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Das Wesen des Christentums by Ludwig…
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Das Wesen des Christentums (original 1841; edition 1984)

by Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Löwith (Nachwort)

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507820,055 (3.93)16
Member:Unverdor
Title:Das Wesen des Christentums
Authors:Ludwig Feuerbach
Other authors:Karl Löwith (Nachwort)
Info:Reclam, Philipp, jun. GmbH, Verlag (1984), Sondereinband
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
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The Essence of Christianity by Ludwig Feuerbach (1841)

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http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2332364.html

Writing about a subject I am only vaguely interested in terms which I cannot be bothered to try and understand. ( )
  nwhyte | Aug 24, 2014 |
Another in the surprisingly large group of books, 'things that, although incomprehensible to people who don't understand Hegel, are read with great relish by people who don't understand Hegel because they can be used to re-affirm preexisting prejudices' (see also Marx, Kojeve, all the 'end of history' types, various aesthetic theories, etc etc).
Feuerbach's argument is, roughly, that Christianity is exactly what Hegel said it is, except that 'Geist' is the human species (which is probably what Hegel meant, too). He's far more intelligent and well read than any contemporary atheistical controversialist, and his argument is far better, inasmuch as he doesn't want to destroy religion; he just wants everyone to understand it properly. If we understand it properly, he says, we'll recognize that all the attributes of God (goodness, creativity, intelligence etc) are actually attributes of the human species as a whole, even though individuals quite often lack those attributes. Christianity is the 'highest' religion, since Christ is a really good, backdoor way of admitting that divine attributes are really human: Christ = the human species. In short, for Feuerbach Christianity is pretty much right, provided that you focus on the predicates of religious statements ('God is good,' 'God is love,' etc...) and not their subject. The predicates are 'true,' the subject is imaginary.

That's a great argument. This book, though, is tiresome for a twenty-first century reader: you really only need the opening chapters (and a good knowledge of the Ph. of Geist and Science of Logic) to get the point. Much of the rest is elaboration. The whole second part is a tour de force, in which Ludwig shows how his view of religion can explain various theological controversies: can we prove the existence of God? What is the status of revelation vs reason? What kind of thing is God, if he is a thing? What is the status of philosophical theology? How can we put the Trinity into words? What happens during baptism/eucharist? Why do Christians, who profess the gospel of love, hate so many people? None of this is at all interesting, inasmuch as his explanations are pretty mediocre, and many of the issues are dead.

It does show, though, that he knows something about the religion he's writing about (cf: Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris etc...) Ludwig's also much better at being a person than those writers. He doesn't use his attack on religion to drag humanity down; he doesn't want to say we're just animals or we're just matter or any such thing. He wants to say we're a part of nature, but that that means we have to understand nature much more widely than we usually do. Human activities, social activities, etc., are all 'natural,' on the right definition of nature. On the definition of nature most people operate under, though, they're supernatural: they can't be explained by natural science. This is not, for Ludwig, a reason to declare them non-existent or aberrant. It's a reason to re-examine religion, *and* the limits of empiricist thought. ( )
2 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
One of the more difficult books I've ever read, but filled with great ideas. Basically Feuerbach says that Christianity (love of Christ) should really be about love of man, and this is simply because Christ sacrificed himself becasue of this love for man. Consequently, if we don't love and care for our fellow men, we are letting Jesus' sacrifice go to waste. More basically, he says that our version of God is really the divine virtues in ourselves, so religion is nothing more than self-worship (but not in a bad way). ( )
  blake.rosser | Jul 28, 2013 |
The beginning, middle and end of religion is MAN.

The dictum that one should “believe as a child” is a popular one among Christians of many stripes. Unquestioning belief is often held to be the true sign of piety, while scepticism and uncertainty are rejected out of hand. Yet so much of civilisation is based on rational discourse and philosophical enquiry. To claim that religion is completely ineffable would then seem to be reserving special privileges for one sphere of human existence, perhaps one of the most influential spheres. Is this justifiable? Or is it a sign of pusillanimity, a human fear of exposing the straw-man arguments on which many believers base their faith? Ludwig Feuerbach, a nineteenth-century German philosopher, would argue for the latter. In his fair-minded, densely written book, Feuerbach argues that, in essence, “theology is anthropology” – not in the narrow sense of anthropology as an academic study of human societies, but in a much broader sense: belief is solely a predicate of human existence, and, according to Feuerbach, Christianity is not based on the existence of an actual deity or real miraculous events, but rather based only on human needs and our limited understanding of the world. Obviously, that is a very, very condensed précis of what Feuerbach actually argues for around 300 pages. But it gives the gist of what he contends. Very controversial ideas, admittedly, whether we are talking about the nineteenth or twenty-first century.

The book is a work of philosophy that depends on a great deal of foreknowledge about the field, so it is not an easy read. And even if you have a working knowledge of Western philosophy, you will probably need to have a good amount of patience to get through it: Henry James-like paragraphs await the intrepid explorer of Feuerbach’s book, stuffed with quotations in Latin by the Church Fathers and many quotations from Luther (Feuerbach spares neither Catholicism nor Protestantism in his indictment of religion). The book is divided into two parts, the first concerning what Feuerbach calls “The True or Anthropological Essence of Religion”, in which he adopts a fairly positive tone in teasing out what he believes to be the core of religion. In the second part (“The False or Theological Essence of Religion”), however, Feuerbach pulls no punches in chastising religion for what he believes are its contradictions and inherent problems. Feuerbach can be very forceful here, and I can see why this book has upset people in the past.

