Why Things Matter: The Place of Values in Science, Psychoanalysis and Religion

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A rather different approach, taken, for example, by Glock and Stark , has been to list different dimensions of religion rather than different religious orientations, which relates to how an individual may manifest different forms of being religious. Glock and Stark's famous typology described five dimensions of religion — the doctrinal, the intellectual, the ethical-consequential, the ritual, and the experiential. In later work these authors subdivided the ritual dimension into devotional and public ritual, and also clarified that their distinction of religion along multiple dimensions was not identical to distinguishing religious orientations.

Although some psychologists of religion have found it helpful to take a multidimensional approach to religion for the purpose of psychometric scale design, there has been, as Wulff explains, considerable controversy about whether religion should really be seen as multidimensional. What we call religious experiences can differ greatly. Some reports exist of supernatural happenings that it would be difficult to explain from a rational, scientific point of view.

On the other hand, there also exist the sort of testimonies that simply seem to convey a feeling of peace or oneness — something which most of us, religious or not, may possibly relate to. In categorizing religious experiences it is perhaps helpful to look at them as explicable through one of two theories: the Objectivist thesis or the Subjectivist thesis. An objectivist would argue that the religious experience is a proof of God's existence.

However, others have criticised the reliability of religious experiences. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes asked how it was possible to tell the difference between talking to God in a dream, and dreaming about talking to God. The Subjectivist view argues that it is not necessary to think of religious experiences as evidence for the existence of an actual being whom we call God. From this point of view, the important thing is the experience itself and the effect that it has on the individual.

Many have looked at stage models, like those of Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg , to explain how children develop ideas about God and religion in general. The best known stage model of spiritual or religious development is that of James W. The book-length study contains a framework and ideas which have generated a good deal of response from those interested in religion [ who?

James Fowler proposes six stages of faith development:. Intuitive-projective 2. Symbolic Literal 3. Synthetic Conventional 4. Individuating 5. Paradoxical conjunctive 6. Although there is evidence that children up to the age of twelve years do tend to be in the first two of these stages [ citation needed ] , adults over the age of sixty-one show considerable variation in displays of qualities of Stages 3 and beyond [ citation needed ] , most adults remaining in Stage 3 Synthetic Conventional.

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Fowler's model has generated some empirical studies, and fuller descriptions of this research and of these six stages can be found in Wulff Fowler's scientific research has been criticized for methodological weaknesses. Of Fowler's six stages, only the first two found empirical support [ citation needed ] , and these were heavily based upon Piaget's stages of cognitive development. The tables and graphs in the book were presented in such a way that the last four stages appeared to be validated, but the requirements of statistical verification of the stages were not met.

His study was not published in a journal, so was not peer-reviewed. Other critics [ who? Nevertheless, the concepts Fowler introduced seemed to hit home with those in the circles of academic religion [ who? Other theorists in developmental psychology have suggested that religiosity comes naturally to young children.

Specifically, children may have a natural-born conception of mind-body dualism, which lends itself to beliefs that the mind may live on after the body dies. In addition, children have a tendency to see agency and human design where there is not, and prefer a creationist explanation of the world even when raised by parents who do not. Researchers have also investigated attachment system dynamics as a predictor of the religious conversion experience throughout childhood and adolescence.

One hypothesis is the correspondence hypothesis, [47] which posits that individuals with secure parental attachment are more likely to experience a gradual conversion experience.


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Under the correspondence hypothesis, internal working models of a person's attachment figure is thought to perpetuate his or her perception of God as a secure base. Another hypothesis relating attachment style to the conversion experience is the compensation hypothesis, [48] which states that individuals with insecure attachments are more likely to have a sudden conversion experience as they compensate for their insecure attachment relationship by seeking a relationship with God.

Researchers have tested these hypotheses using longitudinal studies and individuals' self narratives of their conversation experience. For example, one study investigating attachment styles and adolescent conversions at Young Life religious summer camps resulted in evidence supporting the correspondence hypothesis through analysis of personal narratives and a prospective longitudinal follow-up of Young Life campers, with mixed results for the compensation hypothesis. James Alcock summarizes a number of components of what he calls the "God engine," a "number of automatic processes and cognitive biases [that] combine to make supernatural belief the automatic default.

Evolutionary psychology is based on the hypothesis that, just like the cardiac, pulmonary, urinary, and immune systems, cognition has a functional structure with a genetic basis, and therefore appeared through natural selection. Like other organs and tissues, this functional structure should be universally shared among humans and should solve important problems of survival and reproduction. Evolutionary psychologists seek to understand cognitive processes by understanding the survival and reproductive functions they might serve.

