Kevin Vost in From Atheism to Catholicism (My Sunday Visitor, 2010)  engages in distortions of Jesus to make it seem that Jesus' teaching is sound in terms of mental health.

Vost correctly lists some dangerous irrational beliefs that do psychological damage.


# It is a dire necessity to be approved or loved by the important people in my community.


He says that Jesus countered that belief by teaching we are blessed when we are cursed and hated and persecuted for his sake (Matthew 5:11).


But Jesus was not saying we should not mind being hated and cursed and persecuted! If he did then he was an evil callous monster. He was only saying God will bless us if we suffer from those who we expect to love and approve us.


Jesus said that God alone is to be ultimately loved and we are to love him above all things even good things. We are to love him with all our hearts and powers. So it is a dire necessity for us to love and approve God. And for others to do it too. If you love God and see people caring little or not at all for the dire necessity of loving God then this will have the same destructive emotional impact on you as if you believed it is extremely important to be loved by the important people.


If it is so harmful to believe it is vital to earn the love of the important people in your community, then it is worse to extend this to everybody. If God is love and he wants others to love you, then it is a dire necessity in the light of Christ's doctrine that obedience to the commandment to love God comes first. This love will be a fearful love - a God who orders you to love him instead of attracting you is a bully. Service of such a God is unhealthy.


You will see it as a dire necessity for others to love you if you believe that they will suffer in Hell forever if they do not.


The irrational belief that it is vital that we be loved and approved by others makes us demanding. If others do not give us special treatment we blame them for making us feel angry and hard done by. And it gets worse if we end up being demanding for God's sake too.

We can be demanding on ourselves - "I must speak like an expert in communication at the interview". That comes from our fear that we are not approved enough by God or others. If you feel let down by God, you can end up inflicting your demands on other people as a kind of compensation.


If God comes first as religion says then clearly it is a dire necessity to be approved and loved by him. Religion may say it is not a dire necessity for he approves and loves you anyway. But it does not mean what it says. When you say it is a dire necessity you are saying that you need his care but also to feel that he cares. You will not feel that he approves you completely for how can you if you believe you are a sinner?


Religion claims that life is useless without God or if there is no God. It claims that without God there can be no morality so we must live in fear and hope for a speedy death. This extremism is worrying but if God is absolute and infinite good then it is quite logical. That faith in God leads to such a horrific conclusion certainly shows that belief in God is logically faulty. It is odd how Vost can claim wanting the approval of others strongly is an unhealthy and irrational belief and then offer us a God who only makes it worse. He offers us Christianity which goes as far as to say that life and religion and faith and joy are useless if Jesus has not really risen from the dead. St Paul said that and the Church regards him as speaking under divine prompting.


# One must be successful and good enough in important things or one is an inadequate worthless person.

Vost says Jesus countered that belief by teaching that whoever humbles himself will be lifted up to be the greatest in Heaven (Matthew 18:4).


But humility means that you consider yourself worthless if you fail to do the important things! Also, Jesus said you are still an inadequate and worthless person if you succeed! He told his disciples that even if they do all God asks they must still consider themselves to be valueless servants of God who only did what was their duty.


An atheist can have the irrational belief that he or she must succeed at the big things in life or he or she is worthless. This problem should be stronger in the God believer who sees success and goodness as manifestations of the goodness of God - he or she is pressured to express God by doing well.

Vost says just as you love children just because they are children and not because of what they do so you should love people because they are people. But that is different. Loving children because of what they do is stupid for they are only children.


Christianity accuses those who have sexual thoughts or who masturbate or who miss Mass on Sunday of grave sin. The religion cruelly manipulates you to see yourself as useless for committing such harmless sins! Who does Vost think he is trying to fool?


We have seen how religion paints those with no belief in God as no-hopers and apostles of despair. This is to say that unless you are successful in getting meaning in life from religion your life is useless. To say your life is useless is to say you are useless.


# People must act with consideration and act with justice and are villains if they do not and they are the bad acts they do.


He says that Jesus countered that belief by teaching that whoever is without sin must cast the first stone at the sinner (John 8:7). This corresponds to the Sermon on the Mount doctrine that we must not judge unfairly for we will be judged unfairly if we do.


To say you are not a villain no matter what you do is a strange thing to say. And your bad acts are never the problem - you are the problem! Whoever pretends the acts are the problem not you is insulting you and thinking of you as a machine. That is worse than being maligned as a sinner.


Religion says you must love the sinner and hate the sin. Sinner means your sin is not the problem but what you say about yourself by sinning. So why is it not phrased as, "Love the sinner and hate the sinner"? Because that would render the hypocrisy too obvious.


Vost explains that we cannot judge one another as persons though we can advise them to give up sin and reprove their sins. But he only means we cannot see a person's heart so we cannot say that they hate God and oppose him. He wants our attitude to be, "If you deserve hate and condemnation I would give it to you. The only thing that is stopping me is my uncertainty about how bad you are."


Volt quotes the assertion of Mortimer Adler that God is love but strictly speaking this is a way of saying God loves for God makes all things and to make is an act of love. He quotes it with approval on page 131. It is interesting to note that if God is loving then loving is something God does. Love can then exist whether there is a God or not. Religion forbids us to accept that - it bans the truth. It says we must rest everything wholly on God. In reality this is forbidding us to admit that we are the creators of love and this is what matters not God. If you cannot truly see a person as loving in themselves and keep God out of it then you cannot expect to be believed when you say you love them though they are sinners. You don't even know how to love them when you see the love in them as God's work and not their's.


Volt seems to want us to deny that people are the bad acts they do to any extent. So if you burgle a pensioner you should not berate yourself or hate yourself because your sin did it not you. You must love yourself and hate your sin. You may as well say morality is a load of superstition.


# It is awful and really terrible if things do not happen in the way you wish and it goes wrong.


He says Christianity countered that belief by teaching that we must accept whatever God sends. See James 4:15. Jesus said in the Sermon that we must not worry for God clothes the flowers in beauty meaning we are in his hands so we must not fear. But he was talking to those who fear that God will not look after them. It has nothing to do with the following: if you wish things to go God's way and they do not then it is terrible. God is supposed to be so good that any failure to respect him is a grave evil.


If God hates evil and only puts up with it as a last resort then it is terrible when things go wrong. Belief in God gives you more reason to be upset about evil than not to be.


Volt says that it is good to have such a high tolerance of people doing evil to you that you can give your life for a stranger like Maximilan Kolbe did. Kolbe could not have understood what he was choosing. He was choosing to save a life not choosing to be tolerant of people hurting him.

# It is the people around me and events that are outside of me that are the cause of how bad I feel. I therefore cannot do much about my dysfunctional emotions and actions.


He says that Christianity endorses Wisdom 8:7 which teaches that righteousness makes you happy. He seems to think this verse is saying that it is how you respond to what you have no control over that is the cause of your unhappiness.


The notion that God controls all things and that our free will is even under his control in the sense that we can only use it because of him and not in spite of him completely endorses the irrational belief that it is God and not myself who makes me feel awful.


The Christians actually believe you need magical help to deal with your dysfunctions that you have got from original sin. So they agree that you can do nothing much about it so you need to just let God work his magic spells on you to make you a better person. Typically as in Catholicism, this magic is channelled by the priests and bishops through the seven sacraments. But is a person who is good because of magic really a good person? A good person makes themselves a good person. Despite all Christian attempts to make God and good a package they are not a package.




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