Religion is one the greatest phenomenon of human life. Sometimes, it is a source of war, conflict and crime. Another time it is a foundation of civilization. Therefore, there are many scientists study religion. Two of them are Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx. Many scientists categorized Freud and Marx as master of suspicion. Karl Marx states that religion is as an illusion, and Freud declares belief in god is error, like neurosis. I think, what Freud and Marx criticize is very important to discuss deeply. Discussing Freud and Marx theories makes religious people understand the failure of religion in the past and can evaluate it for the sake continuity of religion in the future.
According to Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), religions, especially monotheistic religion, do not come from a God or gods, because gods do not exist, but it comes from such a neurotic of humanity. Therefore, Freud claims that religious beliefs are erroneous. The problem is why many people persist in holding these belief? Answering this question, Freud describes that religious attitude seem to neurotic patients. Both religious attitude and neurotic patients, for instance, feel guilty unless they follow the rules of their rituals to perfection. In this context, Freud claims that the rituals are associated with the repression of basic instincts; psychologically neuroses arise from repression of the sex drive; religion demands repression of selfishness, control of ego-instincts (p.66).
This Freud’s assumption is base on his research about psychologically childhood, especially the earliest years of life-from birth to age six. The early childhood, no less than adult life, is strongly shaped by the sexual desire of the id. In the first eighteen months of life, there is an oral phase, and then at the age of three, the child goes in an anal phase, then from age three onward, the genital organs assume importance. In this phase, Freud names the phallic stage, which includes masturbation and sexual fantasies. This phallic stage reaches to the age of six at which point a nonsexual stage of latency sets in. After this phase, the earlier sexual stages do not completely disappear; the ones instead overlay them. Therefore, the abnormal behavior cases are understood as fixations, as the failure to mover on to the next level of growth.
This sexual phase of childhood links to religion in what Freud calls the Oedipus complex; the term comes from the celebrated tragedy by Sophocles, the great dramatist of ancient Greece. It tells the story of King Oedipus, a proud, good man that he unknowingly kills his father and then marries his own mother. Freud tells us that in the phase of childhood, especially in phallic stage (between ages three and six), the child desires to displace on his father and become the lover of his mother as a sexual partner. In this step, the child hates his father for he is as a rival. When the mother with father’s support senses this feeling, mother discourages to touch child sexual organ, even there is threat to cut the child penis. Surely, the child is frightened, and surmising from girls’ lack of a penis that such a thing could actually happen to him, experiences a castration complex. Therefore, the child should submit to his father, give up hope of possessing his mother and get his sexual satisfaction from sexual fantasies instead.
Another perspective is Karl Marx theory on religion. Religious people will understand the failure of religion in the past and can evaluate it for the sake continuity of religion in the future. What we can get from Marx critic is equality and continuity between theory and praxis, consciousness and action. Faith cannot be separated by with religious action. As Marx said, that philosophy has not only interpreted the world but the point is to change the world. Religion does not only teach human to face suffering but also teach them how the way to eliminate the suffering. Theology of liberation shows us how religion can liberate and bring a way human from the real suffering. Religion cannot only give human an active moral but also a potential power to change the world. In this time, If Marx sees such potential religion; he will revise his conception about religion.
Marx theory is that life determines consciousness. The theory can also be applied in religion context. I mean that the condition and context such suffering condition must alter religious the thinking and concept. Religion cannot only help the poor and the oppressed to exist and survive amid several problems but also to change the condition to be better. In conclusion, Marx’s critics on religion essentially provide some challenge and opportunity for religion to evaluate and renewal with new spirit. The proper meaning of religion for the oppressed people in this time is religion that can give spirit to respond the enormous problem caused by globalization such, poverty, social injustice and environmental crisis. But not only respond the problems, religion must be functioned to participate and give concrete solution.
As a religious man, I think what Freud and Marx said above should be responded positively. It means that we should show that religion is as a power to liberate human being from oppression and split personality. Therefore, the thesis of Freud and Marx cannot be proven.
[Note; This is my assignment of Philosophy of Religion at CRCS]