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Shaw, D. (2005). Psychoanalysis, Meet Religion: And this Time, Get it Right: A Review of Minding Spirituality by Randall Lehman Sorenson. The Analytic Press: Hillsdale, NJ, 2004. 200 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 41(2):352-360.

(2005). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 41(2):352-360

Psychoanalysis, Meet Religion: And this Time, Get it Right: A Review of Minding Spirituality by Randall Lehman Sorenson. The Analytic Press: Hillsdale, NJ, 2004. 200 pp.

Review by:
Daniel Shaw, L.C.S.W.

Psychoanalysis and religion got off to a famously bad start. Freud viewed religion as the foe of science and reality, and he saw humans as all too easily seduced, sedated, and subjugated by religiosity. A century after Freud's initial attacks, many of us may not be aware that a psychoanalytic war against religion is still going on in some quarters. Or perhaps we have tacitly accepted the Cold War that set in at about the time of Freud's death in 1939. Even those of us who never adopted the once standard psychoanalytic posture of atheism, as a hallmark of intellectual and even moral superiority, may nevertheless be working behind a kind of Berlin Wall, carefully segregating, for ourselves and our patients, our spirituality from our psychoanalysis.

With the publication of Minding Spirituality that wall comes tumbling down. In meticulous detail, backed up with first-rate scholarship, Randall Lehman Sorenson makes it clear that it can now be officially declared: the war between psychoanalysis and religion, both the hot and the cold, is over. Sorenson titles his ultimate chapter “Psychoanalysis and Religion: Are They in the Same Business?” and follows with this:

Obviously not. The history of religion and science is one of chronic warfare, with religion on the losing side due to the steady advances of secularization. Religion is about belief, science is about practice, and psychoanalysis, like any science, therefore has little in common with religion. It is a different business. [p. 143]

And then, summarizing all that he has developed up to this point in the book, Sorenson goes on to explain why most of the above-quoted statements are, in fact, false. Drawing on his enviable grasp of theology,


* Dr. Sorenson's tragically premature death on January 21, 2005 came as a sad shock to all those in the analytic community who knew him. Although future works of his will be limited to posthumous publications, the work he left behind has and will continue to inspire his many students and colleagues.

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