The Psychology Of Religion Essay

1396 words - 6 pages

In terms of the psychology of religion, many thinkers have commented about the origins of religious belief. Some of these support these religious beliefs, some don’t. However it is first appropriate to establish whether or not they are actually making a valid comment on the subject of religion or not.
Georg Hegel (1770–1831) was the initial scholar to step foot into this field. He redefined God by creating a character he often named ‘Spirit’. He attempted to make "God" sound theistic by giving God a mind. In some passages, this mind was made to resemble the transcendent mind of Christianity's theistic God, although some interpreters recognised that ‘Spirit's’ mind was actually nothing but the collective psyche of man. For this reason, and also because God had a physical aspect of which man was a part (We are made “in the image of God”), God/Spirit was essentially humanity. Inwood modifies theism to pantheism: Hegel was "a metaphysician" who "saw the world as a whole on the model of a mind."
The second scholar to attempt to engage in the psychology of religion was Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–1872). He was an atheist who picked up from Hegel’s ideas, and thus was committed to a materialist ‘Hegelian’ account of religion. Hence from is perspective, religion has evolved and ‘branched out’. In The Essence of Christianity, The force of this attraction to religion though, giving divinity to a figure like God, is explained by Feuerbach as God is a being that acts throughout man in all forms. God, "is the principle of man's salvation, of man's good dispositions and actions, consequently man's own good principle and nature". It appeals to man to give qualities to the idol of their religion because without these qualities a figure such as God would become merely an object, its importance would become obsolete, there would no longer be a feeling of an existence for God. Therefore, Feuerbach says, when man removes all qualities from God, such as omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence "God is no longer anything more to him than a negative being". Additionally, because man is imaginative, God is given traits and there holds the appeal God as a concept is described as “the dream of the human mind… a projection of the desires of the human race.” From this idea, there is a ‘ghost in the attack’ explanation of God; he is a ‘spandril’, a side effect of adaption. His anti-realist approach to religion allows interpretation of us not made in God’s image, but “God made in the image of our desires” (Westphal).
Nonetheless, even though this is a coherent theory, it begs the question: where does morality come from? There can be no absolute morality if God is merely a human projection, since humans are finite and contingent. Thus there is a subjective fluidity to morality – it is relative and is reduced to what we think is morally right and wrong rather than what we perceive God thinks so – it does not have any type of external authority. Furthermore, religion remains a part...

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