Difficult Atheism: Tracing the Death of God in Contemporary by Christopher Watkin

By Christopher Watkin

Reviewed through John D. Caputo, Syracuse college and Villanova University

Being an "atheist" isn't really an easy topic. while Derrida says that there are "theological prejudices" imbedded in "metaphysics in its entirety, even if it professes to be atheistic", he signifies that while metaphysics poses because the excellent authority that publicizes "there is not any God," it easily reenacts the position of God. It leaves the "center" status and reoccupies it with different metaphysical pretenders to the throne: guy, historical past, technology, cause, any model of Žižek's "Big Other." that's not anything greater than a palace coup that leaves the palace process status. Such atheism, which loads of us may name "modernist," Watkin says, "imitates" theism and is "parasitic" at the very framework it purports to negate. Atheism, he argues, is "difficult," a problem Nietzsche proposed to fulfill while he stated "God is dead," the place "God" intended not only the Deity however the complete method of "values," of "truth" and the "good," from Plato to the current, each try to determine a middle, a starting place of information and morals, together with smooth physics, that is additionally an "interpretation." Watkin thinks this atheism is uncovered to a "difficulty" of its personal, which he calls its "ascetic" procedure, since it calls upon us to make do with the ensuing particles or "residue" of misplaced foundations (the "death of God"), to reside with finitude and imperfection, giving up on a delightful transcendence and placing up with an unsatisfying immanence (133). It doesn't rather annul where of God yet in simple terms leaves it empty (6-7), like Camus' "absurd man" shaking his fist on the void. this is often an atheism that regrets that it's right.

The ascetic model faces one more hassle: after we undermine foundations, we've undermined any foundational argument opposed to the outdated God. That binds the arms of atheism, combating any knock-out atheistic blow, thereby leaving the barn door open to non secular religion. Kant was once being an ideal Pauline-Lutheran Protestant whilst he acknowledged that he came across it essential to delimit wisdom with a view to make room for religion. The "difficulty," briefly, is that atheism wishes foundationalism to chop off the break out direction of religion, yet foundationalism reenacts and repeats theism. both concede our irreducible finitude, which leaves the countless inaccessible and a potential item of religion, or one way or the other scramble over to the facet of the endless and bring to a halt the get away course of religion, which runs the other hazard of enjoying God. That explains "post-secularism," the postmodern "return of religion": as soon as modernity is delimited and the metaphysical gunfire over God subsides, a postmodern model of classical spiritual religion is loose to elevate its hoary head. This "colonisation" of contemporary atheism via faith has fairly gotten Watkin's goat (239).

Watkin proposes a fashion out of this obstacle -- if no longer, we are going to by no means be rid of faith and all its ensuing woes -- lower than the identify of what he calls a "post-theological integration." this suggests, in Lyotard's phrases, inventing a brand new ("post-theological") video game and never being content material with a brand new circulate within the age-old online game (theism as opposed to atheism). Is there how to imagine "after God" or "without God" that doesn't act as though it really is God (parasitism), whereas no longer giving up at the principles of fact and justice (asceticism), that means that it may be "integrated" with rules quite often linked to God? (13) much is determined by what Watkin capability via "integration," which runs its personal threat of aggression and colonization -- twiddling with faith and explaining it to itself. Philosophy (father) understands top, understands greater than faith what faith is speaking approximately. Philosophy is familiar with that issues will be "better" -- it's the "consensus" (239) -- "without" God and faith. much additionally depends upon "without," a venerable observe of Meister Eckhart's Latin (sine) and German (ohne) vocabulary, contemplated upon at size via Heidegger and Derrida (sans). in terms of being an atheist, who's with no sin (sine peccato, anamartetos)?

