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333kenshin comments on "Spiritual" techniques that actually work thread - Less Wrong Discussion

7 [deleted] 11 March 2015 10:35AM

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Comment author: 333kenshin 03 January 2018 09:07:21AM *  0 points [-]

As a Christian turned atheist, I can attest to the fact that church rituals do in fact encompass quite a few valid and effective techniques.

Consider the following practices which researchers have fairly well established contribute to mental wellness (all links are to Psychology Today):

Nothing surprising or new, right?

But the weird thing is when you realize each of the above practices is embedded in weekly church attendance:

  • confidant => confession
  • gratitude => grace
  • recitation => lord's prayer
  • singing => hymns
  • water => baptism (traditionally carried out down by the river)

In other words, church attendance provides a concentrated bundle of mental health benefit.

And I think this should jibe in terms of explaining why so many people continue to adhere to religion despite its obvious downsides. The usual explanation is that they must be dumb or irrational. But now we have a simpler explanation: that these mental health upsides offset the downsides. It doesn't require an assumption of extreme stupidity and/or irrationality (of course, it holds up just as well if they do happen to be so). As Bayesians, what is more probable: that we are all that much smarter and more rational then each and every one of them? Or that they simply value happiness more than than they value logic?

And yes, I know I'm presenting a false dichotomy to imply that happiness and logic are either/or proposition. But given that presently, access to many of these practices is limited outside of church. For example, the only socially acceptable venues for non-professionals to sing in is in the shower and at karaoke bars. Likewise, therapy costs an arm and a leg, and the prospects of finding someone else to confide in is spotty at best.

Which suggests what our next step should be as a community: to show that it's possible to be happy and logical. I suggest incorporating these practices into our own meetups as widely as possible - eg conduct meet at park fountains or with a rock band set. Only when we break this perceived monopoly of religion on mental well being will people in large number entertain leaving the church