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The Psychology Of Religion Essay

1491 words - 6 pages

Sigmund Freud was a psychologist known as the ‘father of psychoanalysis’ who believed that our sense of moral understanding is a result of the conditioning of a growing being.

He argued the human mind or ‘psyche’ is split into three parts; the id, which contains basic and primitive, desires e.g. hunger, thirst and lust; the ego, which involves perceptions of the external world that makes us aware of the ‘reality principle,’ one’s most outward aspect of our personality, and the super-ego, which contains the conscience that punishes bad behaviours with guilt, and the ego-ideal that praises good actions. Freud reasoned that in order for the psyche to be healthy there must be balance between the ego and the super-ego, hence Freud claimed that beliefs founded on religion were part of an ‘adolescent stage in the development of the human race from which humanity should free itself.’

Freud formulated a theory of religion that he explains in Totem and Taboo, which was influenced by works such as Robertson-Smith’s Religion of the Semites, Darwin’s The Descent of Man, and Frazer’s The Golden Bough. He highlights that guilt plays a fundamental role in the psyche. Guilt must have had an original cause. At one point in history, there must have been a violation of the law which created an ‘inherent’ sense of guilt. Freud continues to trace this back to when human were a group called a ‘primal horde’. In these groups of early humans, there was always a dominant male, for example, like in wolf packs. Moreover, he centres his theory on guilt that originates with the Oedipus complex, where the younger males became jealous of the alpha male having choice over the woman he has as his partner. This horde acts as an ideological state apparatus, forcing the younger males to accept oppression Gittins calls ‘age patriarchy’, however this aggression builds up, and the younger males kill the dominant male. After they have come down from their aggressive impulses, coming from their ids, they feel overwhelming guilt. Their guilt is inherited by the following generations and when society is developed religion is defined. An example of this is in his other book, Moses and Monotheism, Freud tries to apply his theory to Judaism and Christianity. According to Freud, Moses was an Egyptian who forced his religion upon the Jews. The Jews, in a manic state, kill Moses on the mountain just outside of the Promised Land. This created a large-scale sense of guilt, which created the need for salvation expressed by these religions: ‘Remorse for the murder of Moses provided the stimulus for the wishful fantasy of the Messiah, who was to return and lead his people to redemption.’ Freud also goes on to say in The Future of an Illusion that ‘religion is the collective neurosis of humanity’. He notes that there are similarities to obsessive compulsions in religion. For example, prayers/worship is to be performed exactly, repeated, anxiety if omitted and a sense of relief once ritualised....

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