Sigmund Freud’s Religious Notions


Sigmund Freud had a psychoanalytic viewpoint on religion, and explains it results from unconscious minds craving for wishful thinking. Furthermore, Freud suggests that people prefer to trust in God, who portrays a mighty father character, since they desire to feel comfortable and absolved of their own wrongdoing. The psychiatrist indicated that religion was an imagination, a sort of neurosis, and even an effort to acquire dominance over the external environment in some of his most well-known writings. From the beginning, Sigmund Freud ‘s psychoanalysis theory was met with strong opposition. This papers centers of arguing against the false notions that Freud provides to the public concerning religion. The critical analysis on this paper creates an understanding of religion and explains why Freud’s hypothesis is wrong.


Numerous people have identified themselves with a type of religion to create an understanding of the cosmos, based on their encounters throughout their whole personal history and investigation of the traditions they subscribe to. The acceptance and opposition to the religious practice have sparked arguments among theologians, historians, and philosophers. Many religion departments, including sociology, anthropology, philosophy, and religion psychology, have critiqued the psychodynamic strategy of the research on religion. Sigmund Freud, a well-known psychologist, had opposing viewpoints on religious ideologies in the modern-day. Therefore, this paper will provide a critical assessment arguing against Freud’s atheistic view on religion as an illusion and using psychoanalysis methods to demonstrate religion.

Freud views religion as an imaginary concept, a sort of neurosis, and possibly an effort to exert dominance upon the outside world. Furthermore, the psychiatrist suggests religious ideology is an endeavor to control the perceptual universe in which humans find themselves through the desired realm that individuals have created inside themselves as a response to psychological and biological needs. According to Sigmund Freud, religion is a desire for satisfaction and reflects a person’s wishes (27). Youngsters are all taught in religion, and the teachings they acquire readily fit their neurotic demands. When individuals try to assign religious practice a position in humanity’s evolution, it is equivalent to the neurosis that particular civilized men must go through as they grow from adolescence to adulthood.

Argument Against Religion as an Illusion

The argument by Sigmund Freud that religious faith is an accomplishment of peoples’ deepest aspirations, and hence optimistic reasoning raises many issues. The problem with Freud’s hypothesis is that the psychologist does not present any proof to back up the claim. Many individuals despise the concept of a Supreme Being watching and scrutinizing their every thought; therefore, it is doubtful that doctrinal religion originates from wishes. Moreover, others prefer autonomy and reject the unflattering connection to a superior being who must be obeyed and worshipped. The faith in God, as well as the intricate routines of conduct and customs connected with it, according to Freud, emerged primarily out of a profound psychological desire for a universal father (45). However, such a perspective overlooks the rational link between desires and beliefs. Desires may occasionally be an essential requirement for beliefs, but they are hardly satisfactory.

Even though there is a worldwide desire for a heavenly father, it is untenable to assume that such a want is a fundamental requirement for religious ideology and the complex rituals and moral codes. Furthermore, there was no convincing quantitative information to substantiate the idea that such a global want existed; hence this hypothesis is untestable. From individual psychology to collective psychology, Freud expands the notion of religion as an illusion. According to Freud, in patriarchal monotheistic faiths, a father character is seen as offering the necessary protection from the danger of destruction. Furthermore, the psychologist said that the father-son bond was so crucial to psychoanalysis because it required the presence of a deity modeled after an all-powerful and benign father image (Freud 83). The communal aspect of human existence, on the other hand, was paramount; human identity is mainly formed by, and a reflection of, social interactions and structure. This notion contrasts with that of Sigmund Freud, who attempted to address the social component of religion by applying psychoanalytic techniques from personal to community psychology.

Argument Against Using Psychoanalysis to Demonstrate Religion

The psychoanalytic method tends to over-interpret and over psychologize occurrences while ignoring the historical and social context. This has been described as psychological imperialism by certain scholars. Psychoanalysis utilizes a psychopathy framework to demonstrate religious affairs, either as a constructive strategy in which the interactions of religious behavior are similar to those of psychopathic personality side effects. Freud considered religion a worldwide obsessive neurosis, and he theorized that some spiritual encounters and psychopathology interacted heavily. Furthermore, Freud portrayed his patients with psychopathological disorders as a representative sample of religious individuals, which was inaccurate. Such a study approach should not be used on religion.

The psychodynamic perspective of Sigmund Freud suggests that religious belief is neurotic. This may result in the development of symptoms in the person, which arise primarily due to trauma or an inability to resolve the internal dispute between libidinal desires and essential psychological regulatory systems. These are frequently manifested as obsessive and debilitating behavior patterns, like recurring celebratory movements or a fixation with individual hygiene, making leading an everyday healthy life impossible and necessitating psychotherapeutic interventions such as dream evaluation and free association. Religious beliefs, religious experiences, and compulsive religious rituals and practices all require psychotherapy intervention in the same manner. There was, however, an essential link between religious ideas and actions; spiritual perception is anchored more in the activities connected with rituals than in analytical cognition. As a result, religion is a coherent set of ideas and activities about sacred objects.

Freud’s Atheistic View on Religion

Freud’s viewpoint on religion is skewed because there is no evidence to back up the psychiatrist’s assertion. Establishing that the methods people came to believe in God are not directed at truth necessitates a perfect argument backed up by proof. Freud makes no explanations or justifications and accepts that there is no God. Furthermore, Freud looks for a rationale for this erroneous belief. Freud’s criticism relies entirely on his atheism: it is not a stand-alone critique, and it would not affect someone who did not embrace his ideology.

Freud’s religious notions sprang from a fundamental urge to resist the terror of an ever-threatening environment, not from reason or experience. Thus, demonstrating that religion sprang from illogical fears. These worries, according to Freud, were not the outcome of knowledge or thought. The psychiatrist claims that the concerns were imagination manifestations of humanity’s most extended, fiercest, and most pressing desires, thereby defining religion as a false impression. However, in his work on religion being an illusion, Freud never referred to any statistical data since he never performed a study on a vast population instead of relying on connections centered on his neurotic patients.


In conclusion, Freud was an atheist because he believed there was no creator of the universe and that there was still a mystery regarding why individuals believe. The use of psychoanalysis in the study of religion by Freud has sparked a lot of debate. Due to Freud’s lack of empirical proof in reaching such findings, one can challenge the assumptions’ accuracy. The methods used by the psychiatrist, as well as their conclusions, have been scrutinized. Religion has come a long way, and believers have benefited from the Lord’s favor; therefore, Freud’s notion that religion is an imagination has little to no impact on the state of believers.

Work Cited

Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. W. W. Norton & Company, 1989.