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The Psychology of Religion: Views from Sigmund Freud Essay

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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…show more content…
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. The sense of guilt if these criteria are not met is parallel to the guilt held from killing the dominant male as primal hordes. Freud claims that religion protects us from developing individual neuroses which may not be accepted by society. Because religion is a part of our culture and therefore accepted, it is not seen as a defect. There is a need for protection from a father figure (infantilism), and in this respect Freud rebrands Feuerbach’s theories of ‘projection’ of the perfect being to ‘wish-fulfilment’, and of desired infantile protection. Freud says that the female counterpart to this
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