December 7, 2011
Why Should I Not Be Permitted to Wish [that God Exists]?
Some captivating thoughts from Hans Kung in response to Freud’s claim that God is a psychological wish-fulfillment, not a reality:
“Freud’s main statement on the critique of religion is: ‘Religious ideas are fulfillment of the oldest, strongest and most urgent wishes of mankind.’ This is quite true, and the beliver in God can say the same. At the same time he will admit:
- Religion, as Marx shows, can certainly be opium, a means fo social assuagement and consolation (repression). But it need not be.
- Religion, as Freud shows, can certainly be an illusion, the expression of a neurosis and psychological immaturity (regression). But is need not be.
- All human believing, hoping, loving — related to a person, a thing or God – certainly contains an element of projection. But its object need not, for that reason, be a mere projection.
- Belief in God can certainly be very greatly influenced by the child’s attitude to its father. But this does not mean that God cannot exist.
A real God may certainly correspond to the wish for God.
Why in fact should I not be permitted to wish? Why should I not be allowed to wish that the sweat, blood and tears, all the sufferings of millennia, may not have been in vain?
May I not feel an aversion also in regard to the idea that the life of the individual and of mankind is governed only by the pitiless laws of nature?
It may be that nothing corresponds to the oldest, strongest and most urgent wishes of mankind and that mankind has actually been cherishing illusions for millennia. [n.b.: irony?] Just like a child that, in its solitude, imagines, and fantasizes that it might have a father in some distant Russian camp, cherishes illusions, give way to self-deception, pursues wish images, unless, unless…? Unless the father, long assumed to be dead, whom the child knows only from hearsay, had by some chance remained alive and — although no one believed it any longer — was still existing. Then — then indeed — the child would actually be right against the many who did not believe in the father’s existence. Then there would in fact be a reality corresponding to the child’s wishful thinking and one day perhaps might be seen face to face.”
BTW, Kung is not here saying that the existence of God is as unlikely as that of this hypothetical father. He is just showing that the wish for something in no way (perversely) falsifies it.
All the above comes from Kung’s Does God Exist, 300-301.