies mentioned to this point back this up. Mathes, Maslow, Wuthnow, Greely, Luckoff and Lue, Noble, Hood and all others mentioned. I will include a list at the end of this chapter, and a select bibliography in the indices cataloguing the studies that find mystical experience to have long-term positive effects. These are the characteristics of self-actualization.
Religious People are More Self Actualized

This is the finding of a vast body of work. Some studies show that “Peakers” (those who experience “mystical experiences” what I’m calling “RE” in this essay) are more self actualized than those who do not have these experiences. But there are also studies that show that any inkling of religious experience carried some degree of the same advantages. Four hundred studies show that participation (as well as the nominal experiences) produces many benefits, among them less depression and better mental health.

Dr. Michael Nielson, Ph.D.

"What makes someone psychologically healthy? This was the question that guided Maslow's work. He saw too much emphasis in psychology on negative behavior and thought, and wanted to supplant it with a psychology of mental health. To this end, he developed a hierarchy of needs, ranging from lower level physiological needs, through love and belonging, to self- actualization. Self-actualized people are those who have reached their potential for self-development. Maslow claimed that mystics are more likely to be self-actualized than are other people. Mystics also are more likely to have had "peak experiences," experiences in which the person feels a sense of ecstasy and oneness with the universe. Although his hierarchy of needs sounds appealing, researchers have had difficulty finding support for his theory."

We turn once again to Jayne Gackenback

In terms of psychological correlates, well-being and happiness has been associated with mystical experiences,(Mathes, Zevon, Roter, Joerger, 1982; Hay & Morisy, 1978; Greeley, 1975; Alexander, Boyer, & Alexander, 1987) as well as self-actualization (Hood, 1977; Alexander, 1992). Regarding the latter, the developer of self-actualization believed that even one spontaneous peak or transcendental experience could promote self-actualization. Correlational research has supported this relationship. In a recent statistical meta-analysis of causal designs with Transcendental Meditation (TM) controlling for length of treatment and strength of study design, it was found that: TM enhances self-actualization on standard inventories significantly more than recent clinically devised relaxation/meditation procedures not explicitly directed toward transcendence [mystical experience] (p. 1; Alexander, 1992)
Believers: less depression, mental illness, Divorce rate, ect.

The study by Gartner and Allen indicates that religious belief is associated with good mental health, less depression and so on:
"The Reviews identified 10 areas of clinical status in which research has demonstrated benefits of religious commitment: (1) Depression, (2) Suicide, (3) Delinquency, (4) Mortality, (5) Alcohol use (6) Drug use, (7) Well-being, (8) Divorce and marital satisfaction, (9) Physical Health Status, and (10) Mental health outcome studies...The authors underscored the need for additional longitudinal studies featuring health outcomes. Although there were few, such studies tended to show mental health benefit. Similarly, in the case of the few longevity or mortality outcome studies, the benefit was in favor of those who attended least 70% of the time, increased religious commitment was associated with improved coping and protection from problems."

This was based upon a review of social science studies. These were regular projects by social scientists published in the scholarly literature. All the researchers did was to read the literature and report the finds of these studies. In the past psychiatry has tended to assume what Freud assumed, that religion is pathology. This is no longer the case. The basic assumption in the mental health field today is that religion is positive, healthy, and a sign of functionality.
Long-Term Positive Effects of Mystical Experience

Research Summary

From Council on Spiritual Practices Website

"States of Univtive Consciousness"

Also called Transcendent Experiences, Ego-Transcendence, Intense Religious Experience, Peak Experiences, Mystical Experiences, Cosmic Consciousness. Sources:

Wuthnow, Robert (1978). "Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18 (3), 59-75.

Noble, Kathleen D. (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.
Lukoff, David & Francis G. Lu (1988). ``Transpersonal psychology research review: Topic: Mystical experiences.'' Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20 (2), 161-184.

Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar (1983). ``Psychedelic Drugs in Psychiatry'' in Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, New York: Basic Books.

Furthermore, Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being. (Charles T. Tart, Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm, p. 19.)

Long-Term Positive Effects

*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
Meditate more
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style


*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*intelligent, relaxed
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,
*integration, allocentrism,
*psychological maturity,
*self-acceptance, self-worth,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
*increased love and compassion

Short-Term Effects (usually people who did not previously know of these experiences)

*Experience temporarily disorienting, alarming, disruptive
*Likely changes in self and the world,
*space and time, emotional attitudes, cognitive styles, personalities, doubt sanity and reluctance to communicate, feel ordinary language is inadequate

*Some individuals report psychic capacities and visionary experience destabilizing relationships with family and friends Withdrawal, isolation, confusion, insecurity, self-doubt, depression, anxiety, panic, restlessness, grandiose religious delusions

Links to Maslow's Needs, Mental Health, and Peak Experiences When introducing entheogens to people, I find it's helpful to link them to other ideas people are familiar with. Here are three useful quotations. 1) Maslow - Beyond Self Actualization is Self Transcendence ``I should say that I consider Humanistic, Third Force Psychology to be transitional, a preparation for a still `higher' Fourth Psychology, transhuman, centered in the cosmos rather than in human needs and interest, going beyond humanness, identity, selfactualization and the like.''

