Abhorrence of Natural Religion
Abhorrence of Natural Religion
In his fifth speech, entitled On the Religions, Friedrich Schleiermacher begins to evaluate the established faiths according to his perception of religion. While he finds these lacking in their ability to fulfill the role of a true religion, Schleiermacher abhors the idea of natural religion, prevalent in his time, as completely lacking in religion. His condemning attitude towards natural religion, however, seems to contradict his interpretation of religion as a realm left entirely to the individual.
Upon examining what he defines as positive religions, Schleiermacher finds that there does exist a religious essence in these positive religions, but that it is obscured by the institutionalized nature of the organized faith. Schleiermacher insists that true religion cannot be imposed, but rather necessitates a personal experience involving an intuition of the infinite. Thus, any positive religion that attempts to teach true religion, especially using, what Schleiermacher refers to as "dead letters," merely obstructs an individual's ability to find true religion in the only possibly way—personal intuition of the infinite. This is not to say that Schleiermacher condemns positive religion as worthless. He allows that the core of these religions stems from an intuition of the infinite, but that the prescribed methods of behavior dictated by these faiths have nothing to do with religion; they involve morality.
Schleiermacher contests the value of natural religion much more vehemently than he does positive religion because of what he sees as its complete lack of true religion:
The essence of natural religion actually consists wholly in the negation of everything positive and characteristic in religion and in the most violent polemic against it. (p. 207)
He describes natural religion as "empty sobriety," completely devoid of the intuitive and emotional aspects inherent in his religion.
Schleiermacher states that natural religion is centered around ambiguity. In it, he finds neither true religion nor the even the chance to perceive true religion:
Particular and personal development is so unthinkable in natural religion that its most authentic devotees do not even like the religion of a person to have its own history and begin with a notable event. (p. 205)
Without an individuality in natural religion, Schleiermacher does not see any hope of a devotee ever discovering his personal religious truths.
When discussing natural religion, however, Schleiermacher does not afford it the same luxury that he affords positive religion; he does not allow that one could intuitively be led to believe in natural religion. It seems contradictory to postulates that a religion which discards feeling and intuition could be discovered through intuition, but the difficulty with Schleiermacher's condemnation of natural religion stems from his perception of its origin. His condemnation is derived solely from his definition of religion. He does not allow for any other interpretation other than his own, and a more startling contradiction arises when one considers that someone who values the individual and varied nature of religion only allows for a singular interpretation of its origin.