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Debunking Freud

wikipedia.org sigmund-freud
Sigmund Freud, approx. 1920

C.C., from Greece, wrote:

Hello. Going through many christian apologetic articles(including yours) I just read a repeatance of the atheistic claims youre supposed to answer but with no real answer, just the phrase "this has been debunked". Im not satisfied with the answer "this has been debunked". I want to see how.For example you say Freud has been outofdate, well where is there the proof that Freud is wrong? I just read his Taboo and Totem and its a very strong read, have you debunked this?Can you prove that hes wrong when he says gods are the deified ancestors that have passed away? Can you prove that when Jews offer food to their God do not consider him of some material nature(even not too material)? Can you prove God was not a father that was killed by Adam and that Holy Communion has no connection to the old totem meal?Thanks.

CMI’s  responds:

Hi C.C.,

Thanks for giving us the chance to clarify.

I’m not going to directly refute each Freudian claim you mention, because I think a few examples should suffice. But note that you haven’t mentioned any supporting reasons to believe those claims either. The one making a claim needs to shoulder the burden of proof, so even if we haven’t refuted those assertions, they don’t win by default. Nevertheless, I’ll point you to some of the information that discredits Freud.

Now, I presume you are referring to this article: Freud and Darwinism. The author, Jerry Bergman, does explain several reasons why even mainstream secular scholarship rejects many of Freud’s ideas, including psychoanalysis. For example, he points out that it is based on the evolutionary embryonic recapitulation idea, which itself has been debunked (see above link). Also, he cites works that go into more detail, like Wells’ book, The Failure of Psychoanalysis and Kenyon’s Psycho-Analysis: A Modern Delusion. Those references are provided in the article so you can delve into the details.

But I’ll deal with a few of your more specific questions as well. I recently read In the Beginning God by Winfried Corduan, a book that revisits the evidence for original monotheism—the thesis that the earliest form of religion involved belief in one personal, masculine, powerful, supremely intelligent Creator God to whom we are morally accountable. Corduan argues that the strong case for original monotheism made by Roman Catholic linguist and ethnologist, Wilhelm Schmidt, has never been refuted, just ignored since those facts are inconvenient for the secular evolutionary agenda. In reality, then, the evidence is consistent with the biblical teaching that the first humans, Adam and Eve, knew God personally and that false religions arose afterward as humanity rebelled against God and descended into idolatrous practices (Romans 1:18–22). See also Wilhelm Schmidt and the origin of religion. Plus, this is further strengthened by the fact that, all around the world, we find creation and flood legends which are remarkably similar to Genesis, suggesting that all people groups once had an awareness of the true God, before they spread out around the globe and became isolated.

Anyway, Corduan offers a number of considerations that weigh against the notion that the most ancient cultures arrived at their concepts of God by deifying ancestors. First, the least sophisticated (and thus, he argues, the oldest) cultures lacked an account of the supreme being’s birth and death, and instead often regarded him as eternal (75–76). Second, many did not even keep track of more than a couple generations of ancestors, let alone venerate any of them (75). Third, in some groups like the Australian aborigines, the actual data shows an inverse correlation between the prominence of belief in the supreme being and the elevation of a tribe’s chief (110). Corduan mentions other difficulties as well, but the major problem is that there is essentially no positive evidence for the ancestor-deification theory. It’s little more than an assumption.

The same is true of the connection between the Lord’s Supper and the totem meal. Corduan points out that only four tribes (all Australian) out of hundreds of totemic cultures were actually found to eat their totem animal, which is ordinarily forbidden (133). Yet Freud and those who made the claim before him, like Robertson Smith, want us to believe that a peculiar native Australian ritual somehow exerted an influence on the symbolism Jesus set up as a reminder of the Gospel (Luke 22:14–20)? If the symbols of bread and wine are tied to anything that came before, it would be the meanings in the Passover seder, not some pagan practice from a foreign culture, thousands of miles away. The whole idea is just outlandish, so the onus remains on Freud and his supporters to prove the case.

Published: 1 August 2015

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