The Role of Religion in Social Conflicts in Devil on the Cross and The Name of the Rose
“Devout believers are safeguarded in a high degree Against the risk of certain neurotic illnesses; Their acceptance of the universal neurosis Spares them the task of constructing a personal one.”
Sigmund Freud Civilization and Its Discontents
No discussion of postmodernism in literature can avoid beginning and ending without examining the truth and understanding of the role of God. In the philosophical and psychological contributions of Sigmund Freud, his views on social conflict, and individual suffering resulted in his theories on the state of mental health and its effect on individuals in the face of culture and religion. Through practicing such theories of psychoanalysis and the unconscious, he pursued and cured fears in many of his patients. Yet, ironically in his statement above, it became evident from his philosophical work, Civilization and its Discontents, that he concluded many social sanctions around devotion to religion as well as the social rules and social structures were somewhat protective against changing away from suffering and conflict. His observation inferred that faith and devotion were intended to deflect the truth of irrationality and uncertainty in the world, and Christianity provided comfort. It required a leap of faith, as demonstrated by a steady acceptance of pre-arranged patterns in Christian knowledge; eventually it lead people to have an inability to question what they were told from the disseminators of the truth of the words of God. Freud’s writings reflected that no matter how much negative social conditions like war, poverty, and crime became tragic and severe, for 2000 years Christianity readily supplied people with a rationale for their suffering and their discontent.
Many writers within the postmodern movement applied Freud’s concepts to create an awareness of the false truths behind Christianity, believing that it did not have the answer to the unmet desires and needs of individuals to alleviate social conflict, and suffering. The Name of the Rose and Devil on the Cross illustrate the consequences of the unfulfilled desires and the damage that results from the characters and the readers have blind acceptance of truth in what we read and we have been culturally conditioned to recognize as true. Instead we take comfort in anything that reassures us by preventing us from challenging our way of thinking. As Freud wrote in Civilization and its Discontents: “One feels inclined to say that the intention that man should be happy is not included in the Plan of Creation.” (Part ll). Even the abbot claimed according to Catholic Church that Jesus never smiled, and it was heresy to speculate that he ever laughed. (Eco 258). All of Freud’s work with patients to overturn their anxiety in the world was intended to help the patient overcome suffering and interpersonal conflict and lead to happiness. This clearly contrasted with the universal truth of an absolute morality from the word of God, and Christian religious concepts like the Beatitudes that taught the notion that suffering lead to reward after death. These truths passed off for 2000 years became questionable and irrational in the minds of more educated thinkers among men.
Accordingly, another major writer, Nietzsche, developed a catch phrase for the shift away from the hegemony of Christianity by saying, “God is dead.” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125). This concept also detracted from the notion of faith being rational in the face of an irrational world where bad things happen to good people and conversely, good things happen to bad people. The underlying principles of Nietzsche and Freud’s...
Cited: Eco, Umberto. The name of the rose. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983. Print.
Freud, Sigmund, and Joan Riviere. Civilization and its discontents. New York: Cape & Smith, 1930. Print.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. On literature and art. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976. Print.
Marx, Karl, Friedrich Engels, and Ellen Meiksins Wood. The Communist manifesto / Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1998. Print.
Ngugi, Wa Thiong’O. Devil on the cross. London: Heinemann, 1982. Print.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. The gay science. Dover ed. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 2006. Print.
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