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Rubin, J.B. (1999). Religion, Freud, and Women. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 4(4):333-365.

(1999). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 4(4):333-365

Religion, Freud, and Women

Jeffrey B. Rubin, Ph.D.

Religion enjoys a problematic standing in psychoanalysis. Since its inception, psychoanalysis has traditionally pathologized and marginalized religion. The standard story is that Freud, the exemplar of Enlightenment rationalism, critiqued the childish illusions underlying religious belief and revealed its seamy underside. While religion has had a Janusfaced history—fostering morality and fueling oppression; promoting civic concern and legitimating fundamentalism—it is more complex than Freud's account of its origins in childhood fears and compensations would suggest. “Religion, Freud, and Women” examines a hidden source of Freud's rejection of religion, namely, his problematic relationship with his mother. In this essay, Rubin draws on revisionist psychobiographical material about Freud's relationship with his mother to demonstrate that he unconsciously linked religion and the maternal. His fears of the latter led to his rejection of the former. If it is unanalytic to fail to explore the hidden meanings and functions of religious experience, it is antianalytic to take anything on faith including atheism. In rejecting religion and disavowing spirit, perhaps psychoanalysis has rejected a good deal more than superstition. A psychoanalysis that worked through its countertransference about religion would open the door to a contemplative psychoanalysis, which would open up a potential space for a more meaningful spirituality.

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