Here are some insight I really like from Viktor Frankl (founded a school of psychotherapy and was a holocaust survivor) from Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning (previously titled “the Unconscious God”):
ON DYNAMICS OF BELIEF IN GOD
[M]any representatives of denominational and institutional religion . . often depict, not to say denigrate, God as a being who is primarily concerned with being believed in by the greatest possible number of believers, and along the lines of a specific creed, at that. “Just believe,” we are told, “and everything will be okay.” But alas, not only is this order based on a distortion of any sound concept of deity, but even more importantly it is doomed to failure: Obviously, there are certain activities that simply cannot be commanded, demanded, or ordered, and as it happens, the triad “faith, hope, and love” belongs to this class of activities that elude an approach with, so to speak, “command characteristics.” Faith, hope, and love cannot be established by command simply because they cannot be established at will. I cannot “will” to believe, I cannot “will” to hope, I cannot “will” to love – and at least of all can I “will” to will. Upon closer investigation it turns out that what underlies the attempt to establish faith, hope, love, and will by command is manipulative approach. The attempt to bring these states about at will, however, is ultimately based on an inappropriate objectification and reification of these human phenomena: They are turned into mere things, into mere objects. However, since faith, hope, love, and will are so-called “intentional” acts or activities, along the lines of the terminology coined by Edmund Husserl and Max Scheler, the founders of the school of “phenomenology”, these activities are directed to “intentional” referents – in other words, to objects of their own. To the extent that one makes intentional acts into objects, he loses sight of their objects. Nowhere, to my knowledge, is this brought home to us more strikingly than with the uniquely human phenomenon of laughter: You cannot order anyone to laugh – if you want him to laugh, you must tell him a joke.
But isn’t it, in a way, the same with religion? If you want people to have faith and belief in God, you cannot rely on preaching along the lines of a particular church but must, in the first place, portray your God believably – and you must act credibly yourself. In other words, you have to do very opposite of what so often is done by representatives of organized religion when they build up an image of God as someone who is primarily interested in being believed in and who is rigorously insists that those who believe in him be affiliated with a particular church. Small wonder that such representatives of religion behave as though they saw the main task of their own denomination as that of overriding other denominations.”
(emphasis added by me)
ON RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCES
Frankl was deeply against reducing religious experience to somatic or psychological states of the mind, or just “feelings”. In this book he makes some relatively brilliant analysis of human psychology in relationship with religious feeling. (Compelling chapters include “The Spiritual Unconscious”, “Unconscious Religiousness” and “Psychotherapy and Theology”. I agree with Frankl in that we have to be very wary of the tendency to simply classify all feelings and emotional responses as simple “feelings” drives etc. Frankl points out:
Many psychotherapists have intepreted all religion merely in terms of religious experience, be it conscious or unconscious and repressed, to infantile sexuality. To this one might say: No one will be able to make us believe that man is a sublimated animal once we can show that within him there is a repressed angel.
Frankl’s words can be seen as critical of LDS and Evangelical positions alike, but in some ways his insight is compatible with what Mittleberg is saying regarding reasons for belief. Does Frankl have a point regarding faith? Are his criticisms valid?