Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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Central construct in psychoanalytic studies of religion. Freud argued that a heightened sense of guilt, originating in the fear of loss of love, is a necessary correlate of civilization. The dynamics of guilt include both submission to authority and an unconscious desire to be punished. Thus religious traditions are seen as analogous to developmental neuroses. Contemporary empirical studies of guilt are more restricted to what can be justified empirically. However, reliable scales to measure theoretically meaningful dimensions of guilt are rare, contributing to a lack of consensus on relationships between guilt and religion among empirical psychologists.

Ralph W. Hood, Jr .


S. Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents (New York: Norton, 1961 [1930])

D. H. Harder and A. Zalma, "The Assessment of Shame and Guilt," in Advances in Personality Assessment , Vol. 6 (Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1990): 89-114

R. W. Hood, Jr., "Sin and Guilt in Faith Traditions," in Religion and Mental Health , ed. J. F. Shumaker (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992): 110-121

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