Psychoanalytic Theories of Religion in Protestant Contexts

Document Type : Research Paper


University of Religions and Denominations


Psychoanalysts since Sigmund Freud have tried to discuss the role of religion in modern societies. Freud himself saw religion as an illusion which had struck neurotics, while Slavoj Žižek viewed it as some sort of “perversion” which functioned in the cycle of law-transgression. In this essay, I dig into these theories to uncover traces of Lutheran interpretations of Paul’s words on the Jewish law. I argue that Luther’s emphasis on Christian faith as a remedy for “Jewish” guilt reached Friedrich Nietzsche via the exegesis of the nineteenth-century Tübingen School. In his Pauline act, Nietzsche tried to cure modern humanity from its guilt-inducing “decadent” morality. He, in turn, influenced Freud, who sought to remedy modern humanity from its guilt, by reminding it of its “religious illusion.” Žižek has not been able to go beyond this paradigm of faith-guilt, as he also tried to free Christianity from its “perverse” core. In sum, in its conceptualization of religion, psychoanalysis has probably referred to a Protestant faith-guilt framework.


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