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Monotheism and Atheism in the Mirror

Author: The Italian Bishops’ Conference. Committee for the Cultural Project (ed.)



Title: Dio oggi. Con lui o senza di lui cambia tutto.



Publisher: Cantagalli, Siena, 2010





The volume is a collection of the papers presented during the international conference organised by the Committee for the Cultural Project of the Italian Bishops’ Conference from 10th to 12th December 2009, arranged according to the same order of the four plenary sessions in which the event was organised: God of faith and philosophy, God of culture and beauty, God and religions and God and the sciences. The overall cultural coordinates of the question were outlined, both at a historical and theoretical level, by Card. Camillo Ruini and further highlighted by the contribution, in an anthropological-theological perspective, by Card. Angelo Scola: in a context of ‘eclipse and return of God’ (p. 82), God can once again become ‘familiar’ to men by means of the relationship of testimony, the essential dimension of the human experience and the only way to authentic knowledge of God through Christ. The chapter God and religions is of particular interest. The problem defined by Francesco Botturi’s introduction has for some time now been at the centre of European cultural debate: it is the thesis according to which the monotheistic religions, chiefly Christianity, Islam and Judaism, have a common ‘potential of violence,’ which would even represent ‘the intrinsic identity of monotheism’ (p. 148), to the point of inevitably pushing them towards integralism, fundamentalism and fanaticism. Those who oppose, even from different perspectives, a polytheist neo-paganism which is capable of tolerance and pluralism, return to such thesis. Starting from the statement that it is not sufficient to recognise the diversity of religions, since there exists ‘a diversity of their diversities’ (p. 156), Brague refutes polytheism and counters it with the need to ‘accept the unpleasant idea that the unique God was not conceived in a unique way by the different religions’ and to find the key to identify the ‘good religion’ (p. 159). Undoubtedly this must be done by overcoming the civil and political value that religions sooner or later all of them have; rather, Brague considers it necessary to definitely move the problem from the plurality of religions to that of God, that is, to pose questions ‘about the gods’ (p. 161). Religion in fact could also hide a sort of ‘monotheism of the subject,’ in which the collective subject, as Comte believed, chooses itself as the object of its worship. Cacciari, on the other hand, identifies an intrinsic paradox in every monotheism, or that is, the idea that God, who is in Himself the absolute, renounces His absoluteness to reveal Himself to the world (to man) and thus immerses Himself in becoming, ‘making an exodus from His own absoluteness’ (p. 172). The paradox lies in the fact that, in this way, God abandons His own absolute transcendence and, becoming ‘the absolutely immanent’ to the life of beings, ends up by being identified with the totality of the manifestations of the being. Thus (paradoxically) an ‘a-theistic’ outcome is reached of the monotheistic idea itself, complementary and symmetrical to the other outcome which radicalises the absoluteness and the transcendence of God, to the point of making Him ineffable and therefore not able to be represented. In the present cultural climate, however, the current atheism does not appear to be aware of such theoretical and problematic wealth and, limiting itself to affirming that to the name ‘God’ nothing corresponds, it is in fact stating that ‘there is nothing except the sensitive, accomplishable, calculable, manipulable world’ (p. 176). Looking through the other sections, one can see the various aspects that the ‘problem God’ can have in contemporary culture, like a polyhedron which, crossed by light, diffuses its different colours. The volume represents therefore an opportunity both to ‘take stock’ of the question, and to direct further studies and research, which can usefully contribute to the education of scholars who, even though following specific cultural pathways, keep their attention alive to the possibilities of a comparison with religious experience.

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