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Good morning, I have just started studying Hegel with the oldest work I could find, On the Propspects for a Folk Religion, also called Tübinga Fragments I believe. In the second paragraph it already says:

But do people reflect as they become older on the nature and attributes of the being toward whom their sentiments are directed – or in particular on the relation of the world to that being? Human nature is so constituted that the practical element in sacred teaching, that in it which can motivate us to act and which becomes a source of consolation for us as well as the source of our knowledge of duty, is readily manifest to the uncorrupted human sensibility. On the other hand, the instruction (i.e. the concepts as well as everything only externally connected with [the practical]) that we receive from childhood on, and which accordingly makes such an impression on us, is something that is, as it were, grafted onto the natural need of the human spirit. Although this relation is frequently immediate enough, it is, alas, all too often capricious, grounded neither in bonds indigenous to the nature of the soul nor in truths created and developed out of the concepts ...

What I understand is that it says, with the highlighted text, that man has a natural need for a religion of some kind, but that how this religion was taught and the relation established between the individual and religion at that moment was not appropriate. Is he pointing to a reform of the said relation between the individual and religion? Is this some kind of attack on the church?

  • I would read it as an attack on institutional religion and the way we teach our children dogmas that are ungrounded in the nature of the soul (or not grounded in nature) or in truths established in logic. ; . . – user20253 Sep 10 '19 at 10:42
  • Yes on "reform", the "attack" is too strong. The essay generally contrasts "folk religion" (like the early Christianity) to "private religion" it transformed into:"Essential practices like these need not be bound more closely to religion than to the spirit of the people; it is preferable that they actually spring from the latter. Otherwise their exercise is without life, cold and powerless, and the attendant feelings artificial and forced. On the other hand it may be that these are practices that are not essential to folk religion anyway, although they may be to private religion". – Conifold Sep 10 '19 at 11:39
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By analysis of language:


grafted onto the natural need of the human spirit

This means it is not natural.

it is, alas, all too often capricious

This clearly means it is arbitrary

grounded neither in bonds indigenous to the nature of the soul

This means it is not native.

nor in truths created and developed out of the concepts

This means it is does not follow from first principles.


To characterize folk religions as unnatural, arbitrary, not native, and irrational is to recognize that the practices possess a certain quality of disorderliness. As a philosopher, Hegel, who through his dialectic believed in a certain orderliness to belief and discourse, where concepts followed a particular development of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Like many philosophers, asking questions tends to reveal the arbitrary and irrational set of beliefs folk religions promote, in contradistinction to theology which is seen as rational and systematic. As such, this fragment wouldn't be an attack on the large organized religions which develop rationally defensible doctrines, but more a denial that potpourri of rites and rituals of simple, folk religions constitute an obfuscation of natural sensibility. To wit:

Human nature is so constituted that the practical element in sacred teaching, that in it which can motivate us to act and which becomes a source of consolation for us as well as the source of our knowledge of duty, is readily manifest to the uncorrupted human sensibility

If knowledge, which is largely viewed as justified belief, is obscured by irrational and arbitrary belief, then it corrupts human sensibility and fails to genuinely console us resulting in a muddying of motivations, the source of righteous action.

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The church is the greatest enemy of your natural religion. We are all born with our truth and morality. I remember how communists tried to split me off from my truth. It took some time of meditation to see this.

Yes, all men have a natural need to express themselves and to live according to their naturalness. Man is the source of his natural religion. It comes from his love.

This kind of self-realized man is totally out of reach of or uncontrollable by any belief system, religion, government, society, etc. This kind of man always poses a great threat to governments and religions.

So we are born with our truth, with our religion.

Hegel is saying that to human beings, religion or spiritual life is natural.

"(...) practical element in sacred teaching, that in it which can motivate us to act and which becomes a source of consolation for us as well as the source of our knowledge of duty, is readily manifest to the uncorrupted human sensibility."

The impetus for performing spiritual life comes from man's soul and it is inherent in his nature. Man is therefore naturally a spiritual being with spiritual needs. On the other hand, an external system of thought imposed on natural human being will inevitably harm the individual (even if such belief system comes from religion [which is always based on and constructed out of natural life of enlightened being]) and drive him insane.

"source of knowledge and duty". Our real duties come from our own being, our own naturalness, our own natural religion. This means any religion and government, who forcefully impose their view onto human beings, represent an enemy to a human being.

"readily manifest to uncorrupted human sensibility". He is saying that these truths are obvious to one of a pure heart. Corrupted, spoiled human beings will never be able to understand these plain truths. What a great thinker!

Hegel openly criticized the church for imposing their belief system onto human beings.

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