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Debunking Freud

Published: 1 August 2015 (GMT+10)
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.

Helpful Resources

Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
US $17.00
Soft Cover
Faith of Our Fathers
by Chan Kei Thong and Charlene Fu
US $24.00
Soft Cover
God's Promise to the Chinese
by ER Nelson, RE Broadberry & G Tong Chock
US $12.00
Soft Cover
The Genesis Account
by Jonathan Sarfati
US $39.00
Hard Cover

Readers’ comments

Michael C.
Freud's claims were highly subjective and were never research validated. When psychologists started running more objective experiments it became obvious that the data didn't support the theories .

Same thing has happened with a lot of other educational (Rousseau), psychological and sociological theories. As soon as we shone the light of objective research on them they were found to be without foundation "The king has no clothes"?

Pity so many people bought into some of these theories... and continue to do so. They've often resulted in great damage.

Christian J.
Keaton Halley, thank you for another quality article. I'm intrigued by the topic of original monotheism and have read a number of books concerning the topic. My favourite was "Faith of Our Fathers: God in Ancient China" by Dr. Chan Kei Thong. I'm looking for more resources along those lines and "In the Beginning God" by Winfried Corduan, seems like another step in the right direction. Dr. Rodney Stark mentions in his book "Discovering God" (p.63), that many cultures rejected high gods and turned to worship many smaller gods as societies became self-sustaining, through the building of cities and through the abundance of agriculture. Naturally, this wouldn't be the only variable, but it makes good sense in light of the early chapters of Genesis and what we know of fallen humanity. I wonder if there’s anything to suggest that countries like India were ever monotheistic.

Dan B., I too enjoyed Bill Cooper's book "After the Flood". As for Japheth, Dr. Richard S. Hess recognises in his book “Studies in the Personal Names of Genesis 1-11” (p.31), that the name shares similarities with Iapetos, the Titan of Greek mythology. Iapetos was the father of Prometheus, as well as the progenitor of humanity.

Seathrun M., thanks for sharing your thoughts, I found them very interesting. I believe you're right about Jupiter. Dr. Jonathan Sarfati mentions in his brilliant commentary “The Genesis Account” (p.637), that Japheth’s son, Javan, can be looked for among the Greeks. It's Javan, not his father, who may be equated with Father Jove – Jupiter.
Seathrun M.
Dear Sir, May I add one detail to my earlier comment for those not familiar with historical linguistics - the origin and development of languages.
It is accepted that, just as French. Spanish, Italian and several other languages are all later forms of Latin, so also Ancient Greek, Latin and Sanskrit are themselves later forms of an even more ancient language - at least 1,000 year older which has been called Indo-European. In Biblical terms, this would one of the small number of original languages spoken immediately after the Confusion of Tongues at Babel. Thus Jupiter (= Zeus pater = Dyauspita) would have been one of the earliest gods of the Indo-European peoples, since his name came from the same original form. It would therefore have no relation to any Semitic name (e.g. in Hebrew or Arabic), since the Semitic languages are a different family.
Seathrun M.
Dear Sir, Dan B's idea that "Jupiter comes from Japheth" seems, linguistically at least, incorrect. The name Japheth seems to be given a purely Semitic explanation and origin in Genesis 9 v.27: Jupiter (best Classical Latin spelling "Iuppiter") was shortened from Diovis Pater (= Diovis [the sky god] the Father). Diovis (later Iovis) is purely Indo-European, related to Greek Zeus (genitive case Dios) and Sanskrit Dyaus. To add further linguistic coincidences, Diovis Pater = Greek Zeus Pater = Sanskrit Dyauspita. ("Pita" in Sanskrit means "Father" - the same as "Pater" in Greek and Latin).
I have no definite information on his other assertions, but these facts about Jupiter are well known to Classical scholars. God bless your work.
Tomislav O.
It should be stated that modern psychiatry relies on a neuro-social model of mental illness, where genetic and developmental brain abnormalities intersect with social feedback to result in mental illness. Freud, Jung, and even modern figures like Maslow are considered bunk, and cognitive behavioral therapy is given instead of psychotherapy. For instance, Freud thought that schizophrenia was caused by over dependent mothers, while every modern psychiatrist knows that schizophrenia is caused by profound dysfunction in the dopamine and glutamate systems of the brain.
Burton L.
Agree that later on, some tribes may have "deified" their ancestors, Odin, according to some authors was a real person but we should know God through His creation. Freud's concepts of id, ego and superego also seem to be borrowed from the Bible: body, soul and spirit. Many people today still believe that somehow they have received "knowledge" from the blood and/or genes passed on by their ancestors. Best to let the Word of God indwell us. Thank you for the fine and thought-provoking article!
Thomas J.
In Don Richardson's book "Eternity in Their Hearts", many stories are related based on pioneer missionary accounts of encounters with various isolated groups that support the idea that they are actually monotheistic. Tribal members often accept that the beings to which they make appeasement are merely lesser spirits. Their ancestors acceded to these spirits because they felt irrevocably estranged from the one supreme being who made all things. Like everything flowing out of Darwinism the evolutionary development of "religion" persists are part of the ruling paradigm that is meant to still the voice of conscience.
Deon B.
Thanks for this insightful response to this rhetoric which often pops up from "intellectuals" world wide. The alarming phenomenon here in South Africa is that ancestor worship is rampant. I know for a fact that at least one main line church allows ancestor ceremonies at funerals - the reason; they don't want to loose African members. A sad state of affairs!
Pete T.
Nice historical overview. Could I add that the great flaw in Freud's work in general is that he has no empirical evidence to support much of what he says. My favorite has always been the concept of the id, ego and superego. It captured the imagination of the world, but there is not a scintilla of evidence that it exists. In fact, as long as we're talking about inventing God from our ancestors, the id-ego-superego construct comes from his taking Plato's story in Phaedrus about the charioteer (ego) and the two horses.
Dan B.
Thank you for another good feedback response. Meanwhile I think it's worth recalling that the idea of pagans deifying ancestors does have good historical support, e.g. as expounded in detail by Bill Cooper in "After the Flood" on the CMI bookstore. Thus, Jupiter comes from Japheth, Amum-Ra from Ham, Thor from Tiras and so on. The fact that these pagan gods demonstrably derive from figures in the Table of Nations of Genesis 10 gives strong support to the authenticity of that table, and also to the historical primacy of Biblical monotheism since it explains the later origins of the polytheistic religions associated with those gods.
Keaton Halley
Thanks for bringing this up. I should clarify that I wasn't denying that any groups deified ancestors. I'm sure many of the pagan gods arose that way. My point was only that the tribes who held to the earliest religious beliefs we can detect, which were monotheistic, did not derive their deity from ancestors.

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