The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud (Summary)


By Zack T. Smith
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 2009, 2012
All Rights Reserved.

This is my summary of the excellent book, The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis.

Note, my notes are in [brackets], and XX means that I need to verify that Freud actually expressed this idea (in this way).

CHAPTER 1

  • The concept of civilization is associated with a built-up knowledge base about extracting ``wealth'' or otherwise useful things from Nature.
  • The concept of civilization is associated with a set of rules for controlling (A) those actions of people which affect other people, and (B) the distributiuon of wealth among people.
  • These two associated things (the knowledge base and the rule set) are not independent of one another. There are three reasons why this is so:
    1. Relations between people are influenced by the degree to which a person is instinctually satisfied. (Instincts are part of Nature.)
    2. People themselves have value, either by the work they perform or by their personal characteristics, such as sexuality, persona, etc.
    3. Each person is an enemy of civilization; civilization must therefore be protected from individuals and groups. [Note: Civilization is sometimes the enemy of the individual.]
  • Point 3, above, requires that civilization be designed to maintain the current distribution of wealth.
  • Civilization is imposed by a minority onto a resisting majority.
  • These problems or defects of civilization do not seem to be inherent in civilization, but are brought about by the cultural forms that have determined the current makeup of civilization. [He wrote this in 1927.]
  • Both science and our ability to control nature are continually advancing, however the cultural forms do not seem to be advancing.
  • Surely people have asked whether what little civilization that exists is worth retaining.
  • It would be nice if one could have a civilization without coercion and without suppression of the instincts, but this seems unlikely, since all people have destructive anti-social tendencies which must be limited. [Note: The ruling minority has anti-social tendencies, too.] They have instincts and desires which cannot be allowed to destroy civilization and other people.
  • Hence, the problem of civilization is not how to distribute wealth, but how to control a person's desires -- how to strike a bargain with what must be done for civilization and what is returned as compensation.
  • Rulers must exist to guide the masses, but rulers must survive and exert control, and one can only do so if the agreement is free from the bickering that occurs when rulers live among the masses; hence rulers must be a separate class. [Note: Unaccountable rulers have given us pointless wars, economic bubbles and economic meltdowns.]
  • To summarize, coercion is necessary because
    1. People do not like work.
    2. Their desires must be limited so as to not be destructive.
  • Freud says that it might be that the destructive tendencies of individuals and groups exist due to the poor state of present (~1930) civilization.
  • Freud says that some people retain the ideal of a perfect, caring, nurturing society, one which circumvents an individual's destructive tendencies by raising him to care for his fellow humans and to cultivate wisdom.
  • No such society of well-mannered, cooperative people yet exists, so coercion is still needed. The ideal is valuable nevertheless and should be kept as a goal for the long-term development of the human race.
  • Even if that ideal is realized, it is likely that, because humans have varying psychological profiles, there always still be a minority of anti-social people. Hence the more practical ideal would be one of minimizing that group to being a controlled minority. (XX)
  • A great deal of coercion may be necessary to bring about such a nurturing society.

