Freud and Religion

"The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life"

Civilization and its Discontents 1930

"My deep engrossment in the Bible story (almost as soon as I had learnt the art of reading) had, as I recognised much later, an enduring effect upon the direction of my interest..."

An Autobiographical Study 1925

Throughout his life Freud grappled with the problem of mythology, spiritual feeling, religious institutions and the basis of morality. His writing on the subject is only half the story. Many of the antiquities he collected are religious objects of one sort or another, intended to pacify the gods with which men have surrounded their lives, or to ensure immortality in another life. His collection of Rennaissance prints and photographs brought back from 'pilgrimages' to Italy, are testament to a deep and abiding fascination with the Catholic faith he often denounced as 'the enemy'. The Leonardo cartoon 'Madonna and Child with St Anne' hangs in his study downstairs.
Freud must have been impressed by the universal nature of religious phenomena, being on the interface between the biolgical and social realms. No doubt he suspected that religion, like literature, articulated in a disguised way some of the psychological truths he discovered in his own work. It could even be argued that the confrontation with religion was a spur to the development of psychoanalysis itself:
"In point of fact I believe that a large part of the mythological view of the world, which extends a long way into the most modern religions, is nothing but psychology projected into the external world. The obscure recognition... of psychical factors and relations in the unconscious is mirrored - it is difficult to express it in other terms, and here the analogy with paranoia must come to our aid - in the construction of a supernatural reality, which is destined to be changed back once more by science into the psychology of the unconscious. One could venture to explain in this way the myths of paradise and the fall of man, of God, of good and evil, of immortality, and so on, and to transform metaphysics into metapsychology."
The Psychopathology of Everyday Life(1901)

a mirror of Ivan Ward's Freud & Religion     Page two of More Freud links


Freud's theories on religion

In his numerous works on religion, written over a span of nearly forty years, Freud produced a number of different but in many ways interconnected theories.


Each of these theories has been criticized for being over-simple. The main objection seems to be directed at the implication that religion is a neurosis. I am not sure this criticism carries much weight. Freud says explicitly that religion can save people from neurosis. He also asserts on more than one occassion that science - the highest achievement of human beings in his eyes - can also be described by using terms from psychopathology. That is to say, as a 'neurosis' in a dynamic sense. For Freud 'neurosis' is not necessarily a pejorative term, it is more or less a shorthand description for the human condition!

Religion and truth

Is psychoanalysis a religion?

Religion worksheet

Bibliographies

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