Pascal Boyer is one of the leading figures in the cognitive psychology of religion, a new field of inquiry that is less than fifteen years old, which accounts for the psychological processes that underlie religious thought and practice. In his book Religion Explained , Boyer shows that there is no simple explanation for religious consciousness. Boyer is mainly concerned with explaining the various psychological processes involved in the acquisition and transmission of ideas concerning the gods.

Boyer builds on the ideas of cognitive anthropologists Dan Sperber and Scott Atran , who first argued that religious cognition represents a by-product of various evolutionary adaptations, including folk psychology, and purposeful violations of innate expectations about how the world is constructed for example, bodiless beings with thoughts and emotions that make religious cognitions striking and memorable. Religious persons acquire religious ideas and practices through social exposure. The child of a Zen Buddhist will not become an evangelical Christian or a Zulu warrior without the relevant cultural experience.

While mere exposure does not cause a particular religious outlook a person may have been raised a Roman Catholic but leave the church , nevertheless some exposure seems required — this person will never invent Roman Catholicism out of thin air. Boyer says cognitive science can help us to understand the psychological mechanisms that account for these manifest correlations and in so doing enable us to better understand the nature of religious belief and practice. Boyer moves outside the leading currents in mainstream cognitive psychology and suggests that we can use evolutionary biology to unravel the relevant mental architecture.

Our brains are, after all, biological objects, and the best naturalistic account of their development in nature is Darwin's theory of evolution. To the extent that mental architecture exhibits intricate processes and structures, it is plausible to think that this is the result of evolutionary processes working over vast periods of time. Like all biological systems, the mind is optimised to promote survival and reproduction in the evolutionary environment. On this view all specialised cognitive functions broadly serve those reproductive ends. For Steven Pinker the universal propensity toward religious belief is a genuine scientific puzzle.

He thinks that adaptationist explanations for religion do not meet the criteria for adaptations. An alternative explanation is that religious psychology is a by-product of many parts of the mind that originally evolved for other purposes. Religious practice oftentimes manifests itself in some form of prayer. Recent studies have focused specifically on the effects of prayer on health. Measures of prayer and the above measures of spirituality evaluate different characteristics and should not be considered synonymous.

Prayer is fairly prevalent in the United States. Poloma and Pendleton, [53] [54] utilized factor analysis to delineate these four types of prayer: meditative more spiritual, silent thinking , ritualistic reciting , petitionary making requests to God , and colloquial general conversing with God. Further scientific study of prayer using factor analysis has revealed three dimensions of prayer. Their second and third factors were upward reaching toward God and outward reaching toward others.

This study appears to support the contemporary model of prayer as connection whether to the self, higher being, or others. Dein and Littlewood suggest that an individual's prayer life can be viewed on a spectrum ranging from immature to mature. A progression on the scale is characterized by a change in the perspective of the purpose of prayer. Rather than using prayer as a means of changing the reality of a situation, a more mature individual will use prayer to request assistance in coping with immutable problems and draw closer to God or others.

This change in perspective has been shown to be associated with an individual's passage through adolescence. Prayer appears to have health implications. Empirical studies suggest that mindfully reading and reciting the Psalms from scripture can help a person calm down and focus. A study conducted by Franceis, Robbins, Lewis, and Barnes investigated the relationship between self-reported prayer frequency and measures of psychoticism and neuroticism according to the abbreviated form of the Revised Eysenck Personality Questionnaire EPQR-A.

The study included a sample size of students attending Protestant and Catholic schools in the highly religious culture of Northern Ireland. The data shows a negative correlation between prayer frequency and psychoticism.

Psychology as a Science

The data also shows that, in Catholic students, frequent prayer has a positive correlation to neuroticism scores. Prayer in this manner may prepare an individual to carry out positive pro-social behavior after praying, due to factors such as increased blood flow to the head and nasal breathing.

Three main pathways to explain this trend have been offered: placebo effect, focus and attitude adjustment, and activation of healing processes. The spiritual mediator is a departure from the rest in that its potential for empirical investigation is not currently feasible. Although the conceptualizations of chi, the universal mind, divine intervention, and the like breach the boundaries of scientific observation, they are included in this model as possible links between prayer and health so as to not unnecessarily exclude the supernatural from the broader conversation of psychology and religion.

Another significant form of religious practice is ritual. Scheff suggests that ritual provides catharsis , emotional purging, through distancing. However, the conception of religious ritual as an interactive process has since matured and become more scientifically established. From this view, ritual offers a means to catharsis through behaviors that foster connection with others, allowing for emotional expression. Additional research suggests the social component of ritual.

