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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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4. Fromm and the Bible 121

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4. Fromm and the Bible 4.1. View of the Bible Fromm was brought up with the Bible. He read it; he loved it; he was influenced by it for the rest of his life. In his seventies Fromm said in an interview: "There have been three, four, five books in my life that have made me what I am. First of all come the books of the prophets. Notice that I do not say the 'Old Testament'. When I was young, I did not detest the military accounts of the conquest of Canaan as much as I do now. But even then I didn't like them, and I doubt that I read them more than once or twice. But the prophetic books and the psalms, especially the prophetic books, were and still are an inexhaustible source of vitality for me." 1 And when, a short time before his death, he was asked what basic values should guide us, his answer was: Read the Bible! 2 That Fromm was familiar with and influenced by the Bible can also be seen from the fact that he frequently quoted it and used biblical expressions, not only when dealing with religious topics but also in other contexts. But what did he really think of the Bible? First of all, the Bible - by which we here mean the Jewish Bible, i.e. the Old Testament- was for Fromm a revolutionary book, dealing with and aiming at the liberation of man, a book with a vision...

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