The modern view of God as an infantile wish projection probably had its birth in March of 1907 when Freud read a paper "Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices." In that paper, Freud claimed on the basis of his work with neurotic patients that the "petty ceremonies of religion" are basically a sort of personality sickness. God is only a symptom of deep inner insecurities. There is no reality in modernity outside the self. Therefore, what we call God is a projection of something within ourselves.
Certainly the human being is an inherently imaging and projecting creature. In order to live in the world we are constantly projecting images on our mental screens. For instance, the toddler has a fixation with a baby blanket. Whenever the child feels insecure, it grabs the blanket and feels better. Why? Surely the blanket is a reminder of the comforting presence of the mother. This feeling of closeness is a projection. But it is not a lie. There really is a parent somewhere. There really is a connection between the child's projection of the parent and the parent. Such a projection is essential to our self-definition. We are busy painting mental pictures of the world in order to live in the world.
We cannot be human without projections. As children we learn to play with toys and games. Later as students we learn to play with ideas and words and images. All of this is our attempt to do business with the world. When I say the world is a 'rat race' that is an image. When I say life is a 'bowl of cherries' that is a projection. Think of our tendency to project images upon our world not as arising out of childish wishes, but from the natural human tendency to think about the world. Maybe the reason Freud's thought is so abusive toward religion is that it sees religion as a major competitor for the question of, "who gets to name the world?"
What if the world I live in is not only my projection, but God's. Think about that. The God of Israel, the God of Abraham and Isaac, Joseph and Mary, is more than a helpful metaphor. This God is reality. It is typical of modern humanity to think that we are the only actors, the only speakers. But what if God is busy acting and speaking to us? What if my images of God are not simply projections out of my own ego needs, but gifts, gifts from a ceaselessly revealing God who is determined to be known? What if God is also busy projecting images upon the screen? What if, when I say God, I am not just throwing my projections and wishes out into the universe, but I am also being bombarded by images of the good shepherd, the waiting parent, the crucified savior, the patient teacher, and the living bread which comes down from heaven? These are images which have been projected on me by the faith. Jesus is the Word, the Word that formed the world, now made flesh and dwelling among us. So God in Christ projects love and revelation toward us. What is the basis of our faith- not what we feel or imagine or try to do, but rather what God reveals.
-Reverend Glover Wagner