Sample Essay on Illusion of Religion


Religion has since the ancient years been considerd as an important factor in defining human life on earth. However, in the view of Sigmund Freud, religion is a creation of the human mind with the objective of providing human beings with a technique of explaining the complexities of life. In addition, Freud views religion as a way through which man finds an entity to blame for his disappointments in life. The desire to make human life more meaningful in the view of Freud seems to be the defining objective of the formation of religion. In the contemporary society, supernatural beings that define religion have been replaced by superheroes who possess supernatural powers and have the ability of saving human beings from their troubles and tribulations.

Freud states that religion is simply a form of wish fulfillment. Human beings transfer our desires over to a certain religious belief in order to cope with every day struggles in life. Yet, superheroes are transforming the popular culture scene to where it has become an alternative form of wish fulfillment. Thus, superheroic figures must contain similar, essential components of religion that impact us in such a massive way through which individuals succumb to their appeal.

Freud’s Future of an Illusion

Freud engages in an investigative approach towards religion considering that he seeks an effective response to the question: “In what does the peculiar value of religious beliefs lie.”[1]Freud contends that the role of religion in the society can be likened to that of civilization considering that they all have the objective of protecting man from the dangerous effects of nature. According to Freud, this makes religion an illusion considering that it is founded on personal wish and desires that man hopes can be achieved. Freud does not deny the possibility of the existence of God considering the argument that it would be beneficial to human life if there were a god who had created the universe and was in charge of the moral order that characterizes the operations of this universe. He also asserts the benefits that human beings would acquire if there were a supernatural being who could guarantee human beings with a future even after death. However, despite this view, Freud argues that all these are just imaginations that man wishes to bring into reality.[2]

The illusionary nature of the supernatural being is largely based on the humanization of nature, which allows man to eliminate nature from the realm of impersonal forces, which are beyond the control of any being. The humanization process and the attribution of passion to nature allow man to consider it as an entity that possesses a will of its own. The creation of religion and the humanization of nature leaves man at the mercy of the latter which is perceived to be benevolent enough and has the powers to spare man from tribulations and death. Freud likens the relationship between man and nature with that between a parent and a child. Man has a “… infantile prototype…”[3] and just as a child looks up to the rent for mercy, love, protection and the assurance of a good future so does man look at religion and nature. Religion in the view of Freud can be perceived to be a store of ideas through which man’s helpless nature of man can be tolerated.[4]

According to Freud, “religious ideas are teachings and assertions about facts and conditions of the external or internal reality which tells one something one has not discovered for oneself and which lay claim on one’s belief.[5] Despite this belief, religion can be considerd as an illusion considering the failure by religious teachers to provide factual evidence on the grounds of their beliefs without circular reasoning. This leads Freud into a conclusion that there is no place for reason in understanding religious beliefs. Despite the inability of reason to prove matters related to religion., Freud assert that religion has an important role to play in the lives of human beings considering its influence in the decisions that human beings make and the challenges that human beings are willing to ensure for the sake of a belief. Despite this acknowledgement, Freud still seeks answers to questions regarding the power of religious beliefs that allows man to act without reason.[6]

The illusionary attribute of religion in the view of Freud is therefore based on the assertion that the power of religion has a connection with the power of wishful thinking. Religion is founded on illusions, which are different from errors because in certain situations, illusions have turned out to be true.[7] Despite this possibility, religious illusions originate from human wishes. These are largely their views of a perfect world free of misfortunes and the presence of a religious deity whose power surpasses that of nature. In addition, through illusionary thinking man, according to Freud has been able to create every aspect of religion with the hope of finding comfort even in times of trouble. This does not make religion a reality but just an excuse to that allows man to escape his own troubles and challenges on earth.[8]