Watkin takes up Alain Badiou ("axiomatic atheism"), Jean-Luc Nancy ("atheology") and Quentin Meillassoux ("divine inexistence"), every one of whom he thinks has simply any such post-theological venture in brain. The French concentration omits not just Nietzsche but additionally Žižek, however it has the good thing about together with Nancy -- rather than easily writing off deconstruction as (like God) useless and limiting the controversy to the hot or "speculative" realists -- besides a short yet illuminating dialogue of Jean-Luc Marion. the matter is attention-grabbing, the query is especially properly framed, and the structure of the ebook is impeccable (without sin). we will be specially thankful to Watkin for offering exemplary expositions of those authors, particularly Nancy, a really elusive and allusive author who calls for a studying in French. The booklet is stuffed with refined and intricate commentaries to which no evaluation can do justice. tricky Atheism represents a worldly contribution to the debates that experience arisen within the wake of the "theological turn", and it benefits cautious examine through someone drawn to those issues.

Badiou's assault is directed opposed to "ascetic" atheism, postmodern post-Kantian skeptics approximately "truth." His atheism is easy: theism is fake; atheism is correct. The dichotomy stands and one department is damaged off. through insisting upon our "finitude," the postmoderns permit the "infinite" (God, the only) to flourish like a toxic mushroom at nighttime soil of the "inaccessible." So Badiou reclaims the limitless for philosophy, stiffens the spines of the philosophers approximately fact, leaving the previous God nowhere to conceal whereas asserting fact and justice. not anything is left over; not anything can get away the sunshine of the assumption. this can be performed via invoking a particular model of set thought which wrests the limitless from the single of the Platonic-Christian culture and transfers it to multiplicity. yet, Watkin issues out, Cantor was once a Roman Catholic who exclusive a numerical infinity (the transfinite, quantitative multiplicity) from the "absolutely infinite" being of God (divine simplicity), that is neither numerically finite nor numerically countless and as such the province of theology. there's not anything in arithmetic which authorizes arithmetic to discuss what's no longer mathematical to start with. that's the very circulation Badiou desires to bring to an end. All Badiou can do with Cantor's contrast is to sweep it off and claim "The One is not" an axiomatic determination (27-29). Ontology simply is arithmetic, adopting a posture usually struck in Vatican encyclicals and within the Bible belt less than the identify of the "Word of God."

Nancy directs his assault opposed to this kind of undemanding modernist or "imitative-parasitic" atheism we see in Badiou. As a deconstructionist, Nancy undercuts the "binary opposition" among theism and atheism (132), treating atheism because the turn aspect of onto-theo-logy. Theism and atheism are reflect photos. He situates himself at the terrain of the "finite," which is helping us stay away from pretending that we're God, as Badiou has performed. for this reason Nancy speaks of a deconstructive "atheology," now not "atheism." Nancy describes an enormous "open" that's basically ever in part crammed by way of any finite building, an unbounded "sense" which can't be saturated through any determinate "signification." there is not any ahistorical arche or telos that shuts down or "axiomatizes" the open. The inspiration that whatever ahistorical breaks in upon the ancient and henceforth adjustments every thing -- the best way the matheme ruptures the mytheme for Badiou -- is the very gesture of "Christianity," of the Incarnation, or what Nancy calls the "Christmas projection" (37). So it really is Christianity that wishes deconstruction.

But to deconstruct whatever is to open it up, no longer shut it down. Deconstruction is un-closing, dis-enclosing. whereas Nancy's deconstruction of Christianity will supply no convenience to the Vatican or Nashville, it is going to divulge a sens deep inside of Christianity that "Christianity" (a signification) has a tendency to shut off. As Derrida issues out, that attaches hyperbolic significance to Christianity itself, culling the wheat from the chaff, the spirit from the lifeless letter. this can be made transparent through the heritage of Derrida's observe déconstruction, which interprets Heidegger's Destruktion, which in flip interprets what Luther referred to as the destructio of medieval metaphysical theology that allows you to get better the pristine center of the recent testomony, which itself interprets apolo in I Cor 1:19, which interprets Isaiah 29:14. Heidegger's Destruktion retrieves the reality (aletheia) in metaphysics from which metaphysics itself is barred. Watkin concludes that Nancy's deconstruction is "parasitic" upon Christianity and never surely post-theological (39-40). Neither Badiou nor Nancy escapes parasitism. every one convicts the other.

