As a teenager, I found in my parents' bookcase a little book, which I still have in my bookshelf: "Weisheit des Lächenden Lebens." written by Lin Yutang.
A section of the book critical regarding religious believes has stayed with my thinking since I had read it decades ago.
That section could be summarized as: Should humans be a good person, because being threatened with hell or rewarded with heaven or should humans be a good human being on your own thinking?
Well, I found these days – through a Facebook link - a school essay [*] on the same topic to which I would like to refer here because it deserves it to be shared:
According to Sigmund Freud, the development of religious ideas is a psychological phenomenon:
- Psychoanalysis has taught us to know the intimate connection between the father complex and belief in God has shown us that a personal God is psychologically nothing but exalted father and leads us daily aware of how young people lose their religious beliefs as soon as the father's authority breaks down. As parents, we recognize that is the complex roots of religious “needs” "(S. Freud, Totem und Taboo).
- The model of wish-fulfilment, Freud applies it also to the origin and cause of religion. Religious concepts are "not precipitation or final results of experience or thinking", but "illusions, fulfillment of the oldest, strongest and most urgent wishes of mankind, the secret of their strength is the strength of these wishes" (Freud: Die Zukunft einer Illusion)
- This desire to refer to a helpless, childlike man who longs for protection from the hazards of life. It is all about projection. The unclear inner perception is projected outward to something otherworldly way. All of these wishes are infantile desire according to Freud. The soothing ominous threatening powers in primitive religions or of God the Father in monotheistic religions brings no real help, but a psychological relief. Freud had doubted whether a religious life of man would have made life happier and more fulfilled. Likewise, it is not only a measure of morality, but also support of the immorality. Consequently another moral standard is to be used instead of religion: the rationality.
- Not religious rules and prohibitions should confine the driving desire of the people, but their own reason and intelligence. Man should detach from its expectations of the afterlife and relate with all his means and powers to this worldly existence. This the mature, adult, mature person can achieve.
Freud continued in his work thinking that made modern Europe, the thoughts of „enlightement“ emerging in the second half of the 17th century. A good reading about life, though and lasting impact of scientists, philosphers and artists laying the foundation of modern (western) world is found in „Aufklärung – Das Europäische Projekt“ (Manfred Geiger, Rowohlt Verlag, 2012).
p.m. first posted in April 2012 and updated on 13th October 2013
[*] after Annette Theis, Von-der Leyen-High School, Blieskastel (Germany): http://www.zum.de/Faecher/kR/Saar/gym/projekte/rel_krit/freud/freud. htm; in German