Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic Psychology of Religion

In chapter 1, 2 and 3 the major topic of discussion is on Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic theories in relation to individual’s religious belief. Analyzing Freud Sigmund, a neurologist studying individual’s psychology, who later moved to studying individuals “in context of civilization,” (Giobbi, 202) and he focused on religion. Therefore this paper will summarize four of his writings whose focus is on human conditions in terms of psychiatry and psychology that influence a person’s religious belief. The books are: “Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices” (Freud, 1907), “Totem and Taboo” (Freud, 1913), “The Future of an Illusion” (Freud, 1927), and “Civilization and its Discontents” (Freud, 1930).

“Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices” (Freud, 1907), Freud begins this writing by mentioning about similarities that exist between the obsessive actions of an individual with a ritualistic expression of piety and patients suffering from nervous affliction. Sigmund relies on theories to develop a useful fiction and he does that in this book, by believing in the similarities are not just superficial but they help psychologists to be able to research more on the influence of religious life to a person’s psychological process.

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The article talks about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which influences a person action and feelings but not to their knowledge, he gives the example of a woman who reacts by refusing to offer his husband sex then still goes ahead and refuses good food. Therefore he supports the idea that religion denies a person some private obsessive actions which is sex, and neuroses tend to be mostly sexual thus the chances of a person falling back into sin like sexual desires is common with religion.

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(Giobbi, 2020)

In “Totem and Taboo” (Freud, 1913), he offers a psychoanalysis of people’s mind and neurosis. The book talks about modern form of socialization, which he proposes are shaped by our primitive origin. Whereby all the habits and behaviors people adapt are basically form our primitive past. He mentions incest in taboos that were primitive in the past, and goes ahead to study the Aborigines of Australia. Sigmund argues that taboo doesn’t just exist by itself, but it is a habit or behavior practiced sometime back that was just forgotten with time. Therefore he concludes that all cultures emerged from Oedipus complex, which is the basis for all religions.

The book on “The Future of an Illusion” (Freud, 1927), criticizes religion as an ‘illusion,’ which is influenced by a form of neurosis. Freud states that “religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis” (Freud, 1913) thus making religion to be something unloving, harsh and unwelcoming. He supports the idea that religion is more respected especially if it has a history, however he rebukes this by mentioning history shouldn’t “be put forward as the reasons for the precepts of civilization.” (Freud, 1927) Sigmund criticizes the categorization of religious belief due to historical worth and believes that time has now passed, therefore new approach of analyzing religious using the results gathered from rational operation of the bright minds.

“Civilization and its Discontents,” (Freud, 1930) Freud talks about an individual’s “religious feeling,” which he proposes that religions is in line with how the modern society functions. Freud analyzes how people and interact with the society by applying an individual’s ego, super ego, sexual drives and desires and id (self and regulating self). The essay talks about sexual relations within family and child and mother relation whereby he believes they are driven by love-drive (eros) and death-drive. Freud concludes the essay with a question on the neurotic nature of people, by asking if society can also be neurotic.


  • Freud, S. (1907). Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices’, Standard Edition. London: Hogarth Press, 9, 116-127.
  • Freud, S. (1950). Totem and taboo (1913). Standard Edition, 13(1), 161.
  • Freud, S. (1927). The future of an illusion SE 21 [→].
  • Freud, S. (1930). Civilization and its discontents. Standard Edition. London: Hogarth Press, 21, 59-145.
  • Giobbi, M. (2020). Psychodynamic Psychology of Religion Part 1. Retrieved 24 March 2020, from
  • Giobbi, M. (2020). Episode 20, Lecture 2, Part 1, Psychoanalytic Theory of Sigmund Freud. Retrieved 24 March 2020, from
  • Giobbi, M. (2020). Episode 21, Lecture 2, Part 2 Sigmund Freud. Retrieved 24 March 2020, from
  • Giobbi, M. (2020). Episode 22 Lecture 2, Part 3, Sigmund Freud. Retrieved 24 March 2020, from
  • Giobbi, M. (2020). Episode 23 Lecture 2, Part 4, Sigmund Freud. Retrieved 24 March 2020, from
  • Sigmund, F. (2020). (Rutgers University Libraries). Retrieved 24 March 2020, from https://search-alexanderstreet

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Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic Psychology of Religion. (2021, Sep 13). Retrieved from

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