Atheism – the critique and denial of the major claims of all varieties of theism, which banners the belief that “all the heavens and the earth and all that they contain owe their existence and continuance in existence to the wisdom and will of a supreme, self-consistent, omnipotent, omniscient, righteous, and benevolent being who is distinct from, and independent of, what he has created. ”
- Philosophical atheists reject the assumption of the existence of disembodied spirits, or that incorporeal entities of any sort can exercise a causal agency
- Atheists generally manifest a marked empirical temper, and often take as their ideal the intellectual methods employed in the contemporaneous empirical sciences.
- Atheistic thinkers have generally accepted a utilitarian basis for judging moral issues, and they have exhibited a libertarian attitude toward human needs and impulses.
The conceptions of the human good they have advocated are conceptions which are commensurate with the actual capacities of mortal men, so that it is the satisfaction of the complex needs of the human creature which is the final standard for evaluating the validity of moral ideal or moral prescription.
Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872) Raised in a solidly Christian family Went to Heidelberg University to study theology but gave it up later for philosophy. Wrote Das Wesen Christentums published in 1841 “God is a Projection of the Human Mind”. Feuerbach was influenced by Georg W. F. Hegel who criticized the Judeo-Christian religion as a backward religion as it treats man and the world as divorced from God yet places primacy over the latter. Man in consequence becomes forgetful of his concrete life on earth to be realized through his natural human efforts.
Man rather becomes witnesses and martyrs of the world beyond instead of heroes of action in this world. * Feuerbach saw during his time that man was no longer moved by the Christian ideal for supernatural greatness. What were rampant were widespread illusion, indecision and immorality, “we are living in a perfume of an empty vase”. He then sought to explain religion psychologically and anthropologically in order to dismantle its illusions that haunt man. He wrote The Essence of Christianity where he claims that God is a myth embodying the highest of human aspirations.
The alienation of man. Man is torn between conflicting facts of existence. E. g. man has weaknesses yet still strives for fullness, man desires a better life yet his life is limited and threatened by death. In his desire to stabilize the noble qualities he finds in his nature, man objectifies, idolizes and absolutizes them outside his own changeable being into an absolute other that is unchangeable. This being he calls God.
God is the objectification of human nature. Man endows God with all the noble qualities and virtues (wisdom, will, justice) as exclusive ornaments of another, infinitely more perfect being than himself. At the same time man denies these qualities as his own. Hence man is depreciated and impoverished of his own essence/nature. Man dies so that God may be born.
Feuerbach regarded religion as the childlike condition of humanity. Atheism on the other hand is an act of maturity. It is the reclamation of man’s faith to his own greatness and humanity. God is nothing else but man’s own essence taken outside of his being. The divinity of God is due in fact to the qualities man has predicated to him. Humanism in turn is a divinization of man in the sense that man finally realizes the divine dimensions of his own being upon the knowledge of his greatness and humanity, “what is atheism today will be religion tomorrow”. Human reality or consciousness on the other hand is always to be aware of what one is not and consequently what he can become as long as he is consciousness. Hence man cannot arrive at a final, fixed and total identity.
Man is what he makes of himself; he is absolutely responsible for what he becomes. Existence precedes essence – man doesn’t have a pre-established essence but creates his own essence. The very being of man is freedom because consciousness is a perpetual creation of his essence through choices.
Choice and action are one. Man however is “condemned to be free” because man did not choose to exist but he is free to make choices. Man as a pour soi is a free being only if it involved in a resisting world, in his given situations (facticity). Nonetheless the pour soi is not determined or conditioned by them because their meanings are derived from itself, “this facticity is facticity for me by virtue of my consciousness.
Atheism and Man’s Abandonment There’s no God otherwise essence will precede existence and the pour soi will not be what it is – consciousness for then God has made for it an essence already. God’s existence is irreconcilable to the experience of man as consciousness who exists as a continuous self-creation. To be God is to be an en soi and pour soi at the same time. This is explained already by Sartre as an impossibility. If there’s no God there would be no moral values which form bases for human actions. In the same way as man starts with no fixed and given nature so there are no objective values to conform one’s actions with.