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The Essence of Christianity

  1. Aug 25, 2003 #1
    The Essence of Christianity.

    A fairly good historic - even for today's treatment of the essential characteristics of Christianity - philosophical book about the essential attributes of Christianity, is that of Ludwich Feuerbach -- The Essence of Christianity, published in 1841.

    Some conclusions raised in the book:
    - the substance and the object of religion is alltogether human
    - divine wisdom is human wisdom
    - the secret of theology is anthropology
    - the absolute mind is the so-called finite subjective mind

    Religion is not consciouss that it's elements are human. On the contrary it places itself in opposition to the human, or at least it does not admit that it's elements are human.

    It is especially worth reading for those who want to raise themselves above Christianity, above the stand-point of all religion.

    "Our relation to religion is therefore not a merely negative, but a critical one; we only separate the true from the false; — though we grant that the truth thus separated from falsehood is a new truth, essentially different from the old. Religion is the first form of self-consciousness. Religions are sacred because they are the traditions of the primitive self-consciousness. But that which in religion holds the first place — namely, God — is, as we have shown, in itself and according to truth, the second, for it is only the nature of man regarded objectively; and that which to religion is the second — namely, man — must therefore be constituted and declared the first."
    Ludwich Feuerbach

    http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/feuerbach/works/essence/" [Broken]

    “Then came Feuerbach's Essence of Christianity. With one blow it pulverised the contradiction, in that without circumlocutions it placed materialism on the throne again. ... The spell was broken; the "system" was exploded and cast aside, and the contradiction, shown to exist only in our imagination, was dissolved. One must oneself have experienced the liberating effect of this book to get an idea of it. Enthusiasm was general; we all became at once Feuerbachians...” ENGELS
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 25, 2003 #2
    So you have the history without the mystery. You're right, it doesn't sound very essential to me.
  4. Aug 25, 2003 #3
    re: above

    this reasoning may be appealing but it is not without serious flaws.
    most notably that a strict, consistent application of the Feuerbach doctrine will bring humanity to the most excessive absurdities and the worst atrocities. however, whenever people become terrified by the development (which they regard as exaggeration) and in reaction begin to insist on moderation, though without abandoning the principle (that is, the principle of primary man, subject to no God or rule of God), then, to avoid anarchy, the only course of action open to them, since they shrink back from the consequences of their own convictions, is a shilly-shally, capricious behaviour which has no guide save in the succession and pressure of circumstances.

    in fact the person who seeks to rise above religion (as if to say that religion is subjected to reason) to gaze upon it as an object separated from it, will undoubtedly assume a view distorted by the self-proclaimed deity-status in the religion of humanism that is inherrent in the notion of a God subject to human reason. that person will, contrary to rising above religion, embrace religion fully.
  5. Aug 25, 2003 #4
    Humanism isn't a religion...although they claim that status for tax purposes, I think.
  6. Aug 25, 2003 #5

    regardless of whether the state sanctions a bonefiable 'humanism', it is still true that humanism is a religion. it bears the mark of religion, the rapidity of religion in making existential claims, and also the weight of religion in the moral sphere.

    perhaps what is in order here, Feuerbach et al., is to precisely define what exactly a religion is before promulgating nonsensical theories describing what it does or how one can circumnavigate it in order to attain a higher level of objective 'zen'.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2003
  7. Aug 25, 2003 #6
    Basically, I think what they are saying is that the supernatural is nonsense, and it is a waste of time to worship things that don't exist...

    Then again, it could just be me saying that!
  8. Aug 25, 2003 #7
    we have come back to the beginning then.

    please refer to my first post in this thread regarding the logical consequences of scorning the supernatural.
  9. Aug 25, 2003 #8
    I think if there is FREEDOM OF RELIGION
    then any belife system or none at all is a religion or there is NO FREEDOM OF RELIGION

    all that should be necessary to be a religion is for anyone to belive something is a religion

    in one of the thrown out books of the new "T" JC is quoted saying that there allways has been a WAY TO GODS GRACE he is just the teacher not the inventor of it

    but the ORIGINAL teaching of JC and those of church are two VERY DIFFERENT THINGS with very little in common NOW
  10. Aug 26, 2003 #9
    Re: re: above

    Have you any back up for this sort of argument?

