I did finish my read of The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud as promised, and I have actually decided to read it over again, more carefully, a second time and now a third time. It is going to take me some time to gather all of my commentaries on it, but I plan on doing a chapter-by-chapter record of my thoughts/ideal concerning his points to share with you all online here. Which is funny since I complain about teachers giving me their opinions on books, telling me what they “mean”, and here I am about to do the same thing.
However, I now understand (thanks to this book) that it is not the fact that teachers are presenting me “short truths” in school, which in this book Freud refers to as dogma, that is upsetting me. Especially since that is basically what all people do when educating in such a setting. This is normal, and acceptable.
No, the issue is that if a person conducts research and comes to a conclusion that, say for example, the earth is round — you (as the student) can then now without taking all the same steps of discovery share in this realization (dogma, or short truth) that the earth is round in shape. But! (Yes there is a but.) But, you (as the student) should always be able to reproduce the same result yourself if you wanted to.
So if you could sail around the world, travel to space, fly around it, etc… sooner or later you should be able to come to the same conclusions as the ones you were taught, as short truths (dogma), if you were so inclined. We are told there is a country of France, but have you been there? We take it on good faith that we are not being lied to, but in truth any lesson you are told in short you should be able to see for yourself in real life; meaning, you should be able to go to France and see it.
So my real issue with what I am being told to believe or not believe in church or bible school is not that it is dogma, but that it can not in any way be substantiated. In fact, in most cases, to question their teachings is “sin”. Furthermore, every time I do dare to question or try to replicate their findings I find them to be falsified or highly inaccurate. It would be like hopping on a plane and then finding out that there really is no France, no Germany, that the earth is still flat, and then wondering why you still need to keep on listening to your geography teachers.
I am glad that Freud put my frustrations into words for me, and helped me understand what it was that I was actually upset about here. I should not be opposed to “short answers” of knowledge that someone else took the time to look into and prove, and I can get a basic understanding of. I can then choose to take this basic understanding and expound upon it — if I so desire. What is frustrating is when all the dogma you are being fed can not be taken any further in practice or validation beyond the class-room (as in nobody could produce for me a Trinity to observe). It is even harsher when you can research it some and find out that many of the facts, history, stories, or claims were falsified; or atleast contradict history and it’s scholars (as in church history, authorships, or findings).
Instinctual, or Intuitive, Religion
Anyway, so I feel OK now about writing my own commentary for you all, and I am glad to have greater clarification as to what was bothering my with the “knowledge” that has been handed to me as-of-late. Give me some time to get it all down.
In the mean-time I wanted to share a quick thought (before it escapes me) on human instincts and religion. Please look at these comments as “food for thought” and nothing more for now; since they are still ruminating in my head.
So Freud equates religion to a neurosis in this book, and for a justifiable reason as far as his logic carries him. One definition of neurosis is (in paraphrase) a human or a group of humans creating an ideal for themselves that they could never live up to. If one were to look at religion as an external ideal that imposes standards or beliefs on us that we could never fully realize, but only cause anxiety, fear, guilt, and shame — then this is a very fitting assessment.
What I am wondering though is: how this fits in with his belief that man created religion? How can we speak of religion, and especially its morals, as something outside of the scope, want, nature, or ability of man and then at the same time state that man came up with the concept?
Is it in our nature to dream of things, create things, or have ideals that we can never accomplish? Would we create speech if we lacked the ability to vocalize? Why would we envision written language if we lacked the ability deep down to communicate? It would not happen. We do not long for creating things that we can not attain. It is not in our nature to long for things that can not be fulfilled. If we are feeling lonely it is because there is a void there that can be filled. If we hunger — there is food. Any instinctive thirst has a counterpart that can quench it.
I will concede that there are non-natural desires or ideals that have no counterpart, but I wonder if religion is or is not one of them? Especially when it comes down to moral ideals. Never-mind the gods; Freud even states that the ideals are not natural for man, but they were made by man naturally were they not?
I know his argument that if we took a child and raised him in seclusion without religion, he would never come up with the idea of a God, god, or gods on his own. That is a very good argument, but the hole that I see in it is simply that this experiment already took place in our own history. Trace our roots far back enough, and sooner or later someone came up with the notion of God… without it being imposed on him or her. If we invented this, then there had to have been a point where it did not exist and we thought it up… so your child in seclusion did already create a God… maybe even the one that you are rejecting right now.
The only other possibilityI can see is that the concept was imposed on mankind from an external force. This option would go along a lot better with the notion of it being un-natural, imposed, and an ideal that we can not attain; however, the external force would probably have to be… a god of some kind.
I would assume that this argument would eventually go down the road of: “Well those old humans were “primitive”, and knew very little. We are saying that a modern man would never come up with a religion on their own.” So basically, that our stupid ancestors did not understand birth, death, sex, storms, nature, etc — so they invented gods to take the anxiety away. We however, would not do this since we know more about nature and science. So a child raised in seclusion, but with science, would not invent a religion.
I do not know if I quite agree with this train-of-thought. For one, I do not think that we give our ancestors enough credit of intelligence; furthermore, I think we give ourselves too much credit for ours. Finally, many and most religions went beyond “appeasing the gods of nature” and went into things quite more esoteric, relational, or transcendental.
I would argue (although at this time without sufficient proof) that an awareness of something existing that is greater than ourselves (flesh or the temporal) is intuitive, or instinctual. I wonder if it is this way because, as in all of our other natural hungers, it can be fulfilled? I acknowledge that many (if not all) of our current religions have abused, added on to, darkened, and twisted our natural curiosity or longing for the divine into something else — something to control, manipulate, or mislead us; yet does that negate the fact that something greater exists?
I would like to do some research on Intuitive Religion and see where it take me. I had some brief encounters with this concept when studying Shamans and other more ancient, tribal practices. I am sure it does not end there though. Heck, look at Job (in the O.T. Bible); according to most scholars (who are not biased by the actual religion itself) they conclude that Job was not a Jew, in fact there was no such race yet (and obviously too early to be a Christian). This book pre-dates Moses, the Law, temples, practices, churches, priests, etc. Take all of that in, and then realize that Job was seen by God as a spiritual man, a holy man, just and upright. Job was the “priest” of his own home/family, knew God, and pleased him.
Not that I believe in the story, but it does point out that the concept of religion before and without “religion” exists in the history (or heritage) of many different cultures at various times. I believe it should be looked into further.
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