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Experiment links Christianity, OCD because of discomfort with incestuous thoughts

August 12, 2010

Dr. Jonathan Abramowitz, chairman of the psychology department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a graduate student conducted an experiment in which 43 highly religious Protestant students and 30 atheist and agnostic students were asked to contemplate committing incest. Because the Protestant students exhibited greater discomfort, they were found to have dysfunctional thought-action fusion, which the experimenters associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, according to the John William Pope Center for Higher Educational Policy.

Writing for the Pope Center, Deborah Tyler notes:

The authors’ anti-Christian bias becomes evident in the second paragraph of their article. They are looking for TAF [thought-action fusion] in “religious institutions which impose explicit moral standards for thinking and behaving, which are inculcated by authority figures (e.g., clergy) and include the possibility of punishment (e.g., damnation) [that] might foster the development of rigid and maladaptive beliefs about thoughts and their influence.” To demonstrate the relationship between Christian morality and maladaptive TAF, they cite the 10th commandment against coveting and Jesus’s words from the Sermon on the Mount, “I say to you that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery already in his heart” (Matthew 5:2[7]-28). Later, they cite two more examples: [1] John 3:15, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer,” and Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”


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  • Posted by: FredC - Aug. 13, 2010 10:37 AM ET USA

    The experiment itself was immoral, asking people to imagine incestual behavior. The researchers should be chastized.

  • Posted by: cloudchaser64 - Aug. 13, 2010 12:07 AM ET USA

    It's well-known that seminarians do poorly on the schizo-affective scale because they maintain a strong belief in God on the MMPI. I've always chuckled at that one.

  • Posted by: stpetric - Aug. 12, 2010 11:25 PM ET USA

    Hm. Discomfort at the thought of committing incest would seem to be a *good* thing. Then again, maybe I'm just a neurotic Christian.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Aug. 12, 2010 9:47 PM ET USA

    In other words, they found what they went looking for. Or, as the Queen in Alice in Wonderland says, Sentence first, verdict afterward.

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Aug. 12, 2010 9:58 AM ET USA

    Considering the bias and the lack of real science here is not this a case of the proverbial "inmates running the asylum." Isaiah 5:20 states: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."