Study Guide

The Interpretation of Dreams Religion

By Sigmund Freud

Religion

Freud was a dude who loved literature and culture, and The Interpretation of Dreams is packed with dozens of references to stories, myths, and legends. It's full of scriptural references and biblical history, too, and although Freud himself wasn't a religious man, he was well-aware of the roles that Judaism and Christianity played in shaping Europe's cultures. For this reason, religious narratives are all over the place in The Interpretation of Dreams, though they tend to appear as cultural references like any others.

In much the same way, Freud's representations of Jewish identity throughout the book have more to do with politics and culture than they with actual theological matters. As a Jewish guy in turn-of-the-century Austria, Freud had firsthand experience of the poisonous anti-Semitism that eventually led to the Holocaust. His heightened awareness of such denominational matters can be felt throughout The Interpretation of Dreams, as they powerfully shaped his own dream-life.

Questions About Religion

  1. Freud makes a number of scriptural references throughout The Interpretation of Dreams. Does he incorporate these references for their spiritual content, or is he using them secularly?
  2. In how many of the personal dreams that Freud recounts throughout the book do concerns, anxieties, or fears about anti-Semitism emerge?
  3. How does Freud's sense of Jewish identity and his experience as a Jew in turn-of-the-century Europe shape his relationship with his father?

Chew on This

Freud's use of scriptural references throughout The Interpretation of Dreams is somewhat ironic, since many of his psychoanalytic and scientific theories were incompatible with religious belief. For Freud, religious texts are valuable as cultural expressions but not as articles of faith.

Although Freud doesn't place special emphasis on his experiences of anti-Semitism in Vienna (and elsewhere in Europe), the personal dreams that he recounts throughout the book reveal how deeply he was hurt and concerned by the political and religious climates of his day.

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