Returning to God After God

Richard Kearney

Columbia University Press


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Pub Date: May 2011

ISBN: 9780231147897

272 Pages

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Returning to God After God

Richard Kearney

Columbia University Press

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.

Richard Kearney is an eminent contributor to Continental philosophy and to the Continental turn to religion. This book is an important contribution to the turn toward the philosophy of religion. Kearney helps to define a field that is new: the return of religion not only to the center of public and intellectual life but also to the center of significant discussion in the humanities.

Anatheism is an exciting, imaginative, and robust account of the life of faith in the postmodern world, a world marked by cultural plurality and religious strife, by militant faiths and militant attacks on faith. Richard Kearney moves with ease across a breathtaking amount of literature and cultures in an effort to retrieve a more mature and complex faith, beyond both doubt and dogmatism, to find the sacred in the secular, to see God in the world. Hospitality is first among the virtues for Kearney-both the hospitality that religion is and the hospitality to be shown among religions. This book is everything we have come to expect from Kearney-clear, fascinating, and engaging, all in all a major contribution to the contemporary continental philosophy of religion.

Anatheism is a philosophical and personal exploration, reminiscent of Augustine's Confessions, of how one might envisage God after his demise. The book weaves a rich philosophical tapestry of cultural, literary, political, and religious reflections that give witness and content to how the God who has become a stranger might be ethically welcomed today. This remarkable work is, in the most positive sense, an intellectual 'tour de faiblesse.' It advocates a form of post-theism that enables a rediscovery of a 'powerless' sacred in the midst of a self-assured secular. A phenomenological and hermeneutic exercise that is of great significance and assured controversy.

Kearney invites us all to a space he calls 'anatheism,' a place that precedes belief and unbelief where the close-minded dogmatism of either theism or atheism is left at the door and a respectful encounter ensues. It is a most welcome invitation.

A heartfelt, pragmatic, and eminently realistic argument about how one might continue to think about—and even dedicate one's life to—God after the 'death' or 'disappearance' of God over the last hundred years or so.... Richard Kearney wants to see what is left of God, in the time after God, and he does so superbly well.

The New Yorker

I enjoyed Kearney's book tremendously, especially the ana-theme: the distinction between going on believing as before or believing again. This is a profound distinction for our age. The possibilities opened up by the 'ana' offer a large palette of expanding choices combining and recombining new and old positions of belief and non-belief.

Numerous dogmatic believers possess the consummate art of rendering God utterly insupportable to any free spirit... while certain atheists can be so obtuse in their scientific utilitarianism that one feels like converting at the nearest altar. It is to avoid these extremes that the Irish philosopher, Richard Kearney, has written this remarkable hermeneutics of faith.... One must salute this thought-provoking book written with rare honesty and openness of mind.

I find the notion of ana-theism extremely pertinent as a way of witnessing to the death of the death of God (a double privative) while opening a third way: a path beyond both theism and atheism, beyond metaphysics and religion, which returns to the possibility of the divine event as such.

provides a thought-provoking exchange between the religious and contemporary continental philosophy.

Robert W.M. Kennedy, Symposium

As always, Kearney's work is poetic and thoughtful.

Forrest Clingerman, Religious Studies Review

This book is the outcome of a rich philosophical journey... I highly recommend this book to readers who wish to move beyond well-trodden paths in the debate between theism and atheism.

M. Moyaert, Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses

A heartfelt, pragmatic, and eminently realistic argument about how one might continue to think about—and even dedicate one's life to—God after the 'death' or 'disappearance' of God over the last hundred years or so.

James Wood, Page-Turner blog, The New Yorker
One. Prelude
Introduction: God After God
1. In the Moment: The Uninvited Guest
2. In the Wager: The Fivefold Motion
3. In the Name: After Auschwitz Who Can Say God?
Two. Interlude
4. In the Flesh: Sacramental Imagination
5. In the Text: Joyce, Proust, Woolf
Three. Postlude
6. In the World: Between Secular and Sacred
7. In the Act: Between Word and Flesh
Conclusion: Welcoming Strange Gods
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About the Author

Richard Kearney holds the Charles H. Seelig Chair of Philosophy at Boston College and is visiting professor at University College Dublin. The author of two novels and a volume of poetry, his most recent philosophical works include the trilogy Philosophy at the Limits: Strangers, Gods, and Monsters: Ideas of Otherness, The God Who May Be: A Hermeneutics of Religion, and On Stories (Thinking in Action).