The flip side of the new freedoms was a new anxiety. It was infused by endless access, early decisions about high-risk behavior, the ability to do “whatever” without concerns about being seen, and by the overwhelming reach of technology and the warp-speed of life itself. The free-est generation began to shimmer with neon-bright anxiety. This was different than internal neurotic anxiety, by which I mean symptomatic, psychological conflict, thought to be the result of guilt between “right” and “wrong,” the struggle between “id” and “superego,” and the fear that “bad” thoughts meant being a bad person. In children this anxiety can lead to a raging battle between pleasing parents and pleasing oneself, and even to feeling personal responsibility for the very lives, health, and well-being of one’s parents. This type of internal conflict had been the bread and butter of psychoanalysis during the time of the greatest generation and its boomer children.
No, by the second millennium, the kids of older boomers and post-boomers were suffering from a different breed of anxiety, generated by real-life forces: intense social, academic, and techno-driven pressures.
Ron Taffel – Childhood Unbound p.42
Yet, standing where we stand, at the start of the twenty-first century (more than thirty-seven hundred years later), it is far from clear that the proliferation of opposing nations is a boon to the race. Mankind as a whole is not obviously more reverent, just, and thoughtful. And internally, the West often seems tired; we appear to have lost our striving for what is highest. God has not spoken to us in a long time.
The causes of our malaise are numerous and complicated, but one of them is too frequently overlooked: the project of Babel has been making a comeback. Ever since the beginning of the seventeenth century, when men like Bacon and Descartes called mankind to the conquest of nature for the relief of man’s estate, the cosmopolitan dream of the city of man has guided many of the best minds and hearts throughout the world. Science and technology are again in the ascendancy, defying political boundaries en route to a projected human imperium over nature. God, it seems, forgot about the possibility that a new universal language could emerge, the language of symbolic mathematics, and its offspring, mathematical physics. It is algebra that all men understand without disagreement. It is Cartesian analytic geometry that enable the mind mentally to homogenize the entire world, to turn it into stuff for our manipulations. It is the language of Cartesian mathematics and method that has brought Babel back from oblivion. Whether we think of the heavenly city of the philosophers or the posthistorical age toward which Marxism points, or, more concretely, the imposing building of the United Nations that stand today in America’s first city; whether we look at the World Wide Web and its WordPerfect, or the globalized economy, or the biomedical project to re-create human nature without its imperfections; whether we confront the spread of the postmodern claim that all truth of is human creation – we see everywhere evidence of the revived Babylonian vision.
Leon R. Kass – The Beginning of Wisdom p.243
Freud argued that religious belief is an illusion. And he meant this in a precise sense: a belief is an illusion if it is derived from human wishes. Illusions are by their very nature misleading. For people take their beliefs to be responsive to the way things are. So if a belief is held in place by wishes, people are misled about their orientation to the world. Beliefs can be true or false; the same holds for illusions. It is not out of the question for an illusion to be true. The essential problem for an illusion, then, is that we are mistaken about the basis of our commitment to it. We take it to be a belief based on the responsiveness to the world; in fact, it is held in place by primordial wishes of which we are unconscious.
Freud’s argument is oblique. He does not address religion directly; and ostensibly he makes no claims about whether religious beliefs are illusions. That is, whatever the truth of religious claims, the fact that we believe them is not based on that truth, but rather on infantile wishes. His expectations seems to be that once we recognize these beliefs as illusions, and come to see the kind of wishes they gratify, the temptation towards religious belief will fall away. At the very least, we will see that we ought to give up religious belief.
Jonathan Lear – Freud p.203
[Freud] wants to show that morality and religious beliefs have different origins and serve different purposes than they claim. These are grand reflections about the meaning of western civilization. And they are, in my opinion, the least valuable aspect of Freud’s work. Precisely because they are so far removed from his clinical work, crucial assumptions in his arguments are unjustified, inferences are dubious and his conclusions are not established. I do not think this part of Freud’s work will stand the test of time.
Jonathan Lear – Freud p.192