CHAPTER 2

  • Now that we have acknowledged the psychological functions of civilization, i.e. the fact that people are both coerced so that they don't destroy civilization as well as compensated for the renunciation of instincts, we should define some psychological terms.
    • Frustration is the situation of an instinct being left unsatisfied.
    • Prohibition is the regulation by which frustrations are brought about.
    • Privation is the condition that results because of prohibition; it is the internal self-coercion.
  • Some privations are carried out only by some individuals, some by groups, and some by everyone in a society.
  • Examples of society-wide privations include those against incest, cannibalism, and the lust for killing.
  • Privation is useful to society, since it converts the individual from being an enemy of society into being its catalyst and proponent. The greater the number of such individuals (self-coercers) that exist, the less that a civilization must use open, obvious coercion to perpetuate the culture/civilization.
  • This internalization of cultural prohibitions is often very reliable, however one finds that prohibitions regarding some instincts are routinely ignored. The sexual instinct is an example. Such prohibitions are only obeyed when the theat of external coercion is believed and feared.
  • In the case of the neurotic individual, cultural prohibitions do not have the effect that they have on a non-neurotic person.
  • Per-group prohibitions include the limitations placed upon the lower-class by the upper-class. Such prohibitions produce envy among members of the restricted group of people in non-restricted groups. Such envy leads to attempts to act against prohibitions and to become free of privations. [Note: Punishments for infractions often cause hatred of the punishing group.]
  • If a group is forced by its civilization to work, but its members never receive compensation for that labor, then that work is a kind of slavery, and several phenomena will be observable:
    1. The formation of privations will usually not occur in its members.
    2. Members simply won't accept the culture that causes their slavery.
    3. Members won't feel as though they are members of that civilization or society that enslaves them.
    4. The enslaved will tend to want to destroy the unjust civilization that has enslaved them.
    5. The victims may even reject the beliefs upon which that civilization is based and seek to revise them.
    6. Such hostility will tend to create equivalent hostility in well-provided-for groups.
  • A civilization which leaves large numbers of its members unsatisfied or enslaved is rightfully on a path of self-destruction.
    The Mental Wealth or mental assets of a civilization: This includes not only its system of prohibitions (i.e. its moral code), but also its art and its ideals. These latter two items represent the icing on the cake of civilization.
    The Narcissistic Ideal: An important ideal of a civilization. It specifies the following:
    1. The physical products that the culture has produced, e.g. fine foods, musical genres, computer technology, a strong navy.
    2. The skills and actions that are considered admirable, e.g. rhetorical skills, analytical skills, language skills. [Note: A trivial example might be the British gift for wittiness.]
    3. The Narcissistic Ideal also suggests where this particular cultural unit is going -- its direction.
    [Note: Subcultures, nations-within-nations, and some religions also ahve their own NI's.]
  • The narcissistic ideal is a focal point for group identity and is used to compare one culture to another. It is a nexus or easy-reminder of the identity of the nation-tribe, to which numerous other concepts and experiences are linked.
  • This narcissisic ideal is used as a bargaining chip with the unsatisfied lower classes. They may not have the wealth or privileges that the upper class enjoys, but they do have this nifty ideal to go with their cultural identity. The ideal reminds them that they belong and that they are better than the peoples of the other cultural units. [Note: An example might be (rapidly disappearing) American "freedom".]
  • The narcissistic ideal defines members of a culture to be superior to other cultures, and thus allows the lower class to psychologically project its tinge of inferiority onto members of other cultural units.
  • The narcissistic ideal is a tool utilized by different classes within a cultural unit to ease the difficulty of coexistence and to form amicable inter-relationships. It is the focal point of cultural rituals and it is the basis for common pride.
  • If it were not possible for people within a culture to coexist peaceably, the many cultures which exist today (~1930) would probably not have lasted even this long.

