Monday, July 14, 2014

Freud Liked (Some) Faith

It's well-known that Sigmund Freud was an atheist and believed that religiosity was a "neurosis" (though he held that this wasn't a pejorative word per se). Despite this, Freud believed that there were a number of tangible benefits that could be gained through engagement with theological thinking.  Lacy Cooke of Faithstreet outlines some of these benefits in a piece called "How Sigmund Freud Got Religion."

Freud was impressed by Judaism's insistence that there be no visual representation of the Divine and felt that this practice helped devotees with abstract reasoning - so much so that he believed that "Jewish thought laid the foundation for intellectual progress in the western world."  He also felt (despite his own lack of it) that a belief in a Creator helped improve the mind and that the "Jewish People were able to develop introspection through their faith in God."

It's unfortunate that so many contemporary atheists are unable to perceive and appreciate these benefits.  At very least, it would allow them to conduct themselves in a respectful manner towards people of faith and thus contribute to the general societal harmony.  In truth, there's a growing "second wave" of atheists who do just that.  Publications to date include: "An Awareness of What's Missing" by Jurgen Haberman, The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality by Andre Comte-Sponville and Alain de Botton's "Religion For Atheists."

What these atheists have come to realize is that they've thrown the baby out with the bath water and there is quite a lot that we all want and need as human beings - deep and fundamental things like meaning, ritual and community - to be found in theology.  I'm all in favor of a reformation within the cynical and acrimonious incarnation of the "new" atheism and see this explicit recognition as a good first step.  I'm hopeful that with further research and introspection that some of these folks (as many have done before them) will come to appreciate that not only was the baby worth saving but that the bath water was pretty important as well.  

1 comment:

  1. one of the major driving principles of my personal life is "Hakoras hatov" I want to thank you for your blog and especially for drawing attention to many books that (in my lack of time to read) i have not read.