Is religion an illusion to be true?

Summary of The future of an illusion

Austria after the First World War

The end of the First World War marked a political turning point for Austria. With the abdication Charles I. on November 11, 1918, the 500-year-old Habsburg monarchy ended. The following day the Republic of German Austria was proclaimed. In addition, the huge multi-ethnic state of Austria-Hungary disintegrated at the end of the war: Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia became independent nation-states; Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia got their own kings. Only one eighth of the former national territory remained. The capital Vienna with its two million inhabitants stood in strong cultural and political contrast to the rural areas, in which around five million people lived. While Austria as a whole was ruled by a Christian Social Party from 1920, Vienna remained social democratic. In the course of the 1920s, the so-called Red Vienna emerged, an internationally recognized bloom of social democracy, where investments were made in social housing, education and awareness programs for the entire population, as well as extensive welfare structures. Vienna became the center of European culture. Literati like Robert Musil,Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arthur Schnitzler or Stefan Zweigwho have favourited Psychoanalysis Sigmund Freuds, or the twelve-tone music of Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern gained international importance.


When Sigmund Freud celebrated his 70th birthday on May 6, 1926, he found himself in an ambivalent situation. After long struggles, his psychoanalysis had finally prevailed: worldwide psychoanalytic associations were founded, science and culture were devoted to psychoanalytic topics, and Freud's Viennese practice was very popular. At the same time, Freud had to deal with a whole series of personal strokes of fate, such as a cancer diagnosis. Perhaps it was this confrontation with the finiteness of life that motivated him to write about religion and its comforting potential - a topic that was otherwise very far from him. Was created between spring and summer 1927 The future of an illusion. In this essay, Freud took up some of the considerations from a brief preliminary study from 1907. His criticism of religion was from Ludwig Feuerbach influenced, especially by his book The essence of Christianity. Feuerbach had disenchanted the belief in higher powers as an expression of the human spirit. Freud took this approach further by translating it into the terms of psychoanalysis. However, he withheld his sources and inspirations in the finished text - they are only known from letters. In addition to Feuerbach, he also referred to Karl Marx’Critique of Hegel's philosophy of law. The future of an illusion was published in 1927 by the International Psychoanalytical Publishing House in an edition of 5000 copies. This was the beginning of Freud's last creative phase, in which he mainly dealt with cultural topics.

Impact history

In letters Sigmund Freud emphasized again and again that his criticism of religion only reflects his opinion and is in no way an expression or a consequence of psychoanalytic doctrine. But the public saw it differently. The text was a scandal for clergy and believers and led to an icy silence between psychoanalysis and theology. Freud's friend OscarPfister - Protestant pastor and analyst - responded in 1928 with a reply bearing the title The illusion of a future. In it, Pfister criticized Freud's trust in reason and emphasized that science can never offer the same degree of orientation as religion. T. S. Eliot disgusted Freud's text as "stupid". The former Freud student C. G. Jung wrote in 1950 that Freud's essay summarized all the theoretical deficiencies of psychoanalysis in a few pages. And in 1992 the literary critic was still leading Harold Bloom in his study The American Religion Freud's text as an example of how criticism of religion should not be approached under any circumstances. Most psychoanalysts, on the other hand, shared Freud's criticism. One of the few exceptions was Hans Loewaldwho said Freud had no real access to religious experience. Some analysts now also admit that illusion has a far more positive effect than the strict rationalist Freud. Thanks to his polemical tone is The future of an illusion In any case, it has become one of Freud's most widely received texts. Psychoanalytically oriented theologians tried to derive suggestions for a better, non-neurotic form of religiosity from the essay. A point of criticism from the otherwise positive reaction of the French writer Romain Rolland Incidentally, gave the occasion for Freud's late major work The discomfort in culture.