Letter To the Editor

Response to Armand Nicholi's 
"How Does the World View of the Scientist 
& Clinician Influence Their Work?"

Arthur N. Strahler
[Ph.D., Columbia University (Geology), and
formerly Professor, Columbia Graduate Faculty
of Pure Science]

From: PSCF 42 (June 1990): 135.                                          Nicholi and Hearn reply to Strahler

This letter concerns an article published in PS&CF, vol. 41, December, 1989, by Armand M. Nicholi, Jr., M.D., titled "How does the world view of the scientist and the clinician influence their work?"

I found very disturbing Armand Nicholi's thesis on the role of Chrisitanity in clinical psychology and psychiatry. It is in somewhat the same vein as Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen's thesis (PS&CF, vol. 40:4), that Christianity needs to participate actively in psychotherapy. But in this case Nicholi concludes by saying:"Seeing the patient as an object created in the image of God automatically influences the tone and attitude of the physician toward his or her patient" (p. 220). He associates "kindness and compassion" with the Christian therapist, the inference being that a non-Christian (secular, humanistic) therapist will be at best indifferent and at worst cruel, inhumane, and uncaring in treating a patient. This kind of Christian chauvinism is insulting to those whose differing world views include the same human behavioral guidelines in clinical practice. (The guidelines appear on p. 218.) Nicholi implies that Christianity is unique in generating compassion and respect and concern for other human beings, nor is Christianity free of many negative attitudes that are part of the same religion, namely guilt for sin and divine retribution in the form of eternal damnation and hellfire.

Despite your disclaimer that papers in PS&CF do not reflect any official position of the ASA, the journal editor and peer reviewers (if there were any) should bow their heads in shame for allowing this unconscionable display of Christian bigotry. They should apologize to the millions of nontheistic and also caring, kind, loving, self-sacrificing, and compassionate individuals living and long gone-among them devoted parents, teachers, volunteer social workers, nurses, and physicians-whose world view includes respect for and adherence to those admirable qualities of character the author has so egregiously limited to avowed Christians.