Freud’s view of religion leads to him to the belief that religion does not lead man to a path of gaining any education considering that the assertions provided by this system of belief is not palpable and therefore there is need for man to access knowledge through the scientific field. Freud argues, “…in the long run nothing can withstand reason and experience, and the contradiction which religion offers to both is all too palpable.”[9] For Freud, man can only gain sufficient and verifiable knowledge of the world through scientific procedures. This is because the mental status of man is designed such that it is often inclined towards finding knowledge about the external world. However, through imagination man has been able to create different versions of the world. Some of these versions, according to Freud, can only be understood through belief in the unknown powers.[10] The system of belief that as society develops is consistent with their socialization process and the factors that define their way of reasoning. Religion for instance is considerd as a technique through which man seeks to personify nature. The helpless nature of man leads him into the desire to find solutions in stronger entities. In a family situation for instance, the first rescue point of a child is often the mother however, the presence of the father replaces the possibility of seeking protection of love from the mother.[11] This in the view of Freud is how religion operates. The desire by man to seek alternative solutions to societal and natural problems, led to the formation of religion and a supernatural being whose powers surpass those of all the elements of nature. This being from the religious perceptive is what man called God, who has solutions to all problems considering benevolent and omnipotent nature.[12]

Starting from the past—ancient story of Moses

In his book Moses and Monotheism, Sigmund Freud traces the roots of religion and does an assessment of the role that religion has been playing since the ancient ages. Freud makes observations that in the past human beings were polytheists, worshipped both male and female gods.[13] However, at the time of the biblical Moses, man was already transformed from polytheistic worship to the worship of a single, exclusive, and all-powerful male supreme being who was important for the survival of all those who believed in his existence. One of the greatest desires of man is to have direct contact with God and this explains why in Christianity for instance, the desire to eventually go to heaven is largely defined by the hope that in heaven human beings will get to live with God and understand him.[14]

Some of the most revered people in religious teachings, especially Christianity, are those who are believed to have had a direct contact with God. Moses for instance, when he went to receive the Ten Commandments, he told the Israelites that he had seen God and this made him a respectable person among religious believers.[15] The illusionary nature of religion in the view of Freud emanates from the fact that in some instances, human beings have created the possibility of meeting deities on earth through the conception of saints who comprise individuals who had previously interacted with man but are in the process of linking man to God considering their position as higher beings.[16]

In Moses and Monotheism, Freud provides a different approach towards religion. He considers Judaism as a form of faith, which comes with the belief of the existence of an invisible god. Freud argues this form of commitment of taking this god into then mind helps the brains of individuals to develop capacity for abstraction[17]. In Judaism, it was unlawful to envision the image of god hence believers were compelled to worship a god whose image was unimaginable. This meant that in Judaism just as in the case other religious practices where sensory perceptions are placed second to abstract ideas; there is a possibility of triumph of intellectuality over sensory mind.[18]

Religion can therefore be considered as a unique aspect in life since it has been used in the explanation of the origin of mankind. Freud argues, “…there is an element of grandeur about everything to do with the origin of religion, certainly including the Jewish one, and that is not matched by the explanations we have hitherto given”.[19] The glamorous thing, which Freud considers as unique in the definition of religion, lies in its ability to drive people towards a system of belief. In the Jewish community for instance, Freud observed the progress of their religious p ractices from the time when they worshiped many gods until the time of the Israelites when they began to develop knowledge about the existence of a supreme being who is responsible for their existence.[20]

The Jews also considered powerful individuals in the world who were responsible for their salvation and their overall wellbeing through the instruction the supreme God. In Moses and Monotheism, Freud attempts “…to explain the origin of a special character of Jewish people a character which is probably what has made their survival to the present day possible.”[21]

Freud considers Moses as a legend in the Christian faith whose legacy has been influential in the definition of the past, it is shaping the present aspects of religion and the power of its influence is bound to stretch even into the future. Moses in the view of Freud can be likened to contemporary superheroes considering that his actions were an indication that he possessed supernatural powers, which allowed him to develop his own identity.[22] Moses was raised as an Egyptian however, through the biblical story Moses is depicted as an individual whose life is characterized by struggles to articulate all that he believed to be essential in defining his Jewish nature and survival.[23] The fact that Moses was responsible for the delivery of the Jews from bondage in Egypt is critical in understanding the power that religious systems of belief accord to an individual such as Moses. In the view of Freud, an attempt to deny the role Moses played in the development in the evolution of the Jews is not possible from a religious perceptive. Moses just like all the other powerful religious individuals in biblical context was able to act in ways different from other men. This is largely because of the belief that he shared a personal relationship with God. Any attempt to deny his powerful nature according to Freud is an “… attempt to deprive of a man whom they take pride in as the greatest of their sons…”[24]

