After God: The Future of Religionby Don Cupitt
What is it about religion that, despite all odds, allows it to survive? In After God, the renowned scholar Don Cupitt considers the fate of religion, now that we have effectively killed off our gods. The author, a trained theologian and an ordained priest in the Church of England, takes us through the evolution of religious belief from the dawn of the gods to their… See more details below
What is it about religion that, despite all odds, allows it to survive? In After God, the renowned scholar Don Cupitt considers the fate of religion, now that we have effectively killed off our gods. The author, a trained theologian and an ordained priest in the Church of England, takes us through the evolution of religious belief from the dawn of the gods to their twilightas well as to the morning after.Tracing the postmodern pilgrimage from traditional belief to cynicism to faith after God, Cupitt says we need to build a new religious vocabulary. He challenges us to see religion less as an ideology and more as a tool kit, a set of techniquesperhaps an art formenhancing our lives the way that literature and art do.”A heretic’s heretic” and ”an atheist priest,” Cupitt has respect for both skepticism and devotion. He neither accepts nor denies religion at face value; he takes faith to pieces, throws away what he can’t use, and assembles the remainder into new and extraordinary shapes, challenging us to creatively reshape it, give it new language, reinvent it.After God is for those who find it hard to be among the congregation of an orthodox religion but who miss the discipline and rewards of practicing a faith, and for the person who will understand Cupitt when he writes, ”I actually think that I love God more now that I know God is voluntary. Perhaps God had to die to purify our love for him.”
Cupitt (Philosophy and Theology/Cambridge Univ.) claims that the very foundations of contemporary religion have been threatened by a "collapse of meaning" that encompasses our current global culture. Rather than mourn this loss of traditional religious belief, Cupitt revels in the new opportunities of a postmodern religion unfettered by inconvenient categories such as sin and superstition. He first provides a thumbnail sketch of the philosophical legacy of the "old religions," drawing on thinkers such as Nietzsche, Kant, and Hegel. His cogent, artful explanations of complicated philosophical concepts are clearly the strength of the book. After these nubile expositions, however, Cupitt's own ideas for a postmodern religion fall flat. He proposes that three themes from traditional religion can be salvaged. The first principle, which Cupitt calls the "Eye of God," states that we should still act as though we believe in God, despite God's nonexistence, because this makes for a more mediated consciousness. The "Blissful Void" legacy, drawn from a trendy appropriation of Buddhist meditation that weaves through the book, claims that we should eradicate the self through meditation and a disappearance into the Cool Sublime. Finally, "Solar Ethics" requires that we should simply emanate our rays into the world, since in our postmodern culture "we ourselves are the only makers of meaning and value." Ultimately, now that God is dead, Cupitt believes that we will worship God more purely, since human beings always seem to have more regard for the dead than for the living. Religion will become art, a "poetical theology" that will rejuvenate our culture.
Cupitt too easily dismisses the resurgence of conservative religions as a "fad," ignoring the evidence that, in America at least, the "old religions" still seem to be meeting people's needs. It would seem that rumors of God's death have been greatly exaggerated.
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