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Showing 1-10 of 63 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 88 reviews
on April 22, 2017
Publication date: 1927

"... If you wish to expel religion from our European civilization you can only do it through another system of doctrines, and from the outset this would take over all the psychological characteristics of religion, the same sanctity, rigidity and intolerance, the same prohibition of thought in self-defence."

(This is not Freud speaking, but his "imagined antagonist." Still, I admire the equanimity with which Freud states objections to his thesis. This too, is more than we get from other militant atheists:)

... There is another point in which I wholeheartedly agree with you. It is, to be sure, a senseless proceeding to try and do away with religion by force and at one blow—more especially as it is a hopeless one. The believer will not let his faith be taken from him, neither by arguments nor by prohibitions. And even if it did succeed with some, it would be a cruel thing to do. A man who has for decades taken a sleeping draught is naturally unable to sleep if he is deprived of it. That the effect of the consolations of religion may be compared to that of a narcotic is prettily illustrated by what is happening in America. There they are now trying—plainly under the influence of petticoat government—to deprive men of all stimulants, intoxicants and luxuries, and to satiate them with piety by way of compensation. This is another experiment about the result of which we need not be curious.

I admire the brevity, and dare I say, the grandeur of this book, written by Freud when he was seventy. His theory of society is positively Hobbesian:

"... Insecurity of life, an equal danger for all, now unites men into one society, which forbids the individual to kill and reserves to itself the right to kill in the name of society the man who violates this prohibition. This, then, is justice and punishment."

Worth reading, and re-reading.
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on June 7, 2017
Bottom Line First: Sigmund Freud’s The Future of an Illusion is a monograph that proposes a psychological origin of all religion and while expressing his preference that religion, at least in Europe should fade away. Freud admits that the alternative may be little other than an earth bound doctrine. Ultimately he is not certain that this change can happen only that he would prefer it. This is a relatively easy read. Freud rarely employs academic language or sophisticated logic. The result is progression of ideas driven by logic and built around a nearly Socratic dialogue between himself and a doubting other self. Unlike Socrates, Freud does not hobble the doubting speaker by limiting doubt to weak defensive arguments. The result is a re balanced discussion of a topic that could have been hyperbolic or designed to humiliate religious believers. The Future of an Illusion is recommended. Freud treats his reader with respect. He is advocating an end to religion but not in such a way as to deny the honorable role of religion or to question the intellect of the believer.

The Future of an Illusion is one of several extended essays by Freud outside of his medical and psychological studies. It is not his only work to address the role and root causes for religious belief. He embraces the social utility of religion as a major factor above nation and therefore above question in its authority over certain socially necessary values.

Of we accept a purely logic driven basis for religion and play down any human need for magic or extra logical stories and authorities, It is possible to project a time when people stop needing or desiring religion. However I think Freud steps too quickly from the individual, psychologically driven purpose for religion into it as role in smoothing social conformity. Freud concludes that religion is seized upon by an immature person to give a more identifiably human identity to the indifferent blank stare and harsh hand of nature and fate. The more god<s> are like humans the more likely the human can seek exception to the random violence of nature.

So far so good. But as much as the religious like to evoke their ‘fear’ of god<s> just as many extoled the majesty and beauty of a magic that lights the life of the believer.

Ultimately in a choice between logic and magic. It seems unrealistic to believe that the one will ever remove the other as operating force among humans. Freud recognizes that many become religious before they are old enough to question it. He does not seem to grasp that humans are varied and that a individual preference for logic over religion implies that there will always be others with a preference for religion over logic.
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on August 31, 2017
Here is what Freud argues: Religion is an illusion based in childish notions. It offers a comfort against the brutal supremacy of nature. In the past it may have provided some benefit, and for some it may prove benefit still, but Freud is absolutely convinced that it is neurosis that does more harm than good. As we are destined to outgrow childhood, so to the enlightened and reasonable mind must be destined to outgrow the childish comforts of religion. Better to give a secular education a try, and make confident in the rational basis of cultural law and civilization. End of argument. Freud has probably summarized some essential modern criticisms of religion, and tapped on a few valid nerves. But that religion is as detrimental as he suggests, or that belief in morality and reason as thin as supposed may be unwarranted assumptions. Whether one believes or not, I think these criticism are still important to confront and to evaluate for oneself.
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on January 6, 2011
Throughout this book Freud responds to would-be criticism to his views and claims which i thought were all apt arguments against the points Freud was trying to make. This was definitely one book that i was sad to see end. I felt that a lot more could have been said and that it was cut a bit short. While the ending quote, stated by another reviewer, seems to draw the most important pieces of this book together and ends it well, it was still disappointingly short. Keep in mind, Freud's opinions and conclusion that are illustrated throughout this book, and all his others are all products of his many years as the father of psychoanalysis.

The topic of this book seems to be very touchy, something you can't talk about with people, Freud basically states that you're not going to convince people otherwise when they strongly believe in something, as people often do religion. As an Atheist myself, i was more compelled to believe and be encouraged by these arguments and views on religion.

The approach Freud took towards this is not merely the effect of religion on the single person, but on a civilization. Why religion comes about, and why it seems to be needed by that civilization. This is a larger form of religious effect than i had previously read about, which just made this book even more interesting to me.