An interesting note: the book was originally translated by George Eliot, and this is also the edition I read. I find it intriguing that Eliot would have been interested in this kind of book, as she is, on the whole, hardly a polemical writer. Being a translation, little of her own style really seeps through into the book, but it would be interesting to see how Feuerbach’s ideas penetrate Eliot’s own writing. There are a few grammatical problems with the translation as well, mostly related to the German use of du, which Eliot translates as thou, leading to a sometimes strange, anachronistic tone.

I thought The Essence of Christianity was an excellent philosophical work, but it certainly will not be for everyone. I did not agree with all of Feuerbach’s conclusions, but his humanist polemic certainly made me think. One should not reject this book merely because it might threaten one’s cherished beliefs. In fact, that is probably the best reason to read it. Complacency in one’s beliefs is surely as dangerous as heresy, and much more insidious. As a famous publication puts it, one should take part in “a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.” It would be a shame to toss the book aside for its arguments. Its difficulty is another matter. ( )
8 vote dmsteyn | Jan 14, 2013 |
When Ludwig Feuerbach declared "Anthropology" to be "the secret of Christian Theology," he was not referring to (the not-yet-invented) cultural anthropology, but to a study-of-the-human combining disciplinary features we would now probably class with psychology and philosophy. This equation is the central thesis of his most famous work, The Essence of Christianity.

The body of the book is divided into two parts. The first and longer part focuses on retrieving philosophical truths from the morass of Christian belief, and thus accounting for the empirical success of Christianity. The second part is intent on exposing the falsity and incoherence of Christian teachings, abominating "Christian sophistry," and rejecting the enterprise of speculative theology. I suppose that that sequence was the one most rhetorically appropriate to Feuerbach's own 19th-century audience. He could soften them up with approbations of "the essence of" Christianity (albeit from his unusual perspective) before condemning its visible intellectual superstructure. It might be more useful for many readers today to consider the parts in the reverse sequence: Feuerbach thus points the way to an esoteric understanding of traditional Christianity that opens onto a neo-Christian perspective in which genuine religious sentiment can be divorced from theological obfuscation.

A long appendix to the work is made up of "Explanations--Remarks--Illustrative Citations." These add few if any new ideas, and much of the text is untranslated Latin in my copy of the George Eliot translation. There are some other difficult features of the Eliot translation. She uses "negativing" where we would now say "negating," and "subjectivism/objectivism" where we might have "subjectivity/objectivity." Probably the greatest consequence for today's reader comes from her choice to use "thou" and "thee" to maintain the du (dich, dir) of informal second-person pronouns in German. But, mostly on account of the King James Bible being the contemporary Anglophone's main site of exposure to those archaic pronouns, they are now psychologically charged with authority and formality, rather than intimacy and approachability.

I have found Feuerbach's later writings somewhat more congenial and useful to my own positive philosophy of religion, but I am grateful for his climactic discourse here on the contradiction between faith and love, in which he declares himself a partisan of the latter. And while by "love" he does mean a general goodwill and sense of human care, this sense expressly includes sexual love. Feuerbach anathematizes Christian prescriptions for celibacy, and defends the principle of sexual pleasure, as well as the nobility of the generative process. "All the glory of Nature, all its power, all its wisdom and profundity, concentrates and individualises itself in the distinction of sex. Why then dost thou shrink from naming the nature of God by its true name?" (78)

Another feature of this book that I found valuable is Feuerbach's reflections on the Christian sacraments. "Even the Protestant -- not indeed in words, but in truth -- transforms God into an external thing, since he subjects Him to himself as an object of sensational enjoyment" (199). He emphasizes that the pleasure taken in eating and drinking is declared to be holy by means of the Eucharist, and that the real power of a sacramental bath -- as contrasted with its perverted, imaginary effect in Christian doctrine -- is to unite the baptisand with Nature and the world.

In a footnote to the first part, recognizing that orthodox interpreters will view his readings of traditional Christian ideas as "atrocious, impious, diabolical," Feuerbach declares: "I would rather be a devil in alliance with truth, than an angel in alliance with falsehood" (155). The party of the devils is fortunate to have him.
3 vote paradoxosalpha | Oct 21, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0879755598, Paperback)

In this, one of the most influential works of the post-Hegelian era, Feuerbach captures the synthesis that emerges from the dialectical process of a transcending Godhead and the rational and material world. In understanding the true nature of what it means to be fully human, Feuerbach contends that we come face to face with the essence of Christian theology: human beings investing ordinary concepts with divine meaning and significance. The true danger to humanity occurs when theology is given the force of dogma and doctrine. Losing sight of its anthropological underpinnings and dependence upon or emergence from human nature, it then acquires an existence separate from that of humankind. Feuerbach leaves nothing untouched: miracles, the Trinity, Creation, prayer, resurrection, immortality, faith and much more.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:45 -0400)

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