On a planet that seems fated to destroy itself one way or the other, the passion, manipulation and sometime fanaticism amongst religious communities seems as likely as any suspect to be the final nail drilled into an already tightly sealed-off coffin. Take that global warming!
But long before the evening news was full of video testimony from each corner of the globe detailing the latest in spiritual warfare, there was someone who had an inkling into our universal need to believe. Call it a warning cry, bellowed long before the world collapsed into intolerance of one another, and aimed not at the zealot, but at the every-person.
His name was Sigmund Freud, the world's first psychoanalyst. Freud knew a lot about a lot of things, was wrong about some things, but in The Future of an Illusion, originally published in 1927 (though having been a work in progress for many years), Freud takes what has become a hallowed institution, something every man, woman and child must confront at some point in their lives, and breaks down the greatest question we've ever faced into simple logic.
Freud believed religion, in all its forms, was manmade for two specific reasons: first, in an attempt to reconcile our fear of nature and our powerlessness in its presence. And second, as a way to justify how we treat each other as humans, through our personal interactions, as well as the societal constraints we impose on one another.
In this sense, religion is nothing more than a neurosis. One we have created to assuage our greatest fears. As children we feel helpless about so many things, not having the mental or physical capacity to face the world on our own. Fortunately, or should I say hopefully, we have our parents to guide and protect us. Specifically the father, who is seen as a pillar of strength. As we age in adulthood we find this dilemma of helplessness has not lessened, and thus, we turn to the collective Father who will fulfill this role until the end of our days.
It is not surprising that Freud's frank text was met with anger by some, indifference by most, however upon re-reading this classic, one is struck with Freud's ability to predict the backlash each of his arguments will cause, and to carefully and to earnestly answer each one of his self-imposed critics before they can draw in another breath, and finally succumb to silence. The silence of a world dumbfounded by the thought that all we need to survive harmoniously - is one other.