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Classics

Robert Spaemann, La diceria immortale. La questione di Dio o l'inganno della modernità

Alberto Peratoner

Robert Spaemann

 

, La diceria immortale. La questione di Dio o l'inganno della modernità (The Immortal Rumour. The Question of God, or the Deception of Modernity

 

), Cantagalli, Siena 2008

 

The Immortal Rumour is a book by German thinker Robert Spaemann. Translated into Italian a year after it was released in Germany, this collection of ten essays that the author wrote in the past 25 years is an intelligent selection that allows him to link together the most sensitive points of one of today's most pressing issues, namely the question of God.

 

The essays are The Immortal Rumour (1999), which provides the book with its title and central thread, Proofs of God's existence according to Nietzsche (1998), Descent and Intelligent Design (2006), Christianity and the Philosophy of the Modern Era (1995), Religion and the Functional Motivation of Religion (1985), Religious Identity (1995), Should Universal Religions give up their Mission? (1996), Religion and Factual Truth (1986), On certain difficulties Concerning the Doctrine of Original Sin (1994), and the Christian Conception of Suffering (1986). The book ends with one essay, the Current State of Christianity (1991), a conversation-interview with the author by David Seeber, whose original title literally means that "We must find the way to talk again about the human experience of life." This is also significant because the question of God, which is the "immortal rumour" of the title, far from being treated on an exclusively speculative level, is articulated at the beginning in terms of its deeply vital and existential implications. This is why the reader is cognizant, also from the start, of a perspective that finds in the book's conclusion a second point of gravity, its natural outcome so to speak, and this without losing any of its theoretical punch.

 

The book is also the first in a new series titled "Come se Dio fosse" (As if God did exist), so named after the expression used by Joseph Ratzinger just before his election to the Seat of Peter on 1 April 2005, an expression which he proposed in order to rethink our relationship to reality. He did so by turning on its head the axiom etsi Deus non daretur with which Hugo Grotius described the natural basis on which rested the fundamental legal norms of the modern state, on the misunderstanding of which was also established the modern principle of the separation of state and Church, lastly filtered through the prism of nihilism.

 

Sergio Belardinelli' preface highlights the philosophical power with which Robert Spaemann is able to put the question of God back in the centre of things, as it is its due; going beyond the functionalist role modern culture has seemingly reserved for religion, since as the German thinker himself put it, "religion is a glimpse upon the world sub specie divinitatis," which ultimately cannot be based on any one socio-cultural interpretation of human phenomena.

 

In the collection's opening essay, the title that steers the underlying reflection is explained with a touch of irony familiar to Spaemann's readers. "That a being called 'God' may exist in our language is an old rumour that cannot be hushed up. This being is a part of that which exists in the world. It rather ought to be the cause and origin of the universe. That traces and signs of this origin may exist in the world is part of the rumour. And this is the only reason why different statements can be made about God."

 

This is a great book, however short it may be. In its most distinguishing features it stands out as an intelligent, profound and disenchanted reading of our present cultural reality, forcing the reader through a virtual whirlwind of observations, interpretations, cues, provocations, even pitiless excerpts on the current state of civilisation, but always defined by a sharp critical ability that leaves the reader with the impression of having spent a few hours in a real discussion with someone who is rightly considered on of the foremost contemporary Christian thinkers, one who has the courage to look at what is inalienable in the Christian understanding of reality, despite all the possible ways that exist for mutual respect and dialogue in a society characterised by a plurality of cultures—inalienable in the way that the missionary character of Christianity or any other universal religion is inalienable, a quality that can only be based on the firm conviction that others can genuinely exercise their freedom to recognise the truth should it present itself in their consciousness in the radiance that is its own. The tragic alternative would be to imagine a "society without features worth living for . . . or dying for;" or another equally tragic example would be a society based on a "trivial nihilism" in which human beings would be easily manipulated by prevailing market rationales, whether material or ideological.

 

This said, why was the German subtitle Die Frage nach Gott und die Täuschung der Moderne (The Question of God and the Deception of Modernity) translated into Italian as La questione di Dio o l'inganno della modernità (The Question of God or the Deception of Modernity)? As a problem the modern spin given to the timeless question of God is not an either-or alternative; it is even less an or meant to elucidate (sive) what comes before, but is instead a perspective deformation placed alongside it to reflect back a deceptive image with an et whose interpretative keys are found in Robert Spaemann's intense and lucid pages.

 

Alberto Peratoner

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