For instance, findings suggest that ritual performance indicates group commitment and prevents the uncommitted from gaining membership benefits. There is considerable literature on the relationship between religion and health. More than empirical studies have examined relationships between religion and health, including more than in the 20th century, [73] and more than additional studies between and Psychologists consider that there are various ways in which religion may benefit both physical and mental health, including encouraging healthy lifestyles, providing social support networks and encouraging an optimistic outlook on life; prayer and meditation may also help to benefit physiological functioning.

Some studies have examined whether there is a "religious personality. However, people endorsing fundamentalist religious beliefs are more likely to be low on Openness. To investigate the salience of religious beliefs in establishing group identity, researchers have also conducted studies looking at religion and prejudice.

Some studies have shown that greater religious attitudes may be significant predictors of negative attitudes towards racial or social outgroups. Evidence supporting religious intergroup bias has been supported in multiple religious groups, including non-Christian groups, and is thought to reflect the role of group dynamics in religious identification. Many studies regarding religion and prejudice implement religious priming both in the laboratory and in naturalistic settings [83] [84] with evidence supporting the perpetuation of ingroup favoritism and outgroup derogation in individuals who are high in religiosity.

Why Things Matter: The Place of Values in Science, Psychoanalysis and Religion

The American psychologist James H. Leuba — , in A Psychological Study of Religion , accounts for mystical experience psychologically and physiologically, pointing to analogies with certain drug-induced experiences. Leuba argued forcibly for a naturalistic treatment of religion, which he considered to be necessary if religious psychology were to be looked at scientifically. Shamans all over the world and in different cultures have traditionally used drugs, especially psychedelics, for their religious experiences.

In these communities the absorption of drugs leads to dreams visions through sensory distortion. William James was also interested in mystical experiences from a drug-induced perspective, leading him to make some experiments with nitrous oxide and even peyote.

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He concludes that while the revelations of the mystic hold true, they hold true only for the mystic; for others they are certainly ideas to be considered, but hold no claim to truth without personal experience of such. Although many researches have brought evidence for a positive role that religion plays in health, others have shown that religious beliefs, practices, and experiences may be linked to mental illnesses of various kind [85] mood disorders , personality disorders , and psychiatric disorders. They compared the thoughts and behaviors of the most important figures in the Bible Abraham , Moses , Jesus Christ , and Paul [85] with patients affected by mental disorders related to the psychotic spectrum using different clusters of disorders and diagnostic criteria DSM-IV-TR , [85] and concluded that these Biblical figures "may have had psychotic symptoms that contributed inspiration for their revelations", [85] such as schizophrenia , schizoaffective disorder , manic depression , delusional disorder , delusions of grandeur , auditory - visual hallucinations , paranoia , Geschwind syndrome Paul especially and abnormal experiences associated with temporal lobe epilepsy TLE.

The research went further and also focused on social models of psychopathology , [85] analyzing new religious movements and charismatic cult leaders such as David Koresh , leader of the Branch Davidians , [85] and Marshall Applewhite , founder of the Heaven's Gate cult. A subset of individuals with psychotic symptoms appears able to form intense social bonds and communities despite having an extremely distorted view of reality. The existence of a better socially functioning subset of individuals with psychotic-type symptoms is corroborated by research indicating that psychotic-like experiences, including both bizarre and non-bizarre delusion-like beliefs, are frequently found in the general population.

This supports the idea that psychotic symptoms likely lie on a continuum. Clients' religious beliefs are increasingly being considered in psychotherapy with the goal of improving service and effectiveness of treatment. Conceptually, it consists of theological principles, a theistic view of personality, and a theistic view of psychotherapy. In contrast to such an approach, psychoanalyst Robin S. Brown argues for the extent to which our spiritual commitments remain unconscious. Drawing from the work of Jung, Brown suggests that "our biases can only be suspended in the extent to which they are no longer our biases".

One application of the psychology of religion is in pastoral psychology, the use of psychological findings to improve the pastoral care provided by pastors and other clergy , especially in how they support ordinary members of their congregations. Pastoral psychology is also concerned with improving the practice of chaplains in healthcare and in the military.

One major concern of pastoral psychology is to improve the practice of pastoral counseling. Pastoral psychology is a topic of interest for professional journals such as Pastoral Psychology , the Journal of Psychology and Christianity , and the Journal of Psychology and Theology. A paper suggested that psychiatric conditions associated with psychotic spectrum symptoms may be possible explanations for revelatory driven experiences and activities such as those of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Saint Paul. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Applied psychology. This article includes a list of references , but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations.

Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. January Learn how and when to remove this template message. Further information: Sociology of religion. Main articles: James W. Fowler and Stages of faith development. Further information: Psychology of religious conversion. Main articles: Cognitive science of religion , Evolutionary psychology of religion , and Neuroscience of religion.

Main article: Religion and health. See also: Well-being and religion and Happiness and religion. Main article: Religion and personality. Main article: Religion and drugs. See also: Religion and schizophrenia and Mental health of Jesus. Psychology of Religion. Leeming, K. Marian Eds. New York; London: Springer.

New York: Macmillan. Platvoet and A. Molendijk Eds. Measures of Religiosity. Lay Definitions Among Older Adults". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Park Eds. New York, London: Guilford Press. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 22 March Psychoanalysis and Religion. Retrieved 10 February Professional work, Freud argued, is one area in which such substitutions take place, while the aesthetic appreciation of art is another significant one; for art, though it is inaccessible to all but a privileged few, serves to reconcile human beings to the individual sacrifices that have been made for the sake of civilization.

However, the effects of art, even on those who appreciate it, are transient, with experience demonstrating that they are insufficiently strong to reconcile us to misery and loss. For that effect, in particular for the achievement of consolation for the suffering and tribulations of life, religious ideas become invoked; these ideas, he held, consequentially become of the greatest importance to a culture in terms of the range of substitute satisfactions which they provide.

Since religious ideas thus address the most fundamental problems of existence, they are regarded as the most precious assets civilization has to offer, and the religious worldview, which Freud acknowledged as possessing incomparable consistency and coherence, makes the claim that it alone can answer the question of the meaning of life. For Freud, then, the cultural and social importance of religion resides both in reconciling men to the limitations which membership of the community places upon them and in mitigating their sense of powerlessness in the face of a recalcitrant and ever-threatening nature.

It is in this sense, he argued, that the father-son relationship so crucial to psychoanalysis demands the projection of a deity configured as an all-powerful, benevolent father figure. In declaring such ideas illusory Freud did not initially seek to suggest or imply that they are thereby necessarily false; an illusory belief he defined simply as one which is motivated in part by wish-fulfillment, which in itself implied nothing about its relation to reality.

He gives the example of a middle-class girl who believes that a prince will marry her; such a belief is clearly inspired by a wish-fantasy and is unlikely to prove justified, but such marriages do occasionally happen. Given that religion has, as Freud acknowledged, made very significant contributions to the development of civilization, and that religious beliefs are not strictly refutable, the question arises as to why he came to consider that religious beliefs are delusional and that a turning away from religion is both desirable and inevitable in advanced social groupings.

He took this as confirming his belief that religion is akin to a universal obsessional neurosis generated by an unresolved father complex and is situated on an evolutionary trajectory which can only lead to its general abandonment in favor of science. We may call this education to reality. Need I confess to you that the sole purpose of my book is to point out the necessity for this forward step? In Civilization Freud mentions that he had sent a copy of The Future of an Illusion to an admired friend, subsequently identified as the French novelist and social critic Romain Rolland.

On the other hand, he was confronted with the obvious problem that feelings are notoriously difficult to deal with in a scientific manner. Additionally—and perhaps more importantly—Freud admitted to being unable to discover the oceanic feeling in himself, though he was not disposed on that ground to deny the occurrence of it in others.

In that connection, he offered an account of the oceanic feeling as being a revival of an infantile experience associated with the narcissistic union between mother and child, in which the awareness of an ego or self as differentiated from the mother and world at large has yet to emerge in the child. In that sense, he contended, it would be implausible to take it as the foundational source of religion, since only a feeling which is an expression of a strong need could function as a motivational drive.

The oceanic feeling, he conceded, may have become connected with religion later on, but he insisted that it is the experience of infantile helplessness and the longing for the father occasioned by it which is the original source from which religion derives Freud , A very significant body of literature has since grown up around the idea that religion might have emerged genetically, and derive its dynamic energy, as Rolland suggested, from mystical feelings of oneness with the universe in which fear and anxiety are transcended and time and space are eclipsed.

In , while exiled in Britain and suffering from the throat cancer which was to lead to his death, Freud published his final and most controversial work, Moses and Monotheism. Written over a period of many years and sub-divided into discrete segments, two of which were published independently in the periodical Imago in , the book has an inelegant structure. The many repetitions that it contains, coupled with the initial strangeness of the arguments advanced, persuaded some that it was the product of a man whose intellectual powers had fallen into serious decline.

