A Promising Godlessness: Recovering the Religious Atheism of Ludwig Feuerbach

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0002-8209-3372
Fisher, Jeremy, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Jones, Paul, University of Virginia

In this project, I argue that the contemporary debate between religious believers and non-believers (exemplified by the New Atheists and some of their Christian interlocutors) regarding the role of religion in the public sphere has reached an intellectual and moral impasse. Relying heavily, if not exclusively, on reductionist logic and binary thinking, adversaries dismiss each other’s claims as either baseless or self-contradictory, effectively putting an end to the rational exchange of ideas. By engaging in close textual analysis of Ludwig Feuerbach’s seminal work, The Essence of Christianity, however, I look to move beyond this apparent stalemate by examining the religious imaginary (here, Christianity) not as a mere irrational construction in direct contrast with the irreligious and thus seemingly rational imaginary of post-Enlightenment secularism, but rather as an “imagined” and “mystified” account of humanity’s developing self-consciousness itself. By detailing Feuerbach’s anthropological account of religion, I show that Christianity’s metaphysical claims and immaterial images need not be rejected, only translated into the language of materiality and sensuality. As the following discussion will show, for Feuerbach, the penultimate moment of Christian theology (i.e. the Incarnation) demonstrates nothing more than the very expression of identity in the nature of God and humanity. And therefore, as humanity comes to find its highest being, its God, in itself, it also comes to find that it is only on account of what is Godless in Christianity that holds true promise for its continuation.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Ludwig Feuerbach, New Atheism, Religious Atheism
Issued Date: