Ludwig Feuerbach was an atheist

Summary of The essence of Christianity

Revolution and Restoration in the 19th Century

After this Napoleon was finally defeated, the powers of Europe redefined the political order of Europe at the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15. Its aim was the restoration: to restore the conditions as they had existed before the French Revolution; with absolutist monarchies in which kings ruled by the grace of God. But with the French troops, the ideas of the French Revolution had spread in Europe - also in Germany, which at that time was still split up into many small states. Liberal forces called for the country's national unity, greater democratization and religious tolerance. It was above all the newly formed student associations that adopted the revolutionary ideas. But such efforts were rigorously suppressed by the authorities. Attempts were made to nip the revolutionary forces in the bud by means of strict censorship and a ban on fraternities. At the same time, this period was a phase of important scientific discoveries and inventions: people experimented with light and electricity, and great advances were made in biology, chemistry and medicine. For many people, science became a kind of substitute for religion. They assumed that scientific progress could solve all human problems and make people happy. For many, religious ideas no longer fit into this worldview and were considered outdated.


Ludwig Feuerbach wrote The essence of Christianity in the years 1839–1841. In doing so, he benefited from his theological knowledge; after all, he had studied theology for a year before studying philosophy. With his theses, Feuerbach stood in the tradition of the Enlightenment, which had already been critical of religion in the 18th century and propagated the use of the mind. In addition, with his atheistic stance, he sided with the liberals, who advocated more democracy and tolerance during the time of the Restoration. In The essence of Christianity attacked Feuerbach's ideas of his teacher Georg Wilhelm FriedrichHegel where he had studied in Berlin. The factory too Martin Luther was a basis for Feuerbach's work. Luther had already represented a very individualistic image of God: According to him, the existence of God manifests itself in the relationship between the individual and God. From here, Feuerbach dared to leap to a god who only exists in human consciousness. His thesis that man can become happy if he uses his intellect fitted into a time when one wanted to conquer all human misery through progress.

Impact history

The essence of Christianity appeared in Leipzig in 1841 and provoked heated controversy. Its author, a hitherto unknown philosopher and private scholar, was instantly famous. Not only scientists, but also ordinary people read the book and sided with Feuerbach. The state power became suspicious: after all, atheism was connected with the ideas of the revolution and the striving for more democracy, which at that time they tried with all their might to suppress. Feuerbach was quickly targeted by censors, and the second edition could only be launched with great difficulty. However, it was applauded by liberal and revolutionary circles. With his theses, he became the most important thinker of the Vormärz and the Revolution of 1848. At the same time, his criticism of religion was still too pious for many radical atheists of his time, because Feuerbach explained religion as a human phenomenon, but did not reject it completely.

The criticism of religion by Karl Marx goes back largely to Feuerbach. Marx wrote: “Feuerbach is our greatest prophet, there is no other way to truth than through Feuerbach. He is the purgatory of the present. ”Also Richard Wagner was a fan of Feuerbach. He dedicated his writing to him The work of art of the future. Gottfried Keller lost his Christian faith in the encounter with Feuerbach; He later described this development in his novel The green Heinrich with the words: “Now I reached for the works of the living philosopher, who were just about to spread, who only turned these questions around in his classically monotonous but passionate language (...) and like a magical bird in a lonely bush that God sang from the chests of thousands. " Friedrich Nietzsche, the The essence of Christianity Even as a young man read, he rejected Feuerbach's theses because his attitude still seemed too religious to him. With his sober view of the inner life of the human being, Feuerbach is also one of the pioneers of modern psychology; it also influenced thinking Sigmund Freuds. A memorial for Ludwig Feuerbach in Nuremberg could only be erected against considerable resistance from Christian conservative and right-wing extremist circles and over the years it was repeatedly smeared by perpetrators from this environment.