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Freud's Future Of An Illusion

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In his book Future of an Illusion, Sigmund Freud utilizes his method of psychoanalysis on religion by comparing the relationship between human and religion to that of a child and his parents. Freud effectively demonstrates that religion is a product of the human mind. After exposing religion as a an illusion, Freud concludes that humanity will be better off when it has forgone religion. This paper will argue that Freud's assertion that religion is an illusion is correct because of it's blatantly traceable evolution through the history of the human civilization and psyche.

The first argument that Freud makes in his assault on religion regards civilization. Freud argues that human civilization arose as a result of mankind's needs to protect itself from nature. "It was precisely because of these dangers with which nature threatens us that we came together and created civilization." (Freud, 19) As a result of the need for organization and manpower to prepare defenses against nature, the instincts of man had to be controlled. He furthers this argument by saying that two human traits, laziness and the unwilling nature of the masses to listen to reason, are responsible for the necessity of the rule of law. Freud then describes the various methods of oppression that can be employed by civilization to halt instinctual privation. The most important of which he points out as being religion.

The main reason that Freud ranks religion as having been the most important tool in civilization are it's ability to explain the various inequities and inexplicable phenomena that afflict human civilization. Freud illuminates with slight sarcasm how convenient religion is in it's ability to rectify all the trials and tribulations of life for us. "Everything that happens in this 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." (Freud, 23) The existence of this divine creature who creates justice for us ensures that the masses will not stray from the laws and beliefs of religion and society for fear of being judged by this entity. Religion is also valuable to civilization for it's ability to explain death. Thanks to religion, death became something other than simply the termination of a life. Death stopped being the end and was recasted into the role of a doorway to another existence. As though knowing that the continuation of life were not enough, religion furthers it's own appeal by promising that the afterlife will be better than life on Earth. The afterlife itself also serves a function as well. A desire to gain entry into this afterlife will cause many of the masses to renounce their instincts.

Another argument Freud makes is how religion is an attempt to fill in the gaps where civilization and the pursuit of life cannot make individuals happy. "The urge to rectify the shortcomings of civilization which made themselves painfully felt" is fulfilled by religion. (Freud, 27) This can be seen throughout modern society in many different forms. It is telling that quite often individuals who are extremely ill, paralyzed, poor, or otherwise frowned upon by civilization and culture tend to be more religious.

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