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Secular Health and Sacred Belief?

A Study of Religion and Mental Illness in Modern Irish Society

Áine Lorié

Social exclusion is one of the most significant problems facing individuals with mental illness in contemporary Ireland. In the era of the growing secular medical-industrial complex and its alienating effects, it is important to strengthen confidence in mental health services that promote social inclusion, specifically for stigmatised groups. As mainstream facilities remain attached to a biomedical framework, religious outlets operating in the voluntary sector may serve as an alternative option.
This book examines religion’s therapeutic potential, concentrating on aspects of Catholicism as manifestations of Max Weber’s prosocial concept of ‘brotherliness’. This line of enquiry is approached both on a macro level, looking at institutional religion, and on a micro level, looking at personal beliefs. The author examines such issues as the power of the institutional church in disseminating collectively orientated ideas; the public response to mental illness in Ireland over the past two centuries; the tendency within the field of psychology to pathologise belief systems and instrumentalise religious coping; and processes of secularisation, socialisation and ritualisation, which can either assist in or hinder the subjective adaptation of religious ideas. The theoretical arguments are contextualised by in-depth interviews with members of the «peerled» mental health group GROW.


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Acknowledgements vii Introduction 1 Chapter 1 A Socio-Historical Review of Mental Illness in Irish Society and a Sociological View of Mental Health and Illness 15 The Protestant Ethos and the “Lunatic Poor” 15 The Rise of a Catholic Ethos 39 Secular Ethos, Secular Health? 47 The Sociology of Mental Health and Illness 58 Chapter 2 Secular and Profane Treatment 73 Psychology and the (Western) Biomedical Model 73 Professionalisation and the Impact on the Doctor–Patient Relationship 79 Medicalisation 88 Religious Coping 97 Chapter 3 A Sociological View of Religious Meaning 111 Weber’s Brotherliness and the Catholic Common Good 111 Religious Socialisation, Education and Secularisation 119 Ritual Activities and Ritual Power 135 Sacred Ritual Activities and Coping 144 vi Chapter 4 GROW and Sacred Belief 157 Introduction to Fieldwork 157 GROW Meetings 170 GROW’s Textual Messaging 179 GROW Interviews 189 Chapter 5 GROW: A Brotherly Institution 205 The GROW Ritual 205 “The Bible” of GROW 219 The Personal Experiences of GROW Members 230 Conclusion 247 Appendix 251 Bibliography 253 Index 275

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