Anatheism

Anatheism: Returning to God After God

Richard Kearney
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/kear14788
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    Anatheism
    Book Description:

    Has the passing of the old God paved the way for a new kind of religious project, a more responsible way to seek, sound, and love the things we call divine? Has the suspension of dogmatic certainties and presumptions opened a space in which we can encounter religious wonder anew? Situated at the split between theism and atheism, we now have the opportunity to respond in deeper, freer ways to things we cannot fathom or prove.

    Distinguished philosopher Richard Kearney calls this condition ana-theos, or God after God-a moment of creative "not knowing" that signifies a break with former sureties and invites us to forge new meanings from the most ancient of wisdoms. Anatheism refers to an inaugural event that lies at the heart of every great religion, a wager between hospitality and hostility to the stranger, the other-the sense of something "more." By analyzing the roots of our own anatheistic moment, Kearney shows not only how a return to God is possible for those who seek it but also how a more liberating faith can be born.

    Kearney begins by locating a turn toward sacred secularity in contemporary philosophy, focusing on Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Paul Ricoeur. He then marks "epiphanies" in the modernist masterpieces of James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Virginia Woolf. Kearney concludes with a discussion of the role of theism and atheism in conflict and peace, confronting the distinction between sacramental and sacrificial belief or the God who gives life and the God who takes it away. Accepting that we can never be sure about God, he argues, is the only way to rediscover a hidden holiness in life and to reclaim an everyday divinity.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51986-1
    Subjects: Religion, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xx)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  5. One: Prelude
    • INTRODUCTION: GOD AFTER GOD
      (pp. 3-16)

      What comes after God? What follows in the wake of our letting go of God? What emerges out of that night of not-knowing, that moment of abandoning and abandonment? Especially for those who—after ridding themselves of “God”—still seek God?

      That is the question I wish to pursue in this volume. And, so doing, I propose the possibility of a third way beyond the extremes of dogmatic theism and militant atheism: those polar opposites of certainty that have maimed so many minds and souls in our history. This third option, this wager of faith beyond faith, I call anatheism....

    • 1 IN THE MOMENT: THE UNINVITED GUEST
      (pp. 17-39)

      Abrahamic religions testify to inaugural encounters with a divine stranger. In such primary scenes two responses are registered: hostility or hospitality. You decline the other or receive the other into your home. Let me give some examples drawn from the three Religions of the Book—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

      I begin with the story of Abraham. It is a dry hot day in the desert. An old man is sitting at the door of his tent, pitched under the shade of an oak tree. His wife, Sarah, is inside the tent, sheltering from the midday sun. She is not happy;...

    • 2 IN THE WAGER: THE FIVEFOLD MOTION
      (pp. 40-56)

      The anatheist wager I am trying to describe has five main components: imagination, humor, commitment, discernment, and hospitality. I will say a word about each in turn, though strictly speaking they do not constitute five sequential moments, chronologically separate in time, but rather equiprimordial aspects of a single hermeneutic arc. Wagers occur in an instant, all at once. But they are complex, shrouded in a halo of multilayered motions. And there is much, we shall see, that precedes and follows them.

      One cannot wager unless one has freedom to choose. Such choice presupposes our ability to imagine different possibilities in...

    • 3 IN THE NAME: AFTER AUSCHWITZ WHO CAN SAY GOD?
      (pp. 57-82)

      What do we mean when we speak in the name of God? Do we mean an omnipotent God who will solve our problems, save and scold, condemn and control? Or something very different? When we pray In the Name of the Father do we regress to primitive rites of infantile dependency and projection (as Freud suggests)? Or is there more to it than that? Something beyond childish superstition and fetishism? Something that gestures toward a divinity that may be in flesh and blood, here and now, if we allow it, responding to the name that calls by creating a place...

  6. Two: Interlude
    • 4 IN THE FLESH: SACRAMENTAL IMAGINATION
      (pp. 85-100)

      There are three basic elements to anatheism: protest, prophecy, and sacrament. In chapter 3 we looked mainly at the first two, especially as they signal a challenge to the God of otherwordly omnipotence and invite retrievals of a God of service and natality. In this chapter I will focus on the third element—namely, a sacramental return to the holiness of the everyday. As the phenomenological analyses I explore in this and following chapters focus mainly on figures of eucharistand epiphany, I begin with some remarks on the Gospel tradition of embodiment. So doing, however, I by no means wish...

    • 5 IN THE TEXT: JOYCE, PROUST, WOOLF
      (pp. 101-130)

      In this chapter I look at how certain modern authors illustrate the anatheistic paradigm. I will focus on three pioneers of modernist fiction who bore witness to the return of the sacred—Joyce, Proust, and Woolf. No one of these was a believer in any orthodox confessional sense. Each was deeply marked, to be sure, by their religious education and upbringing: Joyce as a Catholic, Woolf as a Protestant, and Proust as someone with a mixed Christian-Jewish background. But none of them advanced an overtly theistic position. Conventional wisdom might even suggest the contrary: that Joyce was a rebel apostate,...

  7. Three: Postlude
    • 6 IN THE WORLD: BETWEEN SECULAR AND SACRED?
      (pp. 133-151)

      After our hermeneutic detour through sacramental poetics we return, finally, to the question of sacramental ethics. Here we revisit a central concern of the anatheist wager: namely, what does it mean to accept the sacred stranger into the secular universe? What is involved in translating epiphanies of transcendence into the immanence of everyday action? What are the practical implications of moving from sacred imagination to a sacred praxis of peace and justice? Or, to put it in another way, how do anatheists in a secular age respond to the question: what is to be done?

      As we saw in chapter...

    • 7 IN THE ACT: BETWEEN WORD AND FLESH
      (pp. 152-165)

      The three arcs of anatheism—the iconoclastic, the prophetic, and the sacramental—attest to ways in which the sacred is in the world but not of the world. While the sacred inhabits the secular, it is not identical with it. They are not the same, though for anatheism they need each other as self needs stranger. If the sacred stranger were identical with the self, she would be neither sacred nor strange. The stranger is sacred in that she always embodies something else, something more, something other than what the self can grasp or contain. This point has been recognized,...

  8. CONCLUSION: WELCOMING STRANGE GODS
    (pp. 166-181)

    Anatheism, I have argued, is not an end but a way. It is a third way that precedes and exceeds the extremes of dogmatic theism and militant atheism. It is not some new religion, but attention to the divine in the stranger who stands before us in the midst of the world. It is a call for a new acoustic attuned to the presence of the sacred in flesh and blood. It is amor mundi, love of the life-world as embodiment of infinity in the finite, of transcendence in immanence, of eschatology in the now.

    Anatheism is not an atheism...

  9. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 182-186)

    Some last thoughts in l’esprit de l’escalier—afterthoughts descending the stairwell as one remembers things unsaid.

    The first of these is the question of humanism. Why, one might ask, does the stranger have to be a divine other? Why can’t it just be human? Or natural? Why is anatheism any more than being nice to your neighbor—something atheists surely do as well as theists or anatheists? What’s God got to do with it?

    This is a common point that comes up in discussions with atheist colleagues and friends. And it is a fair one. My respectful response is that...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 187-234)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 235-248)