CHAPTER 3

  • Herein, Freud says, we shall ask what value religious ideas have to the individual.
  • If there were no prohibitions against acting to satisfy one's instinctual needs, and one could take any woman or kill any person that one chose to, then life would be exciting, but only for the short term. Such actions would quickly bring about many severe conflicts, or a state of perpetual conflict, or one's own death.
  • Hence it is in the best interest of the individual who lives among others to support at least the prohibitions against killing, against theft or destruction of another person's property, and of rape of another person's wife.
    Nature: the natural world
    Fate: the individual person's fate within the natural world
  • If certain prohibitions aren't followed among people, the individual is at risk of dealing with a variety of violent or otherwise painful situations. Civilization exists to protect us from Nature, from Fate, and from one another.
  • Each individual responds differently to different problems in life. But generally he does this:
    1. To the demands and difficulties offered by other people and by civilization, he responds by building up a resistence to them, and by forming a conscious or repressed dislike of them.
    2. To the pains offered by Nature and by Fate, he responds in a different manner: When he feels threatened by Nature or death, he lets civilization console him. When he feels curious about life and its mysteries, he lets civilization explain. When he needs to make a difficult decision, he looks to society to provide examples or rules.
  • Hereafter, Freud tends to equate religion with civilization. During his time, European civilization was more intimately entwined with religion than today.
  • All civilizations/religions put a familiar face (a god, a demon, etc.) on Nature and Fate. This converts what had been inescapable, all-powerful opponents into things which can be spoken to, bargained with, appeased, and bribed. Such entities or gods also have certain rights and pleasures, and these can be stolen.
  • Before Nature and Fate were humanized, people had reason to fear them. By sticking human faces on them, in order to enable people to convince themselves they are interacting with Nature and Fate, these forces ceased to be so threatening. Indeed, the result is the opposite: the god(s), like the father from an individual's childhood, becomes a catalyst and due to his (or their) presense, the individual comes to want new things, and that god(s) become fulfillers of wishes.
    [Comment: In a sense, gods were one of Man's early technologies, since like a tool they were instruments for doing, believing and feeling. A bow and arrow permits Man to kill game, believe he can survive, and feel confident. Similarly a god-invention permits him to justify killing, improve changes of survival, and feel a false confidence about the invented world that religion describes.]
  • This humanization of the world has a childhood analog. Just as the adult looks to the anthroporphic Nature and Fate for comfort, understanding, self-esteem, identity, and empowerment, so did the child once look to the father for the same emotional commodities.
  • The humanization of Nature and Fate fulfills three needs of the adult related to childhood:
    1. For the adult to feel detached from the difficulties of life in which he is entangled.
    2. For the adult to feel like a playful and irresponsible child once again.
    3. For the adult to reenact a pleasing, former relationship with one's father.
  • Gods are utilized by humans to perform three tasks:
    1. To remove the terrors of Nature.
    2. To reconcile humans to Fate and death.
    3. To reconcile humans for the pains in partaking of civilization.
    Even though science has uncovered many laws which explain why the world functions as it does, thus exorcising gods from common objects, the need for gods to fulfill the above-list tasks still remains, claims Freud.
  • Early on in the development of religions, gods were made subject to Fate rather than in control of it, for the reason that it was noticed humans were generally too helpless and too needful. People wanted the gods to change their own fates. In respone to this, religion was changed so that gods don't control Fate; they can administer it or tweak it, but they are subject to it themselves. [Note: This explains the numerous stories of mythology, wherein the gods are assigned roles to play and must endure problems that they must endure or solve.]
  • It has been observed generally that Nature develops by its own means. But religions explain that the gods are in control of Nature. So, when Nature does something unusual, it is called a miracle and is taken as being a demonstration by the gods of said control.
  • The more that the gods are shown to be not in control of Nature, the more that religionists can be seen limiting their description of godly control to the realm of morality only.
  • Historically, this shift toward morality has meant that the influence of gods (i.e. of religion) has shifted toward the interaction between the individual and his civilization. There have been two important results of this:
    1. The rules regarding human interactions were explained as being of divine origin and were labeled as being unquestionable.
    2. The problems of civilization were utilized by religionists for the purpose of selling their god(s) as a solution and offering a full religious world-view. [Note: In a sense religion is an accessory that civilization is urged to buy into along with a sewer system and roads and law courts.]
    [Freud goes on to describe the current mechanisms by which the Christian religion and Christian god are incorporated into the managment of civilizations. He notes that often the different parts of the religious model are in contraction with one another. He asks, What does this model mean for the psychology of the believer?]

CHAPTER 4

  • Civilization provides us with religious ideas in order to:
    1. Make us feel protected from Nature and Fate.
    2. Make the shortcomings of civilization less apparent and painful e.g. a class system.
  • It is civilization which obviously provides with these ideas, as they are provided in a ready-made form. The individual does not have to seek them out. These ideas are provided in the same manner as are multiplication tables.
  • It is claimed that the ideas come from the god(s), but this claim is necessary to ensure that the ideas are believed and that they serve their function. The claim ignores the history of said ideas, lest they be subjected to debunking.
  • Humanization of Nature in primitive man occurs because humans have the tendency to personify a thing that they want to influence. They must believe that they can control something by first convincing themselves that it is conscious, therefore able to be manipulated. [Note: Contrast with objectification of people.]
  • Totemism is different from religion in that it is based on the father-son relationship primarily. Religion goes beyond that and answers the human's need for security and for explanations about the world.
  • The connection between totemism and religion lies in the need for a person, upon realizing that part of him will forever remain a child, to create for himself something which resembles his father.
  • In all major monotheistic religions, Freud says, that new father figure is god.

