Essence of Christianity: Introduction

§2 The Essence of Religion
in General

What we have so far maintained concerning the general relationship between man and his object, and between man and sensuous objects, is particularly true of man’s relationship to the religious object.

In view of its relation to the objects of the senses, the consciousness of the object can be distinguished from self-consciousness; but, in the case of the religious object, consciousness and self-consciousness directly coincide. A sensuous object exists apart from man, but the religious object exists within him – it is itself an inner, intimate object, indeed, the closest object, and hence an object which forsakes him as little as his self-consciousness or conscience. “God,” says. Augustine, for example, “is nearer, more closely related to us and therefore more easily known by us than sensuous and physical things.” [7] Strictly speaking, the object of the, senses is in itself indifferent, having no relevance to our disposition and judgment. But the object of religion is a distinguished object – the most excellent, the first, the highest being. It essentially presupposes a critical judgment – the discrimination between the divine and the non-divine, between that which is worthy of adoration and that which is not. [8] it is in this context, therefore, that the following statement is unconditionally true: The object of man is nothing else than his objective being itself. As man thinks, as is his understanding of things, so is his God; so much worth as a man has, so much and no more has his God. The consciousness of God is the self-consciousness of man; the knowledge of God is the self-knowledge of man. Man’s notion of himself is his notion of God, just as his notion of God is his notion of himself – the two are identical. What is God to man, that is man’s own spirit, man’s own soul; what is man’s spirit, soul, and heart – that is his God. God is the manifestation of man’s inner nature, his expressed self; religion is the solemn unveiling of man’s hidden treasures, the avowal of his innermost thoughts, the open confession of the secrets of his love.

But if religion, i.e., the consciousness of God, is characterised as the self-consciousness of man, this does not mean that the religious man is directly aware that his consciousness of God is his self-consciousness, for it is precisely the absence of such an awareness that is responsible for the peculiar nature of religion. Hence, in order to eliminate this misunderstanding, it would be better to say that religion is the first, but indirect, self-consciousness of man. That is why religion precedes philosophy everywhere, in the history of mankind as well as in the history of the individual. Man transposes his essential being outside himself before he finds it within himself. His own being becomes the object of his thought first as another being. Religion is the essential being of man in his infancy; but the child sees his essential being, namely, man outside himself, as a child; a man is object to himself as another man. Hence, the historical development occurring within religions takes the following course: What an earlier religion regarded as objective, is now recognised as subjective; i.e., what was regarded and worshiped as God, is now recognised as something human. From the standpoint of a later religion, the earlier religion turns out to be idolatry: Man is seen to have worshiped his own essence. Man has objectified himself, but he has not yet recognised the object as his own essential being – a step taken by later religion. Every progress in religion means therefore, a deepening of man’s knowledge of himself. But every religion, while designating older religions as idolatrous, looks upon itself as exempted from their fate. It does so necessarily, for otherwise it would no longer be religion; it sees only in other religions what is the fault – if a fault it can be called – of religion as such. Because its object, its content, is a different one, because it has superseded the content of earlier religions, it presumes to be exalted above the necessary and eternal laws that constitute the essence of religion; it gives itself to the illusion that its object, its content, is superhuman. However, the hidden nature of religion, which remains opaque to religion itself, is transparent to the thinker who makes it the object of his thought. And our task consists precisely in showing that the antithesis of the divine and human is illusory; that is, that it is nothing other than the antithesis between the essential being of man and his individual being, and that consequently the object and the content of the Christian religion are altogether human.

Religion, at least the Christian religion, is the expression of how man relates to himself, or more correctly, to his essential being; but he relates to his essential being as to another being. The Divine Being is nothing other than the being of man himself, or rather, the being of man abstracted from the limits of the individual man or the real, corporeal man, and objectified, i.e., contemplated and worshiped as another being, as a being distinguished from his own. All determinations of the Divine Being are, therefore, determinations of the being of man. [9]

In relation to the predicates – attributes or determinations – of God, this is admitted without hesitation, but by no means admitted in relation to the subject of these predicates, in relation to the being in which they are grounded. The negation of the subject is taken to mean the negation of religion, atheism, but not the negation of the predicates. That which has no determinations, also has no effect upon me; that which has no effect upon me, also does not exist for me. To eliminate all determinations of a being is the same as to eliminate that being itself. A being without determinations is a being that cannot be an object of thought; it is a nonentity. Where man removes all determinations from God, God is reduced to a negative being, to a being that is not a being. To a truly religious man, however, God is not a being without determinations, because he is a definite, real being to him. Hence, the view that God is without determinations, that he cannot be known, is a product of the modern era, of modern unbelief.

