Jung on Religion

Because we cannot discover God’s throne in the sky with a radiotelescope or establish (for certain) that a beloved father or mother is still about in a more or less corporeal form, people assume that such ideas are “not true.” I would rather say that they are not “true” enough, for these are conceptions of a kind that have accompanied human life from prehisotric times, and that still break through into consciousness at any provocation.

Modern man may assert that he can dispense with them, and he may bolster his opinion by insisting that there is no scientifc evidence of their truth. Or he may even regret the loss of his convictions. But since we are dealing with invisible and unknowable things (for God is beyond human understanding, and there is no means of proving immortality), why should we bother about evidence? Even if we did not know by reason our need for salt in our food, we should nonetheless profit from it’s use. We might argue that the use of salt is a mere illusion of taste or a superstition, but it would still constribute to our well-being. Why, then, should we deprive ourselves of views that would prove helpful in crises and would give a meaning to our existence?

And how do we know that such ideas are not true? Many people would agree with me if I stated flatly that such ideas are probably illusions. What they fail to realize is that the denial is as impossible to “prove” as the assertion of religious belief. We are entirely free to choose which point of view we take; it will in any case be an arbitrary decision.

There is, however, a strong empirical reason why we should cultivate thoughts that can never be proved. It is that they are known to be useful. Man positively needs general ideas and convictions that will give meaning to his life and enable him to find a place for himself in the universe. He can stand the most incredible hardships when he is convinced that they make sense; he is crushed when, on top of all his misfortunes, he has to admit that he is taking part in a “tale told by an idiot.”

– from Man and His Symbols

View All


  1. Hence the saying, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”

    1. Yes, that’s the cynical interpretation.

  2. Nice quote. That pretty well sums up many of my thoughts as well. Evidence, proof and scientific discovery are still quite powerful sources of belief and faith. Anything that falls outside of these premises is often regarded as the babbles of a lunatic followed by mindless and blind idiots, or at the very least, people to be tolerated.

    We are entirely free to choose which point of view we take; it will in any case be an arbitrary decision.

    I agree wholeheartly with this but with my chosen set of beliefs comes the idea (that I accept) that God is strongly related to the impulse or desire that brings people to make a decision.

    *returns to reading 19th Century gothic novels*

    1. *returns to reading 19th Century gothic novels*

      Got any recommendations?

      1. 19th Century Gothic Literature

        mmmmm, let’s see. I love the work of Wilkie Collins, especially Woman in White and The Moonstone, the latter especially if you like a mystery as well.

        There’s also the usual crew, the Bronte sisters, Bram Stocker, Henry James, Robert Loius Stevenson, Mary Shelly…. etc.

        A quick search on gothic literature will give you a mountain of links and texts, but Collins is certainly a gem.


  3. Salt analogy…

    Fits fairly well…

    Yes.. a little bit of salt is definitely required for our good health.. but does anyone notice that the average American gets like 4-5 times as much salt each day as they need? Eat a can of soup and you already have more salt than required.. and too much salt eventually leads to health issues…

    The same is true about “ideas that cannot be prooved” one way or the other… Yes.. having a few such ideas can be fruitful for one’s mind and life–whether they are religious ideas or whatnot–but, personally, I think that we suffer today from too much of reliance upon these ideas…

    Too often, salt is added to hide an absence of flavor.. the same is true with mystical ideas..

    1. Re: Salt analogy…

      Frankly, I think a lot of the salt in America has lost it’s saltiness… having the form, but denying the power thereof… (funny how some of the best phrases for criticizing modern christianity come from the New Testament)

    1. Can we agree to share?

Comments are closed.