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"The Future Of An Illusion," An Excellent Read

I’ve never read anything by Freud before, so this was my introduction to his work. And I have to say it was a great experience. I’d heard good things about this book and thought I’d give it a shot.

The Future Of An Illusion is basically Sigmund Freud’s take on religion. Its psychological role in human life, and I have to say that he makes a very compelling case.

Freud defines religion as an “illusion” because it is thought based on wishful thinking. Man has a desire for justice, security and happiness. Religion attempts to meet those needs – a type of placebo effect.

Thus his longing for a father is a motive identical with his need for protection against the consequences of his human weakness. The defense against childish helplessness is what lends its characteristic features to the adult’s reaction which is precisely the formation of religion.

Besides the reason for religion, Freud addresses the reasons people continue to believe. Some of the logical fallacies involved.

Firstly, these teachings deserve to be believed because they were already believed by our primal ancestors; secondly, we possess proofs which have been handed down to use from those same primeval times; and thirdly, it is forbidden to raise the question of their authentication at all. In former days anything so presumptuous was visited with the severest penalties…

Believers make the case that religion should be accepted because, basically, it was accepted by our ancestors. Therefore, it’s true. The argument from antiquity. The age of the religion gives it some type of truth value.

If that were the case, 1+1 would equal 3 if you only wait long enough.

Then there’s the idea that religion lays claim to all things which are good. That moral right and wrong come from God – and only God.

If the sole reason why you must not kill your neighbor is because God has forbidden it and will severely punish you for it in this or the next life – then, when you learn that there is no God and that you need not fear His punishment, you will certainly kill your neighbor without hesitation, and you can only be prevented from doing so by mundane force.

Obviously there are other reasons not to kill than because “God said so.” You’d be a nutcase to believe otherwise.

And this brings us to the difference between religion and reason. Reason is based on scientific proof; healthy skepticism. Religion is based on immovable faith in one book or set of ideas, regardless of the current state of the evidence.

You have to defend the religious illusion with all your might. If it becomes discredited – and indeed the threat to it is great enough – then your world collapses. There is nothing left for you but to despair of everything, of civilization and the future of mankind. From that bondage I am, we are, free. Since we are prepared to renounce a good part of our infantile wishes, we can bear it if a few of our expectations turn out to be illusions.

Now, I don’t want to give away too much of what’s in the book, so this is just a taste. I highly recommend it. The Future Of An Illusion by Sigmund Freud.

Read a book. It’s good for you.

Categories: All, Books, Religion, Science, Skepticism
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