Just as reason can be, and is, determined as finite only where man regards sensual enjoyment, religious feeling, aesthetic contemplation, or moral sentiment as the absolute, the true, so the view as to the unknowability or indeterminateness of God can be fixed as a dogma only where this object commands no interest for cognition, where reality alone claims the interest of man or where the real alone has for him the significance of being an essential, absolute, divine object, but where at the same time this purely worldly tendency is contradicted by a still-existing remnant of old religiosity. By positing God as unknowable, man excuses himself to what is still left of his religious conscience for his oblivion of God, his surrender to the world. He negates God in practice – his mind and his senses have been absorbed by the world – but he does not negate him in theory. He does not attack his existence; he leaves it intact. But this existence neither affects nor incommodes him, for it is only a negative existence, an existence without existence; it is an existence that contradicts itself – a being that, in view of its effects, is indistinguishable from non-being. The negation of determinate, positive predicates of the Divine Being is nothing else than the negation of religion, but one which still has an appearance of religion, so that it is not recognised as a negation – it is nothing but a subtle, sly atheism. The alleged religious horror of limiting God by determinate predicates is only the irreligious wish to forget all about God, to banish him from the mind. He who is afraid to be finite is afraid to exist. All real existence, that is, all existence that really is existence, is qualitative, determinate existence. He who seriously, truly believes in the existence of God is not disturbed even by grossly sensuous qualities attributed to God. He who regards the fact of his existence as an insult, he who recoils from that which is gross, may just as well give up existing. A God to whom his determinateness is an insult lacks the courage and strength to exist. Determinateness is the fire, the oxygen, the salt of existence. An existence in general, an existence without qualities, is an insipid and preposterous existence. But there is nothing more, and nothing less, in God than what religion puts in him. Only when man loses his taste for religion, that is, when religion itself becomes insipid, does God become an insipid existence.

Moreover, there is yet a milder way of denying the divine predicates than the direct one just described. One admits that the predicates of the Divine Being are finite and, more particularly, human determinations, but one rejects the idea of rejecting them. One even defends them on the ground that they are necessary for man; that being man, he cannot conceive God in any way other than human. One argues that although these determinations have no meaning in relation to God, the fact is that God, i f he is to exist for man, can appear to man in no other way than he does, namely, as a being with human attributes. However, this distinction between what God is in himself and what he is for man destroys the peace of religion as well as being an unfeasible and unfounded distinction. It is not at all possible for me to know whether God as he is in and for himself is something different from what he is for me. The manner in which he exists for me is also the totality of his existence for me. The determinations in terms of which he exists for me contain also the “in-itself-ness” of his being, his essential nature itself; he exists for me in a way in which he can exist for me alone. The religious man is completely satisfied with how he sees God in relation to himself – and he knows nothing of any other relation – for God is to him what he can be to man at all. In the distinction made above, man transgresses the boundaries of himself, his being and its absolute measure, but this transcending is only an illusion. For I can make the distinction between the object as it is in itself and the object as it is for me only where an object can really appear different from what it actually appears to me. I cannot make such a distinction where the object appears to me as it does according to my absolute measure; that is, as it must appear to me. It is true that my conception can be subjective; that is, one which is not bound by the essential constitution of my species. However, if my conception corresponds to the measure of my species, the distinction between what something is in itself and what it is for me ceases; for in that case this conception is itself an absolute one. The measure of the species is the absolute measure, law, and criterion of man. Yet religion has the conviction that its conceptions and determinations of God are such as every man ought to have if he is to have true conceptions, that these are conceptions necessitated by human nature, that they are indeed objective, conforming to the nature of God. To every religion, the gods of other religions are only conceptions of God; but its own conception of God is itself its God – God as it conceives him to be, God genuinely and truly so, God as he is in himself. Religion is satisfied only with a complete and total God – it will not have merely an appearance of God, it can be ,satisfied with nothing less than God himself, God in person. Religion abandons itself if it abandons God in his essential being; it is no longer true if it renounces its possession of the true God. Scepticism is the archenemy of religion. But the distinction between object and concept, between God as he is in himself and as he is for me, is a sceptical, that is, irreligious distinction.

That which is subsumed by man under the concept of “being-in-itself,” that which he regards as the most supreme being or as the being of which he can conceive none higher, that is the Divine Being. How can he therefore still ask, what this being is in itself? If God were an object to the bird, he would be an object to it only as a winged being – the bird knows nothing higher, nothing more blissful than the state of being winged. How ludicrous would it be if this bird commented: “God appears to me as a bird, but 1 do not know what he is in himself.” The highest being to the bird is the “bird-being.” Take from it its conception of “bird-being,” and you take from it its conception of the highest being. How, therefore, could the bird ask whether God in himself were winged? To ask whether God is in himself what he is for me, is to ask whether God is God; it is to raise oneself above God and to rebel against him.