CHAPTER 5

  • The psychological value of religion lies in the fact that it answers many very perplexing questions in what Freud says are satisfying ways. Religion answers questions about the most important of issues in a person's life and the answers that it provides are therefore very important to the individual.
  • When something is taught to a person or student, there is usually presented with it some reason as to why a person should believe it. In the case of geography, the reason is that if you don't believe it, you can go there. A source of the information is also identified as a means of legitimizing it.
  • When we are presented with religious ideas, there are three reasons given for belief:
    1. Our ancestors believed it.
      (Logical fallacy: Genetic fallacy.)
    2. The information was passed down by our ancestors, who should be respected.
      (Logical fallacy: Appeal to tradition i.e. argumentum ad antiquitatem.)
    3. It is forbidden to question religious ideas.
      (Logical fallacy: Non sequitur.)
  • These reasons are easily brushed aside, as follows.
    1. Our ancestors were primitive compared to us.
    2. Why continue their primitive ideas in the present -- especially when their texts are full of contradictions, falsifications, and obvious inventions.
    3. If religious ideas are not lies, then why not question them? Whether they are true or not is independent of whether questioning them is allowed or not.
  • Given that religious ideas are supposed to answer the grandest of questions and riddles and to help us make our most important decisions, the fact that they are so unreliable requires that we reject them. We could just as well believe that whales lay exploding eggs, and base our ocean trips based on that.
  • Throughout the ages people have certainly questioned religious ideas, either keeping their doubts to themselves or perhaps paying a price for expressing them in more oppressive times and places than ours.
  • Many advanced minds have produced distorted, confused, or useless works due to their inability or unwillingness to address the unreliability of religious ideas. [Note: A project whose foundation is bogus will itself be bogus.]
  • If the evidence which proves religious assertions is reported to have existed in the past, but we can only examine the events of the present and recent past for such evidence, and these do not offer clear, irrefutable evidence, then it is rational to assume that past phenomena no longer occur [or never transpired at all] and that the religious claims are false.
  • Religionists in general cannot succeed in refuting the fact that the gods and spirits in which they have so much faith are little more than products of their own imagination, styled especially to suit their needs.
  • Two attempts have been made at escaping this issue of validity.
    • The first is Credo quia absurdum meaning I believe because it is absurd, from Tertullian, which is a stance in which a religious person claims that religious ideas are outside of the domain of reason, that truth must be experienced personally, and that there is no reason to understand religious ideas.
      This Credo is useless for many reasons:
      1. Since when is there a higher court than reason?
      2. What does a person do if he has not had this vaulted truth experience?
      3. Of what significance is the truth-experience of one person to another person who has not had such an experience?
      4. Why should the second person who has not had said experience do anything that the first demands?
      These questions illustrate the weakness of the Credo, because they cannot be answered any more convincingly than Why does 1+1=3?.
    • The second approach to escaping the issue of validity is the argument that people need to believe as if various fictions are true in order to operate in the world. In other words, that an escapist belief in the invisible man or beings in the sky has some practical value. [Note, this is also the rationale for not telling young children that Santa Claus is not real.] But this argument is weak because it neglects the psychological causes of why a religious person needs to believe in the first place, i.e. where such needs originate. [Note: as well as whether religious ideas actually have any merits.]
  • Despite the flimsiness of these two attempts at escaping the question of validity humans have in the past held to religious ideas very strongly. The questions to ask are:
    • What part or aspect of religious ideas is it that has such an influence on humans?
    • what part or aspect of humans is it that is vulnerable to them?

CHAPTER 6

  • Strong feelings of helplessness in childhood cause a need for protection, initially for the mother, then later for the stronger but more dangerous father.
  • But feelings of helplessness and confusion last throughout life, so after childhood there is need for a surrogate father figure, which, as provided by our civilization, is the Judeo-Christian god.
  • This god is meant to protect the individual from the truly scary aspects of life, including death, old age, and so on. The god answers the complex riddles of life. It provides ready made decisions about how to live.

    [Note: The god and the stories that go with it are also meant to make believers feel they have a quick, minimal-work means to obtaining wisdom and moral superiority, but that of course is fake.]

  • Religious ideas are illusions whose purpose is the fulfillment of urges for security, for escape from feelings of helplessness, for a return to the simplicity of childhood.
    Illusion: An interpretation of reality that is likely incorrect, whose purpose is to serve the individual to allow him or her to believe that a wish has been fulfilled. Illusions are derived from wishes. Illusions are similar to but different from delusions, which are nontrivial and in contradiction with reality.
    [Note: The differentiation between illusion and delusion is that an illusion may be incorrect but not strongly contradicted by reality whereas a delusion is contradicted and insisted on.]
  • Example of an illusion: The belief held by German nationalists that only the Indo-Germanic race is capable of civilization. [Note: The wish is for superiority, and the solidity of identity, self-esteem, and security that come with it.]
  • Few illusions ever prove to be based on fact, however the fact is that they usually cannot be proven to be correct or incorrect. They are often fixated upon in part because they fulfill a wish, but also because of they cannot be verified or rejected.
  • Science provides us with a means for verification or rejection of an illusion. Science excludes intuition or personal feeling from the analysis and its practitioners are therefore relatively immune to illusions. [Note: Unless their work is paid for by industry or influenced by politicians.]
  • Because religious ideas can't be refuted, one might ask, Why not believe them? Why not go with the flow? One answer is that they represent an embracement of ignorance, and from a state of ignorance one cannot make clear, informed judgements. It does not further a person to join in the fools' choir and sing their song, no matter how sweet it is, unless one enjoys being an fool.

