Religions are shared collections of transcendental beliefs that have been passed on from believers to converts, that are held by adherents to be actively meaningful and serious and either based on (1) formally documented doctrine (organized religion) or (2) established cultural practices (folk religion). In both forms, there are religious professionals who embody formal aspects of the religion and who act in positions of leadership and governance, and there are certain rituals reserved for them to carry out. The beliefs generate practical implications for how life should be lived. Religions often include: spiritual explanations of our place in the world in an attempt to answer questions about “why we are here”; worship of deities and/or supernatural entities (including ancestors); conceptions of “holy” and “sacred” activities ideas and objects; set rituals, calendar events based on the changing seasons, distinctive dress codes (especially for religious professionals), codes of morality and action that are given a mandate from a supernaturally great being, from a supernatural force or from the will of the Universe itself; and, a caste of privileged and exalted professionals who have particular claims to be in touch with transcendental forces.



The Psychology of Religion is a fascinating topic. There is one that is most interesting to me in the field of psychology and religion and Sigmund Freud. who use a deeply rooted psychology based on the superego, sex, and the Oedipus complex, Freud’s views on Christianity and religion will intrigue anyone.

But first in order to understand Sigmund Freud’s views whether you agree with them or not you to know his beliefs based on years of research.

Background on Sigmund Freud

Freud was born into a large Jewish family in Freiburg (now Pribor, Czechoslovakia). At the age of four, his family moved to Vienna, with his father who was a wool merchant. Freud graduated from medical school in 1881 and later married Martha Bernays. Under the persecution of the Nazis, Freud fled his home and left for London, where he died on the eve of World War 2.

Freud and Religion

Based on what we learned above we have a good idea about Sigmund Freud and his religious upbringing. First of all, he had a Catholic nanny up to the age of three, he took him to church regularly. Secondly, although he was born into a large Jewish family of modest means, the atmosphere was almost entirely secular. Freud confessed that he did not have any supernatural belief or religious belief. However, he was interested in religion more so than any other cultural manifestation.

Totem and Taboo (1913)

Freud believed that religion was the projection of the child’s physical relationship with its father. He recorded his first thoughts on the nature of religion in total and Taboo published in 1913. In Totem and Taboo Freud attributed the origins of religion to the psychological connection between the Oedipus complex and totemism This stems from the primitive hold mentality in which the tribe leader would have many wives and many children. Young males were forced to leave the tribe in order to find a mate and young females would only mate with the horde leader. This prompted the young man to have a murderous mentality against the father in order to gain possession of women. Yet after they had killed their father, they would be overcome with a sense of guilt. From this arose their endowment of the Totem, with the qualities of the previous father leader of the tribal horde. The function of the totem was to remind the tribe that although the single authority of the father had gone at a human level, it must be preserved at a religious level. Eventually, the taboo of desiring their mothers and wishing to kill their fathers entered the individual consciousness and is known as the Oedipus complex. In the Oedipus complex, the child desire is the mother and wishes to kill the father. The Oedipus complex is the basis of Freud’s view on the origins of religion.

The Future of an Illusion

In Freud’s next book, the Future of an Illusion (1927), Freud stated that religion was an illusion and had no future. It is essentially an attempt at escapism. Religion exists in order to avoid the hard facts of life and retreat into wishful thinking. Freud stated that modern man should grow up, use reason, and consign religion to the place where it belongs -childhood.

Civilization and its Discontents (1930)

If you are interested in Freud and would like to read more of his original works, I highly recommend civilization and its discontents (1930). In this essay, Freud wrote that… “…the ordinary man cannot imagine providence in any other form but that of a greatly exalted father, for only such a one could understand the needs of the sons of men, or be softened by their prayers and placated by the signs of their remorse.” Sigmund Freud Basically, Civilisation and its Discontents generalize Freud’s psycho-sexual theories on the Oedipus complex, relating it to the neurotic aspects of society itself.

Moses and Monotheism (1939) Freud’s last book on Psychology and Religion was ‘Moses and Monotheism’. Freud was skeptical about the name Moses referred to in Judeo-Christian teachings. He believed that Moses was an Egyptian name, meaning ‘child’. Freud quoted evidence of the pattern of the career of heroes – particular that of Kings. Bad associations of the child’s birth and content to death and exposure meant that the baby was put into the water to be set ‘free’ in a basket. Afterward, the hero is rescued by animals or humble people and eventually rediscovered by his aristocratic parents. The hero takes revenge on his father. The aristocratic and humble families are actually reversed in the case of Moses. Moses had to be Jewish to serve the Jewish purposes, but in fact, it was an Egyptian and the legend was designed to turn him into a Jew. Freud asks – why should an Egyptian like Moses wants to be the head of a crowd of immigrant foreigners and leave his country with them? Is it really possible for such a man to give up his own religion and be the founder of a new one?

Freud considers the possibility of Moses giving the Jews his own Egyptian religion. Moses, says Freud, introduced circumcision into Jewish life, which had long been indigenous in Egypt. Circumcision’s purpose was to make people feel ‘enobled’. The event above all others, which was suppressed, was the murder of Moses. Moses met the same fate as Akhenaton – the difference being that the Egyptians waited for the course of time to remove the Pharaoh, whereas the Semites (Jews) took fate into their own hands to get rid of their tyrant.

Freud says that Jesus Christ’s Resurrection is the resurrected Moses – the return of the primal father. This happened, according to Freud, so the Jews could be faced with the charge of ‘killing God’. Circumcision and therefore is a symbolic substitute for the castration which the primal father once inflicted upon his sons in his absolute power. Whoever excepted that symbol was showing that he was prepared to submit to the father’s will.

1. What are your views of the Writings of Freud on Religion?

2. Interesting?

3. A pleasure to study?

4. A little far fetched?

Drop a comment below, i would like to hear your thoughts!!


Published by Coach Amy

BS, Psychology graduate, Certified NLP Master Practitioner, Certified Life Coach, training in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) Certified Confidence Life Coach,

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