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Jainism and Sikhism

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This research paper will compare and contrast two great and influential psychologists’ opinions on religion; and the impact they had on their perception of it. Sigmund Freud, theorized that belief in a God or Gods comes from long lasting impressions made on adults by childhood experiences.(Molloy) He stated that human behavior and mental states were mainly the result of the workings of the mind in each individual person – especially the ongoing, lifelong struggle between the ego and the super-ego, as each person grows and matures. For Freud, he saw religion as a psychological disease. According to Freud, these experiences of fear as well as security were the basis for an adult attempt to deal with the anxieties of a complicated present and unknown future. People with more intense religious feelings suffered this unresolved tension more strongly in childhood; people whose ego was able to regulate more easily had less religious tendencies. For Freud, God is not something which “really” exists – it is the product of human psychopathology. Another great scholar William James a psychologist was one of the leading proponents of the school of functionalism in psychology, and pragmatism in philosophy. He came to his ideas on religion via an unusual course of study.

His views on religion reflect these inclinations. James viewed religion as a manifestation of an urge towards spiritual belief which is a part of the human life. James wrote that religion brings “a new zest” to living, provides “an assurance of safety,” and leads to a “harmonious relation with the universe”(Molloy.Chap.1, page.12) . In his approach on religion James is basically stating that there is no use in condemning religion as a general phenomenon , because it is an inevitable part of life (although we could reject specific religious ideas or practices). Freud and James both wrote quite extensively on religion I must say. Freud’s conclusion is that religion is illusory wish-fulfillment proceeds from his conviction that religious ideas must be erroneous since they cannot satisfy the demands of scientific reason to prove themselves.

James, on the other hand however, shows the strength of religious belief, the endurance and how it continually springs from the believer being convinced, even if they do not possess the powerful allegorical insight, that their beliefs describes the actual relationship, which in psychological terms means that it is between the conscious and subconscious. While this stance of James’ approach may seem to recapitulate Freud’s assertion of willful self-delusion, keep in mind that when religion delineates this relationship and transaction, and the psychological effect – the human fruit – is the balancing of conscious and subconscious resulting in righting the incorrectness, alleviating the uneasiness, religion as a psychological entity is functioning for the health of the individual.


Kerns, T. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://members.pioneer.net/~tkerns/religsite/lecsite/lec-freud-relig.html

Molloy, M. (2013). Experiencing the world’s religions. (Sixth ed.). NY: McGraw-Hill.

Retrieved from http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Introduction_to_Sociology/Print_version

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