Other than the depiction of Moses as a superhero, Freud uses the book Moses and Monotheism to trace the history of the development of monotheistic religion. He argues that monotheism originated from the Egyptians and the Jews through Moses borrowed this religious belief system.[25] The Aton religion, an Egyptian religion, was based on exclusive belief on a single supreme god. Upon the death of Ikhnaton, the leader of the Aton religion, Egyptians reverted to their polytheistic beliefs. During this period, Moses, “…an Egyptian priest… in order to save the Aton religion…placed himself as the head of a sematic tribe living in Egypt… brought them from bondage…and gave them a more spiritualized imageless form of religion.”[26] Moses from this perspective is perceived as an individual in charge of a whole society. In the view of Freud, Moses is a religious hero who takes over a community, imposes himself as their leader and introduces them to a new system of worship.

The development of religion according to Freud is characterized by takeovers by those who believe in the system. For instance, the introduction of monotheism in Egypt by Pharaoh is characterized by his belief in the power of the Aton, sun power. This is the belief that drives Moses to take over the sematic tribe and introduces an imageless form of religion to set them apart from the Egyptian worship. However, the desire to propagate the belief of the fierce volcanic deity of the Sematic tribe, leads to the death of Moses “…and the Israelites… forge an alliance with other sematic tribes in Median whose, volcanic deity… Yahweh, and the imageless god introduced by Moses are merged to become their national god.”[27] From the traditional practices witnessed in Egypt to the development of religious belief, fusing the doctrines taught by Moses and those taught by the sematic tribes, it is possible to notice that the essence of religion is based on that which an individual perceives as workable. For any religious system to be successful there must be individuals who believe in its practicality and such individuals have the responsibility of inculcating the tenets of the belief to other members of the society. This explains why Moses took over the sematic tribe. It also provides an explanation why the sematic tribe killed Moses in an effort to propagate their systems of belief.[28]

Having been born of by Jewish parents and raised as an aristocrat in the Egyptian palace, Freud presents Moses as a hero. This is largely because he was able to rebel against the family that raised him and pursue a course that he believed to be right. This is sufficient evidence on the power of religion over the abilities of mankind.[29] Moses believed that monotheism, belief in a single god, was the best approach to religion and therefore when the Egyptians retracted back to their polytheistic nature, he found reason to move out and establish his own religious belief with the aid of the Israelites.[30] The disparity in understanding the reasons for the actions portrayed by Moses forms the fundamental basis of religion, which is dependent on the fact that matters of faith cannot be understood through a definite process as dictated by the process of logical thought. An investigation into the reasons for the actions of Moses may not only be inconclusive in the view of Freud, but may also “…result in uncertain outcomes, and they might have done nothing to answer the question whether Moses was an Egyptian…” or a Jew raised as an Egyptian.[31]

Whether Moses was an Egyptian Prince who led the Israelites out of bondage or a Jew, Freud believes that he played an essential role in the development of Christian religion. His death was an indication of the activities that believers of a specific religious doctrine would do to ensure that their system of belief remains superior over all the other systems.[32] In some situations especially where there are competing beliefs that are equally dominant, there would be compromises and merges as in the case of the Israelites and the sematic tribes, which unified their systems. Such merges however raise questions on the viability and validity of religious beliefs. The illusionary nature emerges and can be explained from the perspective of embracing that which works while eliminating that which seems impractical.

According to Freud, the validity of one religious belief can be divergent from other systems of religious beliefs. Despite these differences, Freud perceives religion and the beliefs that accompany any religious doctrines to be unique and individualistic. The individualistic nature of these beliefs arises for Freud’s example of Moses, a great figure who was brave enough to resist alterations to his system of beliefs. He hung on into his convictions until death. Inasmuch as Freud held the assertion that scientific thoughts should surpass those held in religious convictions, he derived some inspiration form Moses.[33]

Current Phenomena—Superheroes

The contemporary society is characterized by the availability of modern blockbuster movies and comic books. Questions have been raised concerning the different aspects of superheroes and the stories that have been found to be intriguing and captivating those who have a tendency of interacting with the artifacts.[34] Just as in the case of religion, different aspects concerning superheroes appeal to different individuals in varieties of ways. These include the underlying tales of morality, the familiarity of their stories and the appealing levels of their actions.[35]

