An Atheistic Philosophy

By Brother John Raymond

Ludwig Feuerbach develops his philosophical atheism from a negative reaction to Hegel. He sees man's nature as a social being to be grounded on sensible reality as opposed to Hegel's 'pure thought'. He calls Hegelian Philosophy 'the last prop of theology'.1 He does use Hegel’s concept of self-alienation, the return of the absolute Spirit to itself from a self-alienation in Nature, in his philosophy. He substitutes man for the Absolute Spirit. He sees this substitution as a transformation of theology into anthropology. Thus, religion becomes a philosophical anthropology. We shall look at two aspects of this philosophy, First, how man's dependence on Nature leads to a projected God of man’s self-consciousness. Secondly, how he views Christianity as the apex of religions.

In his work The Essence of Religion Feuerbach considers historical religion. Man begins by venerating the forces of Nature because he is conscious of his dependence on the outside world. The concept of personal gods or a God arises from self-projection. In polytheism man deifies the qualities which differentiate one man from an other. We see anthropomorphic deities each with a unique personal characteristic. In monotheism man projects his concept of man as

essentially a social being into a unified transcendent God. The evolution from polytheism to monotheism takes place when man realizes he can manipulate Nature for his own purposes. He then sees Nature as that which exists for him. This implies an intelligent Creator with a purpose. This Creator is nothing more than a projection of man's own essence into an infinite personal Deity. This Creator becomes the expression of man’s alienation from himself. This objective God ‘is the absolute positive, the essence of all realities, while man is the negative, the essence of nothingness'.2 This alienation in religion must be overcome. It is just a stage in man's development of self-awareness until he realizes this objective essence is really his very own essence. Thus, we start with a dependence on Nature and progress to religion. In religion we progress from polytheism to monotheism. Finally, we progress from God to the essence of self.

Feuerbach sees Christianity as the apex of religion. The Trinity is a projection of the power of love in the essence of man as a social being. The Incarnation unites the word God with the word Man to make a God-Man. He sees this God-Man as achieving the link between humanity and its projection God. We must develop this insight a bit further by reversing humanity as an attribute of God to see God as an attribute of man. This reversal overcomes the

self-alienation in religion. Man realizes God is really his own idealized essence projected into a transcendent image. This allows man to recover faith in himself regarding his power and future. 'Love is the universal law of intelligence and nature—it is nothing else but the realization of the unity of the species on the plane of feeling'.3 We see by this statement the only positive aspect of love in Feuerbach’s philosophy even though he had to destroy Christianity to arrive at it. Thus, Christianity becomes nothing more than a means to an end for man's self-awareness.

In conclusion, Feuerbach sees man as evolving in his self-awareness from dependence on Nature to the idea of God as a projection of man's self-consciousness. Christianity is seen as the apex of religion because it links the humanity to the Divinity. We must further evolve to realize the divinity of humanity. Then we will see God as nothing more than a projection of our essence. We do find one positive aspect to this philosophy. He does recognize love as a universal law for humanity. Maybe if he practices this love in his philosophy, he will come to the awareness of the source of love—God.

  1. Frederick Copleston, Fichte to Nietzsche (Vol. VII of A History of Philosophy, ed. Edmund Sutcliffe, 7 vols.; Maryland: The Newman Press, 1965), p. 298.
  2. Ibid., p. 297
  3. Ibid., p.298

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