Gollwitzer on the German Bourgeoisie, Feuerbach and Religion

Helmut Gollwitzer, The Christian Faith and the Marxist Criticism of Religion (Scribner, 1970): 45-6.
At that time, in the middle of the nineteenth century, the German bourgeoisie was divided in itself; it participated in the fruits of the revolutionary movement (socialism, Marxism, etc.), and was at the same time anxious about its consequences; it needed for its evolution the dissolution of the aristocratic world, and feared at the same time the mutterings of the new proletarian classes, who wanted to take advantage of this revolution and carry it further. The bourgeoisie found religion as the guarantee of the inherited order, and needed it as the guarantee of its own order. So bourgeois conservatism and bourgeois revolt are found side by side, and, mediating between them bourgeois liberalism, which could appear both as radicalism and as the confederate of Churchly convention.

While the rebellious criticism of the Young Hegalians was merely an affair of small intellectual circles, Ludwig Feuerbach’s appearance found a remarkably strong response. His championship of nature and science, his appeal to the consciousness of progress, his sermonic tone, and the sentimentality of his new religion of love fitted very exactly the taste and needs of a class which created new economic facts, and which was therefore impressed only by facts, for which the advancement of science was a guarantee of its own advancement, and which in the stern struggle for profit wished yet to find a place for soul and kindly sentiment. For the educated members of this class, the great impression created by Feuerbach’s criticism of religion was based on the fact that it could be regarded as a concentration of all previous efforts to liberate men from an ecclesiastical control which was resented as spiritual compulsion.


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