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Simo, J. (1983). On Christianity and the Oedipal Winner. Psychoanal. Rev., 70(3):321-329.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Review, 70(3):321-329

On Christianity and the Oedipal Winner

Joseph Simo

The recent Vatican trial of a liberal theologian, Prof. Hans Kung (after the inquisitorial questioning of another theologian Prof. Scillebeeckx) has renewed worldwide interest in the myth of Jesus and the controversy over its contemporary interpretations. Newsweek (Dec. 29, 1979) devoted its cover story to the search for the “real” Jesus. A couple of weeks later, the movie In Search of the Historical Jesus was released. The “Born Again” religious revival, in private as well as in public life, is a sociological phenomenon of considerable importance.

Christianity, defined as the structure of individual beliefs and social practices centered around the mythological interpretation of Jesus, has been for centuries the most important ideological force in the development of Western culture and society. A wealth of scholarly work has been devoted to the study of the different facets of this contribution. Yet there is a basic aspect of Christianity, namely the unconscious fantasies that engineered the religious myth (unconscious fantasies to which, in turn, the religious myth addresses itself) which could not be explored until the birth of psychoanalysis. This article (which is only a schematic account of the central thesis of a book in progress) aims to clarify, under the light of psychoanalytic theory, the role that the myth of Jesus plays in the unconscious of the Christian believer. The Christian myth, which operates most effectively at the level of the repressed unconscious, is a “moral tale”—the tale of the oedipal winner. A tale of cruel and exemplary punishment yet, paradoxically, a tale that leaves alive the hopes for the oedipal victory.

The myth of Jesus as accepted by religion (a male oedipal fantasy which appeals equally to female oedipal fantasies), combines in it the instinctual fascination that the wish for an oedipal victory over father

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