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McKeown, B.F. (1976). Identification and Projection in Religious Belief: A Q-Technique Study of Psychoanalytic Theory. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 5:479-510.

(1976). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 5:479-510

Identification and Projection in Religious Belief: A Q-Technique Study of Psychoanalytic Theory

Bruce F. McKeown, M.A.

Studies in the psychology of religion often refer to the important role of projection of nonreligious objects upon religious symbols. Understanding religion in this manner is neither new nor unique; analyses of projective behavior date back to Socrates. Among the studies suggesting a psychology of religion in this light, and perhaps the most intensive for its time, was the work of Ludwig Feuerbach (1841) in which he considered religion to be “human nature reflected, mirrored in itself.… Where, therefore, feeling is not depreciated and repressed … there also is religious power and significance already conceded to it, there also is it already exalted to that stage in which it can mirror and reflect itself, in which it can project its own image as God. God is the mirror of man” (p. 63). According to Feuerbach, God becomes “that which has essential value for man, which he esteems the perfect, the excellent, in which he has true delight” (p. 63); “what a man declares concerning God, he in truth declares concerning himself” (p. 29); and “Man—this is the mystery of religion—projects his being into objectivity.… It is true that man places the aim of his actions in God, but God has no other aim of action than the moral and eternal salvation of man: thus man has in fact no other aim than himself. The divine activity is not distinct from the human” (pp. 29-30).

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