Freud's theory of religion

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  • Freud's theory of religion
    • Freud believed that religion was based on wish fulfillment to satisfy the minds basic longings.
      • The human mind will create these images to help us overcome 1) inner psychological conflict (religion as a collective neurosis)     2) the conflict between our natures and civilisation and 3) helplessness and fear of natural forces.
    • Religion as an aid to overcome inner psychological conflict
      • Freud argued that religion is a collective neurosis which stems from the unconsious mind and it results from incompletely repressed sexual traumatic memories therefore religion is an illusion resulting from sexual trauma
        • Freud argued that the development of the personality led to deep inner conflicts, usually sexual with the minds solution to lock away the trauma. But this doesn't work and resurfaces later as religion
          • As a collective neurosis, religion is a neurotic illness that aflicts all people and includes pain, compulsive behaviour, hysterias ect. Freuds work with patients suffering from hysteria led him to believe that unpleasent memories are trapped in the unconsious and resurface in neurotic illnesses.
            • Freud made the link when he discovered the simmilarities bewteen people with neurotic illness and religious believers. For example, both have rituals and feel guilty if they don't complete them
    • Libido (sexual drive) and repression
      • Sexual drive is the body's most basic urge and Freud argued is the one most capable of causing mental illness. Libido is more than just sex, it's the drive for satisfaction E.G Babies suckle from their mother to achieve satisfaction. When the child develops into an adult, the longing for satisfaction moves from the mouth to the sexual organs.
      • The Oedipus complex. The trauma lying behind most neurotic illnesses. Freud explains the Oedipus complex to be: When the child is younger, it achieves it satisfaction from the mother in terms of food. However, when the child develops and the mother does not provide the child with the sole attention it craves, the child sees the father as a rival and feels hatred towards the father and lust towards the mother. This leads to extreme guilt. Unable to carry out his wishes, the child represses them resulting in neurosis.
    • Support for Freuds theory
      • For Freuds theories to work we have to accept two things. Firstly that the oedipus complex must be universal and secondly that burried trauma can resurface in religion.
        • Freud supported the complex with Darwin's primal horde. This was where a group of people centred around a singledominant figure leading to resentment from the other males. Te strength of feelings led to him being idolised and transferred to being the totem of the group. This prehistoric explanation suggests that everybody is effected by a social structure.
        • The burried trauma reappears in the form of religion. This was supported by a complicated argument to show the natural reaction to control feelings of guilt was to redirect them onto surroundings and other people. Freud used 'the wolf man' to support his ideas over two stages
          • B) Development into religion - when this was not enough, the longing of the father grew and so did his reputation. It is seen he took on the divine significance from the father and transferred them into god.Overall religion is an aid to overcome internal conflict
          • A) animism - mind created totems or idols to defer feelings to guilt. The idol or totem is a transformation of the father. The wolf man saw a phobia wolves transferred from sexual trauma. Much like religion being transfered from trauma to relgion. This study saw a phobia from trauma to animals.
      • Critical appraisal of Freud's work - a brilliant mind but Micheal Palmer says his ideas are outdated
        • Anthropological evidence for the primal horde- this theory was based on speculations of Darwin and it is not accepted that people were grouped exsusively in hordes which removes the universal nature.Pritchard also doubts that people had totems. The idea of guilt being passed down is also discredited.
        • Psychological evidence for the Oedipus complex - Malinowski critisises this heavil. He pointed out the Trobrand race where the father plays the role of the weak nurse so their is no evidence for the complex. He says that the neurosis comes from the strict laws of religion
        • A narrow selection of evidence - relied on the importance of the male character - fails to take into account female Gods. The father is not always dominant. Gay couplesdo not have one male and one female figure to apply this theme to.
    • The value of religion - Freud's arguments prove nothing for the value of religion as he admitted God could only exist objectively. Freud said that religion comes out of the mind. Though the obsessional neurosis has no grounding in fact. Freud said that without evidence, we must conclude religion is false. Freud said that we should try to branch away from religion because people do bad things in the name of an illusion and morally right people aren't always religious.
    • Religion as an illusion to overcome fear of natural forces - the natural human response to these, including death is to panic with helplessness. Religion suggests these are controlable. God is a father figure and provides refuge
    • Religion as an illusion - Freud showed how the nature of our society is in conflict with our most basic desires, for example, the oedipus complex as a source of conflict.
    • Freuds theory of religon! Freud said religion didn't cause mental health - but sexual repression led to collective neurosis. He argued religion should be overthrown.


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