Opinions have greatly differed in terms of psychology as to its role of religion in believers’ lives. Freud, the ‘father of psychoanalysis’ sees religion as a dangerous illusion, and the suppression of trauma resulting in a ‘universal neurosis’ that is, religion.
In his book Civilisation and its Discontents, Freud discusses the manners in which religion is beneficial to society, and how far this defines religion. Freud sees religion as a way of suppressing any natural desires which would be otherwise detrimental to a functioning society – the aggressive and sexual drives found in the id. Religion, to do so, provides a motivation for the sublimation of these unwanted desires (channelling these energies into culturally acceptable activities such as sports) as it provides a conventionally omnipotent authority in the form of God. The fear of punishment and desire for reward I n the afterlife are presented by religions to be infinitely more powerful than earthly pleasures or punishments, and hence religion is a primary motivation for the types of behaviour necessary for a functioning society.
The negative aspect of this approach originates from Freud, from the suppression of these natural desires. He argues that religion encourages not only abstinence, but suffering within that absence, pain and mental difficulties are raised if they are to seem to stem from overcoming ‘evil’ tendencies. This complete repression of any trauma or negative desires, Freud believes, could lead later to that repressed trauma surfacing to the conscious, causing great psychological disturbances.
The possible psychological disturbances reesult9ing from suppressed trauma can, to Freud, be seen in sufferers of neuroses. He drew comparisons between religious believers and neurotic sufferers, leading to his conclusion that religion is the ‘universal neurosis of mankind’. In his work with neurotics and hysterics,...