People today don’t really understand what happens to us after death, if there is a God, or if there even is a heaven or a hell. These questions undoubtedly run through our minds at least once in our lives and we don’t know if we are ever going to get those answers. Religions are even concerned with questions of an afterlife. Whether the rewards of heaven and the punishments of hell actually exist. Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx both had their thoughts and beliefs about religion and whether a god existed or not. Both reductionist had similar, convincing points. But in the end differ greatly in their beliefs towards life after death and moral/ethical teachings connected with it. Freud believed religion was an illusion. And that the reason human beings still practiced it was because it acted as a neurosis and it helped as a fatherly figure. Marx also believed that religion was an illusion, but he said it acted as an “opium” for the people.
Sigmund Freud was raised in a Jewish family, but was not strictly religious. He was a very intelligent child and studied many languages at an early age. He entered medical school at the age of seventeen and studied brain science. This is where he practiced his outlandish theories on his patients. Through his practices he found that humans try and forget traumatic experiences in order to move on from them, this is called repression. After so many years of repressing their memories, they then develop a neurosis, which are phobias, anxiety, or even OCD. For example, people who have experienced sexual abuse or have gotten in a severe car crash when they were younger evolve a neurosis trying to forget those traumatic memories they encountered. Freud says how “a human child cannot successfully complete its development to the civilized age without passing through a phase of neurosis” (87, Introducing Religion).
He compares religion to a neurosis because these mental illnesses latch onto us through our whole lives just as religion has stuck with us for so many years, “Religion would thus be the universal obsessional neurosis of humanity; like the obsessional neurosis of children” (87, Introducing Religion). Freud would analyze the important religious issue of life after death and the moral/ethical teachings connected with it as a neurosis. After so many years of religious moral teachings like saving sex for marriage, not committing incest, not having more than one wife, etc., he would say humans just carried those morals and ethics from previous years of practicing religion. As he explains here, when religions bring over “obsessional restrictions, exactly as an individual neurosis does, they comprise a system of wishful illusions together with a disavowal of reality” (87, Introducing Religion).
People who go to church and practice these morals are only restricting themselves and not seeing the real world, as Freud would say. So from Freud’s analytical standpoint, these moral and ethical teachings are just carried over from previous years of practicing of religion and are just a big waste of our time. He doesn’t believe in a heaven, a hell, or any type of god, he thinks humans only believe in a god because as children the “helplessness in childhood aroused the need for protection- for protection through love-which was provided by the father; and the recognition that this helplessness lasts through life made it necessary to cling to the existence of a father, but this time a more powerful one” (84, Introducing Religion).