Psychotherapy Is Religion[1]

The Bible is full of explanations of why people behave the way they do and how they change. Beginning with Genesis, God demonstrated the basic problem of mankind: separation from God through sin. And, God provided the only lasting remedy for change: a restored relationship with Him by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. A person’s separation from God or his active relationship with God will affect every attitude, every choice, and every action. The study of mankind from any other perspective will bring about a distorted view. Although we can observe, record and report external aspects of human nature, we must turn to Scripture for perfectly accurate explanations of why people behave the way they do and how they can change. Psychotherapy is a false substitute for the ways of God.

Psychotherapy deals with the very same areas of concern already dealt with in Scripture. Explanations of why people behave the way they do and how they change have concerned philosophers, theologians, cultists, and occultists throughout the centuries. Since God has given an “Instruction Book” on how to live, all psychotherapeutic ideas about the why’s of behavior and the how’s of change must be viewed as religious in nature. Whereas the Bible claims divine revelation, psychotherapy falsely claims scientific substantiation as we have shown in our writings. Nevertheless, when it comes to behavior and attitudes and morals and values, we are dealing with religion, either the Christian faith or any one of a number of other religions.

Once the false façade of science is removed, psychotherapy is seen for what it really is: a faith system and therefore, by definition, a religion.

One academic after another regard psychotherapy as a religion. Professor William Epstein, in his book Psychotherapy as Religion, affirms that psychotherapy is religion. Epstein says, “Rather than a successful clinical practice of psychic, emotional, and mental healing, psychotherapy is a civil religion—a social and political fable.”[2] Those who look at psychotherapy from an analytical, research point of view have long recognized the religious nature of psychotherapy.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung understood the religious nature of psychotherapy and said:

Religions are systems of healing for psychic illness…. That is why patients force the psychotherapist into the role of a priest, and expect and demand of him that he shall free them from their distress. That is why we psychotherapists must occupy ourselves with problems which, strictly speaking, belong to the theologian.[3]

Note that Jung used the word religions rather than Christianity. Jung himself repudiated Christianity and explored other forms of religious experience, including the occult. Without throwing out the religious nature of man, Jung dispensed with the God of the Bible and assumed his own role as priest and followed his own spirit guide named Philemon.[4]

Because psychotherapy deals with existential questions about the meaning of life, values, and behavior, it is religion in theory and in practice. Every branch of psychotherapy is a religion, and therefore combining Christianity with psychotherapy should never be done. The so-called integration of Christianity and psychotherapy is an affront to God and denies His Word . Psychotherapy cannot be performed and people cannot be transformed without affecting a person’s beliefs. No psychotherapy and no psychotherapist would say that what they do and what they believe does not involve ethics, morals, and values. Because psychotherapy involves ethics, morals, and values, it is religion.

Psychotherapy an Anti-Christ Alternative?

In his book The Myth of Psychotherapy, psychiatrist Thomas Szasz refers to the dangers of psychotherapy as religion:

It is not merely a religion that pretends to be a science, it is actually a fake religion that seeks to destroy true religion.[5]

Szasz warns about “the implacable resolve of psychotherapy to rob religion of as much as it can, and to destroy what it cannot.”[6] Christopher Lasch, author of The Culture of Narcissism, says, “Therapy constitutes an antireligion.”[7] It is a fake religion that is “anti” the true religion of the Bible.

Dr Arthur Burton says: “Psychotherapy … promises salvation in this life in the same way that theology promises it in the afterlife.”[8] It is not only a substitute method of helping troubled souls; it is a replacement religion. Szasz contends:

Contrition, confession, prayer, faith, inner resolution, and countless other elements are expropriated and renamed as psychotherapy; whereas certain observances, rituals, taboos, and other elements of religion are demeaned and destroyed as symptoms of neurotic or psychotic “illness.”[9]

In endorsing our book The Psychological Way/The Spiritual Way, Szasz wrote:

