Blog: Escape from Freedom - 2010-10-27
I'm reading an interesting book, Escape from Freedom by Erich Fromm. I love the title. He wrote the book in 1941, after the rise of Hitler, exploring why people give up their freedom to follow a totalitarian fascist like Hitler. I'm reading it because I'm interested in why people will give up their freedom to follow an authoritarian religion like Scientology, ironically in the name of attaining freedom.
In the book, Fromm traces the historic roots of our modern concepts of freedom. In the Middle Ages, he notes, there was not a lot of freedom. People were separated into castes and classes, and if one was born into a certain class, one stayed there. If your father was a farmer, likely you would be a farmer. Nobles were nobles, serfs were serfs. And as far as the broader questions of life, death and salvation, that was the province of the Church. God was in Heaven and if you were good and confessed your sins and went to Church, you would expect to go to Heaven.
With the Reformation, the rise of the middle class, the appearance of modern capitalism, the Industrial Revolution, everything changed. Man gained a lot of freedoms. He could rise from poverty and become rich. He could travel. He could change his profession. He could even change his religion. But with these modern freedoms came insecurity, aloneness and doubt. Fromm says: