Sigmund Freud was a 19th Century and early 20th Century psychologist, and the originator of psychoanalysis. Freud did not believe in God, like many before and after his time Freud could see that religion is irrational.
Adults thinking like children
Freud thought religion is adults thinking about god the way small children think about their parents. Freud’s beliefs about the oedipal complex have been superseded but his idea that religion is based on adults thinking like small children is at least partly true.
When we were babies and very young children the world often seemed arbitrary and capricious, good and bad things kept happening to us, sometimes we could understand the likely sequence of events but often we could understand nothing. Our parents and older people round us were very powerful while we were helpless. Freud and some other psychologists believe buried memories from this time predispose us to believe in a very powerful god, very powerful gods and spirits which we can control at most partially. We see god and gods the way children see adults as protectors and punishers.
Modern psychologists are likely to view this as an oversimplification but there is some truth in it.
Freud saw religion as an unhealthy neurosis which he felt people as individuals and society in general should overcome.
- Does that say anything about the unhealthy hellfire brands of Christianity that prevailed during Freud’s formative years?
- How far were the views of Freud and other psychologists influential in developing less harmful versions of Liberal Christianity and Judaism?
Again modern psychologists are likely to see this as an oversimplification but many/most fundamentalist types of Christianity promote unhealthy neurosis.
- Freud & Religion
- Review of The Psychological Roots of Religious Belief (2006) Ideas about infantile omnipotence and general ideas about how babies think before there are conscious memories are in this author’s opinion unproved but other parts of the text are useful.