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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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3. Fromm and Judaism 77


3. Fromm and Judaism 3 .1. Biographical background Erich Fromm was born into an orthodox Jewish family. Among his ancestors were many prominent rabbis and Talmudists. His grandmother was descended from the great medieval commentator on the Bible and the Talmud, Rashi, and her father was a famous German rabbi. 1 Fromm's father, Naphtali, was a wine- merchant and very active in Jewish life in his home town, Frankfurt.2 The young Fromm led a traditional Jewish life, followed all the rules, studied the Bible and Talmud. At the same time he went to a German school and took part in German culture just like all other Germans. But he always had a feeling of being a stranger. " ... I feel glad to have this experience as the Old Testament once said: 'Love the stranger because you know the soul of the stranger for you have been [a] stranger in Egypt.' One can really understand the stranger only if one has been thoroughly a stranger and being a stranger means one is at home in the whole world."3 Here we can see the roots of Fromm's later cosmopolitanism. Fromm later wrote4 that as a young man he had three important teachers, all great rabbinical scholars. The first was his mother's uncle, Ludwig Krause, "a traditionalist, little touched by modern thought"5 whom he loved and admired very much.6 He must have been really impressed by Krause, who spent his last years living with the Fromms in Frankfurt7, because after graduating from...

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