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Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud's Differing Views on Religion

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Freud vs. Jung

Freud vs. Jung

Two Theorists

This article aims to outline and summarise the views of both Freud and Jung and highlight the differences in their views in a tabulated format at the end of the article.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

Sigmund Freud was heavily against religion and called it a "collective neurosis" stating that it should be abolished from modern society.

He conceded that it did serve us in the past when we lived in 'primal hordes', primitive groups of humans that lived in tribes, but stated that we as a species have surpassed our need for irrational religious behavior.

Similarities Between Carl Jung & Freud's Views

  • Both Carl Jung and Freud believed in the unconscious and its important role in our behavior and in explaining the meaning of our dreams.
  • Freud and Jung both believed that religion was a positive thing for our society at some point in time, but Freud claimed that it was only beneficial up until the point where we evolved from our primal, basic societies.
  • Both Carl Jung and Freud based their theories of religion around the idea that we have different sections of our psyche and that we all have more primitive instincts (id) and also higher faculties (ego, superego).
  • They both believed that religion has been used to help people deal with certain issues.

Differences Between Jung and Freud's Views

  • Jung believed that religion was in fact very beneficial to society and should stay forever, unlike Freud who was completely against religion, calling religious behavior a 'collective neurosis' and stating that it should be obsolete.
  • Jung believed that religion was a natural expression of the collective unconscious whilst Freud believed it was a collective neurosis.
  • Jung thought that religiousness was a way of aiding the process of individuation: the exploration of ourselves and the final acceptance of who we are.
  • Jung invented the idea of and believed in archetypes, mental facilities which 'create' images of certain things. He thought that we are born with an 'archetype' of God, an image which we are all predisposed to having. He provides evidence for this by referring to the fact that although there are thousands of religions in existence, they all share common core ideas: strong infallible figures, rules, etc. This suggests that we are either born with or quickly pick up from others, images, or archetypes (note: this is both a noun and a verb) of these things.
  • Jung believed in God, saying "I don't believe, I know [that he exists]" whilst Freud thought that the belief in God is ludicrous.
  • Jung split up the psyche in a different way from Freud, stating that we have a masculine and a feminine side (anima) of the psyche. Freud believed in the id, ego, and superego.

What was the relationship between Freud and Jung?

Jung first encountered Freud after sending him one of his works. The two psychologists hit it off and Freud and Jung enjoyed an intellectual friendship. Apparently, the first conversation that Freud and Jung had together lasted for a full thirteen hours!

Jung recalls his first encounter with Freud and states that he found him "extremely intelligent, shrewd, and altogether remarkable." Freud looked at the younger Jung as an heir to his theories.

As Freud and Jung thought about their theories, Jung stemmed from Freud, developing his own ideas about the psyche and the causes of our behaviors.

In the end, of course, Jung's rejection of the views Freud had all his life led to the break up of their friendship. Jung stated to Freud that "...your technique of treating your pupils like patients is a blunder. In that way you produce either slavish sons or impudent puppies... I am objective enough to see through your little trick" (McGuire, 1974).


Maxwell Downham on March 15, 2020:

I enjoy reading both geniuses. I can't go along with Jung saying he knows he (God) exists. Paul Tillich got it right I think when he said it's just as blasphemous to say there is a God as to say there isn't. What is being referred to is the Ground of Being, the Unity of all Life--not the bloke Michelangelo painted at the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. Making a person out of it is just as ridiculous as believing we're personalities rather than souls linked to the Unity of Life.

My preference is Einstein's acceptance of Spinoza's "God", which is the delegation of Divine Power through every living entity that exists. (We're all "God" by way of being a finite part of an infinite hologram). Evil is what we erroneously make of part of the broad range of activities we get up to as a collective. God is Nature. God is Love. God is All that exists between total unconsciousness and full consciousness.

Good Lord. No wonder there's so much confusion about what religion is or isn't. One thing I do know is that religion isn't priests, churches, dogma, canon law, congregations and all that malarkey. Religion is seeking the truth of who and what you are. (Clue: you're not a human being. You're just playing that part for the moment for a purpose real religion is supposed to help you discern)..

Brad on August 22, 2019:

I like your comparison very much!!

Yasmin on February 22, 2013:

Quite interesting!

DK (author) from London on January 29, 2013:

No problem Borsia, I think that's a great idea, and I might even let you in on a little secret.

This hub was rushed through and through so that it could be used as a presentation, it had to be published to access it via the internet! That's why it's mostly bullet points :o

There is undoubtedly a lot more to say on this subject and a lot more I'll say!

I agree with Freud in that religion was useful at some point and then became obsolete, and I agree with some of his ideas like the use of totems and its parallel to Christianity. It's when he starts to make fallacious leaps of faith to his oedipal complexes and neurosis that I stop his support however.

["what a sour way to ruin an otherwise perfect weekend of play and exploration."]

Indeed! I think it's such a waste of precious time. Though I guess time becomes a lot less valuable when you believe in eternity.

[I would point out isolated groups that grew without any form of religion or any gods.]

Another big problem with Jung is atheists themselves. According to him, atheists should have some form of problems for not acting on the collective archetypes of God, and not seeking to fulfil these 'innate' infantile needs that God aids so much.

Since atheists are not only very healthy-minded but also tend to be more useful to society, Jung has very little to suggest what he does!

Borsia from Currently, Philippines on January 29, 2013:

Might I suggest that you add a section on Jung's belief as you did for Freud. Without stating the basic concept of Jung comparing them is difficult as we go through the similarities and differences.

When you refer to Jung you use both first and last names whereas Sigmund is left out of Freud. I would suggest using only the last name of both men.

Please don't take offense to my mentioning such trivia I've been busying myself editing some of my own work and am perhaps a touch overzealous,,, lol;-)

Other than these possible oversight I like your hub.

Personally I'm with Freud on the subject, I see religion as far more bad than good. I completely disagree that we are somehow born with a god image in our minds. I certainly never had one prior to seeing such in religious preaching. When my childhood friends told me about their time in Church every weekend my only response was "why?". I thought "what a sour way to ruin an otherwise perfect weekend of play and exploration."

I would point out isolated groups that grew without any form of religion or any gods. I've always seen gods more as scapegoats and crutches rather than idols or deities.

I've always seen religions as men seeking to control other men rather than serving any real service.