Ludwig Feuerbach


Ludwig Feuerbach 1804-1872

Feuerbach spent many years of his life studying both Theology and Philosophy. Unlike many other theologians (including Thomas Aquinas) his studies led him to believe that there was no “God” guiding the Journey of Life. His reasons for coming to this conclusion can be summed up:

“What people are in need of they make into GOD”

“What people wish to be they make into GOD”

These sentences will need careful examination.


All human beings want to be happy, said Feuerbach. The problem is that we all find it difficult to be happy on the “journey of life”. We fear that no-one is in control and that there may be no destination beyond the grave!

Many of us will be familiar with Edvard Munch’s “Scream” but his other paintings also shed light on the fears the Feuerbach believes drives human beings:

"Anxiety" Edvard Munch 1894

So terrible is the thought that there is no God said Feuerbach, that our IMAGINATION steps in and creates one for us. The God that we all so desperately needin order to be happy, we simply invent ourselves and imagine to be real. “What people are in need of they make into GOD”.

According to Feuerbach, human imgaination doesn’t simply imagine any sort of God. It is has a vested interest in creatign a God with a personality that can be trusted to bring us to the end of our journey alive and well.

Firstly: We imagine this Go to be perfectly intelligent. This God can be trusted to control and guide our journey on this world in the best possible way.

Secondly: We imagine this God to be perfectly good. This God can be trusted not to make our journey unnecessarily bad or painful.

Finally:We imagine this God to be perfectly loving. This God can be trusted to care for us and to bring us to the end of our journey in one piece.

God is, according to Feuerbach:

A projection, into heaven, of our own human intelligence, goodness and love with all the imperfections filtered out.

A glamourised picture of our own human personality as we would ideally like it to be.

God is no more than a projection of ourselves, said Feuerbach. When believers worship God, they are simply bowing down and worshipping an ideal picture of themselves. “What people wish to be they make into GOD”.

Look at the inkblots below:

  • Write down the thing(s) you imagine you can see in the shapes.
  • Compare your results to the people in your group. If they are different, why do you think that this might be the case?

What do you see?

Think about the statements below and explain in your own words what they mean:

“What people are in need of they make into GOD”

“What people wish to be they make into GOD”

Has Feuerbach proved anything?

Look at this boy. He has come to the conclusion that he will only be really happy if he can meet and marry a particular sort of girl. What he does then is to imagine that sort of girl exists somewhere in the world.

It doesn’t follow, of course, that this girl actually exists just because he IMAGINES that she does. He may spend his life with the imaginary picture and never actually meet such a person.

These people say that this is also true of GOD. In other words, it doesn’t follow that GOD actually exists just because you IMAGINE that God does. Neither does it follow that GOD doesn’t exist just because you IMAGINED it to be so. Imagination, they point out, neither proves nor disproves the existence of GOD.

It can be argued that Feuerbach has no more disproved the existence of God than St Thomas Aquinas has proved the existence of God!

In your own words, explain what is meant by: “imagination neither proves nor disproves the existence of God.”

Try to think of times when you imagined that something was “real” and this was in fact true!

Karl Marx, the founder of Communism borrowed many of Feuerbach’s ideas and famously said: “Religion is the opium (strong delusional drug) of the masses (that is, everybody).”

  • What do you think Marx means by this?

It could also be argued that:

Atheism (the belief that there is no god) is a projection of people’s imaginations.”

or that:

“Atheism is the opium of the intellectuals (the thinkers).”

  • Do you agree with these statements? Give reasons for your answers.

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