    And moreover, are you aware of the history of the rulership based on religion, and what forms of misery that has brought to man?
  11. Aug 26, 2003 #10
    re: all of the above

    "Have you any back up for this sort of argument?"

    if one even only applies Feuerbach's fourth conclusion (that the absolute mind is the so-called finite subjective mind) with the full measure of one's power, then the inevitability of atrocious consequence is assured. allow me to explain.

    an absolute mind is a mind which bears absolute authority in all things concerned with the mind. it therefore yields itself to no power greater then itself (since such powers are presumed not to exist). Feuerbach's doctrine that this is also a finite subjective mind brings disaster on two fronts:
    1. absolute authority, when resting in the grip of subjectivity, has as its offspring absolute erroneousness, insofar as the subjective nature of that mind is finite viz a viz its inability to correctly interpret a vast reality.
    2. unaccountability is causative of all misery in all of recorded human history. it is through mankind's neglect of itself and the laws it is subject to that terror has been wrought on this world through war, strife and famine. this is a strictly empirical claim although it greatly impacts the abstract claims made by Feuerbach.

    so we have that profound illusion and human misery follow from consistent application of the afore-mentioned doctrine. since no rational mind can accept this or conciously bring it to practice, the followers of Feuerbach and his ilk adamantly refuse to apply the very doctrine they follow. instead we are presented with a hodge-podge of juste-mileau policies which further exacerbate the misery of human affairs and reflect more truly the circumstance than the solution.


    "And moreover, are you aware of the history of the rulership based on religion, and what forms of misery that has brought to man?"

    on the notion that rulership based on religion has brought misery to man i have little to say. it would be an incalculable evil to ignore
    the horrors of the inquisition, the mongol hordes or the crusades. likewise though, it would be a grave mistake to overlook the great leninist and stalinist purges and the mass murder perpetrated by the nazi regime, all of whom strictly applied their atheism to their rule. perhaps more accurate rhetoric on the part of heusdens would be:

    "And moreover, are you aware of the history of the rulership of man, and what forms of misery man has brought to man?"
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2003
  12. Aug 28, 2003 #11


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    But by the criteria with which you judged humanism, the leninist and nazi governments were religious in every sense of the word - they made weighty statements in terms of absolute existence, and inserted their own moral systems. Indeed, in much of the cases they simply replaced a transcendent god with a cult of the leader. Nazism itself strove to generate a "German religion" based on diefication of the Fuhrer, and worship of traditional spirits/the Aryan race. Though atheist, they showed the excesses of abolute faith and fanaticism.

    The statement made was religion, not a particular god.
  13. Aug 28, 2003 #12
    beautfully put FZ+. i couldn't agree with you more. and thus, when hseudens makes grand claims of transcending religion he only needs to look back some 60 years to see how well he is fooling himself.

    besides, the implication is that religion has brought misery to no one. nay, the sole purveyor of misery is mankind itself.
  14. Aug 28, 2003 #13


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    Well.... yes/no/maybe.

    I think what heusdens is drawing out is not the effect of religion as in God, but religion as in absolute convictions/zealotry. To which the opposite is not really atheism, but scepticism or pragmaticism. In this way, we can consider democracies in general to be a step against acheiving a "non-religious" society. Whether or not the majority of the people believe in God or any other philosophy is irrelevant, but the way in which that belief is held.
  15. Aug 29, 2003 #14
    it is somewhat mind-numbing to repeat oneself ad infitum but it has become necessitated by the stubborn refusal to fully understand what it is that has already been written. regarding this 'atheism' or 'non-religious' society of which FZ+ speaks so highly there is this to say
    (once again):

    "so we have that profound illusion and human misery follow from consistent application of the afore-mentioned doctrine. since no rational mind can accept this or conciously bring it to practice, the followers of Feuerbach and his ilk adamantly refuse to apply the very doctrine they follow. instead we are presented with a hodge-podge of juste-mileau policies which further exacerbate the misery of human affairs and reflect more truly the circumstance than the solution." (emphasis added)

    the previously mentioned 'non-religion' is exactly the juste-mileau policy which further exacerbates the misery of human affairs.
  16. Aug 29, 2003 #15


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    dschou: I have a suspicion that you failed to understand what I meant. Maybe it's my use of non-religious that is confusing.

