The Psychologies in Religion: Working with the Religious Client

By E. Thomas Dowd; Stevan Lars Nielsen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Religion for
Psychotherapists:
The Psychologies in
Religion versus the
Psychology of Religion

Stevan Lars Nielsen and E. Thomas Dowd

Religion is undoubtedly the oldest and most ubiquitous social institution in all of human history. Religious expressions go back to the dawn of humanity, and there has never been a wholly agnostic or atheistic culture. (Communist governments have claimed official atheism, but religious expression has survived in all communist-run societies to date.) Throughout history, religion has been simultaneously the source of humanity's greatest consolation and greatest divisiveness. Yet, until very recently, psychotherapists have largely ignored or denigrated this phenomenon. Indeed, certain influential figures such as Freud and Ellis considered religion to be intrinsically a form of neurosis, although in his latter years Ellis has changed his mind considerably. It is possible that one reason for this state of affairs is that religion and psychotherapy are competing systems for the creation of meaning—and few people take competition lightly. In addition, different brands of psychotherapy and religion differ among themselves, and even within themselves, about appropriate forms of ultimate meaning. The purpose of this book is to examine the psychological assumptions, both tacit and explicit, that lie behind different religions. In doing so, the authors hope to provide psychotherapists with a greater

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