Essay: Freud Requires a Rereading of Religion

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This later work tends to be divided into those who believe that his critique of religious belief remains fully compatible with religious faith, that one may (to put it somewhat simplistically) believe both in Freud and in God.

Freud writes in this volume in ways that imply that religion is given birth out of humans’ basic insecurities, out of the most primitive aspects of our psychology and our history. He suggests that our belief in a god (or one might suppose in the supreme ruler of a pantheon of lesser gods) is nothing more than an extrapolation of our pre-modern experience with a man setting himself up to rule all of the families that live in his compound. God is nothing more than the force majeure of the day, the figure that is just a little more powerful and a little more frightening than the rest.

But others have argued that this is not the only possible reading of Freud’s argument in The Future of an Illusion. These sympathizers with Freud argue that the primitive (in the sense that they are ancient rather than in the sense that they are unsophisticated) aspects of human psychology that Freud points to as being generative of religious feelings may in fact simply be sympathetic to such feelings.

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