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After Christianity

After Christianity

Gianni Vattimo
translated by Luca D’Isanto
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    After Christianity
    Book Description:

    What has been the fate of Christianity since Nietzsche's famous announcement of the "death of God"? What is the possibility of religion, specifically Christianity, thriving in our postmodern era? In this provocative new book, Gianni Vattimo, leading Italian philosopher, politician, and framer of the European constitution, addresses these critical questions.

    When Vattimo was asked by a former teacher if he still believed in God, his reply was, "Well, I believe that I believe." This paradoxical declaration of faith serves as the foundation for a brilliant exposition on Christianity in the new millennium -- an age characterized by a deep uncertainty of opinion -- and a personal account of how Vattimo himself recovered his faith through Nietzsche and Heidegger. He first argues that secularization is in fact the fulfillment of the central Christian message, and prepares us for a new mode of Christianity. He then explains that Nietzsche's thesis concerns only the "moral god" and leaves room for the emergence of "new gods." Third, Vattimo claims that the postmodern condition of fragmentation, anti-Eurocentrism, and postcolonialism can be usefully understood in light of Joachim of Fiore's thesis concerning the "Spiritual Age" of history. Finally, Vattimo argues for the idea of "weak thought." Because philosophy in the postmetaphysical age can only acknowledge that "all is interpretation," that the "real" is always relative and not the hard and fast "truth" we once thought it to be, contemporary thought must recognize itself and its claims as "weak" as opposed to "strong" foundationalist claims of the metaphysical past. Vattimo concludes that these factors make it possible for religion and God to become a serious topic for philosophy again, and that philosophy should now formally engage religion.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50650-2
    Subjects: Religion, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. INTRODUCTION: Believing That One Believes
    (pp. 1-10)

    THE ITALIAN TITLE of a recent book of mine, translated into English as Belief,¹ was Credere di credere (believing that one believes). It was a difficult title to translate, though it contained the meaning I wanted to convey in the text. The expression “believing that one believes” sounds paradoxical in Italian, too: to believe means having faith, conviction, or certainty in something, but also to opine—that is, to think with a certain degree of uncertainty. To clarify the title, then, I would say that the first believing has the latter meaning, while the second use of the term has...

  4. 1 The God Who Is Dead
    (pp. 11-24)

    IN ONE OF the long fragments on nihilism from the 1800s (which was first published in The Will to Power), Nietzsche asks whether nihilism is compatible with some form of faith in the divine and conceives of the possibility of a pantheistic religiosity, since “after all only the moral God is denied”¹). After all, there are other, well-known passages in Nietzsche’s more mature work where he speaks of the creation of new gods. Let me remark that when announcing the death of God, Nietzsche anticipates that the latter’s shadow will continue to be cast upon our world for a long...

  5. 2 The Teachings of Joachim of Fiore
    (pp. 25-40)

    THE RECOGNITION THAT the history or weakening of Being is akin to the secularization of the sacred in the Western tradition discloses a broad area of reflection for philosophy, and for the self-interpretation of religious experience. My purpose in this chapter is not to reconsider, from the perspective of philosophy, philosophy’s relationship to religion so that we might clarify the meaning of their family resemblance (as I have called it, leaving the meaning undefined), which is an important aspect of my reflection. Nor is it to discuss whether the recognition that secularized philosophy is akin to Christian revelation implies that...

  6. 3 God the Ornament
    (pp. 41-56)

    WHAT ARE THE consequences of the fact that philosophy has recovered its provenance from the Judeo-Christian tradition, interpreted in light of the ontology of the event rather than of a metaphysical conception of Being? In the two preceding chapters, I have tried to establish, or at least to suggest, that on the basis of these two premises it is possible to construe an image of postmodern religious experience. I do not renounce using the word postmodern, because I am convinced that the history of salvation announced by the Bible realizes itself in world historical events—in this I remain faithful...

