Jumping for Freud

Lately we’ve been dipping our neurotic, mother-loving wicks into Sigmund “Ziggy” Freud’s incendiary essay on religion, “The Future of an Illusion.” And all we can say is: Oh, God! What an atheist!

Sigmund Freud

Ziggy doesn’t just say there is no God. The obvious drops below his dignity. No, he has a far more destructive destination: to prove that belief in God is not just incorrect but pathological, that religion causes mental illness and believers are clinically deluded. And unlike Karl “Grumpy” Marx, Ziggy really cared about religion – cared the way he cared about incest and murder fantasies, as cryptic messages from the darkened tunnels of the mind.

To his dying twitch, Ziggy thought believers in God should be “cured” and their infantile goofiness replaced with reality. This very issue was one of the main causes of his break-up with Carl “Cool Cat” Jung. Reading Freud on religion is like sitting on a sofa at a party next to a kind-looking older man and listening to him say, hey, you’re an idiot, and by the way here’s two hours of why.

Luckily, “Illusion” is only 66 pages long. Though at a list price of $13.95, it’s 42 cents per double-sided page, which is quite a premium to pay for cold water down the back of your pants. But no matter: The God Project Dot Net is open-minded, undecided, and if there really is no God we might as well find out before we waste any more Sunday mornings at the beautiful, thriving St. Mary’s Basilica in downtown Minneapolis (“America’s First Basilica”).

Before we toddle in, here’s a short, highly biased bio of the great Ziggy “Killjoy” Freud:

He was born. His seductive, magnetic mother adored him, perhaps a bit too much. The family were unobservant Jews. After medical school, he worked in Paris for a hypnotist. Back in Vienna, he got married and thought cocaine could cure unhappiness. He best-friended – and later hated – a throat doctor named Wilhelm Fliess. According to Yale’s Peter Gay, Freud originally held that “every neurosis resulted from premature sexual activity, mainly child molestation, in childhood.”

His first book, Interpretation of Dreams, sold 351 copies over six years. Ziggy was 50 when he met Carl Jung, but “he had long brooded on himself as aging and decrepit,” says Gay. He best-friended – and later hated – Jung. He best-friended – and later hated – Alfred Adler, who believed that all neurosis was caused by “organ inferiority.”

Freud was 61 when he had his first best-seller, Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (1917). He adored his sixth child, Anna, perhaps a bit too much. Freud psychoanalyzed her, on the couch, for years. A lifelong cigar habit gave him the palate cancer that made his last years so painful. He was 71 when he wrote “The Future of an Illusion.” Two of his last three books were attacks on religion.

In 1939, at the start of World War II, Freud asked his doctor to euthanize him. He died.


2 responses to “Jumping for Freud

  1. As with all discussions of religion, I assume people (Ziggy and Grumpy included) are using the Judeo-Christian definition of God when they are condemning/praising the belief or non-belief thereof (therein? thereabouts?). And because they are dead, we can’t ask them. But what happens to their pronouncements when the definition isn’t confined to that which our underutilized, under-developed brains can conceive? What if God is not a singular being as presented in Old & New Testaments, but something that transcends time, space and any dimensions of which we can imagine?

  2. Nice point Kate – I tend to agree with you. The more I read these famous atheists, the more I realize they don’t know much about religion. What Freud’s reacting to is almost a caricature of Saturday school Judaism — God as a loving, benevolent Father who isn’t afraid to scold us, and so on. But that’s not MY God — at least, not since I was about seven.

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