Yesterday, I mentioned that I was fuming at Freud's The Future of an Illusion because he seemed to me to be tone deaf to religion. I have now finished reading the short book [I don't read very fast], and in the final pages, he redeems himself. Freud shows himself to be, perhaps, the last unreconstructed Enlightenment rationalist, deeply committed to the conviction that only scientific reason can serve us well in our parlous journey through life. Freud famously said, "Where Id was, let Ego be." The true force of this maxim is somewhat lost in the translation from the German, because in English, the convention has been adopted of using the Latin terms for "it" [Id] and "I" [Ego], whereas in German they are rendered precisely as Es and Ich. "Where It was, let I be," is the proper translation, and it captures perfectly Freud's belief that it is the conscious rational self that is the true I, for all that, as was the first to show us scientifically, that self arises out of, and is forever built on, the instinctual drives and energies that he refers to as It.
Freud hated America, a fact the irony of which has been often noted, inasmuch as psychoanalysis had its most enthusiastic reception in the United States. The Future of an Illusion was published in 1927, during the reign of Prohibition in America. Here is Freud's biting comment on what was happening on this side of the Atlantic:
"That the effect of religious consolations may be likened to that of a narcotic is well illustrated by what is happening in America. There they are now trying -- obviously under the influence of petticoat government -- to deprive people of all stimulants, intoxicants, and other pleasure-producing substances, and instead, by way of compensation, are surfeiting them with piety."
This passage has an eerily contemporary ring. What Freud failed to recognize was the iron grip that religious illusion has on all strata of society, not merely on those whom Freud persisted in calling the lower orders. Despite the flourishing of so-called higher education in this country, Americans of all strata remain irrationally and inseparably wedded to religious beliefs of the most anti-scientific character. Where, save in the United States and in Iran, can one find candidates for public office enthusiastically denying the simple evidence of scientific truth?