Freud makes it clear in one of his letters that he is atheist, though he denies attacking Christianity directly, but as a default to attacking Judaism, which was his faith of birth.
It can be called an attack on religion only in so far as any scientific investigation of religious belief presupposes disbelief. Neither in my private life nor in my writings have I ever made a secret of my being an out-and-out unbeliever. Anyone considering the book from this point-of-view will have to admit that it is only Jewry and not Christianity which has reason to feel offended by its conclusions. For only a few incidental remarks, which say nothing that hasn't been said before, allude to Christianity. At most one can quote the old adage: "Caught together, hanged together!" (Freud, 1960, p. 453)
Freud, as well as many of the psychologists who followed him, propagated the idea that psychology is a science, separate and distinct from other sciences and certainly from faith, as connectivity with faith was considered unscientific in the early days. The reasons for this placement of secular above faith are in many ways a simple demonstration of the fact that the argument of science is that with enough investigation, all truth can be discovered. The contrary nature of faith is that faith presupposes that there are and must remain truths that are unknown and unknowable and that these truths under gird the whole of the faith experience. The early psychologists and in Freud's case psychoanalysts were trying to claim was that even the inner most workings of an individual's mind was a discoverable set of truths. This was a fight that had been hard pressed as for many years prior to Freud the accepted idea of the impetus of mental illness and negative psychological drives was that they were direct responses to lapses in faith. Freud's generation of scientists, psychological and sociological were in a fight to remove faith from the picture, of human development. Just as medical doctors of the pat and present were seeking to prove to the faithful that disease was a biological process that was not directly linked to sin or evil. In an increadibly telling passage Freud equates the developemtn of releigion with a logical path of development that follows that of first mother connectivity, then father connectivity and then God as the ultimate father to connect with.
A what I now put forward, between the deeper and the manifest motivation, between the father complex and man's helplessness and need for protection.These connections are not difficult to find. They consist in the relation of the child's helplessness to the adult's continuation of it, so that, as was to be expected, the psycho-analytic motivation of the forming of religion turns out to be the infantile contribution to its manifest motivation. Let us imagine to ourselves the mental life of the small child. You remember the object-choice after the anaclitic type, which psycho-analysis talks about? The libido follows the paths of narcissistic needs, and attaches itself to the objects that ensure their satisfaction. So the mother, who satisfies hunger, becomes the first love-object, and certainly also the first protection against all the undefined and threatening dangers of the outer world; becomes, if we may so express it, the first protection against anxiety. In this function the mother is soon replaced by the stronger father, and this situation persists from now on over the whole of childhood. But the relation to the father is affected by a peculiar ambivalence. (Freud, 1928, p. 41)
Once the individual has moved on from the father attachment the next logical placement for such attachment, based on the psyche, according to Freud is the ultimate father, God. The logical progression is then an infantile desire for security that is logical to most humans, though obviously pointedly weak, as Freud writes it. The legacy of this drive, away from faith as a reasonable explanation for human developmental factor was a tendency of the research community to discredit, or at the very least ignore faith, until very recently as a value or phenomena worth studying.
Scientific truth is largely determined by authority and this has always been so. Today, any new idea must be supported by the weight of existing authorities and expressed in their language. The more radical the idea the more necessary it is to blunt its impact by emphasising its similarities with shared traditions. (Hanman, 2007, NP)
The fight that was waged in favor of science naturally followed a path that led it away from faith, as during the secular era there was a sense that faith had no authority, and in many ways the separation was complete as religion often claimed the same with regard to science. It is for these reasons that many psychologists find it easy to attack Christianity, and attempt to discredit it with scientific research, and yet the very brief review above shows that they have not always been successful.
The attention to this topic by the generation of psychologists who came after those early pioneers declined from approximately the mid 1920s until the mid 1960s. Several intradisciplinary reasons for this have been suggested (Paloutzian 1996). These include but are not limited to the establishment of scientific psychology after the model of physics, the separation of psychology departments from their former home in philosophy departments, and the tendency by psychologists to stay away from "taboo" topics that might be considered too philosophical or too theological. However, during this period there were writings by what might be called the "grand theorists" of religion (Freud 1927, Jung 1938; see Wulff 1997 for a complete presentation of these), but these writings did little to advance the psychology of religion in the stricter, data-based sense. That is, these were over-arching theories of human nature that were attempts to explain everything, including religiousness. Although they are rich ideas about what processes may underlie religiousness, they did little to feed the quantitative research that is mushrooming today. (Emmons & Paloutzian, 2003, p. 377)
The reason that a war has been waged, specifically against Christianity is simple, Christianity is the predominant faith in areas where secularism and the so called "scientific revolution" have dominated scientific thinking. Additionally, scientists, of which there are actually relatively few, who bear witness to secularism as the only viable reality have likely come from a Christian background, in the Western tradition and therefore, just as Freud did, fight against that which they are the most familiar with, their own traditional faith. Lastly, Christianity has a tendency to be a dominant religion in democratic and "free" societies. In such societies there is a clear sense that there will be limited sanction if certain aspects of religion and/or faith are questioned and challenged, hence secularism, when it took hold had free reign to challenge and even overtly dismiss religion and faith as antiquated, with or without research to demonstrate this as "scientific" truth or just a sad but hopeful trend on the part of some to diminish the power of faith.
Developmental Purpose of Faith:
Faith in many ways has won a hard fight, as its everlasting existence and strong social and psychological pull have made is t a phenomena that today's researchers are coming back to. Researchers have been forced to look backward, see that faith, despite its many and often vocal detractors still has as much validity today as it had, hundreds if not thousands of years ago. Researchers then must seek an answer to this question. Faith and religion, specifically serve a developmental purpose for those who practice them.
Beyond the social aspect of faith religiosity is a psychological guide for personal and social development that acts as a template for moral development and therefore the ability of the individual to see beyond his or herself to act morally and ethically within a community. Further, religion, spirituality and faith serve as a psychological framework to assist the individual in overcoming challenges and obstacles that life is sure to present. (Matthews & Clark, 1999, p. 34) Faith allows us to find comfort in the idea that ourselves and our loved ones will live on, past the struggles of this body and life, and this truth creates within most people a sense of security, which is unmatched by almost any other human sense. As one researcher puts it; the experience of death is personal and the expression of grief private, and it is well to ask how rituals can help this process. The traditional rituals are psychologically sensitive. They show an intuitive wisdom, which facilitates and contains the painful but essential grieving process. They do, in fact, reflect the need rather than determine it. Chronic or unresolved grief is a result of more than not fulfilling mourning rituals. It may be influenced by many different factors; the psychological fragility of the bereaved; previous bereavement history; the circumstances of the death; the relationship with the deceased. However, to…