Faith Without Illusions: Sex, Drugs, Art and God

This 4-week course will explore Freud’s palliatives, and particularly his critique of religious belief and then outline a different kind of religious belief; one which rejects the comforting illusions that so often define religious belief and instead, faces the reality of existence in all its pain and possibility.
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Life is hard. It didn’t take a psychoanalyst to tell us that. But it helps. Struggles and painful experiences haunt us all and can emerge from a number of sources-from our own bodies which are doomed to decay; from others and our relationship with them and from the external world-the frictions of civilizations and the beautiful brutality of nature. Life is complicated and chaotic and sometimes frightening, so we create measures to cope with it.


Throughout human history are common threads- ideas and practices that have helped us find solace in the midst of hardship and challenges. Sexual love, intoxicants of all kinds, art and, of course, religion, perhaps the biggest source of comfort and consolation in the history of humanity. These palliatives offer us temporary means of respite or escape from the challenges of life, but if we are not aware, these forms of relief can also become sources of pain-the pill becomes the poison.


Religion has been hotly contested and defended over the past two hundred years. Its authoritative voice diminished by competing ideologies and technologies until it is but one choice among many. For many people religion is viewed as a curious relic from a bygone age, a perpetuated system of dogmas and doctrines that resist the realities of everyday life. What if faith can be refigured, understood as a means of facing life rather than escaping it? What if there is a faith beyond illusion?

4-Week Outline

What this conversation is all about

In his landmark book, Civilization and its Discontents, Sigmund Freud said that human life is often hard and difficult to bear and, that in order to survive, we create what he called the ‘palliative measures’ to help us. Romantic love, intoxicants, art and religion were the measures Freud outlined and interrogated in his work. He had a harsh critique for religion, declaring it to be illusory and simple wish-fulfillment. 

What you can expect

  • This course starts LIVE Thursday, June 10th at 1pm PST/9pm GMT via zoom.
  • For those who can't make the LIVE lecture it will be posted to watch at your leisure on our learning platform.
  • If you are purchasing this course after it has started you can go through the course from the beginning and still interact with the instructors in the archive learning section of each week.
  • Each weekly lecture lasts for about an hour or so and there will be a time of Q&A to further engage the content and instructors.
  • There are no assignments, but you can expect sessions packed with content as well as recommended reading and resources.
  • Check out our blog here, our social post here and a quick video from Barry Taylor here!

Barry Taylor

Co-Director of H&Co, a theologian-philosopher, musician, artist, academic and writer who has spent more than thirty years challenging traditional notions of religion and church and creating alternative communities built on the idea that life is uncertain, the future is unwritten and that none of us has the answer.

More on Barry here

“Religious beliefs are illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest and most urgent wishes of mankind.”

-Sigmund Freud