Religion and the Individual-Freud

  • Created by: dominique
  • Created on: 08-05-14 16:10
Freud's Theory of Religion?
Freud believed that as an illusion, religion is based on wis fullfillment. He believed that in certain circumstances the human mind will create beliefs and images to satisfy its most basic longings and desires.
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Why did he say that religion created the mind?
To help us overcome: Inner psychological conflict, conflict between our natures and civilisation, helpness and fear of natural forces.
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Religion as an aid to overcome inner psychological conflict. Freud argued that:
Religion is a collective neurosis, it stems from the unconcious mind, it results from incompletely repressed traumatic memories, this trauma is invaribaly sexual in nature, therefore religion is an illusion resulting from sexual difficulties
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What is the mind's solution to such problems?
to lock it away in the unconcious mind, this, however, is unsuccessful and the trauma re-emerges later in the form of religion
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as a collective, ........... is a neurotic illness that afflicts all people?
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what all all examples of neurotic illness?
Hysteria, obsessions, anxieties and phobias
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Freud's work with patients suffering from hysteria led him to conclude what?
as well as conscious areas, the mind also contains unconcious parts which we cant normally access.
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What led Freud to realise that the unconcious mind comprises a vast story of information about events which we consider forgotten?
his work on hypnosis and studies of dreams
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What did his work with his patient demonstrate?
that unpleasant memories which are trapped in the unconcious can surface later in the form of neurotic and hysterical behaviour, usually in the form of OCD, like complusive hand washing.
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When did Freud make the link between religion and neurosis?
when he noticed close similarities between the behviour of his patients in relation to the source of their obsession and religious people in relation to the object of their worship. RITUALISTIC BEHAVIOURS, SYMBOLIC MEANING, SEVERE GUILT IF FORGOTTEN
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From this, what did Freud conclude?
That religion itself was a neurosis, caused by traumas deep within the psyche. The most startling part of his argument is the belief that the trauma is sexual in nature
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Libido and repression.
For Freud, the sexual drive (libido) was the body's most basic urge and the most capable of causing psychological problems within the development of the individual
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For Freud, what does the LIBIDO represent?
the body's general, subconcious desire for satisfaction stemming from the unconcious. In babies for example, the libido centres on the mouth and its desire to suckle. This changes as the child develops
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Outline the Oedipus complex
The suckling child was used to having its mothers sole attention. when this libido is transferred into the sexual organ, there is already a rival, THE FATHER. The acute feelings of jealousy and hatred lead to the desire to kill the father.
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Anything else to outline about it?
Combined with the great respect and fear previously felt for the father, this results in a deeply traumatic sense of guilt. This desire to possess the mother and the ambivalence twowards the father is known as the Oedipus complex
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When the mind tries to prevent the repressed dersires and guilts from re-emerging, they are channelled out in the form of neurotic syptoms, what is one of them?
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Support for Freud's Theory of religion
if his theories were to be accepted, two things MUST things be established. 1. That the oedipus complex is a universal sexual trauma 2. that buried trauma can reappear in the form of religion
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Support for the Oedipus complex.
Freud used the work of charles darwin to speculate that in primitive societies, the social unit was the primal horde.
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What were hordes?
groups of people arranged around a single dominant male who had total authority over the group and held claim over all the females. over time, the resentment of the younger males grew until they got together to kill the dominant male
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What did this relsult in?
Ambivalent feelings towards him: hatred on the one hand, combined with veneration on the other. The strength of these feelings was so great that he bacame idolised and transformed into the totem of the group.
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What does this show?
That the Oedipus complex isnt simply a personl trauma, but one that has affected all societies at a historical level. It helps to explain why religon us universal as a collective neurosis and why the concept of God is such a powerful one.
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How does religion result from a buried trauma?
He provided a complicated argument to show that the natural reaction of the psyche was to control feelins of guilt by transferring it away from itself and onto surrounding objects and people
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This is the first stage of development. Freud believed that, when suffering from extreme guilt, the minds defence mechanism as to creat idols (totems). This involves investing stones, trees or animals with spirits.
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Having done this, what can the mind do?
redirect the feelings of guilt onto the idol and make amends through prayer and sacrifice. The mind is therefore able to control the feeings of guilt
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In effect, what is the idol or totem a transformation of?
The father, and as he father was regarded with ambivalence, so too is the totem. Freud's case studies (the wolf man) demonstrate that people suffering from the Oedipus complex frequently transfer their fear onto animals.
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Development into religion
This is the second stage. As time passes the animist emphasis on the totem proved unsatisfactory. As longing for th father grew, and so did his reputation. Eventually he took on divine significance and became transformed into the Gods of religions.
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What eventually happened?
He took on divine significance and became transformed into the gods of religions. Freud points out that gods of religions are regarded with the same ambivalence as was the original father firgure, proving that there is a connection
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What therefore, is religion?
an illusion created by the mind to help us come to terms with the powerfully ambivalent emotions suffered during sexual development, it is a means of resolving this inner conflict.
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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 like the Oedipus complex allowed to be acted out, society would not be able to operate.
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What does society depend upon?
structure and order,those who have responsibility to govern must have authority and this will inevitably conflict with desires of each individual.
