How to Be a Sinner


It is that time of year: the semester is winding down. And so final week I asked my students, as we reached the finish of Peter Bouteneff’s new book How to Be a Sinner, their general thoughts on the book and irrespective of whether they would advise it to other people.

I am content to report that not only would they do so, but many of my students reported how valuable it had been to them in sorting out often tough psycho-spiritual problems–in particular these wrestling with neurotic guilt they have mistaken for the voice of “God” or of “conscience.” Some students also reported to me that they had been quoting components of it in e-mails to close friends, or aloud to space-mates, so compelling did they uncover the book.

If the suggestions of undergraduates leave you a bit unmoved, then let me echo and confirm the recommendation of this book. It is a extremely cautious and judicious strategy to normally fraught problems which it handles with sensitivity and insight. As a psychoanalyst manqué, I in particular appreciated how valuable Bouteneff is in arguing for clear discernment of the many voices that normally masquerade as God, but which in reality are just the tedious eructations of that tyrannical bore identified as our super-ego. 


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