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The Validity of Ludwig Feuerbach's Theory of Religion

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/12/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 609 times Debate No: 97953
Debate Rounds (2)
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This debate is over the validity of Ludwig Feuerbach's Theory of Religion given in his work, "The Essence of Christianity." Feuerbach subjects his own theory to questioning in his explanation.

Feuerbach's General Thesis of Religion is as follows:
1. All religion is egoistic - arises out of and focuses on human needs and concerns
2. Originally, religion personified forces of nature. They became Gods - and humans relate to these with both a feeling of fear and love.

Monotheistic religion began when humans became aware of their difference from other parts of nature - when humans began to develop self-consciousness - then self-consciousness embodied the idea of God.

Feuerbach's Thesis on Monotheistic Religion is as follows:
1. The value of religious ideas lies in the truth they can reveal to us - the truth of our own human potential - this is revealed in the idea of God.
- This idea has 3 functions:
a. to express our self-consciousness
b. to clarify our self- consciousness
c. to inspire us to reach our human potential
2. The problem with religion lies in the falsehood it promotes - belief in the existence of God as a real being distinct from humans - causing us to lose touch with our human potential expressed in the idea of God, and causing us to lose motivation to achieve out potential.

Feuerbach then states several "proofs" for his thesis:

First proof:
1. Religion (and the idea of God it gives us) is unique to humans.
2. Therefore, religion must arise from some trait unique to humans.
3. That unique trait is self-consciousness
4. Therefore, religion (and the idea of God it gives us) must arise from human self-consciousness.

Clarification of terms:

A Is a necessary condition of B If B cannot exist or occur without A.
A is a sufficient condition of B if A alone is enough to produce B.

Self- consciousness is a sufficient condition of the awareness of God, but perhaps only succeeds in showing it is a necessary condition.

STOP: I would like to pause for a second here at the end of Feuerbach's first proof to shed light on the falsehood of his points. First, I would like to play devil's advocate and give attention to a somewhat mysterious topic. Religion is defined as the worship of a controlling force greater than or superior to oneself. A dog worships and obeys his master because his master controls his food source and in essence, his life. Would it be correct, by definition, then to say that the dog is religious? Yes, it would, though not in the terms we traditionally like to refer to. So, it is important to understand that the concept of religion - the worship and obedience to a higher power - is NOT restricted to humans alone. Simply, the definition to human thought. Thus, all of the following points are null and void. However, to gain further evidence I will continue.

Secondly, Feuerbach's third point in his first proof supporting his thesis should also be evaluated. Recently, an article by national geographic indicated that animals such as elephants, dolphins, magpies, and some great apes were capable of self-recognition which could indicate a deeper level of self-consciousness. Therefore, this trait has a large possibility of not being unique to human beings. Thus, point 4 is deemed void. The least "humanized" version of the definition of God is "a person or thing of supreme value." So, it might be correct to say that to a dog, a human is God.

There is more to this argument but I would like to allow the Pro/For speaker to have a chance to speak on the first proof before i continue into the second one.

--------------------------------- CITED ---------------------------------------------




4. Handout/Notes on Ludwig Feuerbach's Theory of Religion from a college Philosophy course


Ludwig Feuerbach's theory of religion is extremely valid. Religion is something that was passed on through word of mouth. The religious texts read, they're just written by people who are self acclaimed to be inspired by god. Does this mean I could write a book and say it's inspired by a god and it means that it's not from the human mind but actually written by god? And the contents of the book are from god? Also, if the father isn't a real guy, and is just a spirit, then how is it not created by the human mind? Things either exist physically or mentally, so since god isn't physical, he is mental. He exists in our heads and that can't be argued. Religion is a mindset that helps people have something to follow, something to feel good about. People feel that if they don't follow a religion they're bad people, because nobody has ever praised an atheist for being an atheist! But once someone finds god, they're praised by all of the others who have found god and have decided that religion isn't a mental thing but just exists somewhere. No, religion is nothing but a mindset to help those who are scared of death and the afterlife, find something to believe in and have faith in. People who follow a religion admittedly have no actual proof god exists, they're just hoping.
Debate Round No. 1


I would like to point out first and foremost, that religion has not always been primarily associated with religious texts. Tribal religions existed long before today's modern monotheistic religions. Also, I would like to point out that you gave no means of justifying your argument. Considering that while you don't believe that God is a physical being others may say that God - if taken in human form (Jesus) was real, then he does exist physically. Someone could also argue that it is scientifically supported that human beings have souls or spirits and as such one could recognize the spirit of God as a physical element of life. Setting aside personal opinions of religion, is Ludwig Feuerbach's Theory of Religion valid? The answer is No because of the format and content of his proofs.