However, in more recent times the book has become recognized as one of the most important in the Freudian canon, offering an innovative contribution to the understanding of the nature of religious truth and of the role played by tradition in religious thought. Accordingly, at this late juncture in his life and with the threat of fascist antisemitism looming over Europe, he turned his attention once more to the religion of his forefathers, constructing an alternative narrative to the orthodox Biblical one on the origins of Judaism and the emergence from it of Christianity.

Developing a thesis partly suggested by work of the protestant theologian Ernst Sellin — in , Freud argued that the historical Moses was not born Jewish but was rather an aristocratic Egyptian who functioned as a senior official or priest to the Pharaoh Amenhotep IV. The latter had introduced revolutionary changes to almost all aspects of Egyptian culture in the 14 th century B. More significantly, he had also introduced a strict new universal monotheistic religion to Egypt, the religion of the god Aton or Aten, in the process outlawing as idolatrous the veneration of the traditional Egyptian polytheistic deities, including the then dominant religion of Amun-Ra, removing all references to the possibility of an afterlife and prohibiting the creation of graven images.

He had also proscribed all forms of magic and sorcery, closed all the temples and suppressed established religious practice, thereby undermining the social status and political power of the Amun priests. Thus, when the Pharaoh died in B. In the process he converted them to an even more spiritualized, rigorous and demanding form of monotheism, which involved the Egyptian custom of circumcision, a symbolic act of submission to the Divine Will.

In the Freudian narrative the onerous demands of the new religion ultimately led his followers to rebel and to kill Moses, an effective repetition of the original father murder outlined in Totem and Taboo , after which they turned to the cult of the volcano god Yahweh. But the memory of the Egyptian Moses remained a powerful latent force until, several generations later, a second Moses, the son-in-law of the Midianite priest Jethro, shaped the development of Judaism by integrating the monotheism of his predecessor with the worship of Yahweh. While Freud evidently retained his view of religion as the analogue of an obsessional neurosis, this account now contained the recognition that, as such, its effects are not necessarily pathological, but, on the contrary, can also be socially and culturally beneficial in a marked way.

In his view, the Judaic ethic was one which demanded restrictions on the gratification of certain instincts as being incompatible with its spiritualised view of human nature and dignity, in a manner paralleling that in which the totem laws had imposed the rule of exogamy within the totem clan. Such restrictions, he argued, enabled Jewish culture to flourish and to take on its unique character. In this account, the murder of Moses was thus the initial event which provoked a sense of guilt that in turn shaped the ethical content of Judaic monotheism. To recognize, through this form of psycho analysis, the genesis of the ethical system in the guilt arising from a nefarious historical deed is, he suggested, to free oneself from its obsessive features while simultaneously accepting its entirely human origins.

But such a recognition does not entail an abandonment of the core value system, as there is a sense, as Freud acknowledged to be true in his own case, in which that ethical heritage cannot be repudiated once it is acquired. The answer, they suggest, could be offered by him in Moses and Monotheism only in terms of what he saw as essential to Judaism itself, a rigorous, spiritually intellectualized life ethic, centering on the virtues of truth and justice, derived from the man Moses, its human creator, through the work and influence of the prophets compare Whitebook , However, he held that the advent of Christianity was in some respects a step back from monotheism and a reversion to a covert form of polytheism, with the panoply of saints standing as a surrogate for the lesser gods of pagan antiquity.

The Jewish people, Freud pointed out, have a self-confidence which springs from the idea of being chosen by God from amongst the peoples of the world, an idea which derives strength from the related notion of participation in the reality of a supreme Deity. But the tenet of the Judaic religion which historically has had perhaps the most significant effect of all, he contended, has been the prohibition, derived from the religion of Aton, of graven images as idolatrous.

In that sense, he ultimately recognized that the very science of mind which he had pioneered and with which he sought to expose the Oedipal nature of religion was itself a cultural product of the Judaic religious impulse. The responses to it, in turn, occupy a very wide spectrum, from enthusiastic affirmation to condemnatory repudiation. A representative sample of these would include the following.

Richard Boothby

Further, the progressivist evolutionary paradigm championed by Freud, with its projection of a universal linear cultural development from the primitive to the civilized, is largely rejected by contemporary ethnologists and social anthropologists, in particular those influenced by the work of Franz Boas — Popper did so on the grounds that the terms in which psychoanalytic theory is couched make it unfalsifiable in principle and thus unscientific.