Given, therefore, the situation in which man is seized by the awareness that religious predicates are mere anthropomorphisms, his faith has also come under the sway of doubt and unbelief. And if this awareness does not lead him to the formal negation of the predicates and thence to the negation of the being in which they are grounded, it is only due to an inconsistency for which his faint-heartedness and irresolute intellect are responsible. If you doubt the objective truth of the predicates, you must also doubt the objective truth of the subject to which they belong. If your predicates are anthropomorphisms, their subject, too, is an anthropomorphism. If love, goodness, and personality are human determinations, the being which constitutes their source and, according to you, their presupposition is also an anthropomorphism; so is the existence of God; so is the belief that there is a God – in short, all presuppositions that are purely human. What tells you that the belief in a God at all is not an indication of the limitedness of man’s mode of conception? Higher beings – and you assume that such beings exist – are perhaps so blissful in themselves, so at unity with themselves that they are not exposed to a tension between themselves and a higher being. To know God and not to be God, to know blissfulness and not to enjoy it, is to be in conflict with oneself, is to be delivered up to unhappiness. [10]

You believe in love as a divine attribute because you yourself love, and believe that God is a wise and benevolent being because you know nothing better in yourself than wisdom and benevolence. You believe that God exists, that therefore he is a subject or an essence – whatever exists is also an essence, whether it is defined as a substance, a person, or in any other way – because you yourself exist, are yourself an essence. You know no higher human good than to love, to be wise and good. Equally, you know no other happiness than to exist, to be a being, for your consciousness of good and happiness derives itself from your consciousness of being and existing yourself. God to you exists, is a being for the same reason that he is to you a wise, blissful, and benevolent being. The distinction between the divine attributes and the divine essence is only this. To you the essence, the existence does not appear as an anthropomorphism, because the fact of your own being brings with it the necessity of conceiving the existence of God, whereas the attributes appear to you as anthropomorphisms, because their necessity – the necessity that God is wise, good, just, etc. – is not an immediate necessity identical with the being of man, but is mediated by his self-consciousness, by the activity of his thought. 1 may be wise or unwise, good or bad, but I am a being – I exist. Man’s existence is to him the first datum, the sustaining ground of his conceptions, the presupposition of all his predicates. Hence, man is prepared to concede that the predicates of God are anthropomorphic, but not the existence of God; to him it is a settled, inviolable, absolutely certain, and objective truth. And yet, this distinction is only an apparent one. The necessity of the subject lies only in the necessity of the predicate. Your being is the being of man; the certainty and reality of your existence lie in the certainty and reality of your human attributes. What the subject is – its being – lies only in the predicate; the predicate is the truth of the subject; the subject is only the personified, existing predicate. The distinction between subject and object corresponds to the distinction between existence and essence. The negation of the predicate is therefore the negation of the subject. What remains of the being of man if you take away its attributes? Even in the language of ordinary life one speaks of the divine not in terms of its essence, but in terms of its attributes – providence, wisdom, omnipotence.

The certainty of the existence of God, which has been held by man to be more certain than even his own existence, depends therefore on the certainty of the attributes of God – it does not have the character of immediate certainty. To the Christian, only the existence of a Christian God is a certainty, just as to the pagan only that of a pagan god is certain. The pagan did not doubt the existence of Jupiter, because Jupiter as a divine being was not repulsive to him., He could not conceive of a god with any other attributes, because these attributes were to him a certainty, a divine truth. The truth of the predicate alone ensures the existence of the subject.

That which man conceives to be true is also that which he immediately conceives to be real because, originally, only the real is true to him – true in opposition to that which is merely conceived, dreamed, or imagined. The concept of being, of existence, is the original concept of truth. In other words, man originally makes truth dependent on existence, but only later existence dependent on truth. Now God is the essence of man, regarded by him as the highest truth. But God, or religion – both are the same – varies according to the determination in terms of which man comprehends his essence, in terms of which he regards it as the highest being. This determination, which is decisive for man’s idea of God, is to him the truth and, precisely for that reason, also the highest existence, or existence itself. For, strictly speaking, only the highest existence is existence, and deserves this name. Therefore, God is a really existing being for the same reason that he is this particular being. The attribute or determination of God is nothing else than the essential attribute of man himself, and the thus – determined man is what he is, has his existence, his reality, in his determinateness. You cannot take away from a Greek the quality of being a Greek without taking away his existence. Hence, it is of course true that for a particular religion – that is, relatively – the certainty of the existence of God is immediate; for just as arbitrarily or necessarily the Greek was Greek, so necessarily were his gods Greek beings, so necessarily were they really existing beings. In view of its understanding of the world and man, religion is identical with the essence of man. However, it is not man who stands above the conceptions essential to his being; rather, it is these conceptions that stand above him. They animate, determine, and govern him. This goes to show that the necessity to prove, and the possibility to doubt, how and whether existence is related to being or quality is abolished. That which I sever from my being can only be doubtful. How could 1 therefore doubt God who is my essence? To doubt God would be to doubt myself. Only when God is conceived abstractly, when his predicates are arrived at through philosophical abstraction, does the distinction or separation arise between subject and predicate, existence and essence – only then does the illusion arise that the existence or the subject is something different from the predicate, something immediate, indubitable, or distinct from the predicate which is subject to doubt. But this is only an illusion. A God whose predicates are abstract also has an abstract existence. Existence, being, is as varied as the qualities predicated of it.

