In Moses and Monotheism, Freud reconstructed biblical history in accordance with his general theory. His ideas were also developed in The Future of an Illusion. When Freud spoke of religion as an illusion, he maintained that it is a fantasy structure from which a man must be set free if he is to grow to maturity.
The Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung (1875–1961) adopted a very different posture, one that was more sympathetic to religion and more concerned with a positive appreciation of religious symbolism. Jung considered the question of the existence of God to be unanswerable by the psychologist and adopted a kind of agnosticism.
Jung postulated, in addition to the personal unconscious (roughly adopting Freud's concept), the collective unconscious, which is the repository of human experience and which contains "archetypes" (i.e. basic images that are universal in that they recur regardless of culture). The irruption of these images from the unconscious into the realm of consciousness he viewed as the basis of religious experience and often of artistic creativity. Some of Jung's writings have been devoted to elucidating some of the archetypal symbols, and include his work in comparative mythology.
Freud views the idea of God as being a version of the father image, and religious belief as at bottom infantile and neurotic. Authoritarian religion, Freud believed, is dysfunctional and alienates man from himself.
The right religion, in Fromm's estimation, can, in principle, foster an individual's highest potentialities, but religion in practice tends to relapse into being neurotic.
According to Fromm, humans have a need for a stable frame of reference. Religion apparently fills this need. In effect, humans crave answers to questions that no other source of knowledge has an answer to, which only religion may seem to answer. However, a sense of free will must be given in order for religion to appear healthy. An authoritarian notion of religion appears detrimental.
In his classic book The Individual and His Religion (1950), Gordon Allport (1897–1967) illustrates how people may use religion in different ways. He makes a distinction between Mature religion and Immature religion. Mature religious sentiment is how Allport characterized the person whose approach to religion is dynamic, open-minded, and able to maintain links between inconsistencies. In contrast, immature religion is self-serving and generally represents the negative stereotypes that people have about religion. More recently, this distinction has been encapsulated in the terms "intrinsic religion", referring to a genuine, heartfelt devout faith, and "extrinsic religion", referring to a more utilitarian use of religion as a means to an end, such as church attendance to gain social status. These dimensions of religion were measured on the Religious Orientation Scale of Allport and Ross (1967). A third form of religious orientation has been described by Daniel Batson. This refers to treatment of religion as an open-ended search (Batson, Schoenrade & Ventis, 1993). More specifically, it has been seen by Batson as comprising a willingness to view religious doubts in a positive manner, acceptance that religious orientation can change and existential complexity, the belief that one's religious beliefs should be shaped from personal crises that one has experienced in one's life. Batson refers to extrinsic, intrinsic and quest respectively as Religion-as-means, religion-as-end and religion-as-quest, and measures these constructs on the Religious Life Inventory (Batson, Schoenrade & Ventis, 1993).
Pargament led the design of a questionnaire called the "RCOPE" to measure Religious Coping strategies. Pargament has distinguished between three types of styles for coping with stress: 1) Collaborative, in which people co-operate with God to deal with stressful events; 2) Deferring, in which people leave everything to God; and 3) Self-directed, in which people do not rely on God and try exclusively to solve problems by their own efforts. He also describes four major stances toward religion that have been adopted by psychotherapists in their work with clients, which he calls the religiously rejectionist, exclusivist, constructivist, and pluralist stances.
SecularizationThe first hypothesis, secularization, holds that science and technology will take the place of religion. Secularization supports the separation of religion from politics, ethics, and psychology. Taking this position even further, Taylor explains that secularization denies transcendence, divinity, and rationality in religious beliefs.
Religious transformationChallenges to the secularization hypothesis led to significant revisions, resulting in the religious transformation hypothesis. This perspective holds that general trends towards individualism and social disintegration will produce changes in religion, making religious practice more individualized and spiritually focused. This in turn is expected to produce more spiritual seeking, although not exclusive to religious institutions. Eclecticism, which draws from multiple religious/spiritual systems and New Age movements are also predicted to result.
Cultural divideIn response to the religious transformation hypothesis, Ronald Inglehart piloted the renewal of the secularization hypothesis. His argument hinges on the premise that religion develops to fill the human need for security. Therefore the development of social and economic security in Europe explains its corresponding secularization due to a lack of need for religion. However, religion continues in the third world where social and economic insecurity are rampant. The overall effect is expected to be a growing cultural disparity.
The idea that religiosity arises from the human need for security has also been furthered by studies examining religious beliefs as a compensatory mechanism of control. These studies are motivated by the idea that people are invested in maintaining beliefs in order and structure to prevent beliefs in chaos and randomness.
The link between religion and mental health may be due to the guiding framework or social support that it offers to individuals. By these routes, religion has the potential to offer security and significance in life, as well as valuable human relationships, to foster mental health. Some theorists have suggested that the benefits of religion and religiosity are accounted for by the social support afforded by membership in a religious group.