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Kaufman, M.R. (1939). Religious Delusions in Schizophrenia. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 20:363-376.

(1939). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 20:363-376

Religious Delusions in Schizophrenia

M. Ralph Kaufman

The importance of religious beliefs in the cultural patterns of mankind is an accepted fact. The meanings and origins of these beliefs have been interpreted variously by writers throughout the ages. A problem of some importance, the answer to which is not very clear at times, is the border-line relationship between religious beliefs and delusions of a religious nature, which has occupied the attention of many psychiatrists. Although it is beyond the scope of this paper to review the extensive literature on this subject, the opinions expressed by some writers are of immediate relevance. In 1926 Campbell stated: 'The delusions of the ill-balanced and the beliefs of the orthodox are more closely akin than is usually recognized.'

In one of his earlier papers, Freud compares obsessional symptoms and religious rituals. He states that in ancient religions one finds that many things considered wicked in everyday life were surrendered to the god and permitted in his name. In his introduction (1919) to Reik's Ritual, he writes: 'The ceremonials and prohibitions of obsessional patients force us to conclude that they have created a private religion for themselves; and even the delusions of the paranoiac show an unwelcome external similarity and inner relationship to the systems of our philosophers. We cannot get away from the impression that patients are making, in an asocial manner, the same attempts at a solution of their conflicts and an appeasement of their urgent desires which, when carried out in a manner acceptable to a large number of persons, are called poetry, religion and philosophy' (pp. 7 and 8). Furthermore, in his book on Civilization and its Discontents (1930), he writes: 'It is said, however, that each one of us behaves in some respect like the paranoiac, substituting a wish-fulfilment for some aspect of the world which is unbearable to him, and carrying this


1 From the Clinical Service, McLean Hospital, Waverley, Massachusetts.—Condensed from a paper read at a meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Chicago, May 9, 1939.

2 Delusion and Belief, 1926, p. 8.

3 'Obsessive Acts and Religious Practices' (1907), Collected Papers, Vol. II, p. 25.

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