The way we now conceive of psychotherapy may be as important morally and politically, as had been the way eighteenth-century Americans conceived of Blacks. Then, Blacks were classified as chattel rather than as people; now various human encounters are classified as psychotherapies rather than religions. Although I do not share the Bobgans’ particular religious views, I do share their conviction that the human relations we now call ‘psychotherapy’ are, in fact, matters of religion—and that we mislabel them as ‘therapeutic’ at great risk to our spiritual well-being” (bold added).[10]

From its very beginning psychological theories and methods of counseling created doubt about Christianity. Each great innovator of psychological theories sought an understanding about mankind apart from the revealed Word of God. Each psychotherapy is an unbiblical system to explain the nature of man and how to bring about change. Men like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung eroded confidence in Christianity and established psychotherapeutic systems in direct opposition to the Word of God. Psychological, scientific sounding language disguises the religious nature of psychotherapy.

Freud reduced religious beliefs to illusions and called religion “the obsessional neurosis of humanity.”[11] Jung, an early follower of Freud, however, viewed all religions as collective mythologies. He did not believe they were real in essence, but that they could affect the human personality. While Freud viewed religion as the source of mental problems, Jung believed that religion was a solution. Freud argued that religions are illusionary and therefore evil. Jung, on the other hand, contended that all religions are imaginary but good. Both positions are anti-Christian. One denies Christianity and the other mythologizes it.

Religious bias colored the psychological systems of Freud and Jung and all the other major psychotherapy theorists. They were not dealing with science, but with beliefs, values, attitudes, and behavior. And as they were working in areas about which the Bible already gives the authoritative Word of God, they were denying God and developing antibiblical religions that draw Christians away from Him and into self.

In her book The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen indicates the impetus psychotherapy received from those who sought to repudiate Christianity by saying, “It appears that certain of the most influential pioneers in American psychotherapy found in it an ideal vehicle for renouncing their own Christian upbringing in the name of science.”[12]

Psychologist Carl Rogers, an extremely influential pioneer of psychotherapy, repudiated Christianity. While attending Union Theological Seminary, he and some of his fellow classmates “thought themselves right out of religious work.”[13] He did not find what he was looking for in Christianity and thus turned away from his Christian upbringing and Christian calling.[14] Rogers renounced Christianity and became one of the most respected leaders of psychotherapy, particularly among Christians. He confessed, “I could not work in a field where I would be required to believe in some specified religious doctrine.”18 Rogers saw the self as the arbiter of truth and declared: “Neither the Bible nor the prophets—neither Freud nor research—neither the revelations of God nor man—can take precedence over my own direct experience.”[15] Roger’s statement reveals the self-centered nature of psychotherapy.

A number of other authors describe this shift from the Christian faith to a faith in psychological counseling. The authors of Cults and Cons note this shift:

For many, traditional religion no longer offers relevant answers and more and more people are seeking answers in strange, new packages. Thousands, if not millions, are turning to that part of psychology which promises the answer and an effortless, painless ride into the Promised Land, perfectly meeting our present and prevailing need for quick solutions to hard problems (emphasis theirs).[16]

Martin Gross in his book The Psychological Society observes:

When educated man lost faith in formal religion, he required a substitute belief that would be as reputable in the last half of the twentieth century as Christianity was in the first. Psychology and psychiatry have now assumed that role.[17]

From its inception, psychotherapy was developed as an alternative means of healing and help, not as an addition or complement to Christianity. Because they rest on different foundations, move in contrasting directions, and rely on opposing belief systems, psychotherapy and Christianity are not now, nor were they ever, natural companions in helping individuals. The faith once delivered to the saints was displaced by a substitute faith, often disguised as medicine or science, but based upon foundations which are in direct contradiction to the Bible. The research cited throughout our book PsychoHeresy undergirds the fact that psychological explanations about life and psychological solutions to life’s problems are questionable at best, detrimental at worst, and spiritual counterfeits at least.

Pseudo-Faith versus True Faith

Psychotherapy should be seen for what it is: an anti-Christ, spurious self-serving religion which opposes, distorts, subverts, and weakens the “faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). Indeed, this false religion of psychoheresy has deceived and seduced much of the church to the detriment of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the believers’ walk with Him.