Since I have no more to counter your opinion - not really an argument - on Ludwig Feuerbach's Theory of Religion, I will continue on to his second proof:

His second proof is as follows:

The only way we could form a concept of a perfect being would be to reflect on what we admire as the perfect aspects of human existence. (This implies that the reality of God depends on our way of perceiving.

It is important to note that there are several religious objections and a few of them are worth mentioning. It is also important to note Feuerbach's responses to these objections. All of which are as follows:

- Religious Objection to Feuerbach's second proof: There could be more to God than what our idea of God describes. THE reality of God does not depend on our way of understanding.

The more radical form of this argument has been called the "via negativa" (way of negation) this says that the only way to approach the knowledge of God is to deny any assumed characteristics of God.

-Feuerbach's response to the religious objection: To adopt this position undermines the purpose of belief in God, because via negativa results in a God who is meaningless in everyday life.

(Here, I would like to give credit to Feuerbach because this counter argument is valid in all rights.)

- Less radical form of religious objection says there is some truth to our human descriptions of God - it's not necessary to negate the predicates of God but these don't capture the entire reality of God. There may be more to God than we can know.

(Here, I would like to state that this is what the majority of people would claim as a religious objection.)

- Feuerbach's response: If we only know of God in terms drawn from human existence, then we have no grounds for saying God is more than this.

(Here, I would like to say that if the claim that God transcends all human knowledge is true then there are grounds for saying that God has the potential to be more than this. Also, we can only use so much of our brains - how are we to know that these are the only terms of human existence?)

- The last religious objection relies on the faith of the believer.

- Feuerbach's response: Faith does not prove the existence of God - it only tells us what we want to be true - it reveals our nature to us not God's Nature.

That is the end of his second proof and it is where I would like to begin my analysis. Firstly, Feuerbach claims that "Faith only tells us what we want to be true." If that is the case then Feuerbach just debunked his entire theory in one statement. Feuerbach referenced us to human self-consciousness in the beginning of his first proof. Feuerbach's assumption and the implication were that human self-consciousness was an advanced trait that we evolved into. Feuerbach was relying on his own faith in human evolution and denied the possibility that human self-consciousness could have been created within us by the design of God.

Feuerbach had no scientific evidence to back up this implication considering his book entitled "The essence of Christianity" was written in 1841 and Darwins book "The Origin of Species" was published in 1859. Darwin's work was the first major contributor to this THEORY. So, Feuerbach - having no scientific evidence to back up his assumption that human self-consciousness derivative of the human mind and not blessed upon us by a divine power was in and of itself, a faith. Which as Feuerbach says: "does not prove the existence" of an evolutionized human self-consciousness but simply tells us what he "wants to be true."

Between the content of his proofs being false and/or questionable and the format that he follows in supporting his proofs, he negates himself and proves his theory invalid.

Remember this was not a debate on whether what he said was true or not but in the validity of his argument. (Though, I believe that he fails in both categories.)


2. Notes/ Handout on Feuerbach's Theory of Religion via a Philosophy Course on World Religions.


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Debate Round No. 2
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by FreeSpiritedWoman 1 year ago
It is important to understand that this debate isn't over whether or not there is or is not a God that exists outside of our minds. It is over the validity of his argument and the content that he uses to support his argument. These are two completely different topics with completely different material to cover.
Posted by canis 1 year ago
If you could take the atheist out of an atheist..You would have an atheist. If you could take the theist out of a theist..You would have ?
Posted by Jonbonbon 1 year ago
Problems like this though are riddled with years of debate on various subjects because they come with preconceived notion that are based on other preconceived notions.
Posted by Jonbonbon 1 year ago
One thing that's particularly problematic with the theory that doesn't require debating whether or not god exists is that some people may have hallucinated conversations with angels or suffered from delusions of grandeur when establishing their own cult.
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