The Authenticity of Faith:
The Varieties and Illusions of Religious Experience

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Richard Beck

ISBN 978-0-89112-350-7

240 ppg

$24.99+ shipping, tax (if appl.)

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A psychologist tests Freud's claims that faith is a form of wishful thinking and belief in God a consoling illusion

Is faith simply a form of wishful thinking? Is belief in God merely a consoling illusion? So argued Sigmund Freud in The Future of an Illusion. And the force of Freud's argument continues to be felt as it features prominently among critics of religion such as the New Atheists.

But was Freud right? Until now, few have directly examined the plausibility of Freud's argument. But here, in a groundbreaking analysis inspired by the religious types described by William James in his seminal The Varieties of Religious Experience, Richard Beck explores the motivational dynamics among "summer Christians" and "winter Christians." Further, across a variety of laboratory studies, Beck examines how Christians variously engage with art (exploring what Beck has dubbed "The Thomas Kinkade Effect"), doctrine (from the Incarnation to beliefs regarding the activity of the devil), and religious difference in a pluralistic world. In each instance, Beck analyzes the underlying motivations of the religious types, sifting through the varieties and illusions of religious experience.

The Authenticity of Faith presents a radical "New Apologetics," an attempt to move beyond contentious philosophical and theological disputes to examine the scientific merits of Freud's critique of faith. Here is an unlikely journey--the scientific search for an authentic faith; the outcome is sure to inspire reflection, conversation, and debate among believers and skeptics alike.



About the Author

Richard Beck is Professor of Psychology at Abilene Christian University and the author of Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality. As an experimental psychologist, Dr. Beck has published extensively in the empirical literature examining the intersection of Christianity and psychology. He also writes regularly about the interface of theology and psychology at his popular and award-winning blog Experimental Theology. He and his wife Jana have two sons, Brenden and Aidan. The Beck family attends the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, where Richard is a co-teacher of the Sojourners adult Bible class.





Praise for The Authenticity of Faith

"Richard Beck has my vote as the liveliest voice in the contemporary integration of psychology and theology."

- Steven J. Sandage
Professor of Marriage and Family Studies
Bethel University
author of Faces of Forgiveness and Transforming Spirituality


"Richard Beck artfully blends psychological theory, empirical research, and theology to tackle a challenging question: Are religious beliefs motivated by mere wishful thinking? This well-crafted, thoughtful, and engaging text is guaranteed to provide readers with plenty of food for thought."

- Julie J. Exline
Associate Professor of Psychology
Case Western Reserve University


"Many scholars have studied the relationship of psychology and Christianity in recent decades, but only a few offer the fresh creativity that Dr. Richard Beck brings to the task. The Authenticity of Faith will make us think, and then it will make us think again, and ultimately it will foster a living faith characterized by depth, relevance, and wisdom."

- Mark R. McMinn, PhD
Professor of Psychology
George Fox University
author of Sin and Grace in Christian Counseling