Freud on Civilization and Religion

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Man has come a long way from his ape-ancestors. The evolution of man from his apish origins is marked by his civilized behavior. Existence of religion and recognition of self as a creation of God is another feature that differentiates man from the rest of the animal kingdom. …

Introduction

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. ...
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