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Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud, of course, stood at the head of this movement. It is significant, I think, that he saw religion (by which he meant principally Judeo-Christian religion) as the major “enemy” of his movement. He saw the reason for this very clearly. For the Christian religion proposed that life without God and without his transcendent goal of life is not, and cannot be, made whole. So his objection is predictable:

Religion is an attempt to get control over the sensory world, in which we are place, by means of the wish-world, which we have developed inside us as a result of biological and psychological necessities. But it cannot achieve its end….Its consolations deserve no trust.

One can easily see that Freud, a true product of an age now losing its sense of transcendence, sees as fraudulent any attempt to resolve the various problems of life by appeal to the idea that life is incomplete because it cannot be complete in this world. Though he does not promise a resolution of all problems, he clearly implies that such a resolution in this world is the only legitimate human goal.

In these same lectures in which he sees religion as “the chief enemy,” it is intriguing that he saw (from a perspective early in the twentieth century) that communism was actually sharing, in a sense, his own view of the world. While he operated to resolve life from within, they moved to convert the economic environment, bringing about a resolution from without. Both of these points of view, however, necessarily imply the need to resolve life’s deficiencies. And in this limited sense, they share a common front against religion. So Freud voices his limited support of the communist experiment (which is quite interesting since we know some of the results of that experiment):

There are also men of action, unshakable in their convictions, impervious to doubt, and insensitive to the sufferings of anyone who stands between them and their goal. It is owing to such men that the tremendous attempt to institute a new order of society of this kind is actually being carried out in Russia now. At a time when great nations are declaring that they expect to find their salvation solely from a steadfast adherence to Christian piety, the upheaval in Russia…seems to promise a better future.

A. J. Conyers, The Eclipse of Heaven, (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois), pp. 101-102

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