Atheism in Academia

1995 American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting
november 18-21 Philadelphia PA

Dwight Hopkins, chair, A188 Theology & Religious Reflection Area
(Santa Clara University -> U of Chicago Divinity School)
four presenters

1. Ellen T. Armour, Rhodes College
The (Im)possible Possibility of Theology Without God
The linchpin in the ongoing debate over deconstruction's implications for theology is talk about God. Some read deconstruction as calling into question only philosophical concepts of God. Theology is vulnerable to deconstruction only insofar as it is a philosophical enterprise, but not insofar as it is a religious enterprise. Others argue that deconstruction renders philosophical and religious God-talk problematic. As I see it, deconstruction's critique of metaphysics is addressed to God-talk per se thus, its challenge to theology will not be overcome by a retreat to fideism or by attempting to do theology without western philosophy. However, deconstruction's address to theology is not a silencing. Rather, in the work of Jacques Derrida and Luce Irigaray, I see deconstruction holding open certain (im)possible possibilities for theology. This paper will describe these (im)possible possibilities and evaluate their implications for theology.

Marionne?, God beyond being, phallocentrism,

2. Maria Antonaccio, Bucknell University
"Above the Gods": Iris Murdoch on Religion, God, and Good
At the end of her recently published Gifford Lectures, "Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals" (1992), Iris Murdoch states that "We need a theology which can continue without God," and she asks whether we might call this type of reflection a form of moral philosophy. This paper attempts to examine Murdoch's moral philosophy as an articulation of what she means by a "theology without God." I argue that although she rejects the concept of God, Murdoch does not thereby embrace ethical relativism. Rather, she construes "theology without God" as a "demythologized" form of religious reflection which nevertheless affirms the unconditional demand of morality on human life. The paper examines Murdoch's constructive retrieval of the concept of the Good, and asks what, if anything, we stand to gain by her substitution of the Good for the concept of God in religious and moral reflection.

the replacement of God with Good moral absolute individual as moral agent Murdoch's godless theology, detaches religion and morality from theism unselfing the self

books: The Sovereignty of Good (Schocken NY 1970)
Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (Penguin London 1992)
The Green Knight (Viking 1994) is about separating religion from its external clothing -- superstition, myth and magic.
The Good Apprentice, The Unicorn, The Severed Head, The Message to the Planet

3. Alexander Irwin, Harvard University
Toward a Godless Theology (With or Without a Head): Simone Weil, Georges Bataille, and Constructive Atheology
Both Simone Weil and Georges Bataille elaborated theologies in which claims about the absence, death, or "impossibility" of God are central. For Bataille, the absence of God guarantees the fecund irrationality of a "headless" system of inner experience through which the "extremity of the possible" is attained. While rejecting Bataille's irrationalism, Weil also claimed that God's presence is available only "under the form of absence." She urged belief in a "God who does not exist." For both thinkers, the destruction or sacrifice of (a certain idea of) God is a vital step on the way to authentic knowledge of the ultimate, and is correlated with the systematic "decreation" of the self. Bataille's and Weil's writings offer resources for contemporary constructive theologies which seek to free themselves from the limitations of traditional western conceptions of deity.

inner sacrifice of god as a vital element of mysticism
atheism not as a intellectual state or set of beliefs but as an ongoing sacrifical act of liberating violence
"flat-footed" sense of atheism as simple disbelief in god

4. Thomas J.J. Altizer, State University of New York, Stony Brook
Kingdom of God and Death of God
This paper will attempt an integral and essential correlation between Jesus' proclamation and enactment of the Kingdom of God and the apocalyptic event of the death of God as realized in a uniquely modern apocalypticism. Nothing is more alien to the great body of historical Christianity than an apocalyptic Kingdom of God, and a full and actual reversal of that Christianity in modern apocalypticism issued in an ultimate rebirth of an apocalyptic Kingdom of God, but did so only in an total realization of the death of God. Can that rebirth be a renewal of that original Jesus who was negated by Christianity itself?

abstracts from "aar-abstracts.rtf"
live recording, 2 tapes: AR95 188A & 188B, topic: Theologies without God
available for US$24 from ACTS, 14153 Clayton Road, Town&Country MO 63017 USA
topics 2 & 3 are especially interesting.

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