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The “Supreme Court of Justice”: Religion and the Suppression of the Lower Classes in Freud’s “The Future of an Illusion”

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  1. Introduction
  2. Beyond the use of the 'sameness' of religion
  3. The idea of an afterlife
  4. What makes religion effective as an equalizer?
  5. Conclusion

Though humans have ?raised [themselves] above [their] animal status? (5), the fact remains that a fear of nature, a far superior force, is inherent in mankind. Left to his own devices, man is unrestricted, susceptible to outside destructive forces and his own animalistic instincts, necessitating the creation of a defense: human civilization; however, in a society where one's satisfaction is derived from the suppression of another's, a force greater than man, greater than nature, to whom all men must answer, must be created to maintain a balance and to quell ?dangerous revolts,? or symptoms, in the society (15). In The Future of an Illusion, Freud describes the functions of religion, and how the creation of gods regulates an otherwise untamable society by fulfilling man's longing for a father figure ? an overseeing force that justifies his unequal society and establishes a set of morals that keeps it intact. Thus, Freud argues, religion functions to rationalize human inequality, and to give the underprivileged, upon whose work society is built, justification for their role: the promise of a reward for their suffering.

[...] Freud writes: Everything that happens in this world is an expression of the intentions of an intelligence superior to us, which [ ] orders everything for the best that is, to make it enjoyable for us [ ] Death itself is not extinction, is not a return to organic lifelessness [ ] [T]he same moral laws which govern our civilizations have set up govern the whole universe as well, except that they are maintained by a supreme court of justice with incomparably more power and consistency. [...]


[...] People feel that life would not be tolerable if they did not attach to these ideas the value that is clamed for them. For the lower classes, their hope in the truth of religion is the most important belief, because without a sense of compensation for their earthly deeds, everything is meaningless especially following society's rules and allowing themselves to remain downtrodden. The association with equality and religion, through the belief that class standing and worldly happiness are irrelevant to a [...]

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