Grand Freud Auto

Not sure what that title has to do with anything, but it’s the best I can do, as we Minnesotans have passed the point of being restless and bored with winter. Now we peer over the railing of the Washington Bridge on our daily march to work and gaze longingly at the icy depths, begging God to take us into His own sweet embrace … except He can’t because the Mississippi River is covered with ICE!

So we trudge on — much as Sigmund “Ziggy” Freud did — howling all the way. “The elements,” he says in a particularly lovely phrase in his anti-God screed The Future of an Illusion, “have passions that rage as they do in our own souls.” Ziggy had soul! He had something he did not even believe existed.

As we’ve wandered deeper into January’s theme of Atheism, I’ve noticed a strange, Midwestern quirk in these skeptics. They don’t go all Medieval on the Big Banana and try to PROVE It does NOT exist, the way Anselm and Maimonides tried to prove that It did. No, they go all passive-aggressive on It.

Freud comes right out: “To assess the truth value of religious doctrines does not lie within the scope of the present enquiry.” And yet. Sociologists who study religion practice “methodological atheism,” which means they supposedly set aside truth claims about God and study only the human element. But darn if they don’t leave you feeling stupid for believing, every time.

As a theologian, Ziggy was a great psychoanalyst. The “God” he describes (briefly) in Illusion is like a caricature of a picture book from a Shul class for eight year-olds called “Is God My Daddy?” Like the captions from a pamphlet I got at Sunday school in Birmingham, Michigan called “Jesus Is My Best Friend.” As the great Karen Armstrong points out in The Case for God, most atheists are smart people who haven’t bothered to learn much about religion.

Ziggy’s grasp of theology, much less religious experience, is about as compelling as my grasp of neurobiology. It’s that weak. Which doesn’t make him wrong, just less mind-blowing.

So here it is, free from The God Project Dot Net for the people of the world:

Judeo-Christian Theology, According to Ziggy Freud

First, religious ideas are “given out as teachings” and people believe them “because our forefathers believed.” Religious people all believe three things:

  1. “Benevolent rule of divine Providence” — that God “orders everything for the best — that is, to make it enjoyable for us”
  2. “A moral world-order” — that is, “in the end all good is rewarded and all evil punished”
  3. “Prolongation of earthly existence in a future life”

And that’s about it. Religion as a long, warm bath, with our eyes wide shut. Which is — to be honest — exactly what we need right now. Shalom.

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