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The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud

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Nadia Nassar

on 15 November 2013

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Transcript of The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud

The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud

SOCI 5901 Key Debates in Sociological Theory
Nadia Nassar

Freud's Thesis
every individual has instincts which are destructive
children have a helplessness and need for protection that gets transferred into adulthood
religious ideas console individuals against the forces of nature
religious ideas are illusions
science is the only road which can lead us to a knowledge of reality outside of ourselves
" [...] religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis [...] mankind will surmount this neurotic phase, just as so many children grow out of their similar neurosis." (53)
Chapter 10
Freud is "chasing a fantasy"
"the only way to expel religion is to replace it with another set of doctrines"
"we must preserve religious doctrines as the basis of education"
religious doctrines have to be discarded for reason and experience
science can gain knowledge about the reality of the world
"No, our science is no illusion. But an illusion it would be to suppose that what science cannot give us we can get elsewhere." (56)
3. Given that The Future of an Illusion was published in 1927, can we still apply Freud's theories on religion to today's society? What would Freud have proposed regarding religion in 2013? Are his propositions even relevant in a 21st century context?

4. Are Freud's theories on the nature of religious doctrines relevant for modern day sociologists? What implication(s) do they have for the ways in which we understand and/or analyze religion in society?

5. Would you agree that accepting Freud's theory on religion leads to an ethnocentric point of view in favour of Western scientific thought?
Chapter 1
human society contains regulations which work to organize individuals and distribute wealth
every individual is an enemy of civilization
every individual has instincts which are destructive
civilization must be defended from the individual through regulations and institutions
this must be done by controlling and coercing the masses
Chapter 2
civilization rests on the need to work and the suppression of instincts
coercion and "other methods" are used
two types of prohibitions:
1. Those that affect everyone
2. Those that affect only groups, classes or individuals
Type 1: primordial, every child is born with them
some prohibitions must be enforced through fear and moral coercion
Examples of instincts: cannibalism, incest, murder
Frustration: an unsatisfied instinct
Prohibition: the regulation by which a frustration is established
Privation: the condition produced by prohibition
Chapter 3
religion is one of the most important psychological phenomenon of civilization
how does one defend against the dangers of nature (e.g. fate)? - through appeasement
relationship of fear mimics the relationship between oneself and parents
forces of nature are made to be god-like
set of "ideas" helps individuals accept helplessness in life
Chapter 4
religious ideas arise from the need to defend oneself against the forces of nature
by personifying nature, man is establishing a relationship with the gods in order to influence them
children have a helplessness and need for protection that gets transferred into adulthood
child simultaneously fears and admires the father
Chapter 5
Discussion
religious ideas give us information concerning that which is most important and interesting to us in life
all teachings demand belief in their concepts; why should we believe religious ideas?
1. Ideas were believed by our ancestors
2. Proofs have been handed down to us
3. It's forbidden to question their authenticity
"Credo quia absurdum" - religious doctrines are outside the jurisdiction of reason
"As if" - we behave as if we our thoughts/beliefs had a firm basis of support
Chapter 6
religious ideas are
illusions
:
fulfillment of the oldest, strongest desires
illusion ≠ error
involve disregarding relation to reality
may not be false
e.g. a prince will come and marry a young girl vs. Columbus discovering a route to the Indies
Freud says that, "[...] scientific work is the only road which can lead us to a knowledge of reality outside ourselves." (31)
1. What are the implications of this statement?

2. As a sociologist, how do you feel about Freud's statements on the origin(s) of religion? How might a sociological interpretation of religion differ from Freud's statement?
Chapter 7
civilization runs a greater risk by maintaining our present attitude towards religion than changing its attitude
this investigation is “harmless and free of risk”
religion lacks the influence on people that it used to have (European Christian context only)
the more people take up science, the more religion fades
threat of the uneducated and oppressed discovering scientific knowledge:
either dangerous masses must be held down, or
relationship between civilization and religion will change
Chapter 8
belief in religious ideas depends upon a belief in God's judgement
social reasoning allows for an easier acceptance of social regulations
children must pass through a stage of neurosis (anxiety) before the "civilized stage"
human society must pass through the same stage
religion is society's stage of "neurosis"
Chapter 9
only those who are intimidated by threats of religion will abandon it
an individual who is not forced to believe in religious ideas during childhood will not become interested in God
Freud says, "[...] I , too, am chasing an illusion" (48)
humans can live without religion
we must go through an "education to reality"
Discussion
Full transcript