Religion for Psychotherapists:
Summary and Commentary
E. Thomas Dowd and Stevan Lars Nielsen
In the last chapter, the authors would like to create a context for the importance of religion in life. First, the definition, restructuring, and shifting meaning of religion and religious or spiritual involvement is examined, especially in light of recent rapid cultural changes. Second, religion is examined as an example of tacit knowledge structures in human cognition, which may account for the variety of religious beliefs throughout history and the changes in those beliefs. Third, possible reasons are discussed why religious expressions have been universal throughout human history. What does religion provide people? Fourth, evidence is presented indicating that religion and religious expressions are usually (although not always) indicative of mental and physical health. Fifth, an overarching analysis of the different chapters is provided.
At the very least, the chapters in this book should convince the reader of the absolutely kaleidoscopic variety of religious expressions. Not only is there great cross-sectional variety at any one time, but different religious groups and religious expressions constantly form, re-form, combine, dissolve, appear, and disappear. Much of this has occurred only slowly over time, so it may not be immediately obvious to the casual observer. However, since the end of World War II, this process has accelerated, especially in the United States, making it more immediately discernible. Beebe (Chapter 2) has well documented this restructuring tendency, as has Wuthnow (1988). Most obviously, from a U.S. point of view, has been the gradual diminution and re-combining of the religious denominations that emerged from the 16th century European reformation. Many of those groups have been in serious numerical decline for decades