25 Years Ago in Free Inquiry

“Western society has been deeply influenced by Christian doctrine, operating, as it has been, relatively unchallenged for most of the past two millennia. … [M]any of the destructive teachings of Christianity have shaped social attitudes in a variety of spheres and in ways that still adversely affect people, even those who never darken a church door. Most of these teachings are antagonistic to healthy human psychological and social development. When this leads to conflicts severe enough to produce symptoms, many people are able to get the medical and psychological help they need. However, for many practicing Christians this is impossible; they must cling to the abusive faith, much like the abused child clings to the abusing parent. To get help for what Christianity has done to them would be to repudiate that faith, and this they cannot do.”

—Wendell W. Watters, “A Response to Schumaker,” Free Inquiry, Volume 13, No. 3 (Summer 1993)

Editor’s Note: The Canadian psychiatrist Wendell W. Watters (d. 2012) joined Albert Ellis, the inventor of rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT), in rebutting an essay in the same issue by Australian psychologist John F. Schumaker. Schumaker had surveyed then-current research, summarizing its contention that religious believers enjoy markedly better mental health than atheists. Today, realization is growing that such measures of mental well-being track not belief or unbelief but rather epistemic confidence; atheists and humanists confident in their life stances tend to display higher levels of mental well-being, as do confident believers.


“Western society has been deeply influenced by Christian doctrine, operating, as it has been, relatively unchallenged for most of the past two millennia. … [M]any of the destructive teachings of Christianity have shaped social attitudes in a variety of spheres and in ways that still adversely affect people, even those who never darken a church …

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