RSS03: Psychology and Religion - AS Religious Studies

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  • Created on: 22-06-13 19:13
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· Saw religion as an illusion ­ religion is a deceptive trick of the mind.
· Based on wish fulfilment ­ our minds will create beliefs to satisfy desires and
needs. It helps us overcome inner psychological conflict, conflict between our
natures and civilisation and helplessness and fear of natural forces.
· Religion helps us overcome ambivalent feelings we often have, suffered during
sexual development.
· In essence, it is a way of solving the psyche's inner conflict.
· Religion is a symptom of collective neurosis, which is the result of an imbalance
of the id, ego and superego that all humans suffer from and attempt to cope with.
· Through this observation, mental imbalances often cause physical symptoms.
· As these imbalances are repressed, we often cannot deal with the problem directly.
· He claimed that when one experiences a traumatic event that is psychologically
difficult to deal with, we repress this deep into our unconscious mind to block
the pain.
· But complete repression does not always work, and trauma can resurface
through physical symptoms and compulsive behaviour.
· E.g. a young child has a traumatic operation and witnesses another nearby child with
a vomiting bug. This child represses the memory and later develops emetophobia
­ fear of vomiting due to the association.
· The physical symptoms of this imbalance manifests as compulsive behaviour
i.e. obsessive handwashing due to risk of vomiting from germs.
· In this example, Freud sees this as an example of religion being a symptom of
· He compares the typical behaviours of a neurotic and those of a religious
· E.g. the ritualistic behaviour of the child would be similar to how a Christian would turn
to prayer. In this, Freud saw a link between these two behaviours in that they were
both affecting the individual emotional wellbeing ­ failure to complete these
results in guilt.
Oedipus complex
· Freud saw that religion was a symptom of collective neurosis, triggered by a
traumatic event experienced by all humans.
· The traumatic experience is a response to the development of the Oedipus
· This complex states that the child develops a libido, which was the
subconscious desire for satisfaction stemming from the unconscious.
· The child is used to having the sole attention of the mother, and when the libido is
transferred to the sexual organ, the child realises that there is a rival in the father.

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The desire for the mother leads to feelings of jealousy towards the father, triggering
feelings of ambivalence as they love him, so they repress this. It resurfaces as
physical symptoms in later life.
· Just as the child developed emetophobia, so too an individual develop religious
feelings which help to purge them of guilt as the religious feelings provide a
means to transfer these negative feelings onto an external being/system.
· E.g.…read more

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Through animism, beliefs are built around the object which feelings of guilt are
transferred onto. Through the totem, the horde can make amends through worship.
· It is a transformation of the father. Freud then found that this could be applied to
religion God is that totem as through Him, we appease the negative feelings with a
ritual cleansing act i.e. worship.…read more

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· Self
· Represents one's public image.
· The persona is a mask we put on before we show ourselves to the outside world.
It is the tendency to put up a front to cover our true natures for the benefit of
· This front could be a `good impression' to be what is expected of us by others or it
could be a `false impression' to manipulate other people's opinions and
behaviours.…read more

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The libido can be described as a flow of psychic energy. To maintain health, all
of the features of the personality need to be integrated. E.g. there needs to be a
balance between the conscious mind and the unconscious.
· There also needs to be balance among the different archetypes ­ the failure to
maintain this balance is the main cause of mental illness and neurotic illness.
E.g.…read more

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Not all societies had totem objects whom they worshipped, and no evidence
for the ambivalent attitude towards the totems which was demonstrated by the
totem meals.
· The idea that guilt was passed down to generations had been discredited,
damaging Freud's claim that religion is guilt based as it removes a major
source of guilt. The primal crime never happened and could not transmit guilt
even if it did. It weakens the Oedipus complex theory, as the primal crime
fundamentally illustrated its effect on society.…read more

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Criticisms of Jung
1. Jung's methodology
· Criticised for his view that we can never know whether God exists. This view rests
upon his assumption that nothing can be known of any entity outside the psychic
· E.g. we can never know whether a religious experience is real or merely created
by the mind. This assumption, however, has been questioned.
· E.g. scientists base their conclusions on empirical evidence without worrying
that their data are just figments of their imagination.…read more

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As a collective neurosis, religion helps to prevent people from falling into
individual neuroses and psychoses. To a limited extent, Freud's theory should
accept that religion can be beneficial to mental health.
· Nevertheless, as an obsessional neurosis, religion perpetuates and magnifies the
problem, rather than treating its cause. E.g. it can heighten the sense of guilt
and fear by building up the father into an angry God who can never be
satisfied and who threatens a terrifying revenge after death.…read more

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Persona: image. Shadow: darker side. Animus: masculine side of female, and vice
versa with anima
God: generate religious images, real in our psyche, `immanent transcendent'
Process of individuation: Maintain health ­ integrate the personality. Balance
between the archetypes ­ failure is the main cause of mental illness.
First part of life ­ external, second is internal.
Individuation governed by Self ­ religious process. Through religion, the
personality achieves goal of integration. Therefore, religion is beneficial ­ lead to
healthy mind.…read more

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Historical and anthropological evidence on primal horde ­ Speculations, people not
grouped exclusively in hordes. Not all societies had objects that were worshipped.
Inherited guilt discredited.
Psychological views do challenge religious belief (Strengths)
Has God been explained away by psychology? (Yes)
God is an inner psychological reality ­ He is not externally real
Impossible to prove the existence of God ­ cannot access collective unconscious
God is explained away by as simply a product of psychological hopes, fears and guilt.…read more



This source has helped me a lot! I was wondering if you have done anything on Animal rights or Euthanasia? Or where you got you're notes from? 

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