It is important to note that an adult experience of superheroes creates a reminder of the childhood and youthful days where imagination was considerd to be a powerful way of thought that made the fantasies of these children seem real. This is an indication that comic books and superhero movies have a relatively great impact especially in the creation of a bridge between childhood fantasies and the events in the real world.[36] With the view that children are more hypnotizable compared to adults, they are more likely to fantasize and create their own world where they eliminate all the indecent aspects of reality. In this world of imagination, children often develop characters that in their view have superhuman abilities.[37] Through live action superhero movies, both children and adults are often able to retract to their childhood where their imagination could lead them into actions that were largely considerd impossible. The development of an association between superheroes and human activities forms the basis of the desire to hope for their assistance in times of troubles. This is based on the belief that the superhumans possess powers that can destroy all the evil in the world.

Since the debut of Superhuman in 1938, batman in 1939 and the Wonder Woman in 1941, these superheroes have played an essential role in the lives of different people. Wonder Woman for example was conceived with the objective of setting up standards among children and most especially the youth concerning the strong personality that is inherent in womanhood.[38] This was aimed at combating the prevailing idea that women were inferior beings compared to men. In addition, Wonder Woman was also aimed at inspiring girls to be self-confident. This means that superheroes just as gods in religion play a psychological role in the development of an individual’s thoughts and personality.[39] Through the inexplicable abilities demonstrated by these superheroes, Wonder Woman for instance helped in the development of a novel type of woman. A woman who was not intimidated by inferiority complex instead, it helped in developing stronger and vibrant women with the belief that they, just as in the case of men, possess the ability to rule the world.[40]

Using superheroes as reference points whenever an individual desires to demonstrate his or her abilities in any field of expertise is an indication that superheroes are a powerful force in the psychological development of members of the society. The greatest impact of superhero films such as Batman is often felt when watched in a darkened movie theater. In such theaters, the viewers’ visual awareness is often minimized and he or she only relates to the screen. This makes it easier for such viewers to move into the world of fantasies and adopt personalities portrayed by Batman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman or Superman. The adopted personalities often provide an inspiration to the viewers that they can achieve goals that are perceived as impossible. Just as the superheroes defy all odds to defeat the enemy is the same way they inspire members of the society to undertake different developmental initiatives despite the impending setbacks.[41]

The presence of superheroes brings with it the essence of illusionary thoughts in propelling human brings into accepting or defying different activities in nature to realize their goals and objectives. Superhumans when perceived from this perspective can be said to be taking over the role previously played by religion. This is largely because superhumans unlike religious deities experience challenges that are familiar and therefore it is relatively comforting to see or perceive them handle these challenges using their superpowers.[42] The familiarity of the experiences of superhumans is largely derived from the ability of the viewers to perceive them as moral dilemmas or physical trials, which are often initiated by an enemy.[43] Spiderman for example must always defeat the Green Goblin using creative strategies. In the process of engaging the villain in some form of conflict, the superhuman also gets to learn more about his or her strength of character and this is considered as an opportunity for growth. The Joker, a villain in Batman, often induces the latter into making complex ethical decisions. By so doing, Batman discovers new attributes concerning himself and the Joker.[44] The viewers draw the popularity of superhuman film and comic books in the contemporary society from the fact that they are comforting, as they undergo experiences that are considerd familiar.

In their human like experiences, the question of what comprises true happiness in comic superheroes becomes known. The capital human desire of being connected to something larger than oneself that can result in fulfillment and in a feeling of true happiness also exists in superheroes. The differences between humans and superheroes in this lies in the fact that while humans still try to figure out how to lead a happy life, superheroes have seemingly figured out some of the features of a happy life.[45] They have recognized the vanity of materialism and gain pleasure from what they do by becoming completely engrossed in their activities. These two aspects are part of what comprise a happy human life.