The identity of subject and predicate is borne out clearly by the course taken by religion in its development, a course which is identical with that taken by human culture. As long as man is a mere natural being, his God is a mere natural deity. Mere man lives in houses, he encloses his gods in temples. A temple expresses the value which man attaches to beautiful buildings. Temples in honour of religion are in truth temples in honour of architecture. With man’s progress to culture from a state of primitive savagery, with the distinction between what is proper and what is improper for man, there also arises the distinction between what is proper and what is improper for God. God expresses man’s notion of majesty, highest dignity, religious sentiment, and highest feeling of propriety. Only at a later stage did the culturally more advanced artists of Greece embody in their statues of gods the concepts of dignity, spiritual grandeur, rest without movement, and serenity. But why did they regard these qualities as divine attributes? Because they held these attributes in themselves to be divine. Why did they exclude all repulsive and low emotions? Because they regarded these emotions as something improper, undignified, unhuman, and, consequently, ungodlike. The Homeric gods eat and drink – this means that eating and drinking are divine pleasures. Physical strength is a quality of the Homeric gods – Zeus is the strongest of all gods. Why? Because physical strength in itself was something glorious and divine to the Greeks. The highest virtue to ancient Germans was the virtue of the warrior; that is why their highest god was the god of war – Odin; that is why war to them was “the primeval or the oldest law.” The first, true divine being is not the quality of divinity, but the divinity or the deity of quality. In other words, that which theology and philosophy have so far regarded as God, as the absolute and essential, is not God; but that which they did not regard as God, is precisely God – quality, determination, and reality par excellence. A true atheist, that is, an atheist in the ordinary sense, is therefore he alone to whom the predicates of the Divine Being – for example, love, wisdom, and justice – are nothing, not he to whom only the subject of these predicates is nothing. And the negation of the subject is by no means also necessarily the negation of the, predicates as they are in themselves. The predicates have a reality of their own, have an independent significance; the force of what they contain compels man to recognise them. They prove their truth to man directly through themselves. They are their own proof and evidence. Goodness, justice, and wisdom do not become chimeras if the existence of God is a chimera, nor do they become truths simply because the existence of God is a truth. The concept of God depends on the concept of justice, kindness, and wisdom – a God who is not kind, not just, and not wise is no God. But these concepts do not depend on the concept of God. That a quality is possessed by God does not make it divine; God possesses it, because it is in itself divine, because without it God would be a defective being. Justice, wisdom, and, in fact, every determination which constitutes the divinity of God, is determined and known through itself; but God is known and determined by the predicates. Only in the case where 1 think that God and justice are identical, that God is immediately the reality of the idea of justice or of any other quality, do I think of God as self-determined. But if God, the subject, is that which is determined, and the quality or the predicate is that which determines him, then the predicate, and not the subject, in truth deserves the primacy of being, the status of divinity.

Only when it happens that a number of contradictory qualities are combined into one being, which is then conceived in the form of a person, that is, when personality is particularly emphasised, does one forget the origin of religion, does one forget that that which reflective thought looks upon as the predicate distinguishable or separable from the subject was originally the true subject. Thus, the Greeks and the Romans deified the accidents as substances; virtues, mental states, and emotions, were as independent beings. Man, particularly the religious man, is the measure of all things, of all reality. Whatever impresses man, whatever makes a particular impression on his mind – and it may be merely some strange, inexplicable sound or note – he hypostatises into a particular deity. Religion encompasses all the objects of the world; think of anything existing, and you will find that it has been the object of religious veneration. Nothing is to be found in the essence and consciousness of religion that is not there in the being of man, that is not there in his consciousness of himself and the world. Religion has no particular content of its own. Even the emotions of fear and dread had their temples in Rome. The Christians, too, hypostatised their mental states into beings and qualities of things, their dominant emotions into powers dominating the world. In short, they hypostatised the qualities of their being – whether known or unknown to them – into self-subsisting beings. Devils, goblins, witches, ghosts, angels, etc., continued to be sacred truths as long as the religious disposition held its uninterrupted sway over mankind.

