Friday, March 28, 2008

Narcissists and religion

Many Christians and followers of other religions consider themselves to be special to some kind of deity. They believe that this deity has an interest in their individual lives and answers their prayers and provides for their individual needs and desires like some kind of invisible cosmic servant. Many, if not most god believers have many narcissistic needs, such as:
  • being admired
  • aggrandizement
  • being special
  • being unique
  • status
  • superior image
  • superiority
  • special favors
  • favorable treatment
  • prestige
  • dispensations
  • privileges
  • prerogatives
  • acknowledgment of superiority by others
  • being above the rules
  • glory
  • wealth
  • position
  • power
  • success
  • ambition
  • competitiveness
On the other hand they have these fears and adversions:
  • being scorned
  • being criticized
  • being seen as common
  • being ordinary
  • being seen as inferior
  • failure
  • others not according them admiration and respect
While many atheists may have these same needs and aversions, we do not believe that there is a magical being that exists just to serve us or consider us special. Most of us do not want to be scorned, we get defensive when criticized, and we do like respect and admiration. However, when we don't get that from our family and friends or fellow human beings in general, the atheist is not going to resort to believing that some invisible friend has a special interest in our lives.

God believers seem to have a grandiose sense of self-importance and expects his/her beliefs to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements. God believers are preoccupied with fantasies of having "power, power wonder working power, in the precious blood of the Lamb." They are also preoccupied with the concept of "ideal love" which they believe can only come from their god.
Christians and Muslims in particular believe that they are "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (namely godly people, Jesus and God/Allah.) A narcissist requires excessive admiration. So does the evangelical Christian. They want to be looked at as special, above the average fellow human beings in the society in which they live. They believe themselves to be special in the way they believe and love their Jesus and God. And they believe that their Jesus and God will admire their faithfulness and devout way of life. I am not talking about all evangelicals. There are many who contribute much to society (however they still believe they will gain eternal rewards for the work they do). I am talking about the ones who think only of what's in it for themselves and their heavenly "rewards" that they feel they are so worthy of for merely existing and merely holding some magical beliefs.

This also includes a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations. The Christians and Muslim fundamentalists feel they are entitled to special attention, special treatment with unreasonable expectations of automatic compliance with their own personal set of religious beliefs. If we don't comply, they will shake their heads and tell us we are doomed to go to a terrible place of eternal torment and suffering for simply not believing the way they do.

The narcissist is interpersonally exploitive, for example the religious person takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends. First of all, they need to reinforce or validate their own beliefs. It makes it easier to believe something that is absurd if you get a lot of other people to believe it. Evangelicals and fundamentalists try to convince others to accept their beliefs for their own personal reasons. They think somehow it will gain them favor with their god. I haven't really figured out their entire reasons for evangelizing and see it as only self-serving because they think they are being better Christians by spreading the word, therefore better chance of going to heaven when they die.

I always ask Christians if they would still believe in their god if there wasn't anything in it for the self. Some answer yes, but most just ignore the question and blow it off. The neurotic search for glory is the comprehensive drive to actualize the idealized self. Besides self-idealization it consists of the need for perfection, neurotic ambition, and the drive for vindictive triumph. An example of this would be how the Christian believes they are going to triumph over death while those who don't believe as they do are going to suffer in the pits of Hell.

Here is an excerpt from
The Narcissist, God, and Social Institutions By Sam Vaknin
The narcissist is prone to magical thinking. He regards himself in terms of "being chosen" or of "being destined for greatness". He believes that he has a "direct line" to God, even, perversely, that God "serves" him in certain junctions and conjunctures of his life, through divine intervention. He believes that his life is of such momentous importance, that it is micro-managed by God. The narcissist likes to play God to his human environment. In short, narcissism and religion go well together, because religion allows the narcissist to feel unique.

This is a private case of a more general phenomenon. The narcissist likes to belong to groups or to frameworks of allegiance. He derives easy and constantly available Narcissistic Supply from them. Within them and from their members he is certain to garner attention, to gain adulation, to be castigated or praised. His False Self is bound to be reflected by his colleagues, co-members, or fellows.

This is no mean feat and it cannot be guaranteed in other circumstances. Hence the narcissist's fanatic and proud emphasis of his membership. If a military man, he shows off his impressive array of medals, his impeccably pressed uniform, the status symbols of his rank. If a clergyman or a religious man, he is overly devout.

This self-centered perception also caters to the narcissist's streak of grandiosity, proving that he is, indeed, worthy of such incessant and detailed attention, supervision and intervention.

Indirectly, God is perceived by the narcissist to be at his service. Moreover, in a process of holographic appropriation, the narcissist views himself as a microcosm of his affiliation, of his group, or his frame of reference. The narcissist is likely to say that he IS the army, the nation, the people, the struggle, history, or (a part of) God.

Every act of the narcissist is perceived by him to be significant, every utterance of momentous consequence, every thought of revolutionary calibre. He feels part of a grand design, a world plan and the frame of affiliation, the group, of which he is a member, must be commensurately grand. Its proportions and properties must resonate with his. Its characteristics must justify his and its ideology must conform to his pre-conceived opinions and prejudices.


tina FCD said...

I was thinking the same thing while watching the news of the mistaken identity of two young women that were in a car accident, near here. The survivor said that she was, for lack of a better word, special, in that god saved her. But, ok, so did god choose to kill the other woman? So he could swoop her into heaven and be with him?? Which one is the "lucky" one?

Stardust said...

I saw that news story, too. That's that narcissistic attitude alright when she thinks she is so special. Just like people who pray to thank their god for the food they have when there are starving people all over this planet. They think that their god specially gave them food while allowing millions to go hungry.

Tommy said...

And the god they worship is the most narcissistic being of all.

Imagine a being so powerful that it can create this vast universe that we live in, and then on one small planet in one galaxy among millions, this all powerful being needs us flawed humans to love and worship it. It's like humans getting upset if they find out that they are not held in awe and reverence by amoebas.

On several occasions, I have compared the god of the Bible, and by extension, the Quran, as being like the Charlie X character in one of the original Star Trek episodes. He has immense powers combined with an easily bruised ego, and he hurts or kills any one he feels has offended him.

Another baffling thing about fundies is that they take flaws that when manifested humans, such as jealousy, anger, vanity etc., and then consider them to be virtues when manifested by god. It is wrong for a person to be jealous, but if a certain group of semi-nomadic tribesmen worship a different god, the creator of the universe is expected to become jealous of it and rightly so.

And the titles they use to refer to god, such as "sovereign lord" and other monarchical titles. And these are people that live in a country that rebelled against kingship and they regularly wail about the "guvmint" infringing on their freedoms, and yet the god they worship has all the qualities of a Stalinist dictator. "Love me and worship me not only in your deeds, but in your thoughts" about sums it up. To not believe in this god is a thought crime that warrants eternal punishment in the eyes of these people.

Unbelievable. Now that I think of it, I should probably do a post on this at my blog.

Stardust said...

It's like humans getting upset if they find out that they are not held in awe and reverence by amoebas.

Great analogy!