What Freud Got Wrong About Religion

September 23, 2020

If someone asked me to talk about Psychiatry and Religion, it would have to begin with Sigmund Freud and his book “The Future of an Illusion.” In that book, he equates a belief in God with a need to quell our anxiety as limited human beings (significantly paraphrased, of course). Religious groups were not happy which began the rift between Psychiatry and Religion.

It saddens me that this is the state of our understanding of life. It saddens me that we see Psychiatry and Religion as two different, distinct, and opposite fields when they’re both trying to do the same thing. They’re both trying to improve the quality of your life.

There are people who are anti-Religion. They don’t believe it and think it’s a scam. There are people who are anti-Psychiatry. They don’t believe it and they think it’s a scam. Everyone is afraid of getting scammed but there are many people who are suffering. The silver lining is that there are people who are significantly helped by both.

Freud was influential, probably one of the most influential people in history. He had very strong opinions and unique perspectives on understanding the human condition. However, despite his intelligence, his experience only consisted of a narrow subset of people. Rich people with time and money to see him who had anxiety issues. The unfortunate part was that instead of seeking out new experiences and perspectives, he stayed in his narrow set of experiences and then generalized to the entire human population. That’s where he went wrong.

Freud is certainly credited for being incredibly influential and many of his ideas are used to this day. However, many of his theories have been discredited or explained in better, more consistent ways that apply to a larger portion of the population.

What did Freud get wrong about religion? He only saw that Religion fulfills a need and then concluded that our psychology must have invented it to fulfill that need. But just because it fulfills a need doesn’t mean that it was internally made up. His theory of psychoanalysis fit a single perspective of Religion and Psychiatry and he ran with it. He didn’t interact with others to challenge his perspective.

For more information on the Future of an Illusion, Check out the series I made on the topic:
Chez Eric on Sigmund Freud

Dr. Eric

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