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The Essence of Christianity (Dover Philosophical Classics) Paperback – 29 Aug 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications Inc. (29 Aug. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486454215
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486454214
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.5 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 125,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

From the Back Cover

In The Essence of Christianity-this is the classic 1853 translation of the 1841 German original-Feuerbach discusses the "true or anthropological" root of religion, exploring how everything from the nature of God to the mysteries of mysticism and prayer can be viewed through such a prism. He goes on to examine the "false" essences of religion, including contradictions in ideas of the existence of a deity, and then how God and religion are merely expressions of human emotion. This is essential background reading for understanding everything from Marx's Communist Manifesto to modern apolitical philosophies of atheism.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach (July 28, 1804 September 13, 1872) was a German philosopher and anthropologist. Mary Ann Evans (22 November 1819 22 December 1880; alternatively "Mary Anne" or "Marian"), known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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Format: Paperback
I read this book in search of the philosophical roots of Max Stirner, author of The Ego and Its Own. For this purpose, the book is excellent; you can see where Max Stirner came from on a number of issues that had hitherto seemed a bit cloudy to me - both in what Stirner reacts to and what he has drawn on.
The book is, however, a very compelling read in its own right as well. Feuerbach takes us through literally the whole catalogue of Christian belief, and shows us how each item of belief is explained at least as well - or perhaps even better - as an anthropomorphism rather than as a supernatural manifestation. It must be said, though, that each single one of his arguments on their own do not lead to such a conviction. Just like you are not convinced that the dice are loaded by getting 6 once or twice, you will not be convinced if anthropomorphism fits the bill of Christianity in a few single instances. However - analogously with the dice - when you strike 6 nearly every time, you will be convinced that the dice are loaded.
If I have a criticism of Feuerbach, it is that after he has revealed the Essence of Christianity as being the worship of Man, he keeps the essence and only discards the accidental properties of Christianity, i.e. the supernaturalism. This was also what Max Stirner called him on. But my disagreement does not mean a disparagement of the value of the book. So I recommend it as a read.
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Format: Paperback
Feuerbach's "Essence of Christianity" is a mid-19th century study on religious doctrine and belief, and represents an important contribution to the critical understanding of Christianity. It was written in 1841 (and this is the 1853 English translation). The author adopts a logical approach influenced by Hegel, and through a dialectic method advances the theory of humanism - seeking to understand the material world by rational means. Feuerbach contends that the divine is, in reality, an expression of the human - the contemplative outcome of what 'being human' means when freed from the limits of the individual person, and becomes something revered. From this, Feuerbach's critique postulates the conclusion: 'Man made God in his own image, and then became dependent upon his own creation.'

Feuerbach advances from materialist premises - holding only that which objectively exists (independent of thought) as real. And he endeavours to liberate human understanding by freeing it of the perversions of religion. Feuerbach considers Christian notions - of 'God' - as crippling humankind, inasmuch as they invoke that which is 'beyond' human - which, for Feuerbach, is anti-human (as they debase and degrade what it means to be human). He takes the Christian texts - i.e. the Bible - and views them as a body of work which ought to be subjected to critique. And by way of this critique, he concludes that religion is the dream of the human mind. The 'essence' of Christianity is that it conceives what is human as divine; it exchanges man and his nature for God. Only through dialectic critique are we able to revert this inversion; and ultimately arrive at the negation of religion.

This is a well-written, thoughtful and imaginative book.
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Format: Paperback
I wrote an extensive review of this book but it never showed up here! In short, I think that Feuerbach provides the most compelling refutation of God and Christianity - one that drifts away from more traditional criticisms (think: cosmological, ontological, teleological etc.), and instead focuses on the anthropological aspects of religion. He reaches a conclusion that is so plainly clear to me - that man created God and religion in man's own image - with striking convinction (if you can get your head around his ambiguous writing style). In my eyes, this book destroys the metaphysical claims made by Christianity, and as a whole, it should be recognised as a HUGELY important contribution to the study of religion.
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