Ana Maria-Rizzuto was an American psychoanalyst who began her interest in looking at Religion through the eyes of her discipline in 1963 when she was asked to teach a course in the seminary on the psychological foundations of belief. She was inspired by Freud’s insights into the role of parents in search of project with patients admitted to a private psychiatric hospital. Twenty patience were studied, ten men and ten women. The goal of her project was to study the possible origins of the individual’s private representation of God and its subsequent elaborations. Rizzuto took her basic hypothesis from Freud who had connected the individual’s ‘father in flesh’ with God. Freud claimed that all people create their own gods on the basis of early relationships shaped in childhood. In doing his project, Rizzuto had each one fill out detailed questionnaire and then she interviewed each to gain a comprehensive life history. In order to understand her subjects thoroughly, Rizzuto asked them to talk about themselves at the different stages of their growth, about their relationships, conflicts and problems. Her end goal was to be able to make a complex assessment and come to a clinical interpretation of the quality of each subject’s relationships in those private and subjective areas of experience which do not lend themselves easily to statistical analysis (Graham13-5).
Rizzuto focused on the formation of an individual’s private representation of God during childhood, its modifications and uses during the entire course of life. She calls this process of formation the “Birth of the Living God”. As the image of one change, so, too does the one’s image of God change. Rizzuto says that the images and experiences from the earliest years, before oedipal struggles, seem to play a key role. The child alone does not create a God. According to Rizzuto, the development of a child throws light on the way the image and the concept of God come into being and interact. The new born baby has no interpersonal experience. The infant has the experience of the mother, the father and the siblings. The child has a multitude of interpersonal experiences. It is at age of three when the child becomes consciously curious about God. “A three year old oedipal child, for instance, has great curiosity and wants to know the why of living” (208).
The child is especially interested in the causes of things like, ‘why do trees move? Where does the wind come from? The child ceaseless chaining of causes or animistic notions of causality will inevitably lead her/him to think of a superior being. The idea of God suits a child well because her parents and adult are already in her mind superior beings of great size and power. “The child easily moves to an anthropomorphic understanding of God as a powerful being like her parents”(Rizzuto qtd in Winnicott 97) The child soon discovers that God is invisible; therefore, he is left to inner resources to fill the image of God as a living being described for him as a person. The powerful fantasy of the child has to ‘create’ the powerful being. As a result, as the image of one change, so, too does the one’s image of God changes.
Also, an image of God can be created for a new human being through parental and societal devotion to God as like its parents. The child...