The most interesting point that was made, in my opinion, is Freud's argument for law over commandment or rule. As an Atheist, i always considered the most important role of a religion on a society (I'll use Christianity as my example) was to employ strong unchangeable, yet simple and morally correct rules, or commandments. These created no 'wiggle' room for any believer, it was either do not kill, or go to hell and suffer eternal damnation. This added a long term incentive with, to the believer, strong consequences. However, in the view of Sigmund Freud, it is actually better to have this as a law, rather than a commandment, because "the civilization will focus on bettering the law rather than abolishing it." I'm strongly inclined to change my view on this topic after reading this book. When given and unchangeable rule, such as a commandment, people will naturally appose it, and seek its destruction. While this is not always true, the basis for this argument makes sense. When you were young, and your parents made an irrefutable law that you are not to eat chocolate at seven in the evening, all you could think about is wanting to eat that chocolate, even though you knew it would keep you awake all night. If this was NOT an irrefutable law, but was just a rule that is somewhat changeable, something that has a middle ground, people will naturally seek to better this rule, rather than get rid of it completely. I'm certain there are arguments against this train of thought, as there is always an opposing force. This book has introduced several opinions that differ even my own. Most of which is find extremely fascinating as they are yet another way of looking at things.

Overall, this is a very well written book. As all Freud's book, it takes a bit of thought while reading it, and it's not recommended for light reading. Though if you're a believer of any religion with a relatively open mind, read this book, think about it, then move on.

As per my golden principle when it comes to any religion that worships or believes in a god or gods. A deity is merely a concept, though it is a special kind if concept, it's one that cannot be proven, not can it be labeled impossible. It is something we'll never know the truth about, and i proudly recognize that fact.

If anyone actually took the time to read this review, I thank you for your time and patience, and enjoy the book!

5/5 stars.
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on March 21, 2013
The central claim of THE FUTURE OF AN ILLUSION is no longer shocking. It may be in vigorous dispute, but it is not shocking.

Freud argues here that religion, particularly of the patriarchal sort, stems from a neurotic or childlike need for security and protection, in contrast to the known facts of its origins. If our primitive ancestors were ignorant of so many fundamental facts about the world, we can hardly expect them to have solved the supreme riddles of the universe. Throw in our need to believe what pleases and comforts us, and religion topples.

Nothing new here.

But the book includes an eye-opener that is likely to escape our notice. A lifetime admirer of Freudian thought, I have carried with me the stereotype of Freud as a revolutionary, a friend of the oppressed. Here was a man who sided with the victims of society's oppression, forcing the individual to hide his natural instincts, even from himself. As the Clara Barton of the soul, Freud lifted those oppressions to make the sufferer whole.

Not quite.

In the first place, his view of his patients was uncharitable in the extreme: "every individual is virtually an enemy of culture, which is nevertheless ostensibly an object of universal human concern." (Kindle Locations 83-84). His response to this presumption is equally crass: "every culture must be built up on coercion and instinctual renunciation;" (Kindle Locations 98-99). So we see where the sympathies of the healer actually lie, not with nature but with culture; not with the oppressed, but with the oppressor. If Freud relieved the "instinctual renunciations," he must have done so only with great reluctance.

It is duly noted, however, that he need not have structured this antagonism (individual vs. culture) into his world view in the first place.

Again, contrary to his revolutionary image, Freud sided with the ruling class against the working class. Insisting on the necessity of "compulsory labor," (Kindle Locations 108-109) he doesn't much care who compels whom: "It is just as impossible to do without government of the masses by a minority as it is to dispense with coercion in the work of civilization, for the masses are lazy and unintelligent." (I gather that the masses would be composed of sluggards like me.)

The new millennium seems to be heralding an age of disillusionment. Religion is perishing. The Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa are fair game. Freud's credentials as a scientist were rescinded last century. I'm not surprised to find myself impugning his motives as well.

Review by Jeremiah Cox, author of REDESIGNING GOD.
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on April 6, 2014
Sigmund Freud's writings are clear and concise without using language that flies over most of us mere mortals heads. He lays out his thesis in succinct ways while keeping the reader grounded in science. Too many times those who write about religion are doing so only to gain converts. Freud is simply laying the groundwork for a new and better future... one which he foresaw doing away with the illusion of god in heaven peering down on his creation and passing judgment on all the sinners. The time has come for something better.
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on April 11, 2015
Freud compares a child's fear and dependence on his parents with a love/fear relationship with a God when he grows up and still finds uncertainty in the world. Freud manages to avoid discussing all the evil that religion has done through history with the exception of the famous Monkey Trial where a teacher was arrested for teaching evolution. Freud seems to suggest that as science becomes more powerful, that we will become God. But if Freud were alive today, he might see a suggestion of the demonic in mental illnesses such as Multiple Personality, the Psychopath and even in Compulsive Hoarding.
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on May 6, 2017
I read this with a strong sense of deja vu. It matches so closely my own rationalization of reality that I am suspicious of having read it long ago, in the beginning. Previous contact not withstanding, I recommend this text to anyone trying to understand the role of beliefs in their life.
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on March 29, 2016
Although it comes from an elitist perspective, it is as relevant today to an analysis of the social and moral order as it was when written over a century ago. The human need for tribal connection and an all-powerful Big Daddy is universal and persistent. Freud argues persuasively that the God delusion/illusion is rooted in that need. It is both a life-line and an infantilizing distraction from reality which sooner or later has to be abandoned if civilization is to progress to a higher quality of life.
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on December 5, 2016
If anyone is looking for a place to start in emancipating yourself from the chains of barbarism then this book should be one of your first stops. But, I strongly encourage you to read other authors who value free inquiry, reason, science, and skepticism, such as Ingersoll, Chapman, Spinoza, Darwin, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens. The list is endless.
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