But isn't really Nancy's "repetition" of Christianity with no Christianity precisely what an "integration" should be? could we no longer distinguish a flat-footed parasitism from an ironic, awake and artistic one? Is there no longer an phantasm embedded in conversing too strongly of the "post"-theological as though the theological may be over and performed with? we can't pull ourselves up through our personal bootstraps and create de novo. we start the place we're, with the languages and traditions we've inherited, which we search to re-think and re-open. the belief isn't really to decontaminate ourselves from those traditions yet to remodel them, to get better what's going in them, with out being trapped by means of them. occasionally Watkin speaks of the post-theological as though "God," "theology" and "religion" have been like AIDS, and the post-theological query is how we wipe out this hazard. The post-theological is expounded to "reoccupy" and "integrate" with theology to be able to subvert it.

Is philosophy then aggression, a strength of "occupation," a antagonistic army takeover which "exploits the resources" of faith (99)? that may be triumphant basically in being "integrated" with theological imperialism! what's the distinction among the "post-secular colonisation" of atheism and the "post-theological occupation" of theology -- except whose part one is on? Or is philosophy a repetition that may continuously be hyperbolic approximately anything -- in a different way it might be "ahistorical" -- writing sous rature, deploying paleologism and a common sense of the sans (Derrida's faith sans religion), as Watkin explicitly issues out (79-80)? that could be a even more soft operation than the single Watkin ascribes to Badiou -- as though faith have been an item uncovered to the sunshine of the belief and the "philosopher" have been the "master" who can clarify faith to itself, whereas mocking its self-understanding as a trifling "fable." yet any notion, "theological" or "post-theological," is at odds with itself and is moved via its personal inner tensions. A deconstruction tracks the best way issues are continually already invaded by means of their different, consistently divided internally, however it isn't really exploitation, aggression, career, a plundering of faith or the murals -- merci à Dieu!

At this element, Watkin is confident we now have reached a draw: neither place has stumbled on its means transparent to post-theology. Badiou makes a primal choice concerning the axiomatization of being, stating that the only isn't, which no matter if traditionally "motivated" is a contestable religion that mathematical pondering is "better." Nancy is also not able to flee the shadow of theology, distinguishing a determinate trust (croyance) in a determinate "principle" (or signification) from a deeper yet divided religion (foi) (in sens). This religion isn't really against cause yet is a conserving religion with or being "true" (treu) to cause that supplementations cause. cause wishes such religion with a purpose to functionality, given its personal insufficiency, in order that cause isn't extra "reasonable" than whilst it acknowledges that it wishes the complement of religion. A self-sufficient cause is idolatry; real cause is unclosed, incomplete, inadequate, uncovered to religion (115-16). Nancy calls this "atheology," the confirmation of the unprogrammable, un-axiomatizable, sens of the "world." yet this, Watkin thinks, in basic terms keeps to privilege Christianity. Atheism should be not just tough yet "incompletable" (121), led again to a Gödelian position: atheism can't whole itself (Badiou) with no changing into inconsistent, and it can't be constant (Nancy) with out being incomplete (123).

Enter Meillassoux, who claims to supply an atheism either constant and entire. utilizing Badiou's critique of finitude, Meillassoux assaults Kantian "fideism" (denying wisdom to make room for religion) and offers philosophy limitless authority over God, rationalizing revelation -- no longer removing it -- no longer not like Spinoza or Hegel. Philosophy denies either the transcendent God of theism and the God-less immanence of atheism, yet as a substitute it produces a brand new God of its personal development, an "inexistent" God. Philosophy isn't really experimental technology, whose methodological limits (finitude) play into the fingers of non secular religion, yet nor is it classical metaphysics, which posits an important being. for this reason it assumes a "speculative" shape which denies the idea that we're pressured to select from the contingency of the numerous (postmodernism) and the need of the single (God) (metaphysics). Readers of theology will detect that "voluntarist" or "divine will" theology, God as useful, transcendent and inscrutably loose to change the legislation of nature and morality, does provider for "God" at huge for Meillassoux. The "speculative" place is to say the need of contingency, the need that every thing is contingent, which Meillassoux calls the primary of the "factial" (le factual). It can't be that the contingency of items is itself contingent.

