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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: January 2007

16 - Atheism, A/theology, and the Postmodern Condition

from Part III - Implications
Summary

”Postmodernism ” seems for all the world to religious believers as a continuation of Nietzsche by another means, the latest version of the idea that God is dead and everything is permitted. It has been vigorously attacked by the Christian right as a diabolical enemy of religion, a frivolous skepticism that undermines the possibility of any absolute - God, truth, or morality - and leaves us exposed to the wolves of relativism.1 When Jean-François Lyotard described postmodernism as “incredulity toward grand narratives (grands réctis), ”2 to take a famous example, he pitted it against the consolations of religious faith in divine providence, in a God who keeps an omnipotent and omniscient watch over the world, working all things wisely and to the good, which must surely be the grandest of the old, grand narratives.We just do not believe that sort of thing any more, Lyotard thinks; the old faith has become unbelievable.

But while it is perfectly true that in some of its incarnations postmodernism makes life difficult for traditional believers, it is no less true that it complicates the life of modern atheism. For, as Jacques Derrida says, we must keep a watchful eye for “theological prejudices” not only in theology, where they are overt, but no less in “metaphysics in its entirety, even when it professes to be atheist.” So Derrida warns us about the theologians of atheistic metaphysics! Theology reaches further than the divinity schools; it has to do with the very idea of a fixed center.

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The Cambridge Companion to Atheism
  • Online ISBN: 9781139001182
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL0521842700
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