Freud and Lewis on Religion, Knowledge, Illusion, and Hope

Sigmund Freud by Psychology Picturesc.s. lewis

In a comment to recent post: “Freud’s Last Session: Can I Get My Insurance to Cover It?”   Sue Ann Porter commented :  “maybe YOU should rewrite it..”.  On his blog in response to my post, Michael Graeme noted that he hadn’t heard much of C.S. Lewis.

So, I decided it would be good to do a post quoting Freud and Lewis on topics of shared interest: religion, knowledge, illusion, and hope.  Here goes…

Freud:  “Religion is a system of wishful illusions together with a disavowal of reality, such as we find nowhere else but in a state of blissful hallucinatory confusion. Religion’s eleventh commandment is “Thou shalt not question.”  

Lewis:  “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

Freud:  “The more the fruits of knowledge become accessible to men, the more widespread is the decline of religious belief.”  

Lewis:  “God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than He is of any other slacker…  A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.”

Freud:   “… I must contradict you when you go on to argue that men are completely unable to do without the consolation of the religious illusion, that without it they could not bear the troubles of life and the cruelties of reality.  That is true, certainly, of the men into whom you have instilled the sweet — or bitter-sweet — poison from childhood onwards.  But what of the other men, who have been sensibly brought up?  Perhaps those who do not suffer from the neurosis will need no intoxicant to deaden it.”

Lewis:  “The great difficulty is to get modern audiences to realize that you are preaching Christianity solely and simply because you happen to think it true; they always suppose you are preaching it because you like it or think it good for society or something of that sort. Now a clearly maintained distinction between what the Faith actually says and what you would like it to have said or what you understand or what you personally find helpful or think probable, forces your audience to realize that you are tied to your data just as the scientist is tied by the results of the experiments; that you are not just saying what you like.”

Freud:  “It would be very nice if there were a God who created the world and was a benevolent providence, and if there were a moral order in the universe and an after-life; but it is a very striking fact that all this is exactly as we are bound to wish it to be.”  

Lewis: “Hope is one of the Theological virtues.  This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.  It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is.  If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

Freud or Lewis… where do you stand?

2 thoughts on “Freud and Lewis on Religion, Knowledge, Illusion, and Hope

  1. Thanks for this, indytony. I’d side cautiously with Lewis, if only because I’ve always found the psychology of Freud to be rather bleak – cautiously because I don’t know Lewis that well yet of course. Personally, I prefer the psychology of Jung which allows for a more constructive dialogue with religion, leaving plenty of room for a mystical dimension to the psyche. A conversation between Jung and Lewis? I wonder if that ever took place?

    I’ve always disliked children’s fantasy fiction, to the extent I’ve overlooked Lewis’ other works I’m afraid – but I already find myself growing rather fond of him. His background in philosophy is interesting – and the way he uses the logic of pure reason to cast doubt on the realiability of pure reason itself is fascinating – I’ll be thinking about that one for a long time.



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