Is Psychology Religious?

Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship, by Paul C. Vitz (Eerdmans, 135 pp., $4.95 pb), is reviewed by Allan R. Andrews, assistant professor of psychology, North Shore Community College, Beverly, Massachusetts.

With the zealous intensity of a Luther-like reformer, Paul C. Vitz has hammered his theses to the cathedral door of contemporary psychology. Vitz attacks the modern psychological institution, which, he argues, has become a religion in the form of secular humanism preaching the gospel according to Selfism.

Specifically, Vitz levels five charges: it exists as a religion in great strength throughout the United States; it can be criticized on grounds independent of religion; it is hostile to most religions, especially Christianity; it raises “grave political and legal issues” because it is financed by tax dollars supporting the schools, universities, and social programs that promote it; and it has been systematically destroying individuals, families, and communities.

Vitz is no ill-informed, street-corner prophet of doom. He speaks as a personality and motivation theorist trained at Michigan and Stanford universities. He currently is an associate professor of psychology at New York University.

Four major theorists of the “self” draw Vitz’s most critical words: Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Erich Fromm, and Rollo May. Rogers appears as the chief offender for Vitz because he, more so than the others, has actively popularized his viewpoint in public seminars and less academic publications.

Vitz also scores selfist worship as he sees it expressed in the popular religious writings of Harry Emerson Fosdick and Norman Vincent Peale, making careful note of the influence of religious liberalism on self ...

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