Most atheistic arguments are defensive

Philosophy of atheism

At the moment there is often almost intrusive talk of a return of religion. Gray popes, jihad fighters who cannot be found and the revival faces of young people at church congresses are now indicators of our culture of excitement. It is easy to overlook the fact that life in the West is dominated by indifference towards God and faith. And what about the other side? Does atheism describe more than a teaching unit on the life and work of Friedrich Nietzsche? What does it mean today to be consciously a non-believer - beyond the beautiful dawn in which Nietzsche himself was able to immerse his triumph over the death of God?

Two publications show that the opposition is forming. It is no coincidence that the fifth in a series of bestselling books appeared in the USA in which atheists speak out in the charged atmosphere after September 11th. Sam Harris "The End of Faith" and "Letter to a Christian Nation"; Daniel Dennett's "Breaking the Spell"; Richard Dawkins "The God Delusion" and most recently Christopher Hitchen's "God is not Great", which is now also available in German.

The latest edition of the Frankfurter Hefte, on the other hand, is less oriented towards the political agenda. The confessions of atheism in it testify to astonishing calmness.

Slavoy Zizek bases his plea for humane atheism in the heavyweight tradition of European thought. The author, known for having a finger on the cake of modern philosophy, updates this time-honored discussion by combining research in modern science with general reflections on a future of belief. This sometimes leads to surprising short circuits for Zizek. Thus, from the results of quantum mechanics with its uncertainty relation, an ontological imperfection is derived, which is supposed to reduce both the old metaphysics and the idea of ​​a creative God to absurdity.

Sizek finds a deduction from Lacan's reflections on sexuation even more adventurous. Zizek lead them to the conclusion that male-dominated monotheism must be viewed as the last preliminary stage to atheism, which is then realized as a humane faith without God, or as Zizek puts it,

"as belief without the support of the authority of a presupposed figure of the great other."

If this line of evidence seems to be quite strenuous, the contributions by Herbert Schnädelbach and Hans Blumenberg are characterized by a pleasant comprehensibility. Both authors are concerned with portraying their avowed atheism as the fruit of experience and cultural influences - which includes not attacking religion blindly, but locating it in a historical continuum in which their own position also experiences its meaning.

Schnädelbach outlines his atheism against a background that takes the edge off the discussion from the outset. He rightly sees a practical atheism in effect in Western societies, which is not evident through conscious partisanship but rather indifference. Who is still preoccupied by God and Paradise? - This everyday atheism makes Schnädelbach think almost wistfully of his old opponent religion and turn him into a pious atheist himself. His Confessio is accordingly:

"The piety of the pious atheist consists in the fact that he cannot help but take what has been lost religiously seriously and that is why he is disturbed when it is a mere garnish of our mundane everyday life. His mood thus testifies to a dichotomy between the child's need for security believing in a Heavenly Father and having to grow up without illusions. "

In a few notes, Hans Blumenberg provides this sympathetic defensive direction with a cultural anthropological foundation. Blumenberg's approach once again impresses with its knowledge of human nature, which excludes polemics; nevertheless it delivers the most abysmal and most compelling argument for a really humane atheism. It goes back to a word of Jesus that was deliberately not canonized by the church. It is said

"Those who are with me did not understand me."

Blumenberg sees in this sentence neither despair nor a cold-shouldered rejection of contemptuous followers at work, but confirms the truly cryptic insight that the founder of Christianity himself pushed for its abolition, but by which he means above all the history that it imposes on people, himself and act responsibly to the world. Atheism would then have to be understood as an attempt to counteract the repeated deceptions caused by religion.

Blumenberg also surprisingly approaches the discussion about God, society and the world that has been going on in America for three hundred years.

"The modern age has brought the USA the separation of church and state, but precisely this circumstance has pointed the problem to finer forms of social inquisition. Whether creditworthiness, human touch or social connections are meant, life still seems to be dominated by religion. "

An impression that is very topical today, as Thomas P. Weber shows in another article. Unlike in Europe, the indifference to religion that can also be observed in the USA quickly turns into hysterical partisanship when the crucial question "How do you feel about religion" comes up, especially in the positive sciences. This can be seen in the debate between supporters and opponents of the theory of evolution.

Which brings us to Christopher Hitchens and the social environment that has recently sprouted publications for and against religion and political statements.

In a country where a president had his first designed speech after September 11th culminated in a prayer, where the same ruler divided the world into axes of good and evil, in such a country the awareness of religion has increased dramatically. Of course, this milieu also includes the fact that lenders ask customers about their religious affiliation, 90 percent of the professors attribute themselves to unbelievers or, on the one hand, they show themselves drunk with positivism and feasibility, but on the other hand demand the presence of God everywhere. Above all, Richard Dawkins The God delusion was to be understood here as a provocative response to social restrictions that are sought by creationists and god designers through educational measures. But it is not primarily this long-running discussion that Hitchens is having. He draws his atheist barrage rather from the arsenal of a committed journalist who sharpens his theses populistically and has set himself the goal of doing away with religion once and for all.

"Religion and the churches were created by people and since that is so obvious, it cannot be ignored. Second: Ethics and morals are independent of belief and cannot be derived from it. Third: Because religion is one for its practices and beliefs wants to assert divine exception, it is not only amoral, but immoral. "

Hitchens fills these theses with evidence, which in most cases can hardly be disputed, but which, in sum, puff up religion into a single monstrosity - as the chapter headings of the book indicate:

"Religion Kills," The Old Testament Nightmare; The New Testament "overshadows the old with its wickedness, The Koran is borrowed from Jewish and Christian myths;" The corrupt beginnings of religions, Is religion child abuse? "

Hitchens leaves nothing out in his Suada, his missionary tone hardly hides the fact that he wants to influence the current cultural conflicts. In one case with a strange blindness: while Mr Bush and his fundamentalism are only mentioned in passing, the author pointedly relies on an unmasking of Islam:

"Islam is at the same time the most interesting and the least interesting of the monotheistic world religions. It builds on its primitive Jewish and Christian predecessors, takes over a chunk here and there and stands and falls with these set pieces."

The plagiarism allegation: a particularly lucid argument, which, however, clearly shows Hitchens weaknesses. The author himself becomes a victim of that charged mood, which he would like to counter with serenity. In contrast to this, an article by Werner Hamacher from the Frankfurter Hefte on a text by Franz Kafka should be mentioned. Hamacher discovers a profound anti-messianism in Kafka's prose. A literature that admits its powerlessness without waiting for a savior. Such atheism would be welcome.

New Rundschau
118 year 2007, issue 2
S. Fischer
172 pages
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