Book Review: ‘The Future of an Illusion’ by Sigmund Freud

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If there’s one name that anyone and everyone can without a doubt relate to psychology, it’s that of  Mr. Sigmund Freud, the most prolific and celebrated psychoanalyst till date. Having said that, I recently developed an interest in religion and behavioral sciences which led me straightaway to one of his most famous works; ‘The Future of an Illusion’. The book boldly questions the origin of religion along with its existence and needs.

The age-old debate of religion vs. science is what this book majorly revolves around. By calling religion a neurosis of the society, Freud fearlessly suggests it to be an “illusion”. It follows the format of a dialogue between a hypothetical critic and Freud himself. The basic human need of having a mighty father figure, God according to the book, has led to the creation of religion. Religion was needed back in the day in order to reduce the destructive tendencies of human nature under the belief that the human race is being protected by an all powerful superior force.

Another interesting point that he presents as an answer to human dependency on religion is that religion makes a man feel powerful as it comes to his rescue in times when one feels helpless. God, whom man considers a father figure, in times of vulnerability, presents an illusion in the child’s brain against all fear in exchange for respect, obedience and submission. This is where he connects, in a rather crude form, religion to Oedipus complex.

As Freud quotes, “These connections are not hard to find. They consist in the relation of the child’s helplessness to the helplessness of the adult which continues it…When the growing individual finds that he is destined to remain a child for ever, that he can never do without protection against strange powers, he lends those powers the features belonging to the figure of his father; he creates for himself the gods whom he dreads, whom he seeks to propitiate, and whom he nevertheless entrusts with his own protection. Thus, his longing for a father is a motive identical with his need for protection against the consequences of his human weakness.”

According to Freud, religion, a man-made concept, in the early centuries was a needed measure to rescue mankind but if we talk about today’s scenario, religion and reason can never go hand in hand. As science develops, there will be a day when it can be proved that we no longer need a set of rules based on a false belief system with no scientific backing to help mankind progress. “Human creations are easily destroyed, and science and technology, which have built them up, can also be used for their annihilation.” (Freud).

Therefore, this book is a reflection of author’s idea of scientific enlightenment that contradicts religious superstitious claims. As the 21th century records the history of immense growth and innovations, I would like to recommend this book to every keen reader out there.

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Swapan Deep Kaur (DAV College 10)

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