Sigmund Freud And Tylor's Approaches To Defining Religion

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Defining “Religion” Writing Assignment 1

In attempts to define religion, one will quickly realize that religion is not something that can be easily defined. The most apparent reason that religion is hard to define is that the term “religion” can mean something entirely different to each person. For some, religion is thought to be “imagined by humans”; those who believe this theory feel that “only the material world exists” (Fisher, pg. 3). Religion can also be viewed as a way to manipulate others or as a way to hold society together (Fisher, pg. 4). This creates a problem in defining religion because almost everyone on Earth has already been influenced in some way by at least one religion, even if they are not an active participant in said
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Freud and Tylor both believed that dreams were significant (Pals, pg. 56). While Tylor stated that dreams caused primitive souls to believe in spirits, Freud expanded upon this theory by stating that these dreams occurred within an unconscious mind. He explained that this unconscious mind contains basic biological drives as well as images and emotions that “sink down into [the unconscious mind] from the conscious mind up” (Pals, pg. 57). These emotions can either drift down naturally or be forced down based on a complex sequence of events. Although Freud agreed with Tylor that dreams can influence religious beliefs, Freud did not believe in a God himself (Pals, pg. 64). Also unlike Tylor, Freud took interest in questioning why people hold these beliefs despite them being “so obviously false” (Pals, pg. 64). In his quest to answer these questions, Freud noticed similarities between those who participated in religious activities and his neurotic patients, such as an obsession with repeated actions or rituals and guilt that, in both cases, stem from “the repression of basic instincts” (Pals, pg. 64). Freud calls this behavior “a universal obsessional neurosis” (Pals, pg. 65). Despite their differing viewpoints on what religion is, both Freud and Tylor believe that “mature people . . . allow their lives to be guided by reason and by science, not by superstition and faith.” (Pals, pg. 71) Tylor and Freud’s theories are just two examples of the complexity of studying religions and their
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