Heidegger's Philosphy of God

         Heidegger, though by a hair’s breadth dealt about god apart from his criticism of the Metaphysical concept of God, one can find God in his philosophy when we delve into his philosophy in the light of Darridean Deconstruction. To understand his concept of God one needs to know the background of Heidegger. Firstly, Heidegger was born in Christian family and studied Philosophy and Theology, the context and practice of which should be examined. Secondly, He uses speculative and crafted tools that he borrows from the theological tradition; this process of appropriation of Theology needs to be taken into account. Finally, it is to be noted that the link between Theology and philosophy is an active link: "Source means future.” With this short background, I would like to delve into the concept of God in the world of Heidegger. 

Scholars have different views on the concept of God in Heidegger’s world of ‘Being.’ Heinrich Ott accepts the explicit denial of the identity of Being and God, and tries to explain how God can be a being which is not inferior to Being, in which Heidegger himself puts God as being in God’s existence. But Thomas O’Meara contends that the only place for God in relation to Heidegger’s philosophy is “beyond Being.”  With these two different scholars’ view on him, I would like to quote Heidegger’s view about God from “What is Metaphysics?” - “The question of God should [is] not be posed at all.   If He should be mentioned, we might say of Him that He exists, though not in the same way as rock, tree, horse, and angel. Rather does man appear as a being of higher rank, distinguished by Being and it is better to refrain from naming God.”  This reflects the Indian philosophy of God- God is neither that nor this.  This shows that he does not affirm nor deny God’s existence. Yet, the above quote of Heidegger, for me, seems to me that He is more favour to as God is ‘beyond Being’ or reality and I would agree with Thomas O’Meara on Heidegger’s concept of God as being Being.

Heidegger’s reference to God is negative in appearance as you can see from the above quote too. God is neither Being nor a being. If God is neither Being nor a being then God is beyond substance and essence. Though Heidegger considers God as being in existence (god) like any other being and his ambiguity about God does not mean that he is an atheist. This calls us to go beyond Being for an appropriate description of God and this he has indicated in later part of his life on his discussion of the ‘event’ that he does envisage some sort of reality beyond Being. He though, does not speak about God implicitly or explicitly, but one can easily recognize the source, when he describes about the source of Being and time. I call that source of being as God.

I would say the first realization of God in Heidegger is that when we realise that we are contingent being- in Heidegger’s expression, “why is there any being at all and not rather nothing?” This contingency is evident with regard to our own being, when we realize that our own finiteness, that we are going to die. This leads him to have faith in beyond being or reality. In other words, Dasein or Being is always becoming. As man, being-in-the-world realizes that, he is going to die; he becomes aware that he is not the master of his destiny. When we realise that we are not a master or a giver, etc. we naturally begin to search for the master, the real source, the giver; thus the question of the meaning of our human existence necessarily involves a search for the giver of this gift i.e. for the source of our being. I do believe that the ultimate source of our being is beyond the scope of Philosophical investigation. This calls for a faith in which Heidegger would mean living a life as a fully mature conscious being, aware of one’s privilege and responsibility for creating the future, yet confident that our human existence has an ultimately meaning because of the presence of God.

 Being is neither God nor a substituted for God. God is not determined by being, and being is not the fundamental name of God, but rather goodness. This description of Being and its relation to man confirms the fundamental openness of man and points beyond man and Being to the source of all that is. This reality ‘beyond Being’ is none other than God. I called God though; Heidegger does not name this reality and much less describes it. Here he begins to describe about God not in terms of being but meaning. Besides meaning his phenomenological hermeneutic reflects the relation of being with beings and the ultimate reality.  He seems to be deconstructing the traditional metaphysical description of God as absolute in all respects to a sense of relative to Dasein (human) if there is a genuine relation between God and man. This notion becomes clearer when he says being-in-the-world.

In conclusion I would say, though Heidegger’s refusal to deal explicitly with God does not mean that he is an atheist. But if we delve his philosophy in the light of deconstruction we can see his idea of God, which it is of greater significance for religion than he himself barely realizes at the sun setting of his life. Heidegger though, does not give name God - the source, the meaning, the beyond being, etc as God, I would say these are the description about and of God. I would term all of them as God.


  1. This article is quoted on the blog enowning. It raises issues that I find difficult to pin down in Heidegger. My personal direction is existential; that is, God is whatever I worship. So the question is about God only after I clarify what I worship. Only then can I begin to determine whether the God I worship is worthy of worship.

    So my search is for the holy, and that is a challenge, particularly at a time when my sense of world is smashed into bits and pieces, because those can be controlled. The holy ought not be something I can control. It is a whole of which I am only a part but as I am a whole, I can appreciate the whole of things.