Totem And Taboo Analysis

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This essay will use Freud’s works Totem and Taboo (1913) and The Future of an Illusion (1927) to discuss his theory of religion. It will first consider Freud’s work on Australian Aborigines and their religion of totemism, and then focus on why Freud believes religious belief to be an illusion. Freud studied Indigenous tribes of Australia and found that each tribe can be sectioned into smaller divisions known as clans. The clans have a religious system called totemism and every clan has a totem that they are named after (Freud, 1913). As a rule the totems are usually an animal and are more rarely a plant or natural phenomenon. The totem is the common ancestor of the clan, and also acts as a guardian spirit. Under a sacred obligation, the clansmen…show more content…
He states “… we call a belief an illusion when a wish-fulfillment is a prominent factor in its motivation, and in doing so we disregard its relations to reality, just as the illusion itself sets no store by verification” (Freud, 1927, p. 31). Religious doctrines therefore correspond to man’s wishes, and just as they cannot be proved, they cannot be refuted (Freud, 1927). When asked on what claim their belief is founded, there are three answers. First, the teachings should be accepted because they were believed and passed down by our primal ancestors; second, we possess proofs, such as documents, that have been handed to us from those same primal times; and third, it is forbidden to raise questions about these truths (Freud, 1927). Freud (1927) states the third point raises strong suspicion because a prohibition such as that can only be for one reason: “that society is very well aware of the insecurity of the claim it makes on behalf of its religious doctrines” (p. 26). Freud (1927) goes on to say that religion is an outgrowth of childlike helplessness; God is a manifestation of a child longing for a father. Freud (1927) states that the gods retain their threefold task: “they must exorcize the terrors of nature, they must reconcile men to the cruelty of Fate, particularly as it is shown in death, and they must compensate them for the sufferings and privations which a civilized life in common has imposed on them” (p. 18). Freud (1927) posits that if religion had succeeded in “making the majority of mankind happy, in comforting them, in reconciling them to life and in making them into vehicles of civilization, no one would dream of attempting to alter the existing conditions” (p. 37). He states that religion has lost part of its influence over humans because of the advances of science (Freud, 1927). The scientific
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