The Essence of Religion is a classic Freethought book from years ago. Please bear in mind when reading it that it is a product of its time. It is a lengthy work and I have broken it up into several parts for my editing convenience - copyediting scans of old texts is more time consuming than you might think - and your reading convenience which will be added over the next several days.
These breaks are not part of the original work, but I've attempted to choose logical sections. Feuerbach is claimed by both agnostics and atheists.
Your thoughts on this Meditation are welcome. Please sign in to the discussion forum below, or alternatively, use the contact page to provide your comments for publication. Ludwig Feuerbach was the fourth of the five sons of the celebrated German criminality Anselm von Feuerbach, born July 28th , at Landshut in Bavaria. The vicissitudes of his simple life do not present any sensational features, and neither his position in life, nor his inclination tended to bring him prominently before the public.
His life was eminently a life of thought, and his writings are his real biography.
What Feuerbach was at any time of his life, he was with his whole soul. In his youth, as a pupil of the Gymnasium at Anspach, he was a pious Christian -- pious with all the energy of his character.
In the fervor of his piety, he devoted himself from free choice to the study of theology at the University of Heidelberg, but without finding there any satisfactory nourishment for the restless cravings of his aspiring mind. I want to press Nature to my heart, from whose depth the cowardly theologian shrinks back; I want to embrace man, but man in his entirety. But the death of King Nax the First of Bavaria, whose liberal patronage had enabled Anselm von Feuerbach to give to each of his five talented sons a liberal education, frustrated this intention, and prevented Ludwig Feuerbach from continuing his studies.
Afterwards Feuerbach transferred his residence from Bruckberg to Rechenberg near Nuremberg, where he lived exclusively to his family and a small circle of intimate friends.
Solely devoted as he had been to the service of science, he had not hoarded up any riches and in consequence suffered toward the evening of his life from severe and annoying deprivations. A due sense of gratitude on the part of his contemporaries in Europe and America, secured the success of a national subscription, intended to relieve him and his family from want and cares for the rest of his life.
My aim has been to prove that the powers before which man crouches are creatures of his own limited, ignorant, uncultured, and timorous mind, to prove that in special the being whom man sets over against himself as a separate supernatural existence is his own being.
The purpose of my writing is to make men anthro pologians instead of theo logians; man-lovers instead of God-lovers ; students of this world instead of candidates of the next; self-reliant citizens of the earth instead of subservient and wily ministers of a celestial and terrestrial monarchy.
My object is therefore anything but negative, destructive, it is positive : I deny in order to affirm. I deny the illusions of theology and religion that I may affirm the substantial being of man.
The feeling of dependence in man is the source of religion; but the object of this dependence, viz. Nature is the first original object of religion, as is sufficiently proved by the history of all religions and nations.
The assertion that religion is innate with and natural to man, is false, if religion is identified with Theism; but it is perfectly true, if religion is considered to be nothing but that feeling of dependence by which man is more or less conscious that he does not and cannot exist without another being, different from himself, and that his existence does not originate in himself.
Religion, thus understood, is as essential to man as light to the eye, as air to the lungs, as food to the stomach.
But above all man is a being who does not exist without light, without air, without water, without earth, without food, -- he is, in short, a being dependent on Nature. This dependence in the animal, and in man as far as he moves within the sphere:of the brute, is only an unconscious and unreflected one; but by its elevation into consciousness and imagination, by its consideration and profession, it becomes religion. Thus all life depends on the change of seasons; but man alone celebrates this change by dramatic representations and festival acts.
But such festivals, which imply and represent nothing but the change of the seasons, or of the phases of the moon, are the oldest, the first, and the real confessions of human religion. Man, as well as any individual nation or tribe considered in its particularity, does not depend on nature or earth in general, but on a particular locality -- not on water generally, but on some particular water, stream or fountain.
For this very reason those ancient nations which were so firmly attached to their native soil, and not yet attained to the conception of their true nature as members of mankind, but which clung to their individuality and particularity as nations and tribes, were fully justified in worshiping the mountains, trees, animals, rivers and fountains of their respective countries as divine beings; for their whole individuality and existence were exclusively based upon the particularity of their country and its nature -- just as he who recognizes the universe as his home, and himself as a part of it, transfers the universal character of his being into his conception of God.
