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Fight Against Idols

Erich Fromm on Religion, Judaism and the Bible

Svante Lundgren

Erich Fromm (1900-80) was a famous psychoanalyst, social critic and author of bestsellers like Escape from Freedom and The Art of Loving. But he was also very interested in religion. Having been brought up as an orthodox Jew he abandoned institutionalized religion as a young man. But he was influenced for life by the Talmudic studies of his childhood. Later in life he met and was enriched by Buddhism and mysticism. In this book the author analyzes what Fromm thought about religion, how he expressed his ambiguous feelings about Judaism, and his radical interpretation of the Bible. This is a book about a fascinating man with views that challenge both believers and atheists.

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2. View of Religion 17

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2. View of Religion 2 .1. What is religion? Fromm was extremely interested in religion. He wrote several books on different religious topics, and in his other works he touched on religion very frequently. For him religion was something broader than is often meant by the term. 1 He rejected the normal definitions of religion in which "higher powers" play a central part as being too narrow, describing only the authoritarian type of religion. 2 Fromm's definition of religion is "any group-shared system of thought and action that offers the individual a frame of orientation and an object of devotion". 3 On examining his view of religion one has to distinguish between the young and the mature Fromm. In Die Entwicklung der Christusdogma of 1930 he treats religion in a very Freudian way, which is not surprising because it was written during the short period when he was an orthodox Freudian. Here he sees religion as both a narcotic and an illusion, because it offers fantasy satisfaction of needs that cannot find real satisfaction. At the same time religion functions as a deterrent to an active change of reality, and thus keeps the lower classes from demanding their rights. "To sum up, religion has a threefold function: for all mankind, consolation for the privations exacted by life; for the great majority of men, encouragement to accept emotionally their class situation; and for the ruling classes, relief from guilt feelings caused by the suffering of those whom they oppress."4 1This...

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