Naturally, civilization and religion have held the interest of many philosophers and sociologists alike. The well-known Austrian psycho-analyst and neurologist Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) was one of them, who held the view that mankind would be better off without belief in God - "It would be an undoubted advantage if we were to leave God out altogether and admit the purely human origins of all the precepts and regulations of civilization." (PBS 2). This essay shall briefly discuss the basis on which Freud places his argument to denounce civilization and religion, in the book “The Future of an Illusion” (1928). Freud scorns at any attempt to differentiate between culture and civilization; they provide on with two aspects of the same thing – the mastering of natural forces by collectively acquired knowledge and power to satisfy man’s individual needs and, in order to facilitate and distribute/regulate “attainable riches” (Freud 8-9). And culture or civilization selectively permits certain actions and condemns some others which lead to “privations” – in other words they are the frustrations caused by unfulfilled instincts, like incest, cannibalism etc (Freud 17). These “external compulsions” become “internalized” in the process of forma “super-ego” (Freud 18) which then judges within a wide range of such acquired information as to what is permissible and what isn’t permissible. This then becomes the greatest tool in the hands of culture or civilization....
Religion, Civilization and Freud
According to Freud, man has devised the concept of God - a father-figure whom he dreads and always reveres, seeks to propitiate, and looks to for constant protection as the consequence of his own human limitations and weaknesses. Religion, therefore is born out of culture, primarily due to "the necessity for defending itself against the crushing supremacy of nature;" secondly, there was a pressing need to correct the perceived "imperfections of culture" (Freud 37). His perception of religion and its origins thus explained, he gradually builds his arguments against religion and civilization, stating that despite having had thousands of years to show what it can achieve, it has hardly done enough for mankind (Freud 60); and unlike scientific theories and laws, the dogmas or religion discourage testing and probe for proof, on grounds that they deserve to be believed, and they have been already tested and handed down since times of yore, and they were unquestionable (Freud 45). He denounces these arguments stating for example, while the scientific theory that the earth is globe can be proved and its accuracy ascertained, religious dogmas were full of "contradictions, revisions, and interpolations; where they speak of actual authentic proofs they are themselves of doubtful authenticity" (Freud 46). Freud questions that if religious truths solely depended "on an inner experience" for proof, "what is one to make of the many people who do not have that rare experience" (Freud 49) He concludes of religions that they are "illusions, they do not admit of proof, and no one can be compelled to consider them as true or to believe in them." (Freud 55).