Of course man has become what he is not through himself alone ; he needed for this the assistance of other beings. But these were no supernatural creatures of imagination, but real, natural beings -- no beings standing above but below himself, for in general every thing that aids man in his conscious and voluntary actions, commonly and pre-eminently called human, every good gift and talent, does not come from above, but from below; not from on high, but from the very depths of Nature.
Such assistant beings, such tutelary genii of man, are especially the animals. Only through them man raised himself above them; only by their protection and assistance, the seed of human perfection could grow. If he did not protect the world, thieves and wolves would rob all property. The animals were necessary and indispensable to man ; on them his human existence depended -- but on what his life and existence depends, that is his God.
The Essence of Religion
If the Christian no longer adores Nature as God, it is only because in his belief his existence does not depend on Nature, but on the will of a being different from Nature ; but still he considers and adores this being as a divine, i. Thus the worship of God depends only on the self-adoration of man, and is nothing but the manifestation of the latter; for suppose I should despise myself and my life -- and man originally and normally does not make any distinction between himself and his life-how should I praise and worship that upon which such pitiful and contemptible life depends?
The value which I consciously attribute to the source of life reflects therefore only the value which I unconsciously attribute to life and myself.
The higher therefore the value of life, the higher also the value and dignity of those who give life, viz. How could the Gods possibly be resplendent in gold and silver, unless man knew the value and the use of gold and silver? What a difference between the fullness and love of life among the Greeks, and the desolation and contempt of life among the Indians -- but at the same time what a difference between the Greek and Indian mythology, between the Olympian father of the Gods and of man and the huge Indian opossum or the rattlesnake -- the ancestor of the Indians!
The Christian enjoys life just as much as the Heathen, but he sends his thankofferings for the enjoyments of life upward to the father in Heaven: he accuses the Heathen of idolatry for the very reason that they confine their adoration to the creature and do not rise to the first cause as the only true cause of all benefits. But do I owe my existence to Adam, the first man? Do I revere him as my parent? Why shall I not stop at the creature? Am I myself net a creature?
Is not the very nearest cause which is equally defined and individual with myself, the last cause for me, who myself am not from afar, as I myself am a defined and individual being? Does not my individuality, inseparable and undistinguishable as it is from myself and my existence, depend on the individuality of my parents?
Do I not, if I go further back, at last lose all traces of my existence? Is there not a necessary limit to my thus going back in search of the first cause?
Is not the beginning of my existence absolutely individual? Am I begotten and conceived in the same year, in the same hour, with the same disposition, in short under the same internal and external conditions as my brother?
Is not therefore my origin just as individually my own as my life without contradiction is my own life? Shall I therefore extend my filial love and veneration back to Adam?
Ludwig feuerbach religionskritik pdf to jpg
No, I am fully entitled to stop with my religious reverence at those things which are nearest to me, viz. The uninterrupted series of the finite causes or objects, so-called, which was defined by the Atheists of old as an infinite and by the Theists as a finite one, exists only in the thoughts and the imagination of man, like time, in which one moment follows another without interruption or distinction.
In reality the tedious monotony of this causal series is interrupted and destroyed by the difference and individuality of the objects, which individuality causes each by itself to appear new, independent, single, final and absolute. Certainly water, which in the conception of natural religion is a divine being, is on the one hand a compound, depending on hydrogen and oxygen, but at the same time it is something new, to be compared to itself only, and original, wherein the qualities of its two constituent elements, as such, have disappeared and are destroyed.
Certainly the dog, whom the Persian addresses in his prayers as a beneficial and therefore divine being on account of his watchfulness, his readiness to oblige and his faithfulness, is a creature of Nature, which is not what he is through himself; but still it is only the dog himself, this particular and no other being, which possesses those qualities that call for my veneration. Shall I now in recognition of these qualities look up to the first and general cause, and turn my back on the dog But the general cause is without distinction just as much the cause of the friendly dog as of the hostile wolf, whose existence I am obliged to destroy, in spite of the general cause, if I will sustain the better right of my own existence.
