Review: The Future of an Illusion, by Sigmund Freud

In 1927 Sigmund Freud was 71 years old and in failing health when he wrote this short book about religion. The title is a misnomer — there is hardly anything about the future here at all. Instead, it offers Freud’s ideas about religion, including why it exists at all. Freud is a surprisingly readable author, even for people with only limited knowledge of psychology. “It forms no part of the intention of this study to comment on the truth-value of religious teachings,” he wrote. “We are content to recognize that, psychologically speaking, they are illusions.” Freud refrained from mentioning in this book the anti-religious campaigns then taking place in the Soviet Union. But surely he had them in mind when he wrote that “it is certainly a nonsensical plan to seek to abolish religion by force and at a stroke. Principally because there is no chance of its succeeding.” He was certainly right about that. Recommended.