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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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5. From idolatry to life 159


5. From idolatry to life Although Erich Fromm is mentioned in practically every modem study on the critique of religion, he was a deeply religious man. Schwarzschild recalls how Fromm "once said to me so impressively that I wrote it down when I got back to the hotel: 'I can't use the word 'God' unless I am praying.' Rosenzweig once said about someone: one has to be extremely religious for such atheism.'' 1 In this concluding chapter we will first sum up the conclusions of this study before debating whether Fromm is a threat to religion or not. We have looked at Fromm's utterances about the whole spectrum of religion, and at what he thought about minor religious movements like Transcendental Meditation and Scientology. The three institutional religions to which he devoted most time were Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism. Because he knew Buddhism only in its intellectual form, not as a religion for the broad masses, he was very uncritical and even enthusiastic about it. Had he lived in a Buddhist country he might have been more critical about contemporary Buddhism, and also about original Buddhism, which in one way or another laid the foundations for the later development. Christianity was more familiar to Fromm. He criticized the "Christian" West for in reality being heathen, only professing Christian values in words. He picked up certain themes from the New Testament, like the critique of richness and the having orientation, and studied some phenomena from church history, like the Reformation. But...

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