This on-line article gives a readable overview of my thinking on the religions and myths I have studied to date. It ends with a section in which I offer a broad perspective on the connection between childhood trauma and religion. Though written for a general audience, this article is based substantially on my peer-reviewed publications (linked to below). The article is posted at a prominent "new atheist" website but is non-confrontational and is intended to be irenic in tone and effect. The title-link above takes you to the on-line version. To download as a manuscript PDF, click here.
Paradise Lost: Childhood Punishment and the Myth of Adam's Sin
This peer-reviewed essay clarifies the origins of the sin-punishment dynamic in Judeo-Christian religion. In doing so, it discusses the individual's internal psychological responses to corporal punishment in a way that can facilitate psychological self-exploration. For this reason, the essay may be of particular value to those who are trying to understand and come to grips with their own childhood experiences of coercion and punishment.
SOURCE: Chapter in Kille, Andrew D., and Daschke, D., eds. A Cry Instead of Justice: The Bible and Cultures of Violence in Psychological Perspective. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies; volume 499. T&T Clark: New York, 2010, pp. 19-41.
Note: This essay presumes a familiarity with the biblical story of Adam and Eve; if you want to review that story, this page provides a variety of translations.
This 25,000-word peer-reviewed article is my most detailed scholarly publication to date. The primary focus is Christianity, in particular Christian origins and early Christianity. In the "Exploratory Excursus" that forms the final section of the article, I also discuss other religions.
SOURCE: Archive for the Psychology of Religion, volume 33, no. 1, 2011, pp. 1-54.
Note: If you print this article, I recommend changing the print-menu setting from "Actual Size" to "Fit" or "Fit to Printable Area." Making this change will enlarge the very small footnotes and render the article more readable.
This peer-reviewed essay explores the role of trauma-induced behavioral repetition in religious ritual, sacrament, and ethics. It focuses on the eucharist, baptism, and the ethical advocacy of innocent suffering in Christianity (e.g., the prescription to follow Christ). This essay builds on ideas developed more fully in my other articles and chapters, so it is best to approach it after reading some of my other writings.
SOURCE: Chapter in Feierman, Jay R., ed. The Biology of Religious Behavior: The Evolutionary Origins of Faith and Religion, Praeger: Westport, 2009, pp. 89-105.
As the title suggests, I wrote this article specifically for atheists, in particular those who identify with the outspoken "new atheist" movement. The main presentation on Christianity overlaps extensively with that in my other writings. What is novel is the concluding section, in which I offer an irenic perspective on the shared humanity of atheists and theists. The title-link above takes you to the on-line version; you can also download a manuscript PDF. A German translation of this article, which I have not vetted, is available on-line and as a PDF.
The substance of this relatively brief peer-reviewed article, which was my first publication, overlaps with the longer and more refined argument I subsequently made in Archive for the Psychology of Religion (see above). Though the article stands up well overall, it heavily emphasizes the role of Roman pagan childrearing practices and says little about Jewish childrearing practices; were I to write the article now, I would provide a more balanced emphasis.
SOURCE: CSER Review, Volume 2, no. 1, 2008.
Many of the same trauma-related psychological processes evident in myths can play out in circumstances that are not overtly or obviously mythical. As an intriguing example, consider my on-line Amazon review of Long Strange Trip, a remarkable documentary on Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead. You can also download this review as a PDF.
"Whence this Need for Salvation? Childhood Corporal Punishment and the Cultural Evolution of Religious Myth." Chapter in: Feierman, Jay R. and Oviedo, Lluis, eds. The Evolution of Religion, Religiosity and Theology: A Multi-Level and Multi-Disciplinary Approach. To be published by Routledge in September, 2019.
Book in Progress
I currently am completing a book on the connection between childhood trauma and religion. The main focus is Christianity but other religions and myths are also discussed. If you would like to be notified when this book is published, please drop me a line at: abelow . religion @ gmail . com, with extra spaces removed.