Death, mourning by the mother and other women, and resurrection of the killed god have been taken over into the ritual of the world religion of Christianity. Freud has shown us that the self-sacrifice of Christ was the expiation for an attempted murder – a parricide, since original sin was a sin against God the Father.
The sacrificial death of the Son of God is an attempt at expiation; it has the character of a compromise, for it ensures the attainment of the son’s most urgent wish, namely, his own enthronement at the side of his father.
Theodor Reik – Ritual: Psychoanalytic Studies, p.158
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
The field of ethics, which is so full of problems, presents us with another fact: namely that ill-luck – that is, external frustration – so greatly enhances the power of the conscience in the super-ego. As long as things go well with a man, his conscience is lenient and lets the ego do all sorts of things; but when misfortune befalls him, he searches his soul, acknowledges his sinfulness, heightens the demands of his conscience, imposes abstinences on himself and punishes himself with penances. Whole peoples have behaved in this way and still do. This however, is easily explained by the original infantile stage of conscience, which, as we see, is not given up after the introjection into the super-ego, but persists alongside of it and behind it. Fate is regarded as a substitute for the parental agency. If a man is unfortunate it means that he is no longer loved by this higher power; and, threatened by such a loss of love, he once more bows to the parental representative in his super-ego – a representative whom, in his days of good fortune, he was ready to neglect. This becomes especially clear where Fate is looked upon in the strictly religious sense of being nothing else than an expression of the Divine Will.
Sigmund Freud – Civilization and Its Discontents p.118