Psychoanalysis and Theism: Critical Reflections on the GrYnbaum Thesis

Psychoanalysis and Theism: Critical Reflections on the GrYnbaum Thesis

by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi
     
 

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How should we approach the psychological study of religion, and how relevant is classical psychoanalysis, identified with the writings of Sigmund Freud, to the understanding of religion? Freud's writings on religion have been discussed often and continue to attract attention and debate. Psychoanalysis and Theism starts with an essay by Adolf Grünbaum, one of

Overview

How should we approach the psychological study of religion, and how relevant is classical psychoanalysis, identified with the writings of Sigmund Freud, to the understanding of religion? Freud's writings on religion have been discussed often and continue to attract attention and debate. Psychoanalysis and Theism starts with an essay by Adolf Grünbaum, one of the world's leading philosophers of science and an incisive critic of Freud's work. Grünbaum looks at Freud's general claims about the psychological mechanisms involved in religion and finds them lacking. Then, in a surprising turn, Grünbaum judges some of Freud's interpretations of concrete religious ideas and practices to be not only cogent, but indispensable. When it comes to the case of the belief in Virgin Birth, Grünbaum finds an Oedipal interpretation to be our only choice. This remarkable essay is the stimulus for a symposium with nine senior scholars, coming from the fields of philosophy, psychology, sociology, and psychoanalysis, who present their critical reflections on how we should study religion, how we should treat Freud's ideas, and what the future directions in psychological research on concrete religious behavior should be. The contributors bring to this effort their varied fields of expertise, from analytical philosophy to experimental psychology. Of special interest are essays which deal with the Virgin Birth doctrine and its possible psychological sources and with the potential for future psychoanalytic studies of faith and ritual. Other essays focus on Freud's conscious and unconscious motivations for studying religion as well as the hidden biases and lacunae found in the social science literature on religious practices. This volume adds a unique combination of critical and knowledgeable voices to the debate on Sigmund Freud's legacy.

Editorial Reviews

Wayne Proudfoot
Adolf Grünbaum is an excellent philosopher of science. It is very good to have his critical assessment of the evidence for Freud’s theory of religion reprinted here along with comments by scholars in several different fields. The authors examine Freud’s and Grünbaum’s arguments using resources drawn from philosophy, sociology, contemporary psychoanalysis, empirical psychology of religion, and the history of religions. The articles are all interesting, and they explore a range of topics including Freud’s Jewish identity, Grünbaum’s psychoanalytic account of virgin birth narratives, and contemporary serpent handlers. The volume contributes to current discussions of the relation of psychoanalysis and religion.
Gordon Fellman
Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi’s Psychoanalysis and Theism is a timely treasure. Seven essays responding to Adolf Grünbaum’s “Psychoanalysis and Theism,” with which the book begins, revive Freud’s penetrating speculations about the meaning and psycho-dynamics of religion and carry them further. The authors explore the Oedipal angle of religion, the susceptibility of Catholicism to Freudian inquiry, the relationship of Jewish universalism to Freud’s topic, the nature of the questions of illusion and delusion that Freud raised in regard to religious belief and behavior, and still more. Divided into two parts—Methods and Motives, and Interpretation and Meaning—the book offers the reader a brilliant set of essays that plumb and apply Freud’s take on religion both appreciatively and critically.
Jacob A. Belzen
This volume has been overdue. Asking what psychology has to say about religion, it does not loose itself in providing a host of facts and details. Rather, it dares to turn to the grand and incomparably influential theory psychoanalysis continues to be. Some of the best scholars worldwide engage in a multidisciplinary and critical discussion with eminent thinkers ranging from Freud to Grünbaum, resulting in a must read for anyone interested in the psychological study of religion.
Wayne Proudfoot Ph.D
Adolf Grünbaum is an excellent philosopher of science. It is very good to have his critical assessment of the evidence for Freud’s theory of religion reprinted here along with comments by scholars in several different fields. The authors examine Freud’s and Grünbaum’s arguments using resources drawn from philosophy, sociology, contemporary psychoanalysis, empirical psychology of religion, and the history of religions. The articles are all interesting, and they explore a range of topics including Freud’s Jewish identity, Grünbaum’s psychoanalytic account of virgin birth narratives, and contemporary serpent handlers. The volume contributes to current discussions of the relation of psychoanalysis and religion.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780765707222
Publisher:
Aronson, Jason Inc.
Publication date:
10/16/2010
Pages:
198
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, PhD, is professor of psychology at the University of Haifa and senior research associate at the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut.

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