The idea that religion is not something instituted by God, but rather is man-made, can be traced back to ancient Greece. It was not until the 18th Century, however, that it began to seem possible to finally prove what had previous been mere speculation. Ludwig Feuerbach, drawing on Hegelian philosophy, set out the idea that the process by which religion was invented was wish-fulfilment. God, according to Feuerbach, is projection is the strongest desires of humanity.

For Feuerbach, much of the appeal of Christianity lies in its promise of immortality. Human beings have many fears, but most of all we fear death. Christianity, in promising eternal life, offers to take this fear away from us. If we are willing to buy into religion, then we can escape from our fear, and live in blissful ignorance of our mortality. This accounts for the attractiveness of religion, the strength of its grip on human minds.

Of course, for this process to work we cannot consciously decide to adopt a religion as a means of escaping from our fears. No, the decision must be unconscious; it is the unconscious mind that drives us to religion.

To understand God, on this view, one must understand human psychology; as Feuerbach put it, “theology is anthropology”.