Isn't religion an invention of people just to meet their psychological needs?
Christianity does indeed offer the purest route to personal fulfillment. Yet, Christianity, in particular, is filled with paradoxes and difficult demands. As Charles Colson (pamphlet in the resource list) asks, "If we were making up our own god, would we create one with such harsh demands for justice, righteousness, service and self-sacrifice as we find in the biblical texts?"
Jesus said: Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek. Pride is a sin. If you want to become rich, give away your money. If you truly want to be great, you must be a servant. He said that if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! And He said being persecuted in His name is a blessing. (Wow!)
According to Jesus, the rich are poor; the up are down; the down are up; the self-righteous are sinners; the sinners are forgiven. The last are first and the first are last.
This kind of talk is not what one would expect to draw throngs of people to meet their psychological needs! This is the opposite of much of modern psychology's emphasis on "self-esteem" or "I'm OK, You're OK." Indeed, as Charles Colson says, the words of Jesus challenge one to the very core of existence, putting at risk one's whole reason for living.
R. C. Sproul points out that the question of origin of religion is really not a psychological one but an historical one. The truth of Christianity is not determined by how it could have started, but how it did start.
Which is the greater psychological crutch—Christianity or atheism? We submit that atheism and agnosticism are really the philosophies to be challenged. Is not atheism a psychological invention to get rid of moral obligation? Because of our egocentricity, God can appear as an awesome threat to us. Atheism and agnosticism want to cover that up by refuting God.
The greatest psychological threat to man is the fear of loss of one's autonomy. This fear is even greater than the loss of meaning. This is the psychological background as to why the atheist is willing to suppress the truth that is clear to an unbiased observer.
We have been addressing questions from atheists and other skeptics for many years here at our Faith Facts website. We have noticed that questions from these folks usually contain these elements: (1) The objections to Christianity are based on hearsay from sources that even critical scholars have rejected. In other words, they do not have the facts. (2) They refuse to do their own research, thus are not interested in honest inquiry. (3) They have not read the New Testament, and even demonstrate an interesting fear of doing so. (4) They have a presupposition of philosophical naturalism, and have not considered the logical nihilistic implications of their own philosophy. (4) They are usually angry--at God, or Christians, or somebody. This anger is quite evident in their emails. (5) The more we dialogue, the more we discover that the objections they give up front are not really what is bothering them; there is something deeper at issue. The conclusion is clear enough: Their beliefs are based on psychological issues—not on history, logic, or evidence.
Everybody has a religion. If they reject traditional religions, they merely adopt something else. For example, they might adopt libertarianism (aggrandizement and autonomy of the self), or statism (allegiance to government as the agent of redemption), etc. The question is, which religion (a) has the strongest support in reason and evidence, and (b) provides the most good for the most people?
Here's a question you can ask an atheist that may be revealing as well as a door opener for further discussion: "Are you glad that atheism is the truth?" See One Question.