AQA Explain why Jung’s understanding of religious belief may be seen as more positive than that of Freud.
Question A (30 Marks) [25 minutes]
Noting the fact that Freud was an atheist and Jung a religious man is a good starting point for outlining their understanding of religious belief.
Whilst Jung states that religion is part of the collective unconscious - an innate mental faculty that contains both our instincts and 'archetypes' - Freud states that humanity's religious behaviour is collective neurosis. Jung believed that every human being is born with an 'archetype' of God, an image inside our minds that gives us a propensity to believe in a religion. Thus, Jung believed it was part of our very human nature to believe in God, showing that he was very positive about religious belief. Freud too believed that humans have a propensity to believe in a religion but thought that this stemmed from mental illness, likening religious belief and behaviour to OCD (since both showed repetitive behaviours such as praying and going to church). He claimed that conflicts between our id and superego, and the repression of these conflicts, manifested themselves in neurotic behaviour which sometimes lead to religious behaviour. To explain why religious belief was such a common phenomena, Freud claimed that the oedipus complex in all children was enough to lead to the neurotic behaviour we see in religion. Thus, since everyone goes through the oedipus (or elektra) complex, Freud believed that it is very human to believe in religion, only that it was through shared mental deficiency that this occurred.
Freud also (quite negatively) claims that religion is a way for us to deal with issues like not understanding natural forces, having an infallible father figure in our lives (even in adulthood) and distracting ourselves from the meaninglessness and confusing question of life and our existence. Jung too believed that religion serves use to human societies but put a positive spin on the matter, claiming that religion was a way for us all to achieve individuation - learning about ourselves and reaching true self acceptance. He also stated that religious belief was a 'natural occurrence' and that it was normal for a human to have religious belief.
As a last point for why Freud's views on religious belief are more negative than Jung's, Freud drew a comparison between primal hordes of humans performing rituals using totems (to deal with internal repressed conflict) with religious people today performing similar seemingly barbaric rituals e.g. holy communion in Catholicism is the 'literal' eating and drinking of Jesus' body and blood. Using this as evidence implies that religious belief is a way of dealing with primitive urges and conflicts and the analogy is negative on the whole. Jung on the other hand uses a different kind of evidence, stating that since all religions around the world have things in common (a strong leading figure, moral guidelines etc.) there is grounds to believe that religion is a natural and healthy occurrence.
(B) ‘Religion has been successful in its response to psychology’s challenges to religious belief.’ Assess this claim. (15 marks)
Although many psychological arguments that challenge religious belief have been disputed, some are still left largely unanswered. Jung puts forwards many arguments for why psychology may be wrong about their assessment of religious belief. Whereas Freud states that religious behaviour is neurotic, Jung creates the counter argument that we are all born with an 'archetype' of God and therefore it is very healthy to believe in a religion. However, Jung's argument can be argued here because the mere fact that we are born with an 'archetype' of something does not negate any judgement that this 'archetype' may lead to (or is in itself) a mental illness. Furthermore, Jung's argument seems to collapse when you consider that atheists (who according to Jung would also have an archetype for God) grow up without taking on any religious beliefs in their lifetime. A counterargument from Jung's perspective could be that atheists are the ones with a mental disorder because they have failed to carry out a biological progression of the mind - this however can be thought of as using the naturalistic fallacy.
The vast amounts of religious experiences cited around the world can be used by the religious community to defend against psychological arguments rejecting religious belief. Since so many thousands of religious experiences have been recorded, dating back far to biblical times with Saul's conversion, Moses and the Burning Bush and Jacob's ladder to modern times with Bernadette Soubirous and the Toronto Blessing, it is hard to suggest that it is religious people that have the mental disorder, as Freud would state. Modern psychology would disagree with this however, with accomplished neuro-psychologists like Dr.Ramachandran stating that religious experiences are merely epileptic fits of the temporal lobe. Evidence is provided for this in the fact that there are many similarities between epilepsy and accounts of religious experience. For example, epileptic bouts often include seeing bright flashes of light and sight problems (with details of this in Saul's conversion and St Bernadette Soubirous' visions.
Therefore, although religion attempts to deflect psychological arguments, for every new argument it creates it seems that the psychological side creates a counter.
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