In order not to acknowledge the identity of the divine and human predicates, and hence of the divine and human essence, one takes recourse to the idea that God, as an infinite being, has an infinite plenitude of various predicates, of which we know only some in this world, and indeed, those that are similar or analogous to our own; but the others, by virtue of which God is a totally different being from the being of man or from anything similar to it, we shall only know in the future – in the world hereafter. However, an infinite plenitude or multitude of predicates which are truly different – and so different that the knowledge of the one does not immediately posit and lead to the knowledge of the other – realises its truth only in an infinite plenitude or multitude of different beings or individuals. Thus, the being of man is infinitely rich in different kinds of predicates, but precisely for that reason it is infinitely rich in different kinds of individuals. Each new man is, so to say, a new predicate, a new talent added to mankind. Mankind possesses as many qualities, as many powers, as the number of its members. Although the individual partakes of the same power that is inherent in all men, it is so constituted in him that it appears to be a new and unique power. The secret of the inexhaustible plenitude of the divine determinations is, therefore, nothing else than the secret of the being of man which is infinitely diverse, infinitely determinable, and – precisely for these reasons – sensuous. Only in sensuousness, only in space and time, does an infinite being – a being that is really infinite and plentiful in predicates – exist. Where there are truly different predicates, there are truly different times. One man is an excellent musician, an excellent writer, and an excellent physician; but he cannot make music, write, and cure at one and the same time. Time, and not the Hegelian dialectic, is the power by means of which antitheses and contradictions are united in one and the same being. However, the infinite plurality of different predicates must remain an unreal conception if it is seen in conjunction with the concept of God, but in disjunction with the being of man. Thus, it must remain a fantasy – a conception of sensuousness, lacking the essence and truth of sensuousness. Thus, it must remain a conception that stands in direct contradiction with the Divine Being as an intellectual – that is, abstract, simple, and unique being – for the predicates of God are of such a nature that possessing one implies possessing all the others, because there is no real difference between them. If, therefore, the present predicates do not involve the future ones, the present God does not involve the future God, then the future God does not involve the present – they are two different beings.[11] But this distinction contradicts the unity, uniqueness, and simplicity of God. Why is a certain predicate a predicate of God? Because it is of divine nature, that is, because it expresses no limitation, no defect. Why are other predicates so? Because, however different they may be among themselves, they concur in this: They equally express perfection and unlimitedness. Hence, I can imagine innumerable predicates of God, because they must all concur in the abstract concept of the Godhead, because they must have in common that which makes every single predicate into a divine attribute or predicate. This is the case with Spinoza. He speaks of an infinite plurality of the attributes of the divine substance, but he does not name any besides thought and extension, Why? Because it is a matter of complete indifference to know them; because they are, indeed, in themselves indifferent and superfluous; because despite these innumerable predicates, I would still be saying the same as with the two predicates of thought and extension. Why is thought an attribute of substance? Because according to Spinoza, it is comprehended through itself, because it is something that cannot be divided, that is, perfect and infinite. Why extension or matter? Because they express the same thing in relation to themselves. That means that substance can have an indefinite number of predicates, because it is not their determinateness, their difference, but their non-difference, their sameness, which makes them attributes of substance. Or rather, substance has such an infinite number of predicates, only because – and this is, indeed, strange – it has really no predicate, no definite, real predicate. The indeterminate One existing in thought is supplemented by the indeterminate, manifoldness existing in the imagination. Because the predicate is not multum, it is multa. In truth, the positive predicates are thought and extension. With these two, infinitely more is said than with nameless innumerable predicates; for they say something definite; they enable me to know something. But substance is too indifferent, too passionless to be enthusiastic about, or be on the side of, something; in order to be something, it prefers to be nothing.

Now, if it is accepted that whatever the subject or being involves lies solely in its determinations – in other words, the predicate is the true subject – it is also clear that if the divine predicates are determinations of the being of man, their subject, too, is the being of man. The divine predicates are general, on the one hand, but personal, on the other. The general ones are metaphysical, but they provide religion with ultimate points of reference, with a foundation; they are not the characteristic determinations of religion. It is the personal predicates alone on which the essence of religion is grounded, in which the divine nature of religion is objectified. Such personal predicates are, for example, that God is a Person, that he is the moral Lawgiver, the Father of men, the Holy One, the Just, the Merciful. It is obvious from these and other determinations – or at least it will be clear later – that as personal determinations these predicates are purely human determinations, and that, consequently, man’s relationship to God in religion is his relationship to his own being. For these predicates are to religion not man’s conceptions or images of God distinct from God as he is in himself, but truths and realities. Religion knows nothing of anthropomorphisms – anthropomorphisms are not anthropomorphisms to it. The essence of religion is precisely that it regards the attributes of God as the being of God. That these attributes are images is shown only by the intellect, which reflects on religion and, while defending them, denies them before its own tribunal. But in the view of religion, God is a real Father, real Love, real Mercy; for it takes him to be a real, living, personal attribute. Indeed, these and corresponding determinations are precisely those that are most offensive to the intellect, and which it denies in its reflection on religion. Subjectively, religion is emotion; objectively also, emotion is to it an attribute of the Divine Being. It regards even anger as not unworthy of God, provided that nothing evil is associated with it.

