Feeling is Believing : Religion Meets Psychoanalysis

By | June 23, 2016

The irony of using psychoanalysis to explore what instills the different levels of religious fervor into people is that Sigmund Freud took an atheistic approach when attempting to offer explanations in this realm. Of course, the continuing conflict between science and religion when it comes to determining world history is just one example of this conundrum.

In 1950, another psychoanalyst, Erich Fromm, literally wrote the book, Psychoanalysis and Religion. The publication was an attempt at determining the mindset of those whose religious beliefs may come into conflict with accepted fact.

Patrick Mahony - Religion meets psychoanalysis

Fromm’s conclusion was that religion was a protective cover against the unknowns in life. His most controversial take was related to what type of religion better serves the world, with his humanistic model winning over a more authoritarian framework. Humanistic religion is able to recognize aspects like free will in people, while the authoritarian option believes that individuals have little or no choice.

While Freud was more science-based, psychoanalyst Patrick Mahony indicates that he wrote at least four books that had a strong religious theme to him. Freud’s fascination with the Oedipal complex was part of his explanation of religion, saying that it was available for those who wanted to control their Oedipal urges.

Still, Freud, who was Jewish, continually used some variation of the term, “neurosis,” to help explain religion, which is a pretty good indicator of his bias on the topic.

Embracing a concept that ties in with an individual’s pre-conceived notions generally makes that person more malleable for religious entities. At the most extreme level, uneducated Middle Easterners who find themselves searching for some meaning, become vulnerable to the enticements of those who use the Quran to justify terrorism.

That’s because the dogmatic presentation that’s offered presents no grey area to explore, thereby rendering it a zero-sum game that allegedly guarantees afterlife benefits.

From a Western perspective, politics has also attempted to adopt campaigns that emphasize religion. Patrick Mahony notes that most in the United States are focused on the southern portion of the country, though hypocrisy has sometimes entered the picture when the moral flaws of the individual candidate becomes evident.

While it’s a pat answer to state that a person’s level of education coincides with the relative passion brought to a religion, the unwillingness to accept scientific facts in favor of faith-based theory seems to point in that direction.