This latter stratagem, with some variations, has subsequently been adopted by a number of other commentators who seek a mechanism to validate the Freudian cultural narrative in the face of its undeniable ethnological shortcomings compare, for example, Paul, On such a view, the deficiencies presented by the Freudian narrative are read as being hermeneutic rather than scientific, open to further articulation and refinement through a more nuanced and balanced interpretation of the symbolic structure of religious discourse.

By contrast, he insisted on seeing psychoanalysis precisely as a testable theory, but one which is based upon clinical reports from therapeutic practice rather than rigorous experimentally-derived evidence. They cannot therefore properly be regarded as providing confirmatory evidence for the theory, while contemporary psychoanalysis has not met the objection that successful therapy operates as a placebo. The latter is now largely rejected by contemporary science, in particular the manner in which Freudians have adopted it to model the social evolution of human beings analogically with the psychological development of children.

The entire enterprise of accounting for the origins of religion as an evolutionary trajectory from polytheism to monotheism has been challenged by the work of the ethnologist Father Wilhelm Schmidt — , whose multi-volume Der Ursprung der Gottesidee The Origin of the Idea of God ; — is a wide-ranging study of primitive religion.

Schmidt, who was influenced by Boas and his followers, was accordingly critical of evolutionist accounts of religious development, contending that they frequently lack solid grounding in the historical and anthropological evidence, and was dismissive on those grounds of the totemic theory propagated by Freud. Freud feared for a possible suppression of psychoanalysis in Vienna in the mids by the ruling Catholic authorities, with whom Schmidt had considerable influence.

That fear, combined with hope—which proved unfortunately ill-grounded—that those authorities might function as a bulwark against the threat of Nazism, persuaded Freud to defer publication of the full text of Moses and Monotheism until after he had taken up residence in England see Freud , Prefatory Notes to Part , a fact which itself had a considerably negative effect on the literary coherence of the work.

In The Elementary Forms Durkheim set himself the task of analyzing religion empirically as a social phenomenon, holding that such a treatment alone can reveal its true nature. For Durkheim, the social dimension of human life is primary; human individuality itself is largely determined by, and is a function of, social interaction and organization.

This was a point missed by Freud, who, we have seen, sought to deal with the social dimension of religion by an extension of psychoanalytical principles from individual to group psychology. Such facts exist at the level of society as a whole and arise from social relationships and human associations, and include law, morality, contractual relationships and, perhaps most importantly, religion.

He saw the connection between religious beliefs and practices as a necessary one; for him, religious experience is rooted more in the actions associated with rites than it is in reflective thought. Traditional accounts of religion have tended to treat religious beliefs as essentially hypothetical or quasi-scientific in nature—an approach clearly evident in Freud—which almost inevitably raises skeptical doubts about their validity, whereas Durkheim saw that what is important to the believer is the normative dimension of faith.

This often leads the participants into a state of psychological excitement resembling delirium, in which they come to feel transported into a higher level of existence where they make direct contact with the sacred object. Participation in such rituals has the effect of affirming and strengthening the collective identity of the group and must be renewed periodically in order to consolidate that identity. Given that it is a foundational postulate of sociology that no human institution rests upon an error or a lie, he declared it unscientific to suggest that systems of ideas of such complexity as religions could be delusory or be the product of illusion, as Freud was to do.

If it is impossible for religious belief, considered as a set of representations relating to the sacred, to be erroneous in its own social right, error can and does emerge, he argued, in the interpretation of what those representations mean , even within the framework of a particular culture. This point regarding the socially-imposed nature of the meanings associated with collective representations can perhaps be most clearly illustrated by reference to now-defunct cultures and religions.

For example, while we readily recognize that the Moai, the deeply impressive monolithic statues of Easter Island, unquestionably had a particular political, aesthetic and religious significance for the Rapa Nui people who created them, the meaning of that symbolism largely escapes us—archeological and anthropological reconstruction aside—as we view them from a perspective external to that culture. Durkheim contended that in a religious context, the sacred object, which is indeed greater than the individual, is nothing more or less than the power o f society itself which, in order to be represented symbolically at all, has be objectified through a process of projection.

Unlike Freud, Durkheim also sought to provide an account of religion which achieves full scientific probity while simultaneously doing justice to the richness of the actual lived experiences of believers. Notwithstanding that, however, it seems clear that in the final analysis his anti-skeptical stratagem works satisfactorily only on its own, scientific terms; a believer could scarcely derive comfort from a view which legitimates his belief-system qua sociological fact while implying that the personal God of worship which is its intentional object is, in reality, nothing other than society personified.

