Thursday, February 23, 2012
Atheism for Lent: Religion as Wish-Fulfilment (Freud 1)
#atheism for lent
The permanence of conflict is Freud’s leading theme, and part of his hostility to religion stems from an awareness that religion somewhere assumes a fixed point … at which conflict is resolved. In contrast, Freud maintains an intractable dualism; self and world remain antagonists, and every form of reconciliation must fail.
Philip Reiff, Freud: The Mind of the Moralist, p.292.
This is the first in a series of Lenten posts stemming from the Atheism for Lent course that I ran last year. The first week of Lent explores Sigmund Freud’s critique of religion as wish-fulfilment. What follows is a long post on Freud, since there aren’t that many days left until the First Sunday in Lent, when you could spend some time reflecting on what Freud’s critique of religion might mean for your faith. The distinction between scepticism and suspcion, drawn below using Merold Westphal’s Suspicion and Faith, is important for the rest of this Atheism for Lent course.
[Religion is a] system of doctrines and promises which on the one hand explains to [‘the common man’] riddles of this world with enviable completeness, and, on the other, assures him that a careful Providence will watch over his life and will compensate him in a future existence for any frustrations he suffers here. The common man cannot imagine this Providence otherwise than in the figure of an enormously exalted father. Only such a being can understand the needs of the children of men and be softened by their prayers and placated by the signs of their remorse. The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life.
Sigmund Freud, The Complete Psychological Works, vol.21, p.74.