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Monday, September 10, 2007

Still Defending Faith

Mark Edmundson, in a forthcoming book on Freud has noted the great psychoanalyst's
influence on postmodern attitudes toward God:

" A good deal of the antireligious polemic that has recently been abroad in our culture proceeds in the spirit of Freud’s earlier work. In his defense of atheism, “God Is Not Great,” Christopher Hitchens cites Freud as an ally who, he believes, exposed the weak-minded childishness of religion. Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins come out of the same Enlightenment spirit of hostile skepticism to faith that infuses “The Future of an Illusion.” All three contemporary writers want to get rid of religion immediately and with no remainder.

But there’s more to Freud’s take on religion than that. In his last book, written when he was old and ill, suffering badly from cancer of the jaw, Freud offers another perspective on faith. He argues that Judaism helped free humanity from bondage to the immediate empirical world, opening up fresh possibilities for human thought and action. He also suggests that faith in God facilitated a turn toward the life within, helping to make a rich life of introspection possible."

[ "Defender of the Faith?" MY Times Magazine, Sept. 9, 2007 ]

Anybody who has read Prof. Armand Nicholi's book "The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life" [or seen the eponymous PBS "Question of God" series based on it] will find none of this surprising. Edmundson, an English professor at the University of Virginia, and the author WHY READ? wrote in Harper's a few years ago ["On the Uses of a Liberal Education" ] that "University culture, like American culture writ large, is, to put it crudely, ever more devoted to consumption and entertainment, to the using and using up of goods and images."

Edmundson has demonstrated in any number of ways [and publications] that the life of the mind fostered by reading is essential for understanding the meaning of life in all its ultimacy. Hence his new book will, presumably, explore the death(s) of Freud both as a man and as a cultural icon. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchends, and others skeptical of God, nota bene!

David A. Buehler, PhD
Providence College

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