Abraham Maslow (1968). Toward a Psychology of Being, Second edition, -- pages iii-iv.

Studies dealing with mystical experience (Peak experience or “RE”) itself also find that this kind of experience is also a major factor in well-being. Greely in 74, Hay and Morisy (1978) “people who reported having intense religious experiences were significantly more likely to report a high level of psychological well being than those who did not experience transcendence. Greely’s ‘mystics’ were also more likely to be optimistic than were his “non mystics” and less likely to be authoritarian or racist.” “Transcendent experience may well lead toward a permanent transformation of the psyche in the direction of wholeness and health, Maslow (1970) Owens (1972) Wapnick (1972).

2) States of consciousness and mystical experiences
The ego has problems:
the ego is a problem.
``Within the Western model we recognize and define psychosis as a suboptimal state of consciousness that views reality in a distorted way and does not recognize that distortion. It is therefore important to note that from the mystical perspective our usual state fits all the criteria of psychosis, being suboptimal, having a distorted view of reality, yet not recognizing that distortion. Indeed from the ultimate mystical perspective, psychosis can be defined as being trapped in, or attached to, any one state of consciousness, each of which by itself is necessarily limited and only relatively real.'' -- page 665

Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

3) Therapeutic effects of peak experiences
``It is assumed that if, as is often said, one traumatic event can shape a life, one therapeutic event can reshape it. Psychedelic therapy has an analogue in Abraham Maslow's idea of the peak experience. The drug taker feels somehow allied to or merged with a higher power; he becomes convinced the self is part of a much larger pattern, and the sense of cleansing, release, and joy makes old woes seem trivial.'' -- page 132

Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar (1983). ``Psychedelic Drugs in Psychiatry'' in Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, New York: Basic Books.

Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration. Unpublished paper by Jayne Gackenback, (1992)

"These states of being also result in behavioral and health changes. Ludwig (1985) found that 14% of people claiming spontaneous remission from alcoholism was due to mystical experiences while Richards (1978) found with cancer patients treated in a hallucinogenic drug-assisted therapy who reported mystical experiences improved significantly more on a measure of self-actualization than those who also had the drug but did not have a mystical experience. In terms of the Vedic Psychology group they report a wide range of positive behavioral results from the practice of meditation and as outlined above go to great pains to show that it is the transcendence aspect of that practice that is primarily responsible for the changes. Thus improved performance in many areas of society have been reported including education and business as well as personal health states (reviewed and summarized in Alexander et al., 1990). Specifically, the Vedic Psychology group found that mystical experiences were associated with "refined sensory threshold and enhanced mind-body coordination (p. 115; Alexander et al., 1987)."

Studies have shown that religious satisfaction was the most powerful predictor of general happiness and acceptance of life. Prayer was also an important contributing factor. “As a result of their study the authors concluded that it would be important to look at a combination of religious items, including prayer, relationship with God, and other measures of religious experience to begin to adequately clarify the associations of religious commitment with general well-being."

Studies on religious participation

Psychiatrists assume religious experience Normative.

Dr. Jorge W.F. Amaro, Ph.D., Head psychology dept. Sao Paulo says that the unbeliever is the Sick Soul:

"A non spiritualized person is a sick person, even if she doesn't show any symptom described by traditional medicine. The supernatural and the sacredness result from an elaboration on the function of omnipotence by the mind and can be found both in atheist and religious people. It is an existential function in humankind and the uses each one makes of it will be the measure for one's understanding…." "Nowadays there are many who do not agree with the notion that religious behavior a priori implies a neurotic state to be decoded and eliminated by analysis (exorcism). That reductionism based on the first works by Freud is currently under review. The psychotherapist should be limited to observing the uses their clients make of the representations of the image of God in their subjective world, that is, the uses of the function of omnipotence. Among the several authors that subscribe to this position are Odilon de Mello Franco (12).... W. R. Bion (2), one of the most notable contemporary psychoanalysts,"

This relationship is so strong it led to the creation of a whole discipline in psychology; transactional psychology. The Transactional school is based upon the work of Abraham Maslow, who was the first modern researcher (since William James at the turn of the ninetieth into the twentieth century) to subject the outcomes of religious experience to modern social sciences research methods (late 60s to early 80s). Professor Neilson again:

"One outgrowth of Maslow's work is what has become known as Transpersonal Psychology, in which the focus is on the spiritual well-being of individuals, and values are advocated steadfastly. Transpersonal psychologists seek to blend Eastern religion (Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.) or Western (Christian, Jewish or Moslem) mysticism with a form of modern psychology. Frequently, the transpersonal psychologist rejects psychology's adoption of various scientific methods used in the natural sciences."

