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Religion As Illusion and A Reaction Against Helplessness. Introduction. The Problem. Freud said the nature of our society is at conflict with our most basic desires (the desires of the id)

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Presentation Transcript
the problem
The Problem
  • Freud said the nature of our society is at conflict with our most basic desires (the desires of the id)
  • We have seen one such conflict in the form of the Oedipal desire to kill the father and possess the mother
  • If conflicts like that of Oedipus unbridled society would not be able to operate – society depends upon structure and order: those who have responsibility to govern must have authority and this will inevitably conflict with the desires of each individual
religion as an illusion to overcome the conflict between our natures and civilisation
Religion As an Illusion To Overcome the Conflict Between Our Natures and Civilisation
  • 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 suffering in the afterlife and makes society bearable.
what it does
What It Does
  • Religion therefore provides the necessary motivation for sublimation to occur.
  • As the most natural outlet is forbidden it forces our libidos into other areas
  • Having so motivated the believer it provides ample scope for sublimation in fields such as religious art, music or charity work
religion as an illusion to overcome our fear of natural forces
Religion As an Illusion To Overcome Our Fear of Natural Forces
  • Freud says that the natural human response to being confronted by natural forces (including death) is panic and helplessness at our defencelessness and solitude
  • Religion helps by creating the belief that the natural forces are no longer impersonal and that we are no longer powerless because through religious devotion we believe we can control them
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Everything that happens in the world is an expression of the intentions of an intelligence superior to us, which in the end, though 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, 1930

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So religious belief provides for the adult a father figure who can protect just as the father protected the child.

To the strange superior powers of nature, the adult lends the features belonging to the figure of his father; he creates for himself the gods.

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Task
  • Freud claims that religion is an illusion to overcome the conflict between our natures and civilisation and an illusion to help us overcome our fear of natural forces. Do you think this is a good explanation of religious origin? Why/Why not?
    • Do you agree with just one point perhaps?
    • Can you think of any counter arguments against Freud’s theory.