    In the context of how I am using it - in describing societies - it has absolutely nothing to do with your initial post. It is not at all about whether the society follows Christianity, Buddhism or whatever. I am not making a distinction on the basis of God.

    The distinction I am making is on the basis of absolute beliefs. In terms of a belief taken such that it must be enforced on others and cannot be wrong. A non-religious society is one that does not accept this. This is not an irrational idea, but an idea that is clearly rational as it has naturally come about, in the democracies of the world which accept the idea of free speech. No reasonable sort of argument can conclude that the US bill of rights has exacberated human misery.


    The mistake you have made is that the declaration that what is considered the absolute mind is so called the subjective mind does not work the other way - it does not convey subjective thoughts into absolute thought but denies the existence of the latter. On this basis, there is in a "non-religious" society no such thing as absolute authority, and such a state is the definition of non-religious I have made.

    The problem of the religious societies is that they elevate subjective thought, say of a "Leader" into absolute thought without declaring it as such, and hence result in absolute error as you have surmised. The basis of the non-religious society, such as an ideal democracy is to aim at this, by breaking up the absolute authority. And by confers all authority, no longer absolute to each individual, it gives root to accountability at all levels, by everyone.

    The specific objective of a non-religious society is to avoid the problems you mentioned. Understand?
  17. Aug 29, 2003 #16


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    Please clarify. I've never heard of a religion which requires beliefs to be forced on anyone. I've heard of people who call themselves "religious" trying to do that but not religion. In fact its not very Christian to force someone to be a Christian. Christianity has a goal of having people become Christians. But it's not Christian for force them to do so. That's not what God wants in my humble opinion. In the end it comes down to actions. I can't know what someone believes. Nobody can. All that can be known of a person is what that person decides to share. In the past people might pretend that they believe something in order not to be burned at the stake. But that's different.

    However, if all of a sudden everyone in the United States became devout aetheists then there'd be hardly any changes, if any, in our laws. If you decide to murder someone then it's still a belief that murder is wrong and that society must do something in such cases.

    re - "No reasonable sort of argument can conclude that the US bill of rights has exacberated human misery." - The same can be said of Christianity. But one has to distinguish Christianity from Christians. The former is completely devine - that later can be totally obnoxious at times. It's not that well known to people who don't have friends or relatives in AA but religion is a large part of AA and AA has been the key to saving untold millions of lives from both total misery and death.
  18. Aug 29, 2003 #17
    I would disagree, in that Christianity itself is responsible for lots of human suffering. It isn't the doctrine that is to blame, it is the overlying mindset that a single group is privy to ultimate truth, and that there is no room for doubt or dissent.
  19. Aug 29, 2003 #18


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    Exactly pmb... I am not talking about Christianity etc at all. Really what I am talking about is tolerance, and acceptance that the other side can be right and we can be wrong. The crusades etc can be seen in this context as a failure of such tolerance.

    I'm sorry if I didn't make it clear, but whether a society is "religions" in it's nature or not does not matter whether it is composed of atheists, or christians or whatever.

    From my interpretation, heusdens's extract says less about specific christianity, as it does about the idea of absolute truth and absolute conviction.
  20. Aug 29, 2003 #19
    I see it the same way...any society that adopts an absolutist worldview is inherently dangerous.
  21. Aug 29, 2003 #20


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    Zero: Not really. It isn't such that Christianity is inherently bad, but that an absolute conviction in christianity is. To put christianity as bad, you must show that christianity requires fanaticism and zealotry by definition.
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