On the other hand, the villains in the super hero stories seem to enjoy life more as they too enjoy the impacts of their actions. Humans rarely recognize the benefit of being involved whole-heartedly in our activities. Despite the satisfying life of superheroes, they still do not experience life in its fullness, as they never have real connections with people; they never sit down to a good meal, or even savor the pleasure associated with a warm bath. Although they have the same effect on people as religion does, very few superheroes are individually religious. They also neither marry nor have children in most cases.[46]

Although superheroes have been depicted as a potential replacement of religion in the contemporary world, particularly through their provision of an illusion of hope, they can also be said to be culturally and intellectually transcendent of all aspects of the contemporary world. For instance, while comic superheroes such as superman and batman are American creations and subsequently of American origin, almost every community in the whole world has a myth that relates to these superheroes. Of importance is the strength associated with the superheroes in the cultural myths, which can be related to the comical American superheroes.[47] In Greek mythology for instance, the story of Hercules takes center place in the representation of superheroes. Similarly, the strength and constant win associated with Hercules is also characteristic of other superheroes in comic reads. The invention of the modern day American superhero was actually based on the various cultural myths that depict a being that transcends the cultural confines of the society.[48] Secondly, intellectual base cannot be use to delineate the relevance of a comic superhero as they transcend all forms of intellectual divides. As they are commonly associated with children, it is common to find even educated parents drawing lessons from comic strips about parenting, and  referring their children to these comic superheroes in the event of misbehavior.

 Superheroes and Religion

Modern day superheroes not only represent the same concepts as religion but also build on some religious principles. The role of religion in both the medieval periods and the contemporary periods was founded upon its ability to create an illusion of hope. Humans naturally have a desire to manage their existential anxiety. This can only be achieved by finding something greater than oneself that can be able to fill the voids in human life. The aim of this quest is to obtain something of worth that would enable humans to outlive their physical death. For this reason, various cultural superheroes are mythical, able to live beyond their physical death. They are not vulnerable to physical death. Through this depiction of superheroes as capable of transcending death and living beyond the confines of cultural definitions, the living man finds an illusion of hope in the character of the superhero.[49]

Superheroes, such as superman also posses unnatural characteristics, which enable them to carry out activities beyond normal human capabilities. As much as they appear ordinary, their actions indicate an extra ordinary nature. This characteristic of performing marvelous deeds is also associated with major religious figures, such as gods and saints. Humans cannot perform activities, such as flying in real life. However, the view of superheroes flying creates humans’ desire to go beyond their capabilities.[50] The desire and hope that what a superhero can do is achievable, albeit in the cross-temporal domain makes it possible for humans to dream beyond current capabilities. Religion also creates the illusion of hope in humans, the belief that with God in the picture all is possible.

As in religion, superheroes in the contemporary comic reads are represented such that they portray an impending apocalypse that may result in the destruction of the entire world. However, due to their sacrifice of individual pleasure and success for the common good of the society, they are always ready to save their friends and those around them. The superheroes often have a revelation regarding their call to save the planet.[51] Their main role in accordance to the epiphany regarding saving the planet is always to restore the planet to a paradise like state as it was prior to the foreseen problem. This is carried out diligently and against all odds. An example is seen in the comic story of Superman (1978). Superman was able to go back in time in order to rescue the object of his affection, Lois Lane. This ability to travel through time, although not a guarantee on potential immortality, aids in managing the existential anxiety in real life humans.[52]

Superheroes and the Illusion of Hope

All cultural superhero myths are often related on the premise that accomplishing a culturally essential achievement is of permanent value. The hero systems in cultural myths are often used as sources of inspiration and hope for the future. A reminder of the inevitability of death causes people to think more intensely of their contributions to the community well being and to the common good of the society.[53] Superheroes are there as a reminder and a diversionary tactic for the real life humans to engage in doing societal good before their death. The terror associated with the concept of death can be alleviated through the influence of superheroes. However, research has not proved how exactly this works.[54]

One way that superheroes provide hope against the background of death concerns is through their invulnerability to either death or decay. As superheroes, they are always young, energetic, and ready to tackle every issue that comes on their way. Although humans grow old and weary, superheroes must always remain static to physical change in order to maintain their appeal to the audience. Besides this, they also often show immense capability of dealing with mortal dangers that protect them from imminent death.[55] An example of this invulnerability to death and immunity to mortal danger is clearly seen in the act of Superman where no bullets fired at him, however close the opponent might be do not hurt him. This includes a bullet fired to the eye. By connecting to such instance of immunity to death, real people’s fear of death is down played before the crowd. This invulnerability and immunity to death and mortal injury is an important part of superhero stories, and it has been common to allow the superhero in a comic read to fight against a villain with similar powers.[56]

The invulnerability to death is one of the methods that writers previously used to sustain suspense in comic stories. However, given that this part of the superhero stories has become absolute, writers have come up with new ways of upholding reader attention in the case of books or viewer attention where the plays are acted out. Apart from using a villain with powers similar to the superheros, authors now use the strategy of a weakening in the superhero’s armor to hold the reader/ viewer attention. Despite these strategic depictions, the superheroes always outperform their villains, thus ensuring that the audience maintains the feeling of hope against death.

