Freud's theory of religion

Freud's theory of religion

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  • Created by: Elly
  • Created on: 04-05-10 16:15

Freud's theory of religion

- He believed religion was an illusion based on wish fulfilment

- Religion is created in the mind to help us overcome:

  • inner psychological conflict
  • conflict between our natures and civilisation
  • helplessness and fear of natural forces

"Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in line with our instinctual desires" - Sigmund Freud, new introductory lectures on psychology

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Religion as an aid to overcome inner psychological

- Religion is a collective neurosis, it stems from the unconscious mind. It results from incompletely repressed traumatic memories

- Trauma = sexual in nature. Therefore relgion is an illusion resulting from sexual difficulties.

  • Minds solution to trauma is to lock it away, unsuccessful it re-emerges later
  • as neurotic and hysterical behaviour
  • link between religion and neurosis when he notices similarities between behaviour in patients in relation to source of obsession and religious people involved
  • rituals
  • guilt if rituals were not carried out - regarded with ambivalence
  • concluded relgion is a neurosis cause by deep traumas within psyche

"At the bottom of every case of hysteria there are one or more occurences of premative sexual experience, which beleong to the earliext years of childhood" - Freud aetiology of hysteria 1896

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Libido and Repression

- Believed neurosis were caused by repressed sexuality and libido, that is linked to the Oedipus complex.

  • Young boys are sexually attracted to their mothers and resent their fathers presence. - Child - guilty
  • Represses conflict into sub c mind
  • adult life, repressed memory takes form of a neurotic obsession
  • jealousy felt towards father manifests itself in apparent religious obsession with God as the father figure.

-Mechanism of repression only partially effective, mind struggles to prevent thoughts from re-emerging

-channelled out in the form of neurotic symptoms, one of these symptoms is religion.

"Universal obessessional neurosis of humanity" that "arose out of the Oedipus complex out of relation to the father" - Freud future of an illusion 1927

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Animism

  • When suffering from extreme guilt, minds defence mechanism was to create idols
  • invest in trees stones etc
  • Mind can redirect the guilt on to idol -> make amends through prayer and sacrifice
  • totem = transformation of the father, both regarded with ambivalence
  • Support comes from Darwins primal Horde
  • veneration of the father grew, this was transferred onto the totem
  • totem = identity of group
  • ambivalence remained
  • annual killing of animal

This is how religion results from a buried trauma.

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Development into religion

-Animist emphasis on the totem proved unsatisfactory

- Longing and reputation for father grew

- Eventually he took on a significance and transformed into one of the Gods of religion regarded with the same ambivalence as the father.

- Religion is therefore an illusion to help us come to terms with ambivalent emotions suffered during sexual development

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Religion as an illusion

  • Freud demonstrated how the nature of our society is in conflict with our most basic desires.

  • Were conflicts such as the Oedipus conflict allowed to be acted out, society would not be able to operate.

  • Society depends on structure and order, those who have responsibility to govern must have authority and this will inevitable conflict with desires of each individual.

  • Religion provides a reason to submit to authority. It explains our suffering in terms of the need to obey an omnipotent God.

  • It promises reward for our suffering in the afterlife and makes society bearable. Religion therefore provides the necessary motivation for sublimation to occur

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Religion as an illusion to help us overcome fear o

-Human response to death = panic

- Religion, helps, by saying that through religious devotion we can control it- not powerless

“everything that happens in the world is an expression of the intentions of an intelligence superior to us, which in the end though it its ways and byways are difficult to follow, orders everything for the best- that is it makes it enjoyable for us.” -(Sigmund Freud, Civilisation and its discontent).

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Conflict between our natures and civilisation

- Society is in conflict with our most basic desires.

- If Oedipus was allowed to be acted out = bad

- Society needs structure

- Those who govern = authority, conflicts with peoples desires

- Religion = reason to submit to authority

It explains our suffering in terms of the need to obey an omnipotent God

- It promises reward for our suffering in the afterlife and makes society bearable.

- Religion therefore provides the necessary motivation for sublimation to occur

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