Freud’s Ideas on Religion

How does he characterize religious ideas? From what ground does he think they have arisen? What is their psychological significance?

Freud describes religion as the expression of underlying neuroses and distress. Freud speculates that the feeling of weakness and helplessness causes the need for religion. On page 16, he describes the different forces of nature, storms, earthquakes, water, diseases, and lastly, the mystery of death that pushes humans to believe in religious doctrines. Freud characterizes religion as the unconscious mind’s desire for wish fulfillment (Wallace, 2020). Humans are desperate for security and freedom and turn to an alternate reality to cope with reality. This need is fulfilled by opting to believe in a supreme being.

Religious beliefs are passed from one generation to another, and people are forced to believe them as antecedents also believed in them. The proofs are sought from antiquities from prehistoric times, and it is a taboo to cross-examine them. The human need for psychological security was paramount for the introduction of religion. Freud likens religion to the childish fantasy that parents run the universe for our benefit. Religion is a projection of human order and forms the real vindication of the world order. Religion’s significance is that it meets three psychological needs; to console humans, give guidance on living requirements, and offer a promised reward.

Why should we keep religion; what is the alternative?

Religion enhances essential cognitive functions such as control, thus promotes morality in society. Societal stability is dependent on religion as religion has controlled societal doctrines since its inception. Religion has thrived in the human belief of illusions, but with the advancement of science and reason are bound to face irrelevancy. The alternative to religion is scientific discoveries, which are based on factual information and not illusions (Wallace, 2020). The information presented is subject to cross-examination to determine its authenticity. Religion demands acceptance forcefully, whereas science favors a realistic approach to satisfy humanity needs.




Wallace, E. R. (2020). Freud and religion: A history and reappraisal. In The Psychoanalytic Study of Society, V. 10 (pp. 112-160). Routledge.

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