Another way in which superheroes commonly provide an illusion of hope against death is through death transcendence. Since the superheroes are given powers above the natural, it is usual to find them possessing the supernatural powers, such as the ability to use their bare hands in bending steel. Such powers go beyond the natural, and it may be assumed that since they can be able to bend scientific laws, they might be capable of bending natural laws. [57] Secondly, the possibility of flight amongst superheroes may also be important in the management of existential anxiety, as it helps ward off the imaginations about death. Since flight itself is supernatural, it is possible for humans possessing the power of flight to use this capability to escape death. Consequently, the superheroes in the stories give real life humans a fallacious hope of being capable of running away from mortality itself. [58]

Regarding the superheroes’ morality, it is also possible that this is a way in which hope can be built in humans, although it may be just an illusion. Modern day superhero stories are characterized by the fight between good and evil, the superhero always on the side of the good. These fights indicate to humans the longevity of the good versus the short life of the evil since the superhero always outlives the villain. In the fight against evil, the villain is always clearly discernible, a feat that makes these stories slightly different from real life events. For instance, when relating to superheroes in comic stories, it is always clear who is on the wrong side and who is on the right side. However, it may not be similarly clear in real life stories. [59] Sometimes real life humans live double lives and it may be necessary to dig below piles of cover up information to get to the details of the bad people. Through engagement of people’s minds in this fight, the humans watching or reading superhero stories are made to believe that they are part of the fight against evil. They apply their capabilities to this fight with the belief that it is all for a common good.

In their fight against evil, superheroes appeal to children, who are the most ardent fans, as their idol in morality. Children desire to possess the qualities of superman, fight like him, and deal with evil like him. Some have gone as far as requesting to talk to him on their deathbeds. These factors indicate the stature of the superhero in modern day social life. As is the nature of human beings to do evil in their lives, the nobility of the superheroes takes people back to their roots, making them think about their activities, and inculcate in them the desire to do good. This is an offer of hope to humanity, the hope that if every person were to do good, the world would be a better place. The only problem with this is the inability of superhero stories to appeal to all individuals.

The ability to uphold high moral standards is awarded with personal elevation to the status of saints in the religious cycles. As the humans desire to transcend death and live as saints, superheroes provide a blue print for the lives of saints. [60] The only difference is that while most superheroes are constantly engaged in physical and emotional battles, the saints have learnt to understand their own desires and to use them for the good of all people without having to engage in physical fights. Both saints and superheroes are role models of morality and icons of prestige in the lives of real humans, particularly children. They both provide the hope that is desirous of all humans. The roles of the superhero in upholding this is maintained by comic authors and film directors in their depiction of superheroes in books and films.

Besides being immortal and moral, the superhero also plays the role of the savior. He/ she fights for the vulnerable, the oppressed, the weak, and the powerless. [61] The superhero is represented as a helper of the helpless. This is an illusion of hope, particularly to those who consider themselves as helpless or powerless. It is their role in the society to ensure that a certain code of conduct is maintained. They aim towards perfection by being the avengers of the poor, the oppressed, and the helpless. They also have a high social status and do what pertain to their character in ensuring that the moral code of the society is upheld since the maintenance of their high status depends on this. Superheroes occupy the position of the just judge in the event of conflicts within the society, and are always called upon to address the issues requiring such.

In creating the superheroes, the violence should act as a guide to define the potential outcomes of evil rather than being a backdrop against which the morality of the society is measured. On the contrary, the lessons to be learnt in superhero stories are based on their ability to uphold moral justice. In the fight for justice, the superheroes often abandon individual pleasure for the sake of communal good. It is desirable for superheroes to save those in need. To achieve this, it requires dedication, selflessness and the ability to survive with limited resources in spite of knowing that one could do better with much more. The modern day superhero accomplishes this and much more, thus providing a guide to real life humans on how to live a just life, reveling in the duties that people have to perform for the sake of others. This is a source of fulfillment to anyone who may desire to live a life of satisfaction.

