Mysticism and Psychoanalysis

Robert A Segal* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review


There is a conspicuous difference between the approach to religion by earlier social scientists—anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists—and the approach by present-day ones. Where, if one dares to generalize, present-day social scientists timidly confine themselves to the issues of the origin and function of religion, earlier social scientists ventured beyond these issues to the issue of the truth of religion. Present-day social scientists shun the issue of truth as lying beyond their professional ken. Assuming a rigid division of labor, they restrict themselves to determining why adherents believe what they do and circumvent assessing whether what adherents believe is true. At most, they pronounce religion helpful or harmful, but not true or false. Whatever their own religious convictions, qua social scientists they profess to be unable to determine anything about the truth of religious claims—an issue they readily leave to philosophers and theologians.1 They fear that their use of their social scientific findings to evaluate the truth claims of religion would commit either the genetic fallacy or what I call its functional counterpart—basing the truth or, more commonly, the falsity of religion on the effect of religion on adherents.2
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalReligious Studies Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


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