Max Stirner

Max Stirner, drawn by philosopher Friedrich Engels. Max Stirner, drawn by philosopher Friedrich Engels.

On this date in 1806, Johann Kaspar Schmidt (known as his pseudonym, Max Stirner), was born in Bayreuth, Bavaria. He entered the University of Berlin in 1826, the University of Erlangen in 1828, and the University of Königsberg in Prussia, where he completed undergraduate degree. He worked as a teacher of history and literature from 1839 to 1844. Stirner quit his job after writing his philosophical book, The Ego and Its Own (1844). He was an anarchist, nihilist and egoist, and his philosophical ideas were reflected in The Ego and Its Own. Stirner married Agnes Butz, who died in childbirth in 1838. He later married Marie Dähnhardt.

Born to a Lutheran family, Stirner became critical of religion. In The Ego and Its Own, he wrote: “We are perfect altogether, and on the whole earth there is not one man who is a sinner! There are crazy people who imagine that they are God the Father, God the Son, or the man in the moon, and so too the world swarms with fools who seem to themselves to be sinners; but, as the former are not the man in the moon, so the latter are not sinners. Their sin is imaginary.” Stirner continued to attack religion, writing, “Do not think that I am jesting or speaking figuratively when I regard those persons who cling to the Higher, and (because the vast majority belongs under this head) almost the whole world of men, as veritable fools, fools in a madhouse.” In June 1842, Stirner published an article titled “Art and Religion” in the Rheinische Zeitung, in which he strongly critiqued the religious: “The religious spirit is not inspired. Inspired piety is as great an inanity as inspired linen-weaving. Religion is always accessible to the impotent, and every uncreative dolt can and will always have religion, for uncreativeness does not impede his life of dependency.” D. 1856

“Religion itself is without genius. There is no religious genius, and no one would be permitted to distinguish between the talented and the untalented in religion.”

—Max Stirner, article “Art and Religion,” Rheinische Zeitung, June 1842.

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

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