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Fitzgibbons, J. (1987). Developmental Approaches to the Psychology of Religion. Psychoanal. Rev., 74(1):125-134.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Review, 74(1):125-134

Developmental Approaches to the Psychology of Religion

John Fitzgibbons, Psy.D

Despite Freud's staunch adherence to atheism, there is no doubt that he was preoccupied throughout his life with trying to work out an understanding of religion based upon psychoanalytic theory. The interpretation of religion that he developed, based on the theory of oedipal conflict, has predominated in the psychoanalytic community over the past century.

However, psychoanalytic theory has now widened into a more broadly based developmental theory through the influence of ego psychology, object relations theory, and self psychology. The theory of oedipal conflict accurately applies to a particular band on the continuum of psychopathology and describes well a segment of religious experience, though there are forms of religious experience that correspond with less as well as more mature levels of functioning. Developmentally oriented theorists such as Guntrip (1969), Meissner (1978, 1984), Rizzuto (1979, 1980), Kegan (1980), Loder (1980), Fowler (1981), and others have begun the reformulation of the psychoanalytic interpretation of religious development based on these contemporary influences.

In this paper, I will describe the normative pathway toward religious maturity as it is seen through an integration of current theory and research. Then I will describe three cases that focus on pathology in religious development as it reflects fixation and arrest on this developmental course.

A characteristic shared by these writers is the traditional point of view that developmental disturbances can lead to the prolongation ol infantile conflicts in the form of adult religious experience.

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