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Sigmund Freud

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  1. Explain Freud’s critique on the nature of religious beliefs [30]


Sigmund Freud was known as the ‘father of psychology’. He had a very negative view on religion and considered it to be dangerous and infantile, despite being born and raised a Jew. Although he held so atheistic views, he had a fascination with religion throughout his life and put forward numerous theories on the psychology of religion.

Oedipus complex

One of his most well known theories is the Oedipus complex. This is an analogy based on the Greek tragic play ‘Oedipus and the king’. The analogy Freud uses to link this to each small boy is when we are young we want the desires of our id satisfied, so we want our mothers to ourselves and want to get rid of our father. However, our father is bigger and stronger so we can’t beat him; we need him for protection and reward. Instead we identify with him, incorporating his qualities such as strength and wisdom. We have feelings of guilt as we have this internal conflict with regards to our relationship with our father. As we get older we continue to run into difficulties in the world and so feel that we need a protector like we had in our father as infants. Freud believes in order to satisfy this need as adults we project the qualities of the father onto God, thus creating the ultimate father figure- it satisfies our need to feel protected and safe. Because we have guilty feeling due to our relationship with our father, this for Freud is partly why guilty feelings are associated with religion. ‘At the bottom of every case of hysteria there are one or more occurrences of premature sexual experience, occurrences which belong to the earliest years of childhood.’ Freud’s Oedipus complex is saying that religion is merely and illusion created to help us deal with the problem of the world and our internal conflicts of guilt.



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