This raises the whole question of the intellectual plausibility of the projection theory of religion. The question is a complex one, a fact which Freud scarcely acknowledges in his works. As we have seen, the theory, which has a number of related but distinct forms, arose in modernity as a response to the anthropomorphic nature of the attributes which the conceptualization of a personal God in many of the great world religions seems to necessitate.

Belief in God, and the complex patterns of behavior and of rituals associated with that belief, he argued, arise essentially out of the deep psychological need for a Cosmic father. However, it has been pointed out that such a view underestimates the logical gulf that exists between wishes and beliefs; the former may on occasion be a necessary condition for the latter, but are rarely a sufficient one: an athlete may wish to triumph in an event with every fibre of his being, but that will not necessarily generate a belief that he can do so, much less the delusion that he has done so.

Thus, even if it is true that there is a universal wish for a Cosmic father, it is implausible to suggest that such a wish is a sufficient condition for religious belief and the complex practices and value systems associated with it Kai-man Kwan Further, as Alvin Plantinga — argues, in the absence of compelling empirical evidence to support the view that such a universal wish exists, Freud was left with no option but to contend that such wishes are equally universally repressed into the unconscious, a move which opens his theory to the accusation of being empirically untestable Plantinga , It is to be noted too that concerns about anthropomorphisms in religious language are in no way restricted to religious skeptics: apophatic or negative theology, for example, grew out of recognition of the logical difficulties implicit in attempts to express the nature of the divine in language.

It is also important to note that some proponents of the projection theory, such as Spinoza and possibly Xenophanes, saw the projection theory as invalidating only those forms of religious belief which are anthropotheistic in nature. Thus projectionism, so far from being hostile to all forms of religious belief and practice, is in fact consistent with themes relating to the avoidance of idolatry long central to the Abrahamic religions in particular, as evidenced in the proscription on naming God in Judaism and in aniconism, the prohibition of figurative representations of the Divine in the early Orthodox Church, in Calvinism and also in Islam Thornton, It is thus perfectly consistent to accept projectionism as an account of religious concept formation without thereby repudiating religious belief.

Indeed, the logical compatibility of projectionism with religious belief has led some contemporary religious thinkers to go so far as to embrace projectionism as a condition of a reflective religious commitment. This argument is closely paralleled by a suggestion from Plantinga that wish-fulfillment as a mechanism could have arisen out of a divinely created human constitution.

For while it may not, in general, be the function of wish-fulfillment to produce true belief, that in itself does not rule out the possibility, Plantinga contends—at least for those who believe in God—that humans have been so constituted by the creator to have a deeply-felt need and wish to believe in him. Whatever level of plausibility may be assigned to these views, it is in any case clear that the projection theory is also reflective of the difficulties which certain forms of religious discourse generate: the characterization of God as possessing attributes such as Love and Wisdom, however qualified such attributions may be, seems invariably to invite the kind of challenge that is found in Feuerbach, Freud and even in Durkheim.

In that sense, the projection theory highlights deep theological and philosophical issues relating to the nature and meaning of religious language. An application of this to religious discourse implies that the latter cannot be understood in isolation from the broad web of cultural practices, beliefs and concerns in which it is imbedded and from which it derives its meaning.

This suggests that concerns that skeptical conclusions necessarily follow from our use of human-being predicates in speaking about the Divine are misguided; such concerns gain credence only when accompanied by the deeply pervasive, but uncritical, philosophical assumption—clearly evident in Freud—that the attributions of anthropomorphic predicates to God are to be understood exclusively as factual descriptions of a particular kind, an assumption which is at the very least gratuitous.

Are eyebrows going to be talked of, in connection with the Eye of God? The occurrence of anthropomorphisms in religious discourse, then, does not in itself necessitate the acceptance of anthropotheistic conclusions. Not alone did it contest the orthodox Biblical narrative of the role of Moses in the history of Judaism, it did so at a time when the Jews of Europe were threatened with complete annihilation. Though Moses is almost certainly an Egyptian name, the evidence that Moses was an Egyptian is not conclusive and it has also been suggested that his life was not in fact contemporaneous with that of Amenhotep IV Banks , In a thinker as complex as Freud, these approaches can neither be taken as exhaustive nor as entirely mutually exclusive, as significant textual evidence can be invoked for all three.

What seems evident, at any rate, is that Freud was seeking, at that critical point in Jewish history, to affirm his cultural and intellectual indebtedness to the ethical basis of the religion of his forefathers while simultaneously seeking to demonstrate that the validity of that ethic is not contingent upon the Biblical and theological accretions traditionally associated with it. On such a reading, the question of the accuracy of the historical detail in the Freudian narrative becomes as peripheral as it is—on a non-literal interpretation—to that of the Biblical one. Stephen Thornton Email: sfthornton eircom.