CHAPTER 7

  • There are many aspects of our perception of the world or of an individual's perception of himself or herself that could be said to be based on illusions. In order to contruct a true ideology or world-view (Weltanshauung), free from any form of corruption, one must identify and push aside all such illusions. [Q: But has anyone ever actually done that?] In the present work, however, we only have the space for addressing the illusions related to religious ideas.
  • Some would argue that although intellectual investigation is basically a useful activity, the fact that civilization [circa 1930] is built upon religion, to investigate it is to needlessly undermine civilization risking a state of anarchy wherein people are not compelled to follow laws. [Note: And yet don't people go to war justifying it with religion, and wars result in crimes?]
  • Religion helps make life bearable for some people. Without it, they would be distraught and lost. [Note: Similar arguments have been offered by addicts of narcotic drugs, and Freud was reported to have been addicted to cocaine.]
  • People need for there to be an ordered society. They need for a sense of security in life, for hope after life is over, and for something to make their life liveable and meaningful. Religion is the satisfier of these needs.
  • Freud proposes a criticism of himself: If Freud has often claimed that people are ruled by their repressed instinctual needs, that reasoned arguments cannot control people, then why abolish religion, since religion satisfies those needs and helps maintain order? Freud answers by saying that in his opinion, there must certainly exist better alternatives, i.e. that religion need not always be the means to achieving social order or an individual's or group's fulfilled emotional life and sense of security.
  • Freud also says that he thinks religion can be removed from civilization without risk, without harm to people.
  • If being devoutly religious is as religious persons and authorities often claim -- namely, a sign of great intellect -- then there should be no harm caused by Freud's preaching his anti-religious arguments. [That is, if religious authorities have the best arguments, they should feel quite secure that their arguments cannot be overcome.]
  • Freud mentions that his purpose is not to present the first-ever denouncements of religion, heretofore unheard of in the world. Others, he notes, have already done that. His function is to add the psychoanalytic analysis of religion to the existing arguments.
  • Freud claims that, in actuality, the harm done by criticizing religion will likely to be either to him, since he will have to discuss these writing with various close-minded persons, to this book itself, since it may turn out to be banned, and to psychoanalysis, since people who are in opposition to psychoanalysis will surely use this book as an excuse to denounce it.
  • But, Freud notes, psychoanalysis is just a tool, whereas the book is a product of its use. To ban an instrument, which its proponent claim to expose new truths, would be very telling. At any rate, the effort would be pointless because psychoanalysis has produced many very positive results other than this book and has withstood many other assaults.
  • Although religion has done much for humanity and there are good arguments for keeping religion, it is clear that religion has not done enough, for the fact is that [even ~1930] large numbers of people are expressing discontent with religion and (European) civilization and are rejecting one or both. Or in the case of civilization, they are trying to change it or are simply ignoring its prohibitions. // XX did Freud live to see the 1960s?
  • It is unlikely that people were more happy in more religious times. They certainly weren't more moral. Russians for instance consider sin to be as important to God as renunciation of sin and therefore practice both intentionally. Religion supports both immorality and morality equally; it provides the individual with a false bargain between the two, thereby allowing the individual to treat morality as if it were a game to be cheated at.
  • Science has indeed shown much of the claims of religion to be false and science has shown us the similarities between religion and more primitive forms of god-worship e.g. totemism. Science has caused people to be skeptical about the fairy-tale promises of religion.
  • Educated people accept the arguments of science easily. There is a danger in this, since if uneducated people get the idea from the more educated people that there is no God, and that therefore killing one's neighbor is not prohibited by any god, then the uneducated person may just do it. In other words, there is the risk that the uneducated person will accept the result of science without embracing the clarity or maturity of thinking that scientific thought should instill.