But it is important to note here – and the phenomenon in question is an extremely remarkable one, characterising the innermost essence of religion – that the more human the being of God is, the greater is the apparent difference between God and man; that is, the more is the identity of the human and the Divine Being denied by theology or the self-reflection of religion, and the more is the human – taken in the sense in which it is as such the object of man’s consciousness – depreciated. [12] The reason for this is to be found in the following: Because the positive and essential basis of the conception or determination of God can only be human, the conception of man as an object of consciousness can only be negative, that is, hostile to man. In order to enrich God, man must become poor; that God may be all, man must be nothing. But he also does not need to be anything for himself, because everything for himself, everything he takes from himself, is not lost, but preserved in God. Since man has his being in God, why then should he have it in and for himself? Why should it be necessary to posit and have the same thing twice? What man withdraws from himself, what he lacks in himself, he only enjoys in an incomparably higher and richer measure in God.

As a consequence of their vow of chastity, the monks repressed sexual love in themselves; but, for that matter, they had in the Virgin Mary the image of woman; in God, in heaven, the image of love. The more an ideal, imagined woman was the object of their real love, the more easily could they dispense with woman in flesh and blood. The greater the significance they attached to the annihilation of sensuality, the greater was for them the significance of the heavenly Virgin: She occupied in their mind a place even more prominent than that of Christ or God. The more the sensuous is denied, the more sensuous is the God to whom it is sacrificed. Whatever is sacrificed to God is something particularly cherished, but also something that is particularly pleasing to God. That which is the highest to man is also the highest to his God; that which pleases man pleases God also. The Hebrews did not sacrifice to Jehovah unclean, loathsome animals, but those they valued most; those they ate themselves were also the food of God. [13] Where, therefore, the denial of sensuousness leads to its hypostatisation as a certain being, or to its transformation into an offering pleasing to God, there the highest value is attached to sensuousness; there the renounced sensuousness is restored precisely through the fact that God takes the place of the sensuous being that has been renounced. The nun weds herself to God; she has a heavenly bridegroom, and the monk, a heavenly bride. But the heavenly virgin is obviously the form in which a general truth concerning the essence of religion appears. Man affirms in God what he denies in himself. [14] Religion abstracts from man, from the world. But it can abstract only from defects and limits, whether real or imaginary; it can abstract only from the illusory but not from the real, positive being of the world and man. Hence, it must reincorporate into its negation and abstraction that wherefrom it abstracts, or believes to abstract. And thus, in fact, religion unconsciously places in God all that it consciously denies, provided, of course, that the negated is something essential, true, and, consequently, something that cannot be negated. Thus, in religion man negates his reason – he knows nothing of God through his own reason; his thoughts are only earthly; he can only believe in what God reveals. But, for that matter, the thoughts of God are human and earthly; like man, he has plans in his head – he makes allowance for the circumstances and intellectual powers of man, like a teacher for his pupils' capacity to understand; he calculates exactly the effect of his gifts and revelations; he keeps an eye on man in all his doings; he knows everything – even the most earthly, the meanest, or the worst. In short, man denies his knowledge, his thought, that he may place them in God. Man renounces himself as a person only to discover God, the omnipotent and the. infinite, as a personal being; he denies human honour, the human ego, only to have a God that is selfish, egoistic, who seeks in everything only himself, his honour, his advantage, only to have a God whose sole concern is the gratification of his own selfishness, the enjoyment of his own ego. [15] Religion further denies goodness as a quality of man’s being; man is wicked, corrupt, and incapable of good; but, in contrast, God is only good – the good being. It is demanded of man to conceive the good as God, but does this not make goodness an essential determination of man? If I am absolutely, i.e., by nature wicked and unholy, how can holiness and goodness be the objects of my thought – no matter whether these objects are given to me internally or externally? If my heart is wicked, my understanding corrupt, how can I perceive and feel the holy to be holy, the good to be good? How can I perceive a beautiful painting as beautiful if my soul is by nature ugly, and hence incapable of perceiving aesthetic beauty? Even if I am not a painter and do not have the power to produce something beautiful out of myself, my feeling and understanding are aesthetic since 1 perceive beauty in the world outside. Either the good does not exist for man, or if it does, it reveals the holiness and goodness of the being of man. That which is absolutely against my nature, with which 1 have nothing in common, I also cannot think or feel. Holiness stands in contrast to me as an individual, but in unity with my human essence The holy is a reproach to my sinfulness; in it I recognise myself as a sinner, but in my idea of holiness I also know that I am not, and I reproach myself for not being what I ought to be, what I can be according to my nature. An ought without the possibility of conforming to it is a ludicrous chimera which cannot take hold of the mind. But in so far as 1 acknowledge goodness as my essential determination, as my law, I acknowledge it, consciously or unconsciously, as my own nature. A being other than mine, and differing from me according to its nature, does not concern me. I can perceive sin as sin only if I perceive it as involving me in a contradiction with myself; that is' as a contradiction between my personality and essence As a contradiction of the divine; that is, of a being other than mine, the feeling of sin is inexplicable, meaningless.

