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A Theory of Atheology: Reason, Critique, and Beyond

Devellennes, Charles (2014) A Theory of Atheology: Reason, Critique, and Beyond. Telos, 166 (1). pp. 81-100. ISSN 0090-6514. (doi:10.3817/0314166081)

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Abstract

Since Georges Bataille’s “Somme athéologique” and Michel Onfray’s “Traité d’athéologie,” the term atheology has entered our vocabularies. Despite the plurality of atheistic perspectives, this article shows that this concept of atheology illustrates a continuity between various strands of philosophical atheism. Moving beyond the school of “new atheists” (Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett), it proposes to show the role that reason and critique play in atheistic thought, as well as point to speculative developments in philosophy that propose new areas of investigation. The theory of atheology proposed here is threefold. In the first instance, atheology is analyzed as a negative or reactive phenomenon. A negative atheology (a-theology) is still predominant in much atheist thinking. Scholarly analysis, often done by theologians, proposes to portray atheism as a parasitic phenomenon that lives off the meaning of God being denied. But much of the work of the new atheists also falls all-too-easily within this category of negative atheology. While there are potent attacks upon theology, conceptions of God, and religions that come out of these critiques, they often fall short of good atheology as the claims put forward—particularly on the role that scientific rationalism plays to explain all phenomena and provide evidence for atheism—do not stand scrutiny. In the second instance, a positive theory of atheology is highlighted (atheo-logy). It moves away from scientific reason, and atheology is reconceptualized as a particular type of belief. By situating atheology in the realm of doxa, this part shows that a movement away from dogmatic atheology is possible and desirable. As a belief in the non-existence of God, positive atheology desacralizes belief and reclaims its realm against that of faith. Once this move has been made, the power of critique within atheology will become clearer, as it always depends on contingent claims. Through Kantian, Hegelian, Marxian, and finally Nietzschean critique, a third atheology (metatheology) becomes possible. An agonistic atheology is here sketched, through the dramatic event of the death of God. In a world where the belief in the Christian God is no longer believable, Nietzsche offers a condition of possibility through contingency and pluralism. This contingent pluralism finally opens up the possibility of an atheistic spirituality, a sense of depth and fullness that demands a heroic ethics.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.3817/0314166081
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Charles Devellennes
Date Deposited: 23 May 2014 14:36 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 12:37 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/41191 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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