This precept is argued for through a strange type of tables-turning approach to "conversion" (162). A minus (reasoning to an important being falls into endless regress, explaining one contingent factor by way of one other) turns into a plus: this failure is an instantaneous perception into the non-necessity of anyone being and of the need of the contingency of each being, which removes the necessity for religion (146). Being not able to return up with a enough cause of any being is an perception into the impossibility that any specific being may be important (147). What's eventually "wrong" with God for Meillassoux is that we're forbidden to invite the place God got here from. Or back: the "strong correlationists" continue that truth may possibly consistently be in a different way than the way in which we now have developed it in language or recognition. that isn't the skeptical relativism it desires to be, yet an instinct that it really is inescapably important that issues may possibly constantly be differently than they are.

Finally, his impressive studying of Hume: the lack to discover the required dating among the antecedent and the ensuing is an highbrow perception into the genuine loss of causal necessity, thereby switching the "non-reason" from us (skepticism) to the issues themselves (realism). Meillassoux isn't asserting that the flora and fauna is chaotic yet that it's topic to a non-observable (speculative) contingency (143). There are legislation and regularities or even causal connections in nature, yet they're all contingent. Gravity is a legislations, however it isn't priceless. it's thinkable that the next day there'll be no gravity. Chaos is illness, yet radical contingency is a "hyperchaos," that means that ailment can be destroyed by way of order simply as simply as order could be destroyed through ailment. From the primary of "insufficient reason" (there being no enough cause of any specific factor) we will finish to the need of contingency (145) and to the main of non-contradiction, for if a specific thing have been either itself and its contradiction it is going to already be any "other" that it may well develop into; it is going to then be an unchangeable and helpful being. yet each being is contingent.

None of which means Meillassoux is finished with God. faraway from it -- he's the main "aggressive" (231-32) of all by way of post-theological "integration." After dishing out with the God of the ontological argument, God as an ens necessarium, it continues to be attainable that God may occur to return approximately, whether God occurs to not exist now. God's present inexistence doesn't exclude a potential destiny lifestyles. certainly, it really is completely priceless that God (like every little thing else at the moment inexistent) may possibly almost certainly exist afterward. Why Meillassoux could ever be resulted in say this sort of factor -- he's not anything if no longer daring -- brings us to the query of justice, the opposite notion (along with fact) with which post-theology desires to "integrate itself," and to the age-old challenge of evil. Justice calls for we supersede either classical theism (because it affirms a God who allows the worst injustices) and classical atheism (because it permits the injustice performed to the lifeless to head unrepaired) by way of positing the desire for the prospective emergence sooner or later of a God who will increase the useless and present them for his or her hitherto unrequited agony in terms of a Christ-like determine known as the "Child of Man." Like a strange Hegelian, Meillassoux desires to "occupy" every thing that (the Christian) faith has to claim! That yields a "philosophical divine" (207), a God, faith and resurrection within which we may possibly wish strictly in the limits of cause by myself, of the main of useful contingency.

Watkin thinks that Meillassoux's precept of the need of contingency undoes itself. Given the unbroken rule of contingency, this kind of necessity must be temporally certified as "according to the almost immediately triumphing criteria of rationality" (151). probably day after today morning what's judged rational or simply at the present time might be judged irrational and unjust, whereas what's irrational and unjust might be judged rational and simply. The very notions of considering and rationality, of necessity and contingency are all contingent and topic to alter sooner or later. in the event that they aren't, then they're precious and exempt from the main of the factial. Meillassoux both erects a God-like idol out of pondering and rationality (parasitic atheism) or calls for an act of religion that cause won't mutate lower than the strength of hyperchaos (ascetic atheism) (155).

