Idols of Unbelief in The Secular City


I.     Origins of Modern Atheism


A. Science and Proofs for God


B. Kant's First Critique: Conclusion--Man's theoretical reason is unable to establish God's existence. Affirmation of God's existence is not an act of knowledge, i.e., no certainty (reasoned) about God's existence. Kant adheres to theism in Critique of Practical Reason (God - Freedom - Immortality). Ethical duties constitute object of practical reason. See Ignace Lepp, Atheism In Our Time (Macmillan, pb, 1963).


C. Kant rejected the claim that science could ever affirm or deny God's existence. Aristotle to Aquinas (Ontologicai, Cosmological, Teleological design mechanism Newtonian world-machine). From Kant to Idealism to Hegelian Absolute Idealism to Pantheism to Positivism to Process Philosophy (contra mechanical view of cause).


II. Five Faces of Atheism


1. ComtesŐ Positivism - Sociological expression of unbelief. Science and the absence of God.

2. Psychological Atheism, e.g. Freud's projection theory, i.e. Religion as an illusion--Future of an Illusion.

3. Economic Atheism, i.e., Marx's Atheism (Hegel-Feuerbach), Religion as instrument of oppression.

4. Moral Atheism: e.g. Nietzsche's Death of God.

5. Anthropological Atheism: From Darwin to Existentialism/Phenomenological Atheism, e.g. Sartre & Merleau-Ponty.


Does science (Physics, Inter-Disciplinary Humanities, Social-Science) need God?

Does religion need God?

Does ethics need God?

Does society need God? (D. Hammarskj old's phrase in Markings "ManŐ s longest journey is his journey inward")


1.    Sociological Atheism (A. Comte (1798-1847)


Two correlated propositions: (1) Law of three stages, e.g. each science passes-theological, metaphysical, and positive. (2) Sociology the summit of hierarchy of sciences. French Revolution destruction of social structures. The Individual and Society passes thru laws—Positive social development depends on scientific, i.e., sociological knowledge of sociological phenomenon.


The great discovery of the year 1822 in Comte's mind was to become directive idea for reorganizing society shaken by the French Revolution. Science alone could rebuild society. Conclusion: Sociological Atheism

2.    Psychological Atheism


God/Man/Sin/Civilization after Freud


Projection - Locke, Berkeley, and KeplerŐs Theory of colors and visual perception of space. Projection in Freud - man projects best and worships as God Future of Illusion - Totem and Taboo - Moses and Monotheism (Golding's Lord of the Flies).


Theory of Origin of Religion:


Totemism as origin; religion is nothing but a schema by which man tries to defend himself against the overpowering forces of nature: begins by humanizing forces, lose fearful character. Father ambiguous.


Totemistic religion: tribe catches animal - savagely kills it via beating or tearing it to pieces alive, then mourn death. Origin of guilt and anxiety. Totem animal stands for Father. In primitive horde jealous father kept all females for himself frustrating sexual cravings of adolescent sons. Brothers joined forces and killed and ate the father. Identified with the father and acquired his power; also Totem meal beginning of social organization, moral rules, and religion.


3.    Economic Atheism: Marx


4.    Moral Atheism (Nietzsche) 1844 to 1900 - From Atheism to Nihilism, i.e.. Death of Absolute Values


A. The Dawn of Day (against the morality of self-renunciation)

B. Gay Wisdom (against Christianity)

C. Thus spoke Zarathustra (coming of Superman)

 D. Beyond Good and Evil (will to power)


Nietzsche's View of Man:


Man and Superman (e.g. Napoleon) "Man is something that is to be surpassed"


God Is Dead: If God exists then man cannot fulfill vocation.


Psychological explanation of man's belief in God.


Four reasons for rejecting God:


1. Morals connected with God - forbid the strong to develop their power

2. God leads to equality of all men.

3. Faith in providence robs man of any motive for striving for power and greatness; providence means man does not matter. God determines future (Will to Power).

4. As long as belief in God prevails neither man nor the earth can be restored to their original "innocence". Yes to world and execute his will to power.


Nietzsche on Christianity


1. Lowers man to slavery (enslaving morality)

2. Christian virtues lead to decadence (to keep species healthy, eliminate misfits and weak)


Death of God / Tragedy of Man


1. No striving if morality connected with God

2. No more striving for truth

3. Man is "diseased animal" if man would vanish from earth--nothing important would be lost - purify earth of "skin disease"

4. Meaningless Martyrdom (World Chaos)


5.    Anthropological Atheism - Authentic man depends on Death of God


Anthropos - reason for rejection of God

Kierkegaard - 1813 to 1855 (Influences, Positivism and Hegel) e.g. Sartre's Atheism

Devil and Good Lord. Evil - What he wants to say:


1. Absolute good - impossible

2. Imperative to appeal to God in order to provide human action with guarantee of absolute goodness. God does not exist. M. Merleau Ponty - Atheism -temporal being.


Select Bibliography


Adier, M. J. How To Think About God (NY: MacMillan, 1980).

Kung, Hans. Does God Exist? (NY: Doubleday).

_______. Problem of God After Freud. (New Haven; Yale University Press, E.T. 1980)

Strauss, J. D. "Is JobŐs God In Exile?" in The Shattering of Silence. (Joplin, MO. College Press, 1981 ed.) Extensive discussion and bibliography.



James D. Strauss