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Religion provides a reason to submit authority. It explains what....
our suffering in terms of the need to obey and omnipotent God. It promises reward for the suffering in the afterlife and makes society bearable
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Religion therefore provides the necessary motivation for .....
SUBLIMINATION to occur. The most natural outlet being forbidden, it forces our libidos into other areas. Having suffieciently motivated the believer, it provides ample scope fro sublimination in fields such as religious art, music or charity worl
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Religion as an illusion to help us ovecome fear of natural forces
The natural human response to being confronted by natural forces is one of panic and helplessness and solitude.
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Religion helps by.....
creating the belief that the natural forces are not impersnal, and that we are not powerless, for through religious devotion we believe we can control them.
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Religious belief is a reaction against what?
Helplessness, providing adults with a father figure who can protect, just as father protected.
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What does religion fulfil?
our wishes for someone to look after us in a harsh world. For God is the ultimate ideal of a father, being all loving, all-poweful an totally dependabel, giving people the confidence that the future is safe in his hands
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Freuds conclusion about the value of religion
Freud doesnt provide any logical proof against the possibility of religion. He admitted that his arguements prove nothing, since God could exist objectivley anyway.
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In practice, what did freud point out?
that beliefs that are derived from basic psychological needs turn out to be false. The beleifs of obssesional neurotics, invariably have no groundig in fact.
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What did Freud therefore argue?
that in the absence of any other evidence for religion, we are justified in concluding that it is false.
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What does he go onto support?
a complete rejection of all things religious.
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Freud creates a conversation with an opponent to hid beliefs about religon. This opponent raises to points, what are they?
1. Without religon, civilization would turn into anarchy 2. depreving people of religion seems needlessly cruel
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In his reply, what did Freud admitt?
That religon has performed 'great services for civilization'. He also acceptted that if religion were entirely positive it would indeed be cruel to deprive people of it, illusion though it may be.
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What did he then go onto argue?
That religion is not in fact beneficial. It doesnt prevent people from rebelling against the restrictions of society. Many believers abuse religion for their own purpose to justify social immoralities.
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What did Freud suggest was an alternative to replace religion with?
scientific, rational understanding of the world, this he argues would make people more willing to obey the demands of civilisation because they would see them as being for their own personal good.
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A critical appraisal of Freud's work
The following areas have been attacked: 1. the historical and athropological evidence regarding the primal horde. 2. The psychological evidence regarding the Oedipus comples 3. Freuds dependance of narrow selection of evidence 4. religon/over thrown
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Anthropological evidence for the primal horde.
Not all societies had totem objects, whom they worshipped, and there is no evidence for the ambivalent attitude towards the totems which was demonstrated by the total meal. E.E Evans-Pritchard doubts this ever happened
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How does this critisism damage Freuds claim that religion is guilt based?
because it removes the major source of guilt. The primal crime never happened and could not transmit guilt even if it did. It also weakens the oedipus complex theory, since the primal crime was an important illustration of its effect on society
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Psychological evidence for the Oedipus Complex
Bronislaw Malinowski, 'sex and repression' was a major critic of Freuds work. Freud needed the complex to be universal to be the cause of all religion and needed it to be caused by our natures for it to precede to religion and be the cause of it.
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Malinowski attacked both of those points, but how?
First, He pointed to the Trobriand Race, where the role of the father is more that of a weak nurse. NO EVIDENCE FOR OEDIPUS COMPLEX IN THIS RACE. Second, he looked at the animal world and found nothing inherent in the nature of the animals
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What did Malinowski then argue?
that the Comples is caused by the strict rules of religion, rather than being the cause of them. This attack on the Oedipus complex leads to the conclusion that sexual guilt is not in fact the cause of religion.
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A narrow selection of evidence.
Freuds theories relied on the importance of the father figure, which is developed by the mind into the male God of Judaism or Christianity. They therefore failes to take account of religions based on female deities, or those with no objective worship
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What else did they fail to take into account?
societies like the Trobriand race; where the father plays an insignificant role in the development of the child. In societies such as these, religion could not be attributed to the tensions with the father, since no such tensions existed
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Why can Freud therefore be critisised?
for constructing a theory to explain the societies and religons with which he was familiar, and ignoring those of others. We can also critisise the way he generalised the results of his five case studies.
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An unjustifiable negative view of religion.
Psychoanalysist Donal Winnicott, has argued that religion is an essential buffer between the mind and external reality. Religon is useful in that it helps humans adapt to their environment by providing a source of comfort and familiarity.
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What did Ana-Maria Rizzuto argue?
that religon is no more of an illusion than science. Both disciplines require us to interpret data and impose order on the world. Freuds assumption that sciene has the sole claim to the truth is unacceptable.
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What Rizzuto argue that freud has done?
replaced religon with an illusion
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Why did he say that religion created the mind?


To help us overcome: Inner psychological conflict, conflict between our natures and civilisation, helpness and fear of natural forces.

Card 3


Religion as an aid to overcome inner psychological conflict. Freud argued that:


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Card 4


What is the mind's solution to such problems?


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Card 5


as a collective, ........... is a neurotic illness that afflicts all people?


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