Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2020 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming

Freud, Sigmund, and Religion

  • Lorna Lees-GrossmannEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24348-7_251

Freud was notorious for his antireligious stance. He seems to have gone out of his way to offend believers, referring to the “barbarous god of volcanoes and wildernesses whom I grew to dislike very much” (Freud 1970, p. 102). Despite this, he accepts that in some cases the mild neurosis of religion was preferable to a more complex and distressing disorder and argues the parallels between religion and psychoanalysis are striking.


Religion itself for Freud is a form of madness (Freud 1995a, SE XII: 269). He draws an analogy between the faith-based belief of the religious believer and that of the paranoiac, who clings to his or her paranoid delusion in spite of any and all evidence to the contrary. He draws another between the ceremony and ritual associated with religious practice and the obsessive’s need to engage in repetitive behavior. Religion can rescue people from an individual neurosis, although it does not cure them: it merely substitutes a universal neurosis for a...
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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychosomatic MedicineKlinikum Rechts der IsarMunichGermany