Happiness Academy Online

A Blog about Psychology (Jungian), Spirituality and Happiness, By Roberto Lima Netto.

Freud and Jung: on religion


Two brothers can separate; two mountains not.

I’ve already dealt with Freud´s and Jung´s basic thinking differences in a previous post Freud and Jung – The basic differences.

However, I didn’t mention their completely different views on religion, not because it was not important, but because I wanted to treat the subject with special attention. So, here it is.

Some of the writings of Freud concerning religion are:

  • “Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our instinctual desires.” – Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis,1933.
  • “Religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis.” – Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion, 1927
  • “Religion is an attempt to get control over the sensory world in which we are placed, by means of the wish-world, which we have developed inside us as a result of biological and psychological necessities. […] If one attempts to assign to religion its place in man’s evolution, it seems not so much to be a lasting acquisition, as a parallel to the neurosis which the civilized individual must pass through on his way from childhood to maturity.” – Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, 1939
  • “The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life. It is still more humiliating to discover how a large number of people living today, who cannot but see that this religion is not tenable, nevertheless try to defend it piece by piece in a series of pitiful rearguard actions.” – Sigmung Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, 1930

From these statement, it is obvious that Freud held a materialistic view of the world, and considered religion an illusion to keep the masses happy, very much in line with the communist thinking. By the way, Freud did not sympathize with communism.

According to Jung, the human soul needs religion to live a psychologically meaningful life. In opposition to Freud’s thinking, Jung considered religion to be extremely important. He argued he didn´t know any middle-aged person suffering from depression (what the primitive people called loss of a soul) who could recover without taking a spiritual standing, even if this did not involve an established church. In fact, he suggested to several of his patients a return to their family religion.

Jung was considered a mystic by some, a Gnostic by others, an enemy of the church by another group, and a friend by others. He wrote several books and articles on the subject, and his broad interest took him to study Oriental religions, Alchemy, Gnosticism, and Christianity. He emphasized he was not a theologian, but an empirical psychologist trying to understand human beings´ psyche .

He claimed that the symbols which sustained the Christian myth were eroding, and that the Vatican should take steps to modernize them. He even tried to influence some priests, as his friend Father White, a theologian; yet, he failed when having written “Answer to Job,“ he was heavily criticized by many theologians holding top positions in the hierarchy of the Catholic church.

In this important work, Jung put forth his idea of the evolution of God: from Yahweh (Old Testament)  to Christ (New Testament). Jung stated that after the discussion with Job, God had to incarnate as a human being, Jesus, to evolve, to gain more conscience. Although Jung took pains to explain that he was talking about the image of God humans hold in their psyches, the Church did not accept his ideas, and Jung’s efforts failed.

As a result, the influence of the Church continues to erode, to such an extent that in our highly materialistic world, the newly enthroned God is either money or gold.

You can go to Freud and Jung  and Was Jung a Mystic? for complementary onformation.

Roberto Lima Netto believes that our objective in life is to be happy, and that Jungian psychology and Spirituality, his main areas of interest, can help us in this search for happiness. He is the author of several books, including “The Little Prince for Grown-ups”  and  “The Jungian Bible”  that can be found in Amazon. His blog is www.HappinessAcademyOnline.org.

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All images extracted from Getty Images – Royalty Free.

I was involved in the business world, as an executive of large companies and university professor since recently. I was the president CSN, the largest steel-mill of Latin America and was responsible for its turn-around. My first encounter with the teachings of the Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung, one of the greatest geniuses of the 20th Century, was during my midlife crisis. Reading "Man and his Symbols" at that time, inspired me to go into Jungian analysis and to begin devouring the writings of Jung and his disciples. Since then, I've been studying psychology, especially Jungian psychology and, after reaching my seventies, I decided to become a full time writer, specializing on books on Jungian psychology and psychological thrillers. Every masterpiece of literature can be absorbed through multiple interpretations, and yield powerful insights for our daily lives. My first Jungian book, “The Little Prince for Grown-ups“, in its fourth edition in Brazil, was based on the famous book of Saint-Exupéry. The second, - “The Jungian Bible” - interprets some stories of the Old Testament and world myths. As I get older and, with a bit of luck, wiser, I want to pass on to the younger generations the lessons life has taught me. Jesus Christ taught that it was easier to sell ideas with stories. Following the Master, I published in English "The Amazon Shaman" and "In Search of Happiness", two psychological thrillers around the theme of happiness.

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