Pathology is the scientific investigation of any deviation from a healthy or normal condition in the human body or mind. It is necessary to study abnormality in order to discover its source, its varieties, its stages, and its cure. Roots of the term and related derivations are the following:
Gk. paqoV: suffering, deep feeling (L. passio, passionem, patientia: long suffering, bearing pain, enduring, cf. patience) - related to penqoV: grief (cf. pensive, penance, penitent)
paqein or pascein (originally paqskein): to suffer, endure misery
paqhtikoV or paqhtoV: pathetical, passionate (L. passibilis)
paqologein: to treat diseases, to practice pathology
Some derivatives are passionate, compassion, passive, sympathy, empathy, antipathy, telepathy, psychopathic, homeopathy, hydropathy, osteophathy, and pathetic. The word pathos in drama or literature means pity or compassion.
Abnormality in religion should be the subject of study, in order to retain or restore a healthy faith. Just as the human body can have diseases, monstrous growths, and misshapen limbs, so can religion be beset with abnormalities, such as heresies, superstitions, fantasies, delusions, primitive behavior, and degrading practices. Cultic sects are the sideshow freaks of religion that attract crippled people.
Deviation from orthodoxy is usually the result of ignorance, i.e., a lack of training in proper doctrine, belief, and religious heritage. (It is a surprising and alarming fact of life that all to often in a Baptist church, one has to defend Baptist heritage!)
A well-rounded Christian may be pictured as a human body with all its parts in the right proportions. The head is Reason; the heart is Faith, the spine is Resolution, the bended knees are Prayer, the legs are Endurance in running the race, the feet are Service, the right hand wields the sword of Justice and Truth, and the left hand holds out the cup of Ministry. The rationalist will have an oversized head, stiff knees, and a tiny heart. The fundamentalist will have an hardened heart, a little knob for a head, and a withered left hand. The cult member will be suffering from a brain disease and palpitations of the heart. (Spiritual exercise is the therapy needed to strengthen an atrophied limb, but sometimes radical surgery is needed, to excise the deformed part and effect a complete cure.)
Applying this same analogy to any denomination or local congregation, these same types of bodily deformities may be in evidence.
Richard L. Atkins
Religions/ Religious Pathology