tendencies? What can we make of the coincidental aims he sees between psychoanalysisand religion: cultivating the ‘‘love of man and the decrease of suffering’’? Or, in what senseis Freud’s admitted antipathy towards religion ‘‘only a temporary one and not irreconcil-able’’ (p. 54)? I can see no justiﬁcation for characterizing these declarations as some sort of compensatory ‘bone-throwing to the opposition’ or as disingenuous. Given that the psy-choanalytic cure strives to make each side of a conﬂict conscious, rather than grantsupremacy to one side, Freud cannot possibly deny the value of restraining sexuality andaggression along collective lines.
His opposition to religion has no meaningful connectionwith what it has wrought in terms of its aims. When we look at the full scope of Freud’sassessment, we can see that what he directs his antipathies towards are the
by whichreligion instils and supports these cultural ambitions.Consequently, we must contextualize the acuteness of his opposition to religious pre-cepts within an intention to confront the psychological dishonesty of coercive,metaphysically justiﬁed ideals—rather than simply take it as an attempt to reject itsdoctrines. In fact, we understand Freud’s position rightly through his efforts to cultivate aless compulsive relation towards religious, moral, and cultural values. This cultivationnecessitates that we do more than simply ﬁnd a new set of idols for a psychoanalyticfaithful.
The shift Freud proposes must be different in kind, precisely in relation to ourpsychological investment in private and public ideals. Indeed, given the discord andpotential violence that an unreﬂective allegiance to inherited cultural values can foster, thestrength of Freud’s antipathy towards ‘religious illusions’ is perhaps not forceful enough.His focus on the wishful aspect of its precepts, and the doctrines called upon to supportthem, targets the way we go about the civilizing process. Freud’s questions as to theviability of existing forms of religion for the future must be taken in the context of thisoverarching objective: to instil greater autonomy and ﬂexibility towards the humanitarianaims religion has historically pursued. On this front, not only can we afﬁrm that psy-choanalysis and religion ‘‘desire the same things,’’ we can also see that the psychoanalyticcontribution to the aims of religion is substantial. To appreciate the signiﬁcance of theproblem Freud addresses—and, with the unapologetic fanaticism that is so rampant in ourown day, its continuing relevance—we need only note its extension in such thinkers asRicoeur and Castoriadis. Although both ﬁnd deﬁciencies in Freud’s considerations, theystrongly support these same objectives.Appreciating Freud’s contribution to fostering this new relation requires that we ﬁrstdistinguish ideals as such from the emotional attachment that often governs their elevatedstatus. The frequent ‘‘pathologies of duty’’ Freud saw in his neurotic patients demonstratethe degree to which our ties to cultural values are replete with compulsions and ﬁxations.The manner in which psychoanalysis actually contributes to religious ideals, therefore,requires that we bear in mind both the qualitative differences in the nature of theseattachments and the means by which we might support these cultural objectives. In Freud’sview, traditional religions seek to fulﬁl their moral aspirations through directives linked toparental love that, consequently, coexist with anxiety-inducing threats of its possibleremoval. Although this method of taming childhood wishes and impulses may meet withsome success, religion tends to ignore the fact that its programme also cultivates an oftenexcessive or facile obedience. The presence of such urgency, whether applied to beliefs orprescriptive ideals, betrays for Freud a motivation beyond conscious intentions. The
, S.E., 16, p. 433.
Here, the psychological substance of
must be appreciated. They imply the new relationFreud wishes to establish, as I will outline in what follows.J Relig Health (2008) 47:398–414 399