Jacques Derrida was born in 1930 in El-Biar near Algiers. He read Henri Bergson and Jean-Paul Sartre in philosophy class at the Lycée Gauthier in Algiers and then encountered Søren Kierkegaard and Martin Heidegger, the reading of whom pushed him to study philosophy rather than literature. In 1949 he moved to France, attending the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris and then studied at the École Normale Supérieure (ENS), where he later taught for the first twenty years of his career. Beginning philosophical life as a phenomenologist, he soon invented a post-phenomenological style of thinking he called ‘deconstruction’. Beginning in 1966, with a visit to Johns Hopkins University, Derrida often spent several weeks each year teaching in the United States, most notably at Yale and the University of California, Irvine.
In 1980 Derrida successfully defended his these d'état at the Sorbonne, and in 1983 served as the inaugural director of the Collège International de Philosophie while also moving from the ENS to the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s he travelled extensively, speaking in Africa, Australia, Europe, Israel, Latin America, Japan and the Soviet Union. A prolific writer, as well as a stylish one, his publications embrace questions of art, literature, politics, psychoanalysis and religion. He died of cancer in 2004.
Most contributions to the philosophy of religion in the twentieth century consist of attempts to develop a new position, or to criticize an old position, with respect to one or more inherited problems: the existence of God, the rationality of belief, the possibility of religious experience, the nature of religious language and so on.