In order to constantly maintain their power over mortality and morality, superhero characters have to maintain their appearance across ages. For instance, in considering Batman and Superman, it can be realized that over the years, their characters have remained essentially the same. They change neither costume nor age. A change of costume may result in the creation of a completely different superhero based on the cognitive abilities of the target audience. An increase in age can be related to significant weakening and reduction in agility, a feat that is not favorable for action as a superhero. It is therefore of essence that superhero characters remain static over the years, neither changing in costume or in age. They also never retire from their action. [62] In this respect, superheroes provide a sense of continuity and an illusion of hope. In adults, watching or reading superhero stories rekindle the kind of feelings that are associated with childhood. This signifies a kind of spiritual renewal, an occurrence that can go a long way in developing positive emotions in the event of sorrow or low moods. In children, the engagement with superhero stories makes them negate limits to their possibilities.

Despite the illusion of hope provided by the superhero stories, there has been a decline of the status of the social superhero due to various reasons. As individuals realize the irrelevance of superhero theatrics in the solution of everyday challenges, they tend to have less need to be saved. Therefore, they consider the superhero character unimportant in their lives. [63] In order to address this challenge and maintain the relevance of the superhero stories in the lives of viewers and readers of comic materials, it has been necessary for the authors to modify the characters of the superheroes. The modern day archetypal superhero is more concerned with saving the world and addressing global concerns as opposed to the solution of individual problems. This makes it possible for humans to see the superheroes as an illusion of hope, although in a dimension different from their personal lives. While still seen as a potential savior, the focus is more on the superhero’s ability to save the world from the dangers of global warming and similar events than saving his/ her object of affection from kidnappers.

Secondly, the absolute power possessed by superheroes’ can be intimidating. In the wake of advocacy for individual autonomy, the concept of absolute power can be a hulking dark image over humanity, compared to the initially impressive view of absolute power. [64] Thus, the authors and directors of comic plays have found a way to merge the power of the superhero to a given level of vulnerability that makes the superhero figure more interesting than intimidating. For instance, by depicting superheroes as facing human like challenges, such as the ability to fall in love, weakness in parts of their bodies after long fights, and the engagement of others in their bid to make the world a better place, the illusion of hope is kept alive in real life humans. Instead of seeing all-powerful superheroes in action, people can now identify with the challenges that the superheroes face. In this way, they recognize the fact that although challenges may exist in real life, they can be overcome through determination.

People have developed the potential of enlightened and rational thinking. This makes it impossible for people to consider the figures of superheroes as appealing. Moreover, the actions of the superheroes no longer appear as appealing as they used to be due to the people’s engagement of their own thoughts in making decisions on whether to like the superheroes. [65] However, this is detrimental to the purpose of the comic writings and films. These stories are meant for entertainment, and education of children, yet adults take a center place in sidelining them as rubbish based on their thoughts. It is however clear that they still appeal to the intended audience. The adults only act as impedance to the children’s luxury. While they may be quintessential in the view of adults, children still find superheroes morally uplifting and consider them as role models. All that the creators of the modern day superheroes need to do is to align the characters to the desires of the children who are their major fans.


The contemporary world superhero has taken a center stage in the provision of hope, particularly to children. While adults still engage in constructive religion as a means of gaining the renewal of hope and assuring themselves of the limitations of their existential anxiety, children find superheroes appealing to their needs for role modeling. They consider the superheroes as significant sources of moral guidance. Superhero stories also encourage adults to look beyond their existential quagmires and to engage the body, mind, and soul in their activities. This illusion of hope is however becoming difficult to maintain in individuals, as people feel there is no need to be saved, are intimidated by absolute power, and engage their minds in rational and enlightened thinking instead of just relaxing and being entertained. The superhero story is however there to stay as it transcends religious, cultural, and intellectual confines.


Freud, Sigmund and Katherine Jones. Moses and monotheism. Milton Keynes: Lightning Source

UK Limited, 2013.

Freud, Sigmund. The future of an illusion. London: Penguin, 2008.

