Psychoanalytic Theory and Theistic Belief

  • William Alston


In this paper I am going to attempt to determine just what bearing, if any, the existence of an adequate explanation of theistic religious belief exclusively in terms of factors within the natural world would have on the acceptability of such beliefs; more particularly I shall examine the claims to the effect that such explanations render theistic belief unacceptable. It would be possible to proceed immediately to a consideration of this problem with no more specification of the sort of explanation in question than what I have just given. I believe, however, that the discussion will be more likely to be firmly anchored and that there will be a greater chance of focusing the discussion on real issues if the treatment of the philosophical issues is prefaced by a fairly detailed presentation of an actual example of the sort of explanation I have in mind. Indeed there may be those who, in the absence of such documentation, would suppose that the chance of success for such explanatory ventures is so remote as to render consideration of my problem useless. But I should not like to justify my prolegomenon in this way, for I fear that there is nothing in developments to date which could be relied upon to remove such a doubt.


Religious Belief Mystical Experience Psychological Explanation Psychoanalytic Theory Causal Determination 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Sigmund Freud, Collected Papers, ed. Ernest Jones, Vol. III (London: Hogarth Press, 1956), pp. 149–242.Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    Sigmund Freud, Collected Papers, ‘A Religious Experience’, translated by J. Strachey (London: Hogarth Press, Vol. 5, 1950), pp. 243–246.Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    Mortimer Ostow and Ben-Ami Scharfstein, The Need to Believe (New York: International Universities Press, 1954), p. 118.Google Scholar
  4. 1.
    Michael Argyle, Religious Behaviour (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958), p. 165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 1.
    Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion, translated by W. D. Robson-Scott (New York: Liveright, 1953), p. 76Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Princeton Theological Seminary 1964

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Alston

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations