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Great Jewish Thinkers Freud- ‘Religion (is) a Universal Obsessional Neurosis’ and ‘At Bottom God is Nothing More than an Exalted Father’

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Sigmund Freud had a complicated relationship with religion as well as his family. His ancestors were of Hasidic descent, though his father was more akin to reformed Judaism and his self- analysis influenced his views on religion. He was proud of his Jewish heritage yet was sceptical, unquestionably an Atheist, and viewed belief in God as childish. Interestingly he had a Catholic Nanny who helped raise him and took him to church at a tender age. Nonetheless he authored books on religious subjects and was convinced that an increase in knowledge would inevitably result in a demise in religion.

Religion and Real Saving Faith

Is ‘religion’ unanimously considered a good and wise entity in the Bible? Are elements of certain religions fuelled by neurosis? Can religion when broken down into its constituent parts represent a set of rituals in the form of a façade ceremony? That depends on how religion is defined. Religion itself usually constitutes a collective set of beliefs and values about a God or gods. It is sad when people worship things that are man-made and try to create a religious experience by focussing on externals such as smells and bells, vestments, candles, and architecture to induce a spiritual atmosphere to fulfil the inward desire to worship.

Real saving faith is based on carefully considered evidence. When Paul was in Thessalonica he spent three days in the synagogue, reasoning from the Scriptures, explaining that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and rise from the dead. Some believed whilst others did not believe. Then in Athens whilst addressing the Areopagus amongst the philosophers his opening statement was  “that in every way you are very religious.”

Paul was not being complimentary to the Greeks about them being ‘very religious’. In the sense that he used the term, he meant that they were superstitious. There was an abundance of idols and of especial interest was the ‘altar to the unknown God’. They had gods for various entities though recognised there must be a God who made everything; yet it was painfully evident that they did not know Him.

Paul explained that there is one God who created everything and that we are made in His image. This God commands that everyone should repent since the Man whom He has appointed will judge the world in righteousness and the assurance of that is the resurrection of the Messiah. Trust in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah, is centred around His resurrection. King David spoke of his certainty of the resurrection in addition to the resurrection of the Messiah (Psalm 16:10). If it occurred, then that is tremendous news since for those who trust in Him and follow Him, His death and resurrection is the guarantee of their redemption and their sin atoned for resulting in everlasting life. But if not and as Paul said, then those believing that, are to be the most pitied of all men (1 Corinthians 15:19).

The Perfect Father

Was Freud correct in thinking that God is nothing more than an exalted father? It is sad when strained family relations and in particular, poor relationships with a father figure are sometimes projected to how someone views the God of the Bible. We must remember however that God is absolutely holy and sinless, and is the judge of the whole earth. We learn from the Torah in the song of Moses about His exemplary and consistent character. “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He (Deuteronomy 32:4).”

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus the Messiah explained that He came not to do away with law or the prophets but to fulfil them (Matthew 5:17-18). He also gave an illustration of the limitations of earthly fathers and compares that with the perfect heavenly Father.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! 12 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:7-12)

Lastly, He spoke with Nicodemus the teacher of Israel about Moses and the great love of the Father.

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should [c]not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:14-17)