The Divine Being which is revealed in Nature, is nothing but Nature herself, revealing and representing herself with irresistible power as a Divine Being. The ancient Mexicans adored among their many Gods also a God or rather a Goddess of the salt. This God of the salt may reveal to us in a striking exemplification the God of Nature in general.
The salt rock-salt represents in its economical, medicinal and other effects, the usefulness and beneficence of Nature, so highly praised by the Theists ; in its effect on the eye, in its colors, its brilliancy and transparency, her beauty ; in its crystalline structure and form, her harmony and regularity ; in its composition of antagonistic elements, the combination of the opposite elements of Nature into one whole -- a combination which by the Theists was always considered as an unobjectionable proof for the existence of a ruler of Nature, different from her, because in their ignorance of Nature they did not know that antagonistic elements and things are most apt to attract one another and combine into a new whole.
But what now is the God of the salt? That God whose domain, existence, manifestation, effects and qualities are contained in the salt? Nothing but the salt itself which appears to man on account of its qualities and effects as a divine, i. Homer expressively calls the salt divine. And indeed Nature, viewed in the light of such a belief, is really possessed by a spirit, but this spirit is the spirit of man, his imagination, his soul, which transfers itself involuntarily into Nature and makes her a symbol and mirror of his being.
Nature is not only the first and original object but also the lasting source, the continuous, although hidden background of religion.
The belief that God, even when he is imagined as a supernatural being, different from Nature, is an object existing outside of man, an objective being, as the philosophers call it ; this belief has its only source in the fact, that the objective being, which really exists outside of man, viz.
The existence of nature is not, as Theism imagines, based upon the existence of God but vice versa, the existence of God, or rather the belief in his existence, is only based upon the existence of Nature. You are obliged to imagine God as an existing being, only because you are obliged by Nature herself to pre-suppose the existence of Nature as the cause and condition of your existence and consciousness, and the very first idea connected with the thought of God is nothing but the very idea that he is the existence preceding your own and presupposed to it.
Those qualities which imply and express the difference between the divine being and the human being or at least the human individual, are originally and implicitly only qualities of Nature.
God is the most powerful or rather the almighty being, i.
Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go unto thee and say, here we are? Hast thou given the horse strength?
Does the hawk fly by thy wisdom; Hast thou an arm like God, or canst thou thunder with a voice like Him? The power of Nature. God is an eternal being. God is an all-embracing, universal and unchangeable being ; but it is also one and the same sun which shines ,for all men and beings on the earth; it is one and the same sky which embraces them all; one and the same earth which bears them all.
Who can enclose the light, the sky, the sea, within human limits? The ancient Persians and Germans worshipped only Nature, but they had no temples. The worshipper of Nature finds the artificial, well-measured halls of a temple or of a church too narrow, too sultry ; he feels at his ease only under the lofty, boundless sky which appears to the contemplation of his senses.
God is that being which cannot be defined with human measure, a great, immeasurable, infinite being; but he is such a being only because his work, the universe, is great, immeasurable and infinite, or at least appears to be so.
The work praises its master: the magnificence of the creator has its origin only in the magnificence of his product. God is a superterrestrial, superhuman, supreme being, but even this supreme being is in its origin and basis nothing but the highest being in space, optically considered: the sky with its brilliant phenomena.
All religions of some imagination transfer their Gods into the region of the clouds, into the ether of the sun, moon and stars: all Gods are lost at last in the blue vapor of heaven. Even the spiritual God of Christianity has his seat, his basis above in heaven.
God is a mysterious, inconceivable being, but only because Nature is to man, especially to religious man, a mysterious inconceivable being. Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth?
Hast thou seen the treasures of the hail? Finally, God is that being which is independent of the human will, unmoved by human wants and passions, always equal to himself, ruling according to unchangeable laws, establishing his institutions unchangeable for all time. But this being again is nothing but Nature, which remains the same in all changes, never exhibiting the vacillations of an arbitrary, willful ruler, but subject in all her manifestations to unalterable laws: inexorable, regardless Nature.
Translated by Alexander Loos, A.