CHAPTER 8

  • The idea of removing religion from civilization causes fear in people in part because religion describes penalties for certain behaviors, and people believe in and fear those penalties.
  • Many legal penalties however, such as the penality for killing another person, have significant influence. They would remain in force, stripped of any association with god(s).
  • It can be said that the aspect of godliness has been attached to a large number of minor laws and ordinances in addition to the major laws. [Note: Blue laws, obscenity laws etc.] Evidently the excuse of it is God's will is a popular excuse for getting laws of all types passed.
  • If civilization were free of religion, this excuse could be essentially ignored and no special immunity would be granted to any law. Flimsy rules imposed by selfish, private individuals or groups would be justly scrapped, as would laws enacted in error. [Note: A law that is profitable to the government or to lawyers, even if unjust, tends to remain in place.]
  • Without religion, society would also be able to question predominant taboos and norms that fail to stand up to criticism.
  • Freud pauses to make the comment that the prohibition on killing most likely did not have a practical origin, but more likely started as a prohibition against killing one's father. This conclusion is in line with his ideas about totemism.
  • Freud offers an analogy: Just as a child goes through a neurotic stage before reaching a civilized stage, so a civilization goes through the same neurotic stage before liberating itself and reaching maturity. The neurotic stage of a civilization's development is its religious period; maturity is gained when religion is abandoned.
  • A child becomes neurotic because his instinctual desires cannot be restrained by his intellect, and must be stopped by the force of a parent. This causes infantile neurosis.
  • Similarly, in times when ignorance prevailed and genuine intellectual accomplishments were uncommon, civilization found itself unable to control its (members') urges except through base force.
  • As a child grows up, infantile neuroses are overcome and unemotional reasoning plays a stronger part in guiding him or her. Remaining neuroses, Freud says, can be overcome using psychoanalysis.
  • As a civilization progresses, its intellectual assets grow in number and it becomes capable of managing itself through intellectual activity.
  • Like the obsessional neuroses of children, which grew out of an Oedipus complex i.e. the struggle with the father, so religion grew out of that same struggle, resulting in the male, fatherly Judeo-Christian god. Therefore the religious phenomenon is an echo of the individual's experiences.
  • Based on the analogy, the present [~1930] era can be viewed as the middle stage in the development of civilization toward a more healthy, mature stage. The position of the individual toward it should be to help it rid itself of religion and thus gain health and maturity. // XX did Freud say maturity?
  • This analogy between religion and obsessional neurois can be taken much further than this simple explanation and elaborated to much greater detail.
  • It should be noted that religion also permits a rejection of reality, which is not associated with obsessional neurosis, but is seen in Amentia. [Note: This is the word he used in German. The modern definition is severe cognitive mental handicap, synonymous with dementia.]
  • Religious persons are often protected from experiencing personal neuroses because they have already accepted some stronger, the more dominant group-wide neurosis of the religion.

