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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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Chapter 3 A Sociological View of Religious Meaning


This chapter aims to incorporate the perspective of sociology of religion in an ef fort to explain how specific religious, or rather sacred, coping mecha- nisms work as ritualistic materialisations of a brotherly Catholic ethos. Furthermore, sacred activities may very well serve as counter-forces to the dubious process of secularisation and thereby function as agents of sacralisa- tion. Perhaps these sacred rituals are made pervasively accessible via religious socialisation and education in Irish society, especially for those brought up in an explicit and socially legitimated Catholic habitus. An examination of these subjects will take into account the threefold dimensions of religion: macro, meso, and micro. However, the latter will not be fully developed until the subsequent chapter on GROW. This chapter aims to uncover how sacred activities might help those with mental health problems in terms of these mechanisms’ advantageous or remedial qualities, which centre on social inclusion and personal empowerment. Weber’s Brotherliness and the Catholic Common Good Having previously described religion from a predominately macro-insti- tutional perspective, I will begin to ease my way into addressing religion and religious teachings from a micro point of view. We may thereby have a better understanding of the fate of the individual in the social order, namely in terms of one’s subjective reality in comparison to one’s social role. But beforehand it is imperative to understand the key theological princi- ples constructed from within the Catholic Church, which in turn shape 112 Chapter 3 internalised, personal religiosity. In relation to the marginalised...

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