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Freud on Religion Religion as a collective neurosis “Universal obsessional neurosis” Links between religious behaviour and “obsessive actions in sufferers.

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Presentation on theme: "Freud on Religion Religion as a collective neurosis “Universal obsessional neurosis” Links between religious behaviour and “obsessive actions in sufferers."— Presentation transcript:

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2 Freud on Religion Religion as a collective neurosis “Universal obsessional neurosis” Links between religious behaviour and “obsessive actions in sufferers from nervous affections.” E.g. obsessive hand washing Ritual not performed = guilt Unpleasant memories pushed into unconscious mind Repressed memories = neurotic actions

3 Oedipus Complex and Repressed Guilt Boys and mothers Fathers – mixture of feelings Led to ‘terrible act’ – guilt passed onto all future generations Repressed guilt in unconscious shows itself in religious behaviour

4 The Terrible Act Described in Totem and Taboo Darwin – primordial hordes Sons – Oedipus Complex Kill father and eat body Totem animal – father substitute (animism) Guilt passed on to future generations Totem animal becomes God Eucharist = remembering act Religion = illusion

5 Wish fulfilment and a reaction against helplessness Illusions = “Derived from human wishes 1.External Forces of Nature (floods, earthquakes etc) 2.Internal Forces of Nature (murder, cannibalism, incest etc) 3.Longing for father figure (1 & 2 lead to feelings of helplessness)

6 How does Freud challenge religious belief? “Great services for human civilisation.” Negatives outweigh positives Religion manipulated = social injustice Religion = oppression (“overrated its necessity for mankind”) Doesn’t bring happiness Prevents maturing Reject religion and progress Put energy into this life.

7 Religious Responses No evidence Promotes equality Makes people happy Jung – religion is positive and leads to good mental health If Freud had a religious experience himself, he would understand. “If Freud had ever experienced anything of the kind himself, he might have been forced to consider some other interpretation.” (Storr)

8 It is generally agreed that Freud was immensely intelligent. His work greatly influenced the Western understanding of the mind. The idea that people imagined gods to represent the good and bad in their own lives and personalities was not a new one. It was held by many others in Freud’s time. Example One In The Natural History of Religion, David Hume had argued that humans had constructed religion in order to help them to deal with the misery of life and the dread of death. Example Two In The Essence of Christianity, Feuerbach states that religion is a childlike condition. He felt that it is an illusion which comes from feelings of separation from oneself and the world. These feelings of separation lead to the qualities which we ourselves lack being projected on to a ‘God’.

9 “Almost all evidence that Freud presented has been discredited in some way or another.” (Michael Palmer) 1.The Historical and Anthropological Evidence 2.Malinowski and the Oedipus Complex – Trobriands 3.Narrow Selection of Evidence 4.Negative bias towards religion – Winnicott (religion helps humans adapt by offering comfort and familiarity), Rizzuto (religion no more of an illusion than science)

10 Jung on Religion Religion as an expression of the collective unconscious All humans have an unconscious which is made up of archetypes, which are, “identical psychic structures common to all.” Collective unconscious = oldest part of mind E. g. Common idea of God = light

11 Archetypes “Archetypes are those pre-existent forms or primordial types that have existed since the remotest times of humanity.” (Michael Palmer) A priori “Unconscious organisers of ideas.” Drawing on the work of Kant – noumenon, phenomenon and concepts

12 God as an archetype Images and ideas of God are archetypal All humans come up with similar ideas of God, angels etc This idea has no bearing on arguments for God’s existence “Nothing positive or negative has thus been asserted about the possible existence of God any more than the archetype of the hero proves the actual existence of a hero.”

13 The Persona The mask we show the world The parts of our personalities which we think other people and society will like Repressing parts of ourselves which we think are ‘bad’ has negative effects on our mental health. Persona = “a very fruitful source of neurosis.”

14 The Shadow The parts of our characters which we repress The things we think society will not like Cannot stay repressed Reveals itself in ideas such as Satan, Mr Hyde, Frankenstein Ashamed of shadow – protect it onto something else, like Satan.

15 Anima and Animus Anima = feminine side of male Animus = masculine side of female Men put masculine characteristics into their persona and repress feminine characteristics We are attracted to those who have the feminine/masculine characteristics we repress Images of anima – Virgin Mary, goddesses Images of animus – hero, wise man

16 The Self Most important part of humans Seeks integration Guides through life Looks for fulfilment in religion and art Self = ‘God within’ – the mystical part of humans, or the soul Reveals itself in dreams and visions, figures of power (kings), supernatural entities (gods), outstanding religious personalities (Jesus), religious symbols (Mandala)

17 Integration / Individuation “Coming to self-hood” (Jung) All humans go through this process of becoming a unique individual. Individuation can be held back by parents, education etc Conscious and unconscious mind comes together Two stages of life: Up to 35/40 – Construct persona and repress parts of personality 35/40+ - embrace ourselves and ask spiritual and philosophical questions

18 Is integration a religious process? Jung – archetype of self and archetype of God are not easily distinguishable Both ‘God’ and ‘self’ belong to the nouminon – impossible to understand / describe Self and God are not the same – the self does not replace God. Symbols of Self and God are symbols of unity, such as the mandala. Individuation is about wholeness and totality – these are the goals of religion

19 How do Jung’s ideas challenge religious belief? Jung’s ideas are not as damaging as Freud’s Religion is important – unlocks collective unconscious – therapeutic for individual Religion is not infantile – it helps humans to mature and integrate their personalities Religion gives life meaning. Reductionism?

20 As Jung provides a theory of religion and psychology which is less damaging to religion, he has been praised by religious thinkers: “[Jung has] rediscovered the religious and the sacred and got rid of an overwhelming rationalism. (Raymond Hostie – Jesuit theologian) “[Jung is] one who knows so much about the depths of the human soul …” (Paul Tillich – Theologian) “[By studying Jung] we can gain an insight into the ways by which men become aware of God.” (Charles Hanna – Jungian) However, “although Jung’s theories are perhaps less sensational than those of Freud, they have nonetheless been seriously criticised.” (Michael Palmer)

21 Jung – we can never know whether or not God exists. However, Jung accepted scientific ideas without empirical evidence Roheim - the theory of archetypes is unnecessary – Humans have the same ideas because they have the same experiences. Is God an archetype? If so, why are there atheists? Is individuation a religious process? For Christians, Christ is more than just a symbol of wholeness to help balance our minds - He is the Son of God. Jung’s reduction of religion to psychology could be damaging – (Father Victor White)

22 Has Freud explained religion away? Religion is an illusion which prevents humans maturing. There is no proof, so religion should be rejected Freud’s idea of the terrible act could show that religion is simply a reaction to a guilty memory. Freud doesn’t provide any proof against religion Hick – Freud could be beneficial to religion. Freud may have uncovered how God reveals Himself as a father figure Jung – it is not the job of psychology to comment upon God’s existence. It cannot be proven or disproven

23 Has Jung explained religion away? Jung does not wish to comment on the veracity of religion. He is interested only in the effects it has on individuals. Religion can have positive effects on mental health, but that doesn’t mean that God does or doesn’t exist. God can exist (or not exist) even if God is an archetype For Jung, religion is part of human nature which can be studied like any other.

24 Positive effectsNegative effects Religion can make people happy and provides support in difficult times, when they could be prone to mental health problems Freud – negative effects – guilt leads to behaviour linked to obsessional neurotics Jung – religion aids integration which supports good mental health Freud – religion holds people back and stops them maturing Religious leaders support the mentally ill and joining congregations promotes a sense of belonging.


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