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The psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud felt that a belief in God merely represents an adolescent stage of thought – that belief in God marks someone as psychologically weak or immature. 

Those psychologically weak individuals, Freud said, cannot handle the notion of a universe without a God.  

Yes, the idea of a Godless universe can seem scary. Many people may believe in God because they cannot abide the thought that there may not be a God. But what makes these and other reasons for believing in God “adolescent” ideas? Is it just because Freud said so? Maybe Freud’s disbelief was an adolescent stage from which he never evolved? (Just having some fun here.) 

Nevertheless, if belief in God is adolescent, then teenagers have some fine intellectual company. 

Plato, St. Paul, Augustine, Maimonides, Aquinas, Kant, Spinoza, Newton, Buber, Krishnamurti, Einstein and hundreds of other world-class philosophers and geniuses believed in a Creator – and it’s nearly impossible to view their highly-sophisticated thoughts on the subject as adolescent. Still, some intelligent people put themselves squarely in the other camp – atheist philosophers like Hume, Russell, Dawkins, Hitchens, Hawking and Harris, for example. But their disbelief does not render their thought adolescent – it just means that proof of God through our narrow human lens is difficult, and that thoughtful people can reach different conclusions as a result.

Perhaps, as the Baha’i teachings suggest, we simply need to find ways to widen our definition and start to conceptualize a Creator as something far, far beyond our comprehension:

Existence is of two kinds: one is the existence of God which is beyond the comprehension of man. He, the invisible, the lofty and the incomprehensible, is preceded by no cause but rather is the Originator of the cause of causes. He, the Ancient, hath had no beginning and is the all-independent. The second kind of existence is the human existence. It is a common existence, comprehensible to the human mind, is not ancient, is dependent and hath a cause to it. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 61.

A lower degree cannot comprehend a higher although all are in the same world of creation — whether mineral, vegetable or animal. Degree is the barrier and limitation. In the human plane of existence we can say we have knowledge of a vegetable, its qualities and product; but the vegetable has no knowledge or comprehension whatever of us. No matter how near perfection this rose may advance in its own sphere, it can never possess hearing and sight. Inasmuch as in the creational world, which is phenomenal, difference of degree is an obstacle or hindrance to comprehension, how can the human being, which is a created exigency, comprehend the ancient divine Reality, which is essential? This is impossible because the reality of Divinity is sanctified beyond the comprehension of the created being, man. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 114.

Then there are those who find that the universe is simply too frightening for it to have been created by a God who values life. Outer space is 270 degrees C (455 degrees Fahrenheit) below zero. That’s a deadly temperature for humans; indeed for everything except molecules. But even worse, we seem to inhabit a fragile film of life-supporting materials on top of a thin crust resting on a liquid core of molten rock that is hurtling through the immense cold and emptiness of space.

Yet here we are, living and thriving (though not responsibly yet) on this spinning rock, and regularly venturing out into the cold dark night of outer space in a manner not much different than the way we once set sail on an uncharted sea or the way we now venture out into a cold winter night. In both cases, we simply prepare for the trip. We inject ourselves into a greater whole and in the process become a part of it. The universe is not alien and out to get us. It is not lawless – neither physically, nor morally. It is the matrix from which we emerge. We are stardust one-and-all, and belief in God is more than just a comforting thought; it’s a statement that we find the universe to be ruled by an evolving, benevolent spiritual purpose that includes us. 

5 Comments

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  • James Gilmore
    1 day ago
    You address the question from the wrong end. The fact that some may NOT be able to accept that their is NO god does NOT show weather they are weak or not, But does show that they have show flawed logic to believe in such. I do not believe in big foot or alien abductions for the same reason. That no convinceing evidence has been show to verify their existance. The position of what Sigmund Freud ha to say on the beliefs of people is just his opinion. As a Psychiatrist he may or may not be correct as to ...their development. But as a skeptic. The time to use belief in something is when evidence has shown it to be true.
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  • 4 days ago
    I would say simplistic religious fundamentalism is the child state of human awareness, atheism in the contemporary Western sense is the adolescent stage, and the essentially agnostic acknowledgment of something completely above our comprehension — introduced in Islam and expanded upon in the Baha’i revelation — represents maturity in human understanding of the Creator.
    • James Gilmore
      1 day ago
      There is just as much truth to christianity as there is to Islam....which is NOT saying much.
  • Rosslyn and Steven Osborne
    6 days ago
    The interconnection is too obvious to me that I could see none other than an incredible superpower with an awesome knowledge having designed and orchestrating it. I think as a child I was always fascinated with nature be it flowers, birds or animals. How the petals formed and fitted, the colours of the feathers to make up the full colours of a parrot or the patterns of hair or scales of other animals. I am to this day even as a grandmother, and it still never ceases to amaze me how well God decorated our lives with all that dwell ...on this planet, we are fast destroying. Thank you for your essay.
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  • Mark David Vinzens
    Jan 10, 2020
    My advice to the seeker of truth. Instead of thinking outside the box, get rid of the box. God is outside the box and calls us outside the comfort zone of our boxes.