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God’s Emotions: Second Series Concerning the Psychology of Religion By Valerie Tarico

God’s Emotions: Second Series Concerning the Psychology of Religion By Valerie Tarico

This series of articles and videos is meant to compliment the series titled Christian Belief Through the Lens of Cognitive Science.  In this nine part series, Dr. Tarico examines human emotions and the Biblical through the lens of human emotions.  She states that one’s concept of a god is shape through three things:  personal upbringing and present state of mind, culture, and species.  She focuses on the last dimension of what shapes humans’ god concepts after examining Christian belief.

In the coming segments, she addresses the following subjects:

  1. What is psychology capable of telling us about the mind of God
  2. Do Christians Really Think God Has Emotions?
  3. Emotions 101— form, function and evolutionary psychobiology
  4. God’s Temper –Social hierarchies, power, and anger
  5. What Pleases God and high status humans
  6. Stepford Jesus? (love, narcissism, introjected parents)
  7. God Hates the Same People I Do (cognitive dissonance theory and projective processes)
  8. If God were a Dog –or a Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

In part two, Tarico discusses what psychology can and cannot say about God.

Many scholars of Christianity deal with big theological and philosophical questions:  Based on our best ability to follow logic and detect fallacy, what is possible?  If we eliminate self contradiction and faulty reasoning, what is left of our knowledge of the supernatural?  They ask not only, “Does the Christian God exist?” but “Can the Christian God exist and if so in what form?”  These are the questions that apologists and counter-apologists have been wrestling with and arguing over for so many centuries.

Psychology, by contrast, doesn’t deal with what is possible; psychology deals in practicalities and probabilities. It asks, “What can we know about how people (and sometimes other animals) function within this natural world?”  It neither assumes nor denies the existence of a supernatural realm because the methods of science are not applicable to this question, and the findings of science are agnostic on this question. That said, it does assume that if we have sufficient natural explanations for natural events, then we don’t assert supernatural causes as well.

In part three, Tarico asks, “Do Christians Really Think God has Emotions?

In this part of the series, Tarico asked, “What is a person?”  Then she discussed two definitions of a person and Christians relating to a human-like deity.

When we are children, one of the ways that we acquire independence from our flesh-and-blood parents is by creating virtual copies of them in our minds.  Psychologists call these “introjected” parents.  There are developmental advantages to this.  When you can hear mom in your head saying, “Don’t cross the street alone,” then you don’t need her hovering over you lest you step a foot off the sidewalk.  The virtual mom takes over the work of the real-world mom.  The downside, of course, is that we often spend years of adulthood trying to get our parents’ voices out of our heads, but without this ability to have a relationship with a virtual authority figure, children would be stuck. There’s a natural flow from an introjected father to a heavenly father, and research suggests that whether a believer’s earthly father was kind or cruel, authoritarian or affectionate, helps to define the personality of his god.

Tarico stated that most apologists talk about an abstract deity, most Christians possess a humanoid deity concept. However, she quotes a few people, both scientists and theologian who described an impersonal deity as their god concept.

She also discusses why the argument of God’s emotions in the Bible are just metaphor is a weak argument, adding that we owe it to ourselves to figure out what it means when a Christian says, “God loves you.”

In part four, Tarico discusses what emotions are and that the Bible talks about God’s emotions with Christians believe that God possess emotions, just as they do.  In this video, she talks about brain science and the history of Psychology.

Emotions are evolved, functional feedback processes that serve the well-being of sentient, mobile animals, and social animals in particular.  Consider the parts of this definition.

  • Evolved – Emotions have been subject to selective pressures on our ancestors and therefore can be assumed to increase reproductive success.
  • Functional – Emotions have a practical purpose (or several) in the service of surviving and thriving.
  • Feedback processes –Emotions are a means of representing information about a changing internal and external context.
  • Sentient andMobile– Emotions have practical value only for creatures that are aware and able to alter/move in response to external conditions.
  • Social – Emotions are particularly useful for communal species.

Furthermore, emotions have a physical component, a psychological component, and a behavioral component.

She also discusses the most basic emotions of humans, why they are basic emotions, how emotions operate, and what emotions are for in the lives of humans.

Cognition without emotion doesn’t get us very far. Damage to emotion centers in the brain can mean that even intelligent people can’t learn from their mistakes and they make harmful social and financial decisions. Affective scientists say that emotion is key in three kinds of processes that help animals, including humans, to survive and thrive.

Continue to part two of this summery of Dr. Valerie Tarico's series concerning God's Emotions.

About Mriana

Mriana is a humanist and the author of "A Source of Misery", who grew up in the Church of God, Anderson Indiana. After she became an adult, she joined the Episcopal Church, but later left the Church and became a humanist. She has two grown sons and raises cats. Mriana raised her sons in the Episcopal Church, but in their teen years, they left the Church and she soon followed. One of her sons became a "Tao Buddhist" and the other a None, creating his own world view. She enjoys writing, reading, science, philosophy, psychology, and other subjects. Mriana is also an animal lover, who cares for their welfare as living beings, who are part of the earth. She is a huge Star Trek fan in a little body.
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