Johansson, Juha and Hannula Markku. Third Graders’ Perceptions on Moral Behavior on Bullying if they had the Infinite Powers of Superhero Defenders. Hindawi Publishing Corporation. 2012.

Koole, Sander, Fockenberg Daniel and Tops Mattie. “The Birth and Death of the Superhero Film,” In Daniel Sullivan and Jeff Greenberg (Eds.). Fade to Black: Death in Classic and Contemporary Cinema. 2012.

Rosenberg, Robin S., and Jennifer Canzoneri. The Psychology of Superheroes an Unauthorized

            [1] Freud, Sigmund. The future of an illusion. London: Penguin, 2008, p. 18

[2] Freud, 2008, p. 20

[3] Freud, 2008, p. 24

[4] Freud, 2008, p. 25

[5] Freud, 2008, p. 31

[6] Freud, 2008, p. 35

[7] Freud, 2008, p. 44

[8] Freud, 2008, p. 44

[9] Freud, 2008, p. 69

[10] Freud, 2008, p. 72

[11] Freud, 2008, p. 72

[12] Freud, 2008, p. 78

[13]Freud, Sigmund, and Katherine Jones. Moses and monotheism. Milton Keynes: Lightning Source UK Limited, 2013, p. 56

[14] Freud, 2008, p. 57

[15] Freud, 2013, p. 43.

[16] Freud, 2013, p. 48

[17] Freud, 2013, p. 77

[18] Freud, 2013, p. 79

[19] Freud, 2013, p. 128

[20] Freud, 2013, p. 129

[21] Freud, 2013, p. 123

[22] Freud, 2013, p. 123

[23] Freud, 2013, p. 124

[24] Freud, 2013, p. 7

[25] Freud, 2013, p. 100

[26] Freud, 2013, p. 100

[27] Freud, 2013, p. 100

[28] Freud, 2013, p. 105

[29] Freud, 2013, p. 100

[30] Freud, 2013, p. 100

[31] Freud, 2013, p. 24

[32] Freud, 2013, p. 45

[33] Freud, 2013, p. 124

[34] Rosenberg, Robin S., and Jennifer Canzoneri. The Psychology of Superheroes An Unauthorized Exploration. Dallas, Tex: BenBella Books, 2008,  p. 12

[35] Rosenberg  & Jennifer, 2008, p. 14

[36] Rosenberg  & Jennifer, 2008, p. 35

[37] Rosenberg  & Jennifer, 2008, p. 38

[38] Rosenberg  & Jennifer, 2008, p. 45

[39] Rosenberg  & Jennifer, 2008, p. 57

[40] Rosenberg  & Jennifer, 2008, p. 55

[41] Rosenberg  & Jennifer, 2008, p. 59

[42] Rosenberg  & Jennifer, 2008, p.88

[43] Rosenberg  & Jennifer, 2008, p. 89

[44] Rosenberg  & Jennifer, 2008, p. 89

[45] Rosenberg & Jenipher, 2008, p. 89

[46] Rosenberg & Jenipher, 2008, p. 89

[47] Rosenberg & Jenipher, 2008, p. 90

[48] Koole, Sander, Fockenberg Daniel and Tops Mattie. “The Birth and Death of the Superhero Film,” In Daniel Sullivan and Jeff Greenberg (Eds.). Fade to Black: Death in Classic and Contemporary Cinema, 2012, p. 3.

[49] Koole et al., 2012, p. 7.

[50] Koole et al., 2012, p. 10

[51] Koole et al., 2012, p. 10

[52] Koole et al., 2012, p. 9

[53] Rosenberg & Jenipher, 2008, p. 90

[54] Koole et al., 2012, p. 3

[55] Koole et al., 2012, p. 9

[56] Koole et al., 2012, p. 9

[57] Koole et al., 2012, p. 10

[58] Koole et al., 2012, p. 10

[59] Johansson, Juha and Hannula Markku. Third Graders’ Perceptions on Moral Behavior on Bullying if they had the Infinite Powers of Superhero Defenders. Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2012, p. 2

[60] Koole et al., 2012, p. 11.

[61] Johansson &Hannula, 2012, p. 2

[62] Johansson & Hannula, 2012, p. 2

[63] Koole et al., 2012, p. 13

[64] Koole et al., 2012, p. 13

[65] Koole et al., 2012, p. 13