Edelmann Johann Christian
Edelmann Johann Christian, an infidel German writer, was born at Weissenfels in 1698, and studied theology at Jena. From his youth he evinced an unsteadiness of mind, which afterwards led him, after oscillating between the different Christian denominations, to forsake them all and become an opponent of all orthodoxy. He rejected the Christian doctrine, and considered reason as a part of the essence of God, in no way different from him. For some years he abstained from all animal food, in order, as he expressed it, not to eat a part of divinity. He had previously taken part in the translation of the Bible, published at Berleburg (q.v.). His principal works are his Unschuldige Wahrheiten, in which he attempts to prove that no religion is of any importance: — Moses mit aufgedecktem Angesicht (1740, 8vo): — Christ und Belial (1741, 8vo): — die Gottlichkeit d. Vernunft (1742, 8vo). He finally went to Berlin, where Friedrich II tolerated his presence on the plea that he had to put up with many other fools. Edelmann died in Berlin February 15, 1767. A selection of his works appeared at Berne in 1847 (Auswahl aus E.'s Schriften).
"What Edelmann wished was nothing new; after the manner of all adherents of Illuminism, he wished to reduce all positive religions to natural religion. The positive heathenish religions stand, to him, on a level with Judaism and Christianity. He is more just towards heathenism than towards Judaism, and more just towards Judaism than towards Christianity. Everything positive in religion is, as such, superstition. Christ was a mere man, whose chief merit consists in the struggle against superstition. What he taught, and what he was anxious for, no one, however, may attempt to learn from the New Testament writings, inasmuch as these were forged as late as the time of Constantine. All which the Church teaches of his divinity, of his merits, of the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, is absurd. There is no rule of truth but reason, and it manifests its truths directly by a peculiar sense. Whatever this sense says is true. It is this sense which perceives the world. The reality of everything which exists is God. In the proper sense there can, therefore, not exist any atheist, because every one who admits the reality of the world admits also the reality of God. God is not a person, least of all are there three persons in God. If God be the substance in all the phenomena, then it follows of itself that God cannot be thought of without the world, and hence that the world has no more had an origin than it will have an end. One may call the world the body of God, the shadow of God, the son of God. The spirit of God is in all that exists. It is ridiculous to, ascribe inspiration to special persons only; every one ought to be a Christ, a prophet, an inspired man. The human spirit, being a breath of God, does not perish; our spirit, separated from its body by death, enters into a connection with some other body. Thus Edelmann taught a kind of metempsychosis. What he taught had been thoroughly and ingeniously said in France and England; but from a German theologian, and that with such eloquent coarseness, with such a mastery in expatiating in blasphemy, such things were unheard of. But as yet the faith of the Church was a power in Germany!" (Kahnis, German Protestantism, book 1, chapter 2, § 2). An autobiography of Edelmnann was published by Klose (Berlin, 1849). See Pratje, Histor. Nachrichten (Hamb. 1755, 8vo); Elster, Erinnerungen an Edelmnann (Clausthal, 1839); Hurst, History of Rationalism, chapter 5.