Psychological theories and methods continue to entice Christians to operate in the flesh rather than according to their new life in Christ. Rather than being directly antagonistic, however, promoters of psychotherapy have covertly weakened the faith. By offering a substitute for the cross of Christ, purveyors of the psychological way encourage the pseudo faith, similar to that described by A. W. Tozer:

Many of us Christians have become extremely skillful in arranging our lives so as to admit the truth of Christianity without being embarrassed by its implications. We arrange things so that we can get on well enough without divine aid, while at the same time ostensibly seeking it. We boast in the Lord but watch carefully that we never get caught depending on Him. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Pseudo faith always arranges a way out to serve in case God fails it. Real faith knows only one way and gladly allows itself to be stripped of any second way or makeshift substitutes. For true faith, it is either God or total collapse. And not since Adam first stood up on the earth has God failed a single man or woman who trusted Him.

The man of pseudo faith will fight for his verbal creed but refuse flatly to allow himself to get into a predicament where his future must depend upon that creed being true. He always provides himself with secondary ways of escape so he will have a way out if the roof caves in.

What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they know they must do at the last day.[18]

Christianity is more than a religion. It is a relationship with the Creator of the universe. It is relationship with God the Father through the costly price of the cross of Christ. It is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Christians are called to live by the very life of God. Paul prayed for believers to live by faith:

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9-14.)

Paul then directed believers regarding their walk in Christ:

As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2:6-10.)

Christ has provided believers with all they need to live a life pleasing to God that will lead to a glorious eternity with Him. But Satan is out to kill and destroy with deceptions that may even blind the elect. Once again, we cry out to believers: open your spiritual eyes and see what is hidden in plain sight. See the difference between two religions, between the Christ-centered faith and a religion centered in self; between the infallible truth of God and the fallible wisdom of men; between the God of the Bible and the god of this world. Just as Paul warned believers: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ,” we have been warning believers of this modern-day version of the philosophy and vain deceit of psychotherapy, which is also after the tradition or ways of men rather than the ways of God and “not after Christ.” Beware lest the religions of psychotherapy deceive and destroy an active, living, trusting faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who not only gave His life on the cross, but gives His life to every believer every day and throughout eternity!

[1] Partially excerpted from Martin and Deidre Bobgan. PsychoHeresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity, Revised and Expanded, 2012, Chapter 7, “Psychotherapy Is Religion.”

[2] William M. Epstein. Psychotherapy as Religion. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press, 2006, p. ix.

[3] Carl G. Jung, “Psychotherapists or the Clergy,” Modern Man in Search of a Soul. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1933, pp. 240, 241.

[4] C. G. Jung. Memories, Dreams, Reflections, ed. by Aniela Jaffe, trans. by Richard and Clara Winston. New York: Pantheon, 1963, p. 183.

[5] Thomas Szasz. The Myth of Psychotherapy. Garden City: Doubleday/Anchor Press, 1978, p. 28.

[6] Ibid., p. 188.

[7] Christopher Lasch. The Culture of Narcissism. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1979, p. 13.

[8] Arthur Burton, ed. Encounter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1969, p. 11.

[9] Szasz, op. cit., p. 188.

[10] Thomas Szasz endorsement of. The Psychological Way/The Spiritual Way by Martin and Deidre Bobgan, Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1979, back cover.

[11] Sigmund Freud. The Future of an Illusion. Translated and edited by James Strachey. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1961, p. 43.

[12] Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1982, p. 49.

[13] Carl Rogers. On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961 p. 8.

[14] Calvin S. Hall and Gardner Lindzey. Theories of Personality. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1957, p. 476.

[15] Carl Rogers quoted by Joyce Milton. The Road to Malpsychia: Humanistic Psychology and Our Discontents. San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2002, 2003, p. 13.

[16] Kenneth Cinnamon and Dave Farson. Cults and Cons. Chicago: Nelson Mall, 1979, cover.

[17] Martin Gross. The Psychological Society. New York: Random House, 1978, p. 9.

[18] A. W. Tozer. The Root of the Righteous. Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, Inc., 1955, pp. .49-50