Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach (1804)
On this date, July 28, 1804, the German philosopher Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach was born in Landshut in Bavaria. As a young student of Hegel at Heidelberg, Feuerbach wrote to a friend, “Theology I can bring myself to study no more. I long to take nature to my heart, that nature before whose depth the faint-hearted theologian shrinks back; and with nature man, man in his entire quality.”
At Berlin University he was a professor of Hegelian philosophy, but lost his position after publishing his 1830 book, Thoughts on Death and Immortality, in which he followed Hegel in rejecting the idea of personal immortality. Undaunted, he went freelance and followed up his first book on philosophy and religion with The Essence of Christianity in 1841. This book, said anthropologist and ethnographer Robert H. Lowie, “won him a place amongst the foremost advanced thinkers of the day.” It also helped promote Rationalist ideas in Germany.
Feuerbach rejected all religion in his 1845 book, The Essence of Religion. It was his writings that converted Karl Marx to Atheism and Materialism. Other thinkers influenced by Feuerbach’s Atheism included Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and (curiously) twentieth century theologians Karl Barth, Martin Buber, Paul Tillich, and Karl Rahner. It was Feuerbach who said,
Man first unconsciously and involuntarily creates God in his own image, and after this God (Religion) consciously and voluntarily creates man in his own image. … Whenever morality is based on theology, whenever right is made dependent on divine authority, the most immoral, unjust, infamous things can be justified and established. (Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, 1841)
To the end he maintained that “God has not created man, but man created God. It is clear as the sun and evident as the day that there is no God and that there can be none.” Feuerbach died on 13 September 1872 at age 68.
Originally published July 2003 by Ronald Bruce Meyer.