The distinction between Augustinianism and Pelagianism consists only of this: What the former expresses in the form characteristic to religion, the latter expresses in the form characteristic to rationalism. Both say the same thing, both see the good as belonging to man; but Pelagianism does it directly, in a rationalistic, moral form, whereas Augustinianism does it indirectly, in a mystical, that is, religious form. [16] That which is ascribed to the God of man is in truth ascribed to man himself; that which man predicates of God, he in truth predicates of himself. Augustinianism would only then be true – and true, indeed, in a sense opposed to Pelagianism – if the devil were the God of man, if man, aware that be was himself a devil, worshiped and celebrated the devil as the highest expression of his own being. But as long as man worships a good being as God, that long does he behold his own goodness in God.

The doctrine of the fundamental corruption of man’s nature and the doctrine that man is incapable of good are identical, and concur in the view that, in truth, man is unable to do anything by himself and through his own power.

The denial of human power and activity would be true only if man also denied the existence of moral activity in God; that is, if he were to say with the Oriental nihilist or pantheist: The Divine Being is absolutely without will, inactive, indifferent, and ignorant of the distinction between good and evil. But he who defines God as an active being – and, indeed, as morally active, as a moral and critical being, as a being that loves, works, and rewards good, and punishes, rejects, and condemns evil – he who so defines God only apparently denies human activity. In actual fact, he regards it as the highest, the most real activity. He who attributes action to man declares human activity to be divine. He says: A God who does not act, that is, does not act morally or humanly, is no God. He therefore makes the notion of God dependent on the notion of activity, or rather human activity, for he knows of none higher.

Man – and this is the secret of religion – objectifies [17] his being, and then again makes himself the object of this objectified being, transformed into a subject, a person. He thinks of himself as an object, but as an object of an object, as an object to another being. Thus, here man is an object to God. That man is good or evil is not indifferent to God. No! God is keenly and deeply concerned whether man is good; he wants him to be good and blissful – and both necessarily belong together. The reduction of human activity to nothingness is thus retracted by the religious man through the fact that he turns his sentiments and actions into an object of God, man into a purpose of God – that which is an object in mind is a purpose in action – and the divine activity into a means of man’s salvation. God acts, that man may be good and felicitous. Thus, while in appearance the greatest humiliation is inflicted upon man, in truth he is exalted to the highest. Thus, in and through God, the aim of man is man himself. It is true that the aim of man is God, but the aim of God is nothing except the moral and eternal salvation of man; that means that the aim of man is man himself. The divine activity does not distinguish itself from the human.

How could the divine activity work on me as its object, indeed, work in me, if it were essentially foreign to me? How could it have a human aim, the aim to make man better and happy, if it were not itself human? Does not the, aim determine the act? When man makes it his goal to morally improve himself, his resolutions and projects are divine; but, equally, when God has in view the salvation of man, both his aims and his corresponding activity are human. Thus, in God man confronts his own activity as an object. But because he regards his own activity as existing objectively and as distinct from himself, he necessarily receives the impulse, the urge, to act not from himself, but from this object. He looks upon his being as existing outside himself, and he looks upon it as the good; hence it is self-evident, a tautology, that he receives the impulse to good from where he deposits it.

God is the most subjective, the very own being of man, but set apart from himself. That means that he cannot derive his actions purely out of himself, or that all good comes from God. The more subjective, the more human God is the more man exteriorises his subjectivity, his humanity, because God is in reality the exteriorised self of man which he, however, reappropriates. As the activity of the arteries drives the blood into the extremities, and the action of the veins leads it back again, as life basically consists in a constant systole and diastole, so is it also in religion. In the religious systole man’s being departs from itself into an outward projection; man disowns, rejects himself; in the religious diastole his heart again embraces his rejected being. God alone is the being whose actions originate within himself, whose activity flows out of himself – thus operates the repelling force in religion; God is the being who acts in me, with me, through me, upon me, and for me; he is the principle of my salvation, of my good sentiments and actions, and hence my own good principle and essence – thus operates the attracting force in religion.

