A) Religious belief as a product of the human mind


Sigmund Freud

  • Freud believed the psyche was divided into the id, the ego and the superego, which all developed at different stages of life
  • Id: primitive and impulsive part of the psyche
  • Ego: conscious self
  • Superego: moral part of personality, including conscience
  • Ego experiences moral conflicts that Freud believed were reflected in dreams and neurotic symptoms
  • In 'Obsessive actions and ritual practices', he noted that people who suffered from obsessional neurosis involving compulsive repetitive actions exhibited similar patterns of behaviour to religious people e.g. washing hands before worship
  • Freud described religion as a 'universal obsessional neurosis'
  • The neurotic compulsions and religious rituals are found universally, so it is called collective neurosis

Religion as a neurosis: Primal Horde

  • In 'Totem and Taboo', Freud sought to explain how religion was a form of neurosis, caused by traumas deep within the psyche
  • He based his ideas on Darwin: originally humans had lived in 'hordes' dominated by single males who seized the women and drove other men away/ killed them (including their sons). At some point, the younger males struck back and killed the alpha male. They felt guilty after this and became rivals amongst themselves- social order collapsed. They formed a tribe and a totem took the place of the father
  • Freud linked primal horde theory to totemism and…


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