From Nuns to Nones: The Future of Western Christianity

Column by Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox on 15 June 2023 0 Comments

The facts emerging about the future of organized religion and institutional Christianity in North America are quite sobering indeed.

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Have you ever read Moses and Monotheism by Sigmund Freud? What do you think of it?


Dear Stephen,

Freud posited that Moses was an Egyptian prince following the cult of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who disrupted the polytheism of Egypt for a time, instituting the sole worship of the sun god, Aten.  Freud’s thesis was controversial at the time his book was published.  Since then, scholarship has further revealed that there is no real evidence to support it.

But Freud’s real agenda was psychoanalytic… reading the story of Moses as if it were a dream revealing the workings of the subconscious.

There’s a straight line between Freud’s “Moses and Monotheism” and Jung’s “Answer to Job”, another mythic-psychoanalytic treatment of the Bible.  Jung wrote that after testing Job with all manner of miseries, and then restoring Job to wholeness, God knew he had treated Job unjustly.  God decided the only way to resolve the mess he had created was to become a human in the person of Jesus and suffer on the cross.

So, Stephen, allow me the liberty of taking a step further along the path of Freud and Jung, and offer my own mythic-psychoanalytic interpretation of the whole Bible:

All-mighty God was lonely and bored, so he created the world and all the animals and then created Adam, the first human.  But God could see that Adam was not satisfied just with God.  Adam needed a mortal peer with whom he could relate.  God presented Adam with all the animals, to give them names – and to choose among them for a special friend.  Adam could not name his way to a companion – not even the smooth-skinned and smooth-talking serpent met his need for a partner.  (That rejection set up later trouble in the Garden of Eden.) So as Adam slept, going into his unconscious dimension, God fashioned Eve from his body.   

Eve and Adam upset God in the Garden of Eden, and God punished them.  And then Adam and Eve reproduced, and the resulting human race got into all kinds of mischief.  God was upset that the creature he had created to be his companion had gone rogue.  So he decided to clean the slate with a great flood wiping out humanity, and start over again with Noah stepping off the ark.  But the pattern continued.  When humans built the Tower of Babel, raising it into the highest heaven where God lived, God was deeply conflicted.  God wanted a friend, but friends need to be equals.  God didn’t want an equal.  So he stopped the building of the Tower by confusing humans with multiple languages. 

God and humans continued their push-pull, love-hate relationship.  God had lost trust in humanity, as evidenced by his testing of his faithful servant Job.  After pondering the unjust misery he had inflicted on Job, he realized his ambivalence toward humanity had to end.  So God became a mortal human being named Jesus, who preached and practiced kindness and compassion.  And then, on the cross, God experienced the suffering he had inflicted on Job.  On the cross, the supernatural, all-mighty God died.  On the third day, God rose from the tomb as divine, unconditional Love.   Christians celebrate that transformation of God into Love by practicing it together in community.

Extrapolating from Freud’s “Moses and Monotheism”, how would you interpret the whole Bible, Stephen?

~ Rev. Jim Burklo




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