  7. 4 History of Salvation, History of Interpretation
    (pp. 57-68)

    A COMMA DISJOINS the two parts of the title. It is clearly a patch: for lack of a better term, it is an approximate solution. There could have been a colon or a dash; however, it would have not been possible to replace the comma with a sive, a “that is.” Somehow—and I do not think that it is just a deconstructive chattering—this is the real topic of the following remarks.

    The comma is not a neutral joint, as a simple conjunction might have been, bringing near the two terms so as to announce, more simply, an analysis...

  8. 5 The West or Christianity
    (pp. 69-82)

    IT IS NOT too difficult to fill with meaning this title, whose intention stimulates curiosity and eventually provokes, because it evokes too many things often in conflict with each other. It is not so much a matter of filling the title with meaning as of emptying it, at least in part, by reducing it to a set of coherent and intelligible terms. The multiple meanings we immediately assign to this linked pair indicate at the very least that we take it as a natural, granted, and unquestionable fact, though we cannot spell out why this is the case, as always...

  9. 6 The Death or Transfiguration of Religion
    (pp. 83-92)

    TWO SETS OF facts seem obvious in contemporary culture, and they do not have the same meaning. Indeed, as I hope to demonstrate, the task of critical thought is elaborating the difference between them. Let me begin with the most visible phenomena surrounding the renewal of religion, which are also the most vaguely defined. This is what we might call, following the title of a book published in France a few years ago, the triumph of God. The current Catholic pope has an extraordinary audience among non-Catholics and nonbelievers, in part because of his contribution to the collapse of the...

  10. 7 Christianity and Cultural Conflicts in Europe
    (pp. 93-102)

    THERE ARE MANY indications that the relationship of Christianity to the potential hardening or exacerbation of cultural conflicts is not a peaceful one. I mean that today it would be difficult for anyone at first to take this title, “Christianity and Cultural Conflicts in Europe,” as a reference to Christianity as a means of resolving or mitigating cultural conflicts. At first blush, Christianity would appear to be, if not a specific source of conflict, at least one of the terms involved. In other words: the presence in the Western world of a Christian tradition as a continuous background, albeit a...

  11. 8 The Christian Message and the Dissolution of Metaphysics
    (pp. 103-112)

    IT MAY BE possible to say that, in a very broad perspective, the two thousand years that separate us from the mysterious event to which our calendars refer can be understood as the progressive diminishing of the validity of a famous saying, “Amicus Plato sed magis amica veritas” (attributed by ancient biographers to Aristotle). We might recall that this expression is found in Dostoyevsky, too. When evoking the choice between Christ and truth (The Demons, part II, chapter VII), Satov assigns it to Stavrogin. However, in a letter, Dostoyevsky pronounces it in his own name. The sentence cannot be denied...

  12. 9 Violence, Metaphysics, and Christianity
    (pp. 113-122)

    IT IS THE paradox of our epoch that we are called to reflect on the link between violence and metaphysics, and on its presence in the history of Christianity, precisely when war is being waged to eradicate war and violence employed to eliminate violence (e.g., of Serbs against Kosovars, or vice versa). The idea that violence might put an end to violence (since every war is supposedly the last) shows that violence ultimately draws from the need, the resolve, and the desire to reach and be taken up into the first principle. I do not know whether this might be...

  13. 10 Heidegger and Christian Existence
    (pp. 123-138)

    HEIDEGGER’S RELATIONSHIP TO the Christian, and specifically Catholic, tradition is still to be thoroughly explored. Heidegger was steeped in Catholicism to the extent that his bishop subsidized his studies, and he was considered the bright promise of German Catholic thought at the beginning of his career. Perhaps this relationship to Christianity will appear in a new light after the release of more unpublished works in addition to those that have appeared in recent years. Among the latter, the “Einleitung in die Phenomenologie der Religion” (Introduction to the Phenomenology of Religion)¹ has a central place. This is a transcript of the...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 139-144)
  15. Index
    (pp. 145-156)