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Anderson, J.W. Winer, J.A. (2007). Introduction. Ann. Psychoanal., 35:1-5.

(2007). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 35:1-5


James William Anderson, Ph.D. and Jerome A. Winer, M.D.

Sigmund Freud dismissed religion wholesale. After completing his major monograph on religion, he noted that his work dealt with “my absolutely negative attitude toward religion, in every form and dilution” (Gay, 1988, p. 527). Freud saw religion as nothing but an illusion; individuals seek protection from life's cruelties and from their fear of death through an imagined spiritual world, he claimed. Freud's argument is formidable and worthy of thoughtful consideration, but it remains an attack of narrow scope. There is much that Freud did not investigate, such as the role of religion in people's lives, how religion may facilitate psychological growth, and how individual religions can be understood. By focusing on what he saw as the falsity of religion, Freud dissuaded his followers from bringing the concepts of psychoanalysis to bear in examining religion in all its richness and variety. As late as 1977 an overview of the psychoanalytic treatment of religion concluded that almost all the published work was limited to a single approach (Ducey, 1977, p. 444). These writings argued that religious beliefs and practices are strikingly like the beliefs and practices psychoanalysis finds in individuals, as in Freud's claim that religious rituals are virtually the same as the obsessive acts of an individual.

The current situation is dramatically different. A variety of scholars influenced by psychoanalytic thought have shown that, by viewing religion seriously as a topic for inquiry, they can use analytic perspectives to study various aspects of religious and spiritual life. The field of psychoanalysis and religion has opened up in a way that would have been unimaginable to Freud. This volume reflects the creativity and ferment in the field today.

Section I contains broad approaches to the topic. The common view is that psychoanalysts do not have a religious or spiritual dimension to their lives, nor are they interested in religion. Eleonora Bartoli asks whether psychoanalysts are as hostile to religion as they are popularly thought to be.

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