Ludwig Feuerbach was a 19th century philosopher who started as a theologian and soon became an atheist. He was of the opinion that religion and God diminished the greatness of man. Religion and God alienate man and impoverish him by transferring to them the qualities that man should possess. Love, truth, justice, and other such qualities are transferred by man to God. God is love, God is truth, etc are statements we hear frequently. But it should be the other way around, says Feuerbach. Love is a human virtue. So is truth. So are compassion and other virtues we transfer to our gods.
If we bring these qualities back from gods and religions to human beings, we will have a better world. Haven’t we been, throughout history, adjusting our gods to our own needs, longings and purposes? Asks Feuerbach. Haven’t we been reducing our gods to the demands of our banal everyday reality? Haven’t we fought enough battles and wars in the name of our gods – gods who are supposed to be love and truth and compassion and what not?
Have we not talked about God and meant by this our own interests? Haven’t we been seeking our own wishes in the name of divine purposes?
God is merely a projection of our personal wishes and selfish interests. He is the sum total of the qualities we should possess but actually care not to cultivate.
Feuerbach gave up God and religion in his honest pursuit of meaning in life. He could not relegate the responsibility for his actions to any other being. He even gave up his job as a professor and lived a simple and highly disciplined life. He was such an exemplary human being that a Catholic priest, Ildephonsus Muller, praised him as a “man of character who is in the habit of expressing his personal conviction freely and frankly.” The priest wished, “Being what you are, if only you were one of us.” The priest knew that the atheist Feuerbach was more ‘religious’ than most religious people!