Freud and Jung revision notes- The psychology of religion

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Freud- Wishful thinking

Religion is wishful thinking- human minds create the illusion to combat psychological turmoil. It is also a form of neurotic illness arising out of the unconscious mind. Neurosis arouses repressed memories that re-merge into the conscious mind.

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Freud- Oedipus Complex

Freud believed that these neurosis were caused by repressed sexuality that is linked to the Oedipus complex. This is were young boys are sexually attracted to their mothers and resent their fathers presence. As the child develops the parents becomes increasingly concerned about manifestations of their child’s sexual nature and the parents try to prevent them: in particular, by instilling feeling of guilt in their child. The child represses the conflict into its subconscious mind. Through out its adult life, this repressed memories then takes the form of a neurotic obsession. In particular the jealousy felt towards the father manifests itself in apparent religious obsession with God as the father figure. God can at once be a harsh judge and a loving figure. Freud suggested that God the father is a reflection of people’s relationship with their own father. In particular a person’s obedience to their own father is mirrored by the adult obediently following religious rules.

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Freud- Influence of religion within society

Freud argues that religion has greatly benefited people and society in the past. For example religion has been the source of laws and customs that have helped societies to develop. It has also provided a sort of security blanket. However Freud argues that religion has also not made people happy and has lead to people being used. With scientific developments religion should be abandoned because it is a neurosis.

A total athiest society would be a healthy society.

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Freud- The 5 psychosexual stages

Oragutans always play (with) little Gorillas

Oral Stage

Anal Stage


Latency Stage

Genital Stage

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Freud- Primal Horde theory & totemism

Religion was primarily discovered through the primal horde theory which then led on to toemism. He believed that we used to live in societies in a very animalistic way, where we would have one dominant male, who would take control of the horde or group. He would in a sense provide for the group and therefore get the most advantage (in theory have dominance over all other males and take women at his will). This caused anger within the other men in the groups who then wanted to kill the dominant males. However, once they had done so, they had strong feelings of guilt. As, although he had total control, he did care and feed the group. This is when a the community or horde would create an object of which would take some form of spiritual power, of which they would put all their feelings of guilt into. This object/thing was a totem, people began to worship the totem as it helped them to relieve these repressed feelings. This was also the beginning of religion.

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Freud- Fixtation of one psychosexual stage

Fixtation comes from either getting too much or too little pleasure during a stage, example, someone fixtated with the oral stage may be a chair smoker.

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Freud- Criticisms

While it may be true that religious belief can be governed by the subconscious, it does not mean that God does not exist. It merely suggests that people’s experiences of God may be based on their subconscious desires.

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Freud- Criticisms

Freud worked on a very small sample of ‘neurotic’ patients compared with the number of people involved in more modern psychological studies.

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Freud- Criticisms

Michael Palmer argued that "...Almost all the evidence that Freud presents has been discredited in one way or the other"

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Carl Gustav Jung- Religion being good

Jung viewed religion as contributing positively to mental health. Unlike Freud he argued that the basic psychic drive is not sexual libido but something far more spiritual. It is the most basic human need and is not based on repression but on self-realisation.

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Jung- Archetypes

Society forces us to repress certain aspects of our personality pushing them deep into our unconscious. Each person is forced to adopt a mask to face the outside world which he called the persona.

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Jung- Conscious & Unconcious

He argued that there was a division between parts of the unconscious mind: The personal (things about ourselves that we want to forget. These become repressed memories and desires) and the collective unconscious (it is true of all humans).

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Jung- Conscious & Unconcious (Archetypes)

The unconscious is known by the way it manifests itself physically through dreams, symbols and stories. Studies of these symbols from different cultures indicates that humans share very basic psychological characteristics

In the collective unconscious there are archetypal images – a central one being that of God – the Supreme Being or self. This image may be modified by our personal experiences which govern the picture we form of God, but the process is common to everyone.

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Jung- Four Archetypes

He argued that there are 4 main archetypes which are found in the collective unconscious that surface in dreams:

The Anima/ Animus: Mysterious female aspect of the male psyche

The Wise Man: He can appear as a hero, king, and saviour e.t.c

The Shadow: The dark primitive, animal side of human nature

The Child: a symbol of wholeness existing both in this world and in the next

God: Jung argued that God archetype was the core of all the symbols and imagery of God.

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Jung- Positive effect or religion/ archetypes

He considers that we must learn to recognise symbols and interpret them and use them in our life. They are a method of healing. He said that “Man needs to cultivate thoughts and ideas that cannot be proved-thoughts that give meaning to his life and enables symbols to give meaning to the life of man”

Jung believed we were not born with a blank psyche, that we were born with many archetypes, which developed and became more prominant depending on life experiences.

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Jung- life experiences change our archetypes.

Jung says that we experience life as a journey of self-discovery in which we increasingly become our true selves – this is a process of individualisation. This is like a second birth or awakening – that as we become our own self we increasingly recognize the nature of the archetypal self or God. Jung therefore felt that you either know God exist or you don’t. It cannot be a question of belief.

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Jung- Religion pros.

Jung regards religion as the outward expression of this inner truth and its importance is to give psychological integration and balance to humanity. The removal of religion would lead to psychological problems

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Jung- criticisms

The argument is still routed in human self-interest. It does not answer the Kantian-minded philosophy of performing one's duty of duty's sake or pursuing intrinsic goodness. Morality remains extrinsic, instrumental to the health of the human psyche

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Jung- criticisms

People could also be said to be turing to their archetype of God rather than to God himself. Morality thus is still routed within the numan self and does not have any type of external authority.

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John Hick argues that the verdict is 'not proven' while Freud and Jung offered valuable insights into the mechanisms that lead to religious belief, there is nothing compelling in either account to lead us to conclude that religion is a construct of mental activity

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