"The influence of the transpersonal movement remains small, but there is evidence that it is growing. I suspect that most psychologists would agree with Maslow that much of psychology -- including the psychology of religion -- needs an improved theoretical foundation."

There is a vast array of studies on other areas besides RE, studies that demonstrate the validity and advantage of participation in a religious tradition, or religious belief. This is not best evidence for the arguments because its not so much the trace of the divine as it effects and affects human life, but is a demonstration of the advantages of a belief. Nevertheless, because there is a link between belief, participation, and experience, especially if Maslow et al are right that we all experience God to some degree, we can assume that participation is a response to some degree of experience. So these studies are important for the religious a priori argument, and they serve as secondary back up for the co-determinate and Thomas Reid arguments.

Religion is positive factor in physical health.

Many studies confirm that religion is a powerful force in physical health. This is important because it seems that we are constructed as organisms to be religious. Religion seems good for us on many levels. I resist the urge to make a design argument, tempting though it is. Yet, the point is that religious experience is as trust worth as other forms of experience, in a general sense. One indication of that trustworthy nature is its healthy effect upon our bodies. Much has been said in the popular mainstream press, such as this Knight Ridder news release of 1998.

"Some suspect that the benefits of faith and churchgoing largely boil down to having social support � a factor that, by itself, has been shown to improve health. But the health effects of religion can't wholly be explained by social support. If, for example, you compare people who aren't religious with people who gather regularly for more secular reasons, the religious group is healthier. In Israel, studies comparing religious with secular kibbutzim showed the religious communes were healthier."Is this all a social effect you could get from going to the bridge club? It doesn't seem that way," said Koenig, who directs Duke's Center for the Study of Religion/Spirituality and Health.Another popular explanation for the link between religion and health is sin avoidance."

"The religious might be healthier because they are less likely to smoke, drink and engage in risky sex and more likely to wear seat belts. But when studies control for those factors, say by comparing religious nonsmokers with nonreligious nonsmokers, the religious factors still stand out. Compare smokers who are religious with those who are not and the churchgoing smokers have blood pressure as low as nonsmokers. "If you're a smoker, make sure you get your butt in church," said Larson, who conducted the smoking study."

Even when we control for smoking religious belief still comes out ahead.
The most important factor in well-being
Argyle and Hill were studying religious experience. Researchers, who have a large database, deal with a lot of people, tend to use simple one-factor measures to measure happiness. Those with small samples, few people, tend to use multiple measurements. The findings indicate that those who are involved in religion report greater levels of happiness than do those who are not. Neilson sites a study of over 16,000 people in Europe, 85% of weekly churchgoers were “very satisfied” with life, only 77% among those who never went to church. This does not even measure belief among non-churchgoers. Neilson sites studies by Argyle and Hills, Inglehart (1990, just mentioned) and he also sites his own study.

Atheists cannot make this go away by pretending it's just a matter of "getting happy." they can't pretend the facts aren't as they are. the research is there, it's proven. We can argue about the conclusions to be drawn, but to deny the facts is merely sticking your head in the sand. shame shame shame on you "free thinkers!" you can't face the facts.


Rex said...

Hey Mr. I see hate everywhere,

Is it hate speech to report the truth? Is it when it is about religion? And the harm it causes?

I wonder how all these victims feel about the religious experience. I wonder how the pope sleeps at night knowing that he personally was responsible for shielding a pedophile who later re offended. I wonder how the rotten corrupt parasite on humanity known as the Catholic Church is going to spin all of this crap to try to look good. Maybe they will just say that it is gods will, and duck responsibility for it all. DISGUSTING!

The Catholic church in Germany has been rocked by a sex abuse scandal, a scandal that now threatens Pope Benedict XVI. It has just come to light that while the Pope was archbishop in Southern Germany he covered for a pedophile priest, a priest transferred to a job where he later went on to abuse more children.

Germany is only now beginning to experience the shocking disclosures of widespread child sexual abuse by clergy that are now all too familiar to an American audience. Since the end of January, there has been an explosion of Germans coming forward to report cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot; a few days ago the pope's chief exorcist had some comments about the devil being at work in the vatican last week. I wonder if they will blame the devil for the gay prostitution activities that were discovered last week as well.

They are a blight on humanity.

Metacrock said...

your hate group propaganda and sloganism has out done itself. This deserves a piece of its own.