As someone who had never previously read any of Freud’s writings, the only conception I had of his work was his incredibly uncomfortable familial sexual theories and perhaps a little bit of stuff surrounding the unconscious. Strangely enough, after reading Freud, it was one of the few texts within which I actually liked a large part of the ideas which luckily for me weren’t as complicated as I was fearing.
It was from his opening, talking about the oceanic feeling some people get when part of a religion, that I could tell that Freud wasn’t just obsessed with sexual theories, but rather had some really solid ideas. Funnily enough, I found out that I agree with a lot of Freud’s ideas and theories. While I’m not religious myself, I grew up with some relatively religious grandparents who often took me to grand Venetian churches to admire not only the religious aspect, but also the artistic aspect. In fact, while I’m not religious, I’ve almost found a bit of wonder in how devoted people are to their religion. I find it incredibly impressive how in many cases religion is an incredibly uniting factor for many groups of people. The feeling of being part of something greater is what it can provide (that “oceanic” feeling that Freud describes), and honestly, sometimes I’d like to be part of something like that.
While it seems easy to constantly criticize religion, it’s amazing the way religion has helped guide people’s lives. Part of my childhood was spent in Dallas, Texas, a hotbed of very religious people. And I remember after having sleepovers at friend’s houses on Saturday night, Sunday morning their family would take me to church with them.The first time I was blown away by the feeling of inclusion I found. Even though I had spent a couple of hours sitting and listening to a man tell stories which may or may not have been true, amongst the choir singing and praying around me, it was a nice feeling to be part of something greater.
But this is all slightly off topic from Freud. To sum up my experience with Freud, I was very pleasantly surprised. I think that while Freud and his theories had faults, many of them were extremely spot on. Part of the reason that some seem to dislike his writings is perhaps due to the fact that they don’t want to acknowledge that perhaps they do in fact have strong sexual urges towards their mother. I remember there’s an old Italian saying which goes along the tune of, “A man will always find love in a woman who cooks just like his mother”. While Freud might have left out the cooking part, in Italy there’s a noticeable and almost eerie pattern of men who marry women who are extremely physically similar to their mothers. Perhaps this is just a strange occurrence, but I’m of the opinion that Freud hit a lot of nails on the head in “Civilization and its Discontents”.
The influence of religion is clear, and it’s ability to unite people (to a degree far stronger than laws ever can) is very powerful and, as the religious would say, very fulfilling. However, Freud pretty much sums up the problem with religion in one sentence:
?When once the Apostle Paul had posited universal love between men as the foundation of his Christian community, extreme intolerance on the part of Christendom towards those who remained outside it became the inevitable consequence? (99)
We see that although religion is great and fulfilling for those who are part of the “in-group”, those in the “out-group” are consequentially discriminated against heavily. This, incidentally, reminds me of the saying that “a war has never been fought in the name of Atheism,” which, as far as I know, is true. Religion is powerful–that’s for certain–but is that power really a good thing?