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Feuerbach And Atheism. Essay

1269 words - 5 pages


Philosophy of Religion



Human existence has with increasing insistence since the eighteenth century taken the place which preceding ages had reserved for God - atheism is this displacing of the divine by the human. The central place of God in theism is replaced by the centrality of the human in atheism. The key question for atheism is not the existence of god, but that of the human. Philosophical atheism is the attempt to understand the existence of the human being in a world without God. In this sense atheism is and remains hypothetical: assuming the non-existence of God how can we understand human existence. Atheism's task then is two-fold, explanatory and therapeutic: it must explain why if God does not exist, human beings may act as if he does and then help us to live in a world where that mode of acting has been shown to be rooted in illusion. If, though, as Feuerbach suggests God is not alone a human invention but a projection of humanity's best qualities, then the human cannot be understood except by reference to the divine. In that case what Feuerbach calls anthropology is really only de-reified theology and human nature itself is left unquestioned. Nietzsche's genealogy of morals responds to this problem with a genealogy of the human in which the overcoming of Christianity is synonymous with the overcoming humanity.The displacement of God is being followed (in postmodernity) by the displacement of the human. While atheism has refigured the question of divinity, it has not eliminated it. Just as accounts of the divine implies certain understandings of the human, so too the question of the human implicates a concern with the divine.

"Theology becomes Anthropology" (Feuerbach)

Atheism' is not one thing. It does, however, centre around a particular notion of God, that namely of the Greek (metaphysical) conceptualisation of the God of Judeo-Christianity. The very nature of the claim that God makes is one which allows, indeed provokes, denial, rejection, betrayal. There is idolatry only with reference to this God, only this divine distance makes the proximity of the divine in sacred things a denial of God. The claim of the one God is a claim which sets the world to naught, or at least cancels all differentiations in the world in favour of one fundamental difference between God and the human. The early Christian critics of `pagan' religions interpreted the polytheistic divinities in terms of human projections - projections of needs and desires, albeit inspired and played upon by evil demons. Belief in the gods in fact was a belief in human projections inspired by the demons, who mirrored evil human desires in themselves.

Feuerbach follows Kant and the German Idealists generally in understanding the human in terms of its capacity to project. Feuerbach employs his genetic-critical method to reverse this movement in order to understand those mechanisms which lead to the...

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