The course of religious development, as delineated in general above, consists more specifically in this, that man progressively appropriates to himself what he had attributed to God. In the beginning, man posits his essence completely and without distinction outside himself. This is illustrated particularly by his belief in revelation. That which to a later epoch or to a culturally advanced people is revealed by reason or nature is, revealed to an earlier epoch, or to a culturally backward people, by God. All human urges, however natural – even the urge for cleanliness – were conceived by the Israelites as positive divine commandments. This example again shows us that man’s image of God is the more debased and the more commonly human the more man denies himself. Can the degradation, the self-abnegation of man sink to lower depths than when he denies himself even the power and ability to fulfil by himself, out of his own resources, the requirements of ordinary decency? [18] In comparison, the Christian religion distinguished the urges and emotions of man according to their character and content. It made only the good emotions, only the good sentiments, and only the good thoughts the revelations and workings of God, that is, his sentiments, emotions, and thoughts; for what God reveals is a determination of God himself; that which fills the heart overflows the lips; the nature of the effect reveals the nature of the cause; the character of the revelation points to the character of the being that reveals itself. A God who reveals himself only in good sentiments is himself a God whose essential quality is only moral goodness. The Christian religion separated inward moral purity from external physical purity; the Israelite religion identified the two. [19] In contrast to the Israelite, the Christian religion is the religion of criticism and freedom. The Israelite recoiled from doing anything that was not commanded by God; even in external things he was without will; even his food fell within the jurisdiction of religious authority. On the other hand, the Christian religion left all these external things to the autonomy of man, that is, it posited in man what the Israelite posited outside himself – in God. Israel is the most perfect embodiment of religions positivism; that is, of the type of religion that posits the essential being of man outside man. As compared with the Israelite, the Christian is an esprit fort, a free spirit. That is how things change. What yesterday still passed for religion, has ceased to be so today; and what is regarded as atheism today will be religion tomorrow.


7. De Genes! ad litteram, Lib., V, c. 16.

8. “You do not realise that it is easier to know than to worship God.” – Minucius Felix, Octavianus, c. 24.

9. “The perfections of God are the perfections of our own soul, but God possesses them boundlessly. . . . We possess only some powers, some knowledge, some good; but God possess them in their entirety and perfection.” (Leibniz, Théodicée, Préface.) “Everything by which the human soul is distinguished is inherent also in the Divine Being. Everything which is excluded from God also does not belong to the essential determinations of the soul.” (St. Gregorius Nyss, de anima, Lips. 1837, p. 42.) “The most excellent and important among all forms of knowledge is therefore self-knowledge; for if one knows himself he can also know God.” (Clemens Alexandrinus, Paedag., Lib., iii, c. l.)

10. Hence in the world hereafter the conflict between God and man ceases. There, man is no longer man – at the most, only in fantasy. He no longer has a will of his own, no longer has a will that is distinguished from that of God; consequently, he also no longer has a being that is specifically his own – and what kind of a being is a being without will? In the world hereafter man is one with God; there, the antithesis between God and man vanishes. But where there is only God, there is no longer God. Where there is nothing contrasting majesty, there is also no majesty.

11. For religious belief there is no other difference between the present and the future God than that the former is an object of belief, conception, and fantasy, whereas the latter is an object of the immediate; i.e., of personal and sensuous conception. He is the same God both here and in the world hereafter, but here he is opaque, whereas in the other world he is transparent.

12. However great may the similarity between the creator and the creature be conceived, the dissimilarity between both must be conceived even greater. (Later. Cone. Can. 2. Summa Omn. Cone. Carranza. Antw. 1559, p. 326.) The last distinction between man and God, between the finite and the infinite being in general, to which the religio-speculative imagination soars is the distinction between something and nothing, between ens and nonens; for only in nothingness is all community with other beings annulled.

13. Cibus Dei, Leviticus iii, 2.

14. “He who despises himself,” says Anselm, “is honoured by God. He who dislikes himself is liked by God. Therefore, be small in your own eyes so that you may be big in the eyes of God; for you shall be the more valued by God, the more contemptuous you are of men.” (Anselm, Opp., Parisiis 1721, p. 191.)

15. “God can only love himself, can think only of himself, can only work for himself. In making man, God pursues his own advantage, his own glory.” (Vide P. Bayle, Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Philo. u. Mensch.)

16. Pelagianism negates God and religion – “by ascribing too much power to the will, they weaken the power of pious prayer.” (Augustinus, de natura et gratia contra Pelagium, c. 58.) It has only the Creator, i.e., Nature, as its basis, not the Saviour, the God proper of religion – in short, it negates God, but, in return, elevates man into God, in so far as it makes man a being who does not need God, who is self-sufficient and independent. (On this point, see Luther Against Erasmus and Augustine, 1. c., c. 33.) Augustinianism negates man, but, in return, it lowers God to the level of man, even to the disgrace of a death on the cross for the sake of man. The former puts man in the place of God; the latter puts God in the place of man. Both lead to the same result; the distinction between them is only apparent, a pious illusion. Augustinianism is only reversed Pelagianism – that which the latter posits as subject, the former posits as object.

17. Man’s religious, namely, original, self-objectification is, moreover, to be distinguished from that occurring in reflection and speculation; the latter is arbitrary, the former necessary – as necessary as art and language. In the course of time, theology naturally coincides with religion.

18. Deuteronomy xxiii: 12, 13.

19. See, for example, Genesis xxxv: 2; Leviticus xi: 44 and xx: 26 Also, the Commentary of Le Clerc on these passages.

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