Divine abuse? The question of psychological abuse in Divine relationships
Raitt, Joshua Michael
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The most well-known premises of this thesis are two realities of human relationality. The first is essential to many expressions of theistic religious faith: relationships with gods can become intimate. The second is tragic: intimate relationships (such as between parents and children or between romantic partners) can become psychologically abusive. Naming these realities at once raises the question: can relationships with gods become psychologically abusive? If so, how so? Psychologists of religion increasingly study experiences of psychological harm in relating to gods but have not formulated the empirical question of experiencing psychological abuse by gods. Meanwhile, this question has received serious and thoughtful consideration in the writings of theologians, philosophers of religion, and biblical scholars and appears online as the topic of various opinion pieces and blog posts. Several of these authors have argued by analogy and/or by anecdote that the God of Jewish and/or Christian faith—or some version of this God—is indeed abusive. But without further theorization, neither analogical arguments, however valid, nor anecdotal evidence, however vast, can guide empirical research into possible experiences of psychological abuse in intimate relationships with gods. The central argument of this thesis is for the possibility and prima facie plausibility of supposing that some individuals undergo psychological abuse in their Divine relationships. For this argument, I take insights from psychodynamic theories of intimate Divine relationships and delve into the literature surrounding experiences of psychological abuse. For purposes of clinical interpretation and empirical research, I define and model Divine abuse.
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