Sigmund Freud: Religion This article explores attempts by Sigmund Freud to provide a naturalistic account of religion enhanced by insights and theoretical constructs derived from the discipline of psychoanalysis which he had pioneered. Lamarckian vs. In part, the verse ran: Son who is dear to me, Shelomoh. Religion and Civilization In time Freud came to consider that the account which he had given in Totem and Taboo did not fully address the issue of the origins of developed religion, the human needs which religion is designed to meet and, consequently, the psychological motivations underpinning religious belief.

The Moses Narrative: The Origins of Judaic Monotheism In , while exiled in Britain and suffering from the throat cancer which was to lead to his death, Freud published his final and most controversial work, Moses and Monotheism. Myth or Science? The Primordial Religion: Polytheism or Monotheism? The Projection Theory of Religion This raises the whole question of the intellectual plausibility of the projection theory of religion. And later, the cognitive psychologists adopted this rigorous i. Psychoanalysis has great explanatory power and understanding of behavior, but is has been accused of only explaining behavior after the event, not predicting what will happen in advance and of being unfalsifiable.

Because it has evolved that way! Kline argues that psychoanalytic theory can be broken down into testable hypotheses and tested scientifically. For example, Scodel postulated that orally dependent men would prefer larger breasts a positive correlation , but in fact found the opposite a negative correlation. Behaviorism has parsimonious i.

Behaviorists firmly believed in the scientific principles of determinism and orderliness, and thus came up with fairly consistent predictions about when an animal was likely to respond although they admitted that perfect prediction for any individual was impossible. The behaviorists used their predictions to control the behavior of both animals pigeons trained to detect life jackets and humans behavioral therapies and indeed Skinner , in his book Walden Two , described a society controlled according to behaviorist principles.

Full understanding, prediction and control in psychology is probably unobtainable due to the huge complexity of environmental, mental and biological influences upon even the simplest behavior i. You will see therefore, that there is no easy answer to the question 'is psychology a science? But many approaches of psychology do meet the accepted requirements of the scientific method, whilst others appear to be more doubtful in this respect.

There are alternatives to empiricism, such as rational research, argument and belief. The humanistic approach another alternative values private, subjective conscious experience and argues for the rejection of science. The humanistic approach argues that objective reality is less important than a person's subjective perception and subjective understanding of the world.

Because of this, Carl Rogers and Maslow placed little value on scientific psychology, especially the use of the scientific laboratory to investigate both human and other animal behavior. This is what the humanistic approach aims to do. Humanism is a psychological perspective that emphasizes the study of the whole person. Humanistic psychologists look at human behavior not only through the eyes of the observer, but through the eyes of the person doing the behaving.

Humanistic psychologists believe that an individual's behavior is connected to his inner feelings and self-image. The humanistic approach in psychology deliberately steps away from a scientific viewpoint, rejecting determinism in favor of freewill, aiming to arrive at a unique and in depth understanding.

Humanistic psychologists rejected a rigorous scientific approach to psychology because they saw it as dehumanizing and unable to capture the richness of conscious experience. In many ways the rejection of scientific psychology in the s, s and s was a backlash to the dominance of the behaviorist approach in North American psychology. In certain ways everyone is a psychologist. This does not mean that everyone has been formally trained to study and be trained in psychology.

People have common sense views of the world, of other people and themselves. These common sense views may come from personal experience, from our upbringing as a child and through culture etc. Common-sense views about people are rarely based on systematic i. Racial or religious prejudices may reflect what seems like common sense within a group of people. However, prejudicial beliefs rarely stand up to what is actually the case. Common sense, then, is something which everybody uses in their day-to-day lives, guides decisions and influences how we interact with one another.

But because it is not based on systematic evidence, or derived from scientific inquiry, it may be misleading and lead to one group of people treating others unfairly and in a discriminatory way. Despite having a scientific methodology worked out we think , there are further problems and arguments which throw doubt onto psychology ever really being a science. Limitations may refer to the subject matter e. Science assumes that there are laws of human behavior that apply to each person.

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Therefore science takes both a deterministic and reductionist approach. Science studies overt behavior because overt behavior is objectively observable and can be measured, allowing different psychologists to record behavior and agree on what has been observed. This means that evidence can be collected to test a theory about people. Scientific laws are generalizable, but psychological explanations are often restricted to specific times and places.

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