In Nancy, justice comes right down to a "call" that for Watkin is just too vulnerable to be powerful and to be potent will require miming a divine injunction. Badiou tells us his view of justice is prompted through his own event of the occasions of may perhaps, 1968, which compares to his view that his axiomatic choice to assert that ontology is arithmetic is stimulated by way of the calls for of modernity; whereas biographically attention-grabbing, this lacks the universality politics calls for. Badiou bases his atheism on an axiomatic selection; Nancy builds religion into the very notion of cause; and Meillassoux, resisting either strikes, makes an attempt an indication of his founding precept, however the demonstration calls for religion. Taken jointly, all 3 thinkers posit an axiom, a decision or an instinct within which we needs to simply trust (233-34), that are thought of eo ipso "good" and are given a cross on having to extra justify themselves. He concludes with Fichte's comment that the type of philosophy one chooses is dependent upon the type of individual one is. Philosophy constantly hazards such circularity, that's the final word trouble in changing into an atheist.

But what is going round comes round. Watkin concerns that the "colonisation" of atheism by means of "post-secular" theology ends us up again in theology, now not atheism. that's obviously undesirable simply because, good, atheism is "good." yet what's so stable approximately atheism? Why is atheism not only as good-and-bad as theology, the place all of it is dependent upon how theologians and atheists behave either as thinkers and social brokers? Why may still we search a "post-theology" that purges either the imitation and the residue of theology from atheism? simply because atheism is nice and an intensive clean-sweep atheism is even higher. The "post" in Watkin's post-theology is like Žižek's interpreting of the Hegelian dialectic as a double no: atheism capacity no God; post-theology skill no God, no longer even a hint of God.

But why is "post-secular" theology now not "good?" It belongs to a innovative wing of theology wanting to soak up the insights of radical thinkers from Nietzsche to Žižek so one can have interaction in critical self-criticism and to undermine the demonization of atheism by means of theology. If we criticize theologians for no longer interpreting such writers, are we then to criticize them after they do? Postmodern theology ends up in a looking out feedback of the violence and fundamentalism of faith from inside of theology itself, that's drastically greater than any exterior feedback of theology. If we try out the belief on Watkin's phrases, via its pay-off by way of justice, post-secular theology enacts an auto-deconstruction of theological imperialism, militarism, patriarchy, racism, and homophobia, drawing upon a theology of peace and justice stretching from Amos to Martin Luther King (which is why spiritual individuals are so on a regular basis came upon operating one of the so much destitute humans on the earth) and calling down upon itself the fireplace of conservative non secular specialists. If such theological pondering have been the coin of the area in faith this present day, spiritual violence wouldn't be within the headlines.

That being acknowledged, I do partly percentage Watkin's problem with post-secular theology, even though that can come as a shock to him, considering the fact that Watkin numbers me one of the post-secularists he criticizes, which I characteristic to a slightly glancing examine my paintings. I regard the "post-Kantian" model of postmodern theology as an attenuated or abridged version of postmodernism; it's reliable however it can be higher. It regards postmodernism because the modern model of "apologetics," removing reductionistic reviews of faith and permitting classical non secular orthodoxy to face untouched. A extra looking model of postmodern concept calls for a extra looking (and post-Hegelian) feedback of what's occurring in faith and theology. That calls for a cautious ancient and important learn of the Scriptures, of the historical past of theology and of what we're conversing approximately after we westerners converse in Christian Latin of "religion." the end result could take the shape, in my opinion, of an exposition (an expounding and an exposing) of the "events" that happen in faith -- occasions of promising and hoping, giving and forgiving, mourning and recalling, justice and hospitality, etc. it should reveal a deeper "faith" (foi) which runs underneath the "confessional beliefs" (croyances), the place either "theism" and "atheism" are handled as croyances, whereas religion has to do with a deep-set confirmation or wish of whatever we hope with a hope past wish, a hope that overtakes us all, theists, atheists or nonetheless attempting to decide.

