Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Atheist theologians

"Is not every unbeliever who has a reason for his atheism and his decision not to believe a theologian too? Atheists who have something against God and against faith in God usually know very well whom and what they are rejecting, and have their reasons. Nietzsche’s book The Antichrist has a lot to teach us about true Christianity, and the modern criticism of religion put forward by Feuerbach, Marx and Freud is still theological in its antitheology.

Beyond that, moreover, there is a protest atheism which wrestles with God as Job did, and for the sake of the suffering of created beings which cries out to high heaven denies that there is a just God who rules the world in love. This atheism is profoundly theological, for the theodicy question -- "If there is a good God, why all this evil?" -- is also the fundamental question of every Christian theology which takes seriously the dying Christ’s question to God: "My God, why have you forsaken me?"

- Jürgen Moltmann, "Godless theology".

Not all atheism is the same. There are atheists who are closer to the kingdom than they realise when their very repudiation of God is on moral grounds. They refuse to believe in God not primarily because such an idea of illogical or unnecessary, but because doing so would be immoral in a world so filled with suffering. Such people are often asking the right questions to which the gospel is such good news.


Raffi Shahinian said...

I usually hate linking to my own stuff, but this post reminded so much of a theme I spoke to last Thanksgiving at our church. Thought you might be interested.

Grace and Peace,

Anonymous said...

Thanks Byron. I think your last paragraph is great, and a really helpful way to approach things.


One of Freedom said...

Bloch said that he was an atheist for God's sake. I thought that was quite clever. I believe it was through Moltmann that I learned that.

Anonymous said...

good post. just been reading Marx and Zizek and thinking along similar lines.

gregory said...

atheism is the summum bonum of a spiritual quest based on truth and reality ... letter to the editor, in the hindu, chennai ...

atheists give atheism a bad name ..

byron smith said...

Gregory, would you like to expand your thought a little? I wasn't quite sure what you meant.

Anonymous said...

And what about the two thirds of the worlds human beings who are not Christian, especially those from other faith traditions?

Where are they in relation to the "kingdom" that you talk about and promote?

Are they thus living in darkness?

Is there room for the Queen of Heaven in your kingdom, or is it an exclusively male domain.

kP said...

All of you here except for the last anonymous commentator are so wired up, full of and riding high on - shit!

byron smith said...

Anonymous - I think that Moltmann would say that all those who are genuinely wrestling with the problem of evil and suffering are theologians too. However, his specific context was addressing the question of atheism and so the fact that he doesn't address your concerns is not particularly surprising.

Are there millions of people who are walking in darkness? I suspect so. Are we all sitting in the land of shadows? Certainly, even if many of us live in denial of our own mortality - sitting in the dark with our eyes closed. Does this mean those of other faiths are evil? No more than you or I. Does this mean that I think that Jesus is the light of the world? Yes.

To answer your second question, does the rule of heaven mean the rule of masculinity? Of course not! Jesus liberates all - women and men, young and old, rich and poor - he liberates us from fear and guilt to walk in the path of peace. Has the church often failed to grasp the full implications of this? Yes. Has it continued to seek repentance and learn from Jesus how to treat those who are weaker and marginalised? At least sometimes, and I hope we shall continue to do so.

KP -Thanks for bringing us down to earth with a splat. Would you like to explain further what you mean? Why is this not a useful conversation in your opinion?