CHAPTER 9

  • Freud poses himself the question of whether his aim is separate believers from their belief, thereby removing religion from civilization. He says that practically speaking that is not his intent, since it can't be done anyway. He notes that believers are tied to their belief not only by faith, but by an affection.
  • Freud states that his aim is to help those who do not like religion, who follow its rules only because their civilization demands it. It is that large group of people who would distance themselves from religion anyway, regardless of what he himself says or publishes, and are doing so in large numbers even today [~1930]. For these people, one need only describe the fact that religious ideas are not in accord with reality, and then they are set free.
  • [Note: Hence, to the allusion that Freud is attempting to start a war against religionists, he answers that he does not intend any such offensive operation. Rather, he is interested in a protective defense of a much larger group of people -- the majority -- who would not normally choose to be religious.]
  • Freud again poses himself a question: If, as Freud has asserted elsewhere, people are motivated by their instinctual needs, and those motivations cannot be controlled by reason alone, why is it he advocates doing away with religion, its prohibitions and its imaginary afterlife penalties?
  • Freud notes that although people are driven by their instinctual needs primarily, the question of whether they actually must be so-driven has not yet been answered.
  • He makes reference to the fact that children love to learn, but that adults do not have the same zeal for learning and asks whether religion might be the cause of the discrepancy.
  • He notes that children do not seek out religion, so why force it on them. Indeed, why force religion on any person when they are at a stage of development wherein they are neither interested nor able to question it?
  • Childhood education at present [~1930] usually has two aims:
    1. Retardation of sexual development.
    2. Decisively premature religious indoctrination. [Note: Perhaps one should say deliberately.]
    The result is the effective sabotage of the child's intellect while it is still in its early stage of growth.
  • It is ridiculous to believe that an individual who has accepted prohibitions of thought will ever reach a high level of intellectual functioning. Whether the prohibition is due to religion or to loyalty to a monarchy prohibitions on thought limit the individual in significant ways. [Note: Embracing a political ideology has the same effect.]
  • Freud argues that the inferior mental performance of women [as perceived circa 1930] is in part due to the fact that women have a greater stake in their sexuality and therefore are more limited by sexual prohibitions imposed in childhood than are men.
  • Freud, in his disarming self-questioning manner, concedes to limit his zeal. He admits that perhaps he too is chasing an illusion here, that perhaps human nature is such that religious indoctrination, harmful though it may be, is not the primary cause of the perceived lessening of intellectual ability that occurs between childhood and adulthood. But he notes that at this point in history [~1930] it is impossible to say one way or the other whether this is so.
  • Just as a drug addict cannot do without his drug, and to prohibit him from having any at all would be harmful to him and would not likely cure his addiction until he stops enjoying being addicted, so taking away a person's right to practice his religion would be a futile effort. [Notes: (1) Freud was addicted to cocaine. (2) Only a decade before the Russians had banned religion.]
  • It is incorrect however to claim that all people need religion. Granted, for some people life would be miserable without it, but that is the case either because they have already been hooked on the religion-drug, or because those people are miserable for other reasons, e.g. familial reasons.
  • It is true that persons who do not view life through a religious filter will have to face a very harsh reality, but such eduation to reality is a necessity of becoming an adult.
  • When a person is forced to deal with a problem or task honestly and directly, without childish expectations or maneuverings, he is forced to learn to use the resources that are at his disposal. Removing religion from a person's life removes a crutch and gives him an opportunity to develop his faculties. Removal of religion aids the individual in that it removes numerous unnecessary distractions.

CHAPTER 10

  • Freud now poses to himself the claim that it is Freud who is chasing illusions, not the religionists. It is he who wishes to prove that a person can be guided by his intellect instead of his instincts. However there have recently [~1930] been examples of people who have been raised without religion, who do not exhibit the primacy of the intellect that Freud hopes would occur.
  • Freud poses to himself the argument that religion, when viewed as a mechanism for bringing children into adulthood, is really no different than another other concievable mechanism, that the same tools that are used by religion (sanctity, prohibitions of thought, etc.) to control children would be used by another other mechanism.
  • Freud poses to himself the assertion that religion, because it offers a multitude of ideas which are organized so that they become more and more detailed the further in that delves, is useful for separating the thinkers from the non-thinkers and in gaining for the thinkers the obedience of the non-thinkers.
  • Freud poses to himself the assertion that religion should be retained mainly for its practical value, not rejected for its lack of reality-value.
  • Freud says that he feels that religion is a lost cause.
  • Freud notes that his illusions are different from those of the religionist, in that Freud allows his to be altered, updated, or scrapped, without penalty. The religionist cannot allow any such change, and religionist's illusions therefore are more like delusions.
  • If the religionists' illusions are discredited, then his entire worldview collapses and he sinks into a state of despair. He must therefore defend his illusions with all his energy, probably knowing that they are based on lies. In contrast, Freud does not need to use every cheap trick in the book to defend his illusions; he can revise them at will.
  • Even if it is true that primacy of the intellect does not generally occur simply by removing religion from one's life or from one's upbringing, the mechanism for intellectual thought nevertheless has a subtle and certain effect on the mind. It nags the mind. Eventually a person must listen to it and accept its councel or else live a neurotic or pained life.
  • As to when humans will experience primacy of the intellect, Freud admits that it may be a while, but says that it will eventually happen. Just as a child eventually shakes off his neuroses and becomes a well-adjusted adult, so shall humanity.
  • Religionists fear science because it has convinced large numbers of people that religious faith is unfounded; science also portends to overthrow religion altogether.
  • Freud states that he feels that he is not led by illusions. He notes that his opponents might attempt to count science as one of his illusions. At present [~1930] science has accomplished relatively little, but Freud notes that he has seen enough proof of its effectiveness to know that it will continue to solve problems. Science is in a state of continual development and there is no reason for anyone to believe that its progress will stop or reverse itself.
  • It has been radically claimed that science, being the product of our mental work, is limited by the nature of our mental aparatus. Freud offers several reasons why this claim is invalid.

See also

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