I imagine, and Watkin turns out to agree, that there aren't any non-circular arguments opposed to the life of God, if by way of God we suggest a being outdoor house and time. If that's what a thorough atheism may suggest, there's no such factor (243, n.3). What assets may well we ever marshal to teach what there isn't in an international past house and time? whether it is "difficult" adequate to attempt to end up that anything is there, it really is even tougher to end up there isn't. yet I do imagine that the great outdated God of St. Augustine and his two-worlds concept has run its direction, that it has earned our "incredulity," to stay with Lyotard's accurately selected notice, an incredulity that's quite often came upon one of the theologians themselves. That, even though, is some distance from giving up on God, or extra accurately at the identify (of) "God," or extra accurately nonetheless the "events" that occur in and lower than the identify (of) "God." Pursuing what I name a "radical theology," i would like to be "after" God in as some ways as attainable, not just after/post the dualism of the town of God but additionally after/ad the identify of God that offers phrases to a hope past hope, which Derrida has subtly if enigmatically set unfastened in texts like "Circumfession." This eccentric restaging of Augustine's Confessions is a deeply nuanced deconstruction of Christianity or even extra so of his personal Judaism, "haunting" the non secular ideals it repeats, making them tremble whereas additionally suggesting they comprise whatever they can not comprise. Deconstruction isn't "critique" yet an indirect confirmation. Derrida doesn't attempt to "occupy" the Confessions like a conquering colonial military yet to "repeat" faith "without religion," in response to the delicate common sense of the sans, thereby exposing the constitution of a extra profound foi that's occurring within the Confessions whereas now not being held captive by way of its doctrinal croyances. Deconstruction isn't "occupying;" it truly is analyzing, slowly and meticulously.

Once the binarity of theism and atheism is displaced, as soon as the grip of those "-isms" is damaged, then considering and performing after God can start, as loose from theism as from atheism, but additionally, velocity Watkin, as loose from atheism as from theism.

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53–114. 27. Heidegger, ‘Nietzsche’s word’, p. 111. 28. Heidegger, ‘Nietzsche’s word’, p. 61. 29. Heidegger, ‘Nietzsche’s word’, p. 61. 30. Heidegger, ‘Nietzsche’s word’, p. 69. 31. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 117. 32. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 586. 33. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. C. K. Ogden (New York: Barnes and Noble, 2003), p. 157. indd 18 18/03/2011 12:15 Atheisms Today 19 34. Husserl, Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology, p. 134. 35. Henry, L’Essence de la manifestation, p.

Blanchot, Faux Pas, trans. Charlotte Mandell, p. 57; translation altered) 16. ‘As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter’ (Nietzsche, The Gay Science, p. 181). 17. Nietzsche, The Gay Science, p. 344. 18. See note 3. 19. Nietzsche, The Gay Science, p. 279. 20. Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, Twilight of the Idols, and Other Writings, p. 170. 21. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Signes (Paris: Gallimard, 1960), p. 368; ‘human nature had truth and justice for attributes, as other species have fins or wings’ (Merleau-Ponty, Signs, p.

This is a necessary requirement not least because Badiou identifies the infinite as a site for the re-insinuation of the one (C 164/TW 27). The ‘desacralising’ remedy for this latent unity is the set-theoretical actual infinite, an infinite which is flat (as opposed to transcendent), plural (as opposed to unique), local (as opposed to universal) and natural (as opposed to divine) (CT 22/BOE 30; LM 121/LW 111; C 164/Con 99; EE 169/BE 150). 41 This definition of infinity is simple, primary and positive: an infinite system has the positive characteristic of a biunivocal correspondence between itself and one of its own parts.

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