The Authenticity of Faith Now Available

I'd like to announce that my second book The Authenticity of Faith: The Varieties and Illusions of Religious Experience is now available. It can be purchased here from Amazon or, if Amazon runs out (UPDATE: they have), here at the ACU Press website.

The book description:

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.
Some of the book endorsements:
''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

''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

“Using social scientific research, Beck identifies the flaws in Freud’s dismissal of religion as a neurotic defense against mortal dread. He draws on the writings of William James to show the complexity of religious belief, which emphasizes the uniqueness of the individual believer. Written in a way that is accessible to readers who aren’t trained in social scientific research, but rigorous in meeting the standards of the social sciences, The Authenticity of Faith is a masterful example of the ‘new apologetics.’”
--Steven Rouse, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University
As I've mentioned before, I thank the readers of this blog in the Acknowledgements. There is reads:
I would also like to thank the readers of my blog Experimental Theology where early drafts of this material first appeared. I’m blessed to have one of the most intelligent and thoughtful readerships on the Internet. A warm thank-you to my readers for your many helpful comments, feedback, and encouragement. You were the first to let me know that this material deserved a wide audience.
In the early days of this blog I did a series called "Freud's Ghost: The Quest for an Authentic Faith." Some of you will remember it. When I wrote that series I had yet to do the empirical work to support the argument I was making then. Years later those studies have now been done, the laboratory work to support my hunch that Williams James was right (in contrast to Freud's "one size fits all" account of faith) in speaking about religious varieties.

In all this, The Authenticity of Faith represents my long personal and professional engagement with Freud's critique of religious belief. It all started in college when I turned to face the question squarely: Did I believe in God or heaven because it made me happy?

After years of self-reflection and research, through seasons where my faith has ebbed and flowed, The Authenticity of Faith is my answer.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

27 thoughts on “The Authenticity of Faith Now Available”

  1. Have you met Elaine Howard Ecklund from Rice U. yet? She's an old friend of mine who writes on sociology and science. You two would have a lot to talk about.

  2. Congratulations, Dr. Beck!  This is probably my favorite topic.  I enjoyed reading "The Question of God", by Dr. Armand Nicholi, an in depth critique of the worldviews of Freud and C. S. Lewis.  I list it among my favorite books, and I look forward to now reading your latest.

  3. I'm so grateful for your willingness and ability to communicate your wisdom and expertise to a wide audience.  This blog itself is a goldmine.  Wishing you every success, Dr. Beck, with your new book.  May it be well-received and a blessing to many!

  4. Congratulations, Dr. Beck. I've been reading your blog since its beginning, and I think that your Freud's Ghost series is still my very favorite (among many that I love). I've been looking forward to this book for a while.

  5. Best of luck with the new book, Richard. I thoroughly enjoyed Unclean and am looking forward to reading this. Congratulations.

  6. Would it be possible for you to put this out on Kindle? I don't mind paying the same price, but it's so much easier for me to read if it's on my little wee "book." If your publisher would allow it, I think this would help your sales considerably, too.

  7. I asked the publisher about this and there are plans to put this on the Kindle. When that happens I'll let everyone know.

  8. Congratulations, Richard!  Notwithstanding your recent reflections on the desire to live on beyond our years, I can't believe that all the sense of pride generated by publishing a book is misplaced.  Enjoy it, I say!  And remember us when you're polishing off the champagne.  Can't wait to read it.

  9. Thanks Andrew.

    I should clarify a bit about how I used the publication of this book in the Slavery to Death series.

    I'd like to draw a line between self-esteem and joy. In the post in question I was trying to say that I try to bracket "accomplishments" such as these in relation to my self-esteem. But I think some might have taken this to mean that I took no joy in the writing of the book or in its publication. But self-esteem and joy are two different things. In fact, I'd argue that joy is the real reason we should do anything, in contrast to self-esteem.

    So I did have great joy in writing the book. And I'm joyous at its publication because I find great joy in sharing ideas with people and joy if they tell me that I've helped them on the Way a bit.

    So yes, joy all around!

  10. This is a recurring theme for me - mostly due to my line of work, I think.  I'd love you to expand on your references to self-esteem - as a contrasting construct to joy and irony, for example.  I feel that positive psychologists have taken a blind alley here, but I haven't yet developed the language to think clearly about ... whatever it is.  It feels like some 'positive' psychology is at odds with truth and joy - and I'd love to be clearer in my work with vulnerable children about how to promote the latter without leaning on the former.  I think you may be right to point to the promoting of positive relationships as a more helpful notion.  I also wonder whether we confuse self-esteem as a target and an outcome.  Just a thought for a future post, perhaps...

    We share your joy in this opportunity to share your ideas.

  11.  I, too, was struck by Freud in college. But what interested me was how, in his Civilization and It's Discontents, he insisted on stressing what may be called the negatives of civilization and gave the positves very short shrift. A long overdue analysis--many thanks. I look forward to reading it.

  12. O.K. RICH
    I KNOW your a wordy guy, this is a (to me) a pretty big subject.
    how wordy is this book.  :-)
    i would hope at least 1000 pages.
    so how many,
     i do love your wordiness and I would hope for 15 to 2000
    kinda like "THE DELIVERANCE OF GOD "
    rich constant

  13. Dr. Beck! I am so excited for this book! It will probably take me a while to get to it, but I'm so looking forward to reading. Thanks for your continued ministry.

  14. Richard,

    All the best with the new book.  I plan to honor one of my New Year's resolutions and help an underpaid professor by purchasing "Authenticity of Faith" and "Unclean."  By the way, do you know the devastating, ironic quotation about Freud's work by his Viennese contemporary, Karl Kraus?  "Psychoanalysis is the disease it purports to cure."


  15. Seriously, how many hours are there in a Richard Beck day? The rest of us have to manage with 24.
    PS Congratulations!

  16. You can ask my Dean about this. But something has to get a little sloppy and it's usually the paperwork I'm responsible for as Department Chair.

  17. Andrew has brought up a question that keeps resurfacing in various discussions I've been having:  Is "self-esteem" a bad thing?  I, too, would really like to know your thoughts, Dr. Beck, on that subject.  There seem to be two ways of defining "self-esteem" -- a person's overall sense of self-worth versus self-conceit.  As Andrew said, in keeping with pop psychology which has emphasized positive thinking and feeling good about oneself, at the expense of being truthful (realistic), perhaps that is where the complete rejection of the notion of self-esteem is rooted?  Coming at the idea of self-esteem from a theological perspective, I tend to associate self-esteem with the scriptural command, " your neighbor as yourself."  The assumption is that we *do* love ourselves, regard ourselves as of some value at least to God, and will care for ourselves and steward our gifts well.

    I hope you will write about this in more detail in the near future.  I am just plain happy for you on the publication of not one, but two books!  (My copy of 'Unclean' arrived in yesterday's mail.  I cannot wait to sit down with it and really focus in on what you have to say.  I know already that it will become one of my favorite books.)  Many thanks...

  18. Well, I ordered the new book on Amazon - a mistake as I did not realize the back order issue.  Should have gone with the University press.  We are reading"Unlcean" for our church book group during Lent.  The good Lord has used you to be a significant blessing for the church.  Thank you.  

Leave a Reply