Theism in the Language of Humanism: Reincarnations of the Transcendent God in the Secular Subject

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 May 2024) | Viewed by 6827

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
The School of Jewish Theolgy, Potadam University, 14469 Potsdam, Germany
Interests: Jewish thought in Germany in the early 20th century; Jewish philosophy and psychoanalysis; Freud on religion, the early writings of Erich Fromm; comparative theology

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Guest Editor
Hebraic Studies, University of Lille, 59000 Lille, France
Interests: Jewish thought; Talmudic literature; continental philosophy; hermeneutics and translation; political philosophy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The process of secularization can be defined as shifting the focus of European thought from the transcendent God, the otherworldly and the suprahuman, towards immanence, that is, towards the world and the human condition in the world. Secularization is a transition from theism to humanism. According to this definition, one might conclude, as indeed has often been done, that secularization excluded God from thought and removed religion from the world. Post-secular thought, however, provides a more critical and complex view. The process of secularization, for many thinkers, was not a departure from God and religion but a departure from a certain conception of God and a particular way of religiosity, which were dominant for a long time. According to this view, secularization did not erase God but opened a way for the humanization of religion through ethical, social, or political activation.

This Special Issue is dedicated to critical thinking about different ways in which modern thinkers have developed conceptual frameworks for what Erich Fromm named "humanistic religion". This notion refers to intellectual projects that explicitly or implicitly converted categories from the theological tradition of the transcendent God to the humanistic discourse, with the human being at its center. We are interested in movements of thought that identified the moment of secularization as an opportunity not to eliminate God but to liberate the divine from hegemonic European theology and religiosity.

At the center of the discussion stands the main protagonist of the humanistic discourse, namely the human being or the human subject. For this Special Issue, we invite articles on how, for various thinkers of humanistic religiosity, fundamental tensions concerning the relationship between the world and God, immanence and transcendence, do not merely disappear but undergo a shift or a process of displacement and are translated into the realm of human subjectivity. For example, one can discuss the ambivalence within which humanistic religious thought, on the one hand, internalizes the transcendent divinity into the human subject, and transforms it into anthropological-ethical phenomena, but on the other hand, seeks to avoid a complete reduction of the transcendent to mere mental processes. Another question is how the duality between God and the world returns and appears as an internal split within the structure of subjectivity, as individual, intersubjective, or collective, that is, within the structure of the psyche or society.

This Special Issue is also open to studies dealing with the influence of the challenges of humanistic religiosity on religious traditions. Thus, for example, it is possible to examine modes in which the translation of God into a secular discourse projects backwards onto traditional frameworks of thinking and leads to a rereading of the religious sources and to the production of reforms that are supposed to qualify religion to fill the void created by secularization.

We look forward to receiving your contributions.

Dr. Ronen Pinkas
Prof. Dr. Elad Lapidot
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • humanistic religion
  • post-secular thought
  • post-secular society
  • post-secular subject
  • theism and humanism
  • new religiosity

Published Papers (6 papers)

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27 pages, 439 KiB  
Article
The Forgotten Language of Nontheistic Mysticism: Religious Factors in Erich Fromm’s Humanism
by Ronen Pinkas
Religions 2024, 15(5), 531; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050531 - 25 Apr 2024
Viewed by 505
Abstract
In You Shall Be as Gods, Erich Fromm (1900–1980) defines his position as nontheistic mysticism. This research clarifies the term, considers its importance within Fromm’s humanism, and explores its potential origins. The nontheistic mystical position plays a central role in Fromm’s understanding [...] Read more.
In You Shall Be as Gods, Erich Fromm (1900–1980) defines his position as nontheistic mysticism. This research clarifies the term, considers its importance within Fromm’s humanism, and explores its potential origins. The nontheistic mystical position plays a central role in Fromm’s understanding of the relationship between mysticism and organized religion, religion and religiosity, and it clarifies the relationship between religion, philosophy, and social psychoanalysis, whose combination constitutes his humanistic ethics. Nontheistic mysticism relates, as well, to Fromm’s understanding of human nature; it involves the question of the relationship between language, perception, and experience. The nontheistic mystical position is linked to Fromm’s negative theology, the x experience, and idolatry. Hence, the nontheistic mystical position is relevant to Fromm’s understanding of self-realization and his vision of a sane society. Unlike some scholarly opinion, the conclusions of this paper suggest that Fromm’s humanism is not radical, as long as radical is defined as an absolute atheistic secular feature that eliminates the range of religious language and experience. Rather, it is a broad and cautious humanism that, on the one hand, internalizes the transcendent divinity into the human subject and transforms it into anthropological–ethical phenomena, but, on the other, implies that atheism carries the risk of an idolatrous identification of the human being with God. Consequently, this humanism requires a religious–mystical component to adequately portray the spiritual and ethical potentials of humanity and its challenges. Nontheistic mysticism is a consciousness mechanism aimed at the fine-tuning of the individual’s moral compass, which is affected by the pathologies of normalcy that prevail in all societies. Full article
12 pages, 200 KiB  
Article
Beyond the Secular-Religion Divide: Judaism and the New Secularity
by Randi Lynn Rashkover
Religions 2024, 15(4), 433; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040433 - 30 Mar 2024
Viewed by 510
Abstract
In his 2018 survey of twenty-first-century American Judaism entitled The New American Judaism: How Jews Practice their Judaism Today, Jack Wertheimer references a 2015 Pew Research study that presupposes the secular-religion binary as the analytical metric for its determination that both the [...] Read more.
In his 2018 survey of twenty-first-century American Judaism entitled The New American Judaism: How Jews Practice their Judaism Today, Jack Wertheimer references a 2015 Pew Research study that presupposes the secular-religion binary as the analytical metric for its determination that both the American public and American Jews are becoming less religious. Nonetheless, Wertheimer’s use of this analytical frame prohibits him from making sense of many details of the twenty-first-century American Jewish life that he seeks to describe. Indeed, any survey of the contemporary American Jewish scene is remiss if it does not discuss the rise of orthodox Jewish feminism, current trends towards substantial denominational change, and/or the emergence of a “post-ethnic” Judaism. Even so, recent historical-ethnographic accounts have outpaced analytical challenges to the secular-religion binary. Contemporary historians and ethnographers find themselves forced to choose between an analytically deficient model and a default rejection of analytical tools altogether. Arguably, the roots of the current impasse are derived from the influence of what scholars refer to as the secularization thesis. Therefore, to overcome this impasse, ethnographers and historians of American Judaism need access to a more refined categorical lens. In this essay, I argue that they may find the analytical support they need by turning away from the secularization thesis and turning toward far more complex accounts of the relationship between Judaism and modernity provided by the canon of modern Jewish thought. Such a turn yields an analytical category we may refer to as the “new secularity” which, when applied to studies in Jewish life in America (and potentially elsewhere) sheds light on communal realities that the secular-religious account misses. Full article
10 pages, 207 KiB  
Article
Postsecular Jewish Thought: Franz Rosenzweig, Alexander Altmann, Leo Strauss
by Philipp von Wussow
Religions 2024, 15(4), 430; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040430 - 29 Mar 2024
Viewed by 882
Abstract
This article traces the emergence of what is nowadays called “postsecular” religion from German-Jewish philosophy of the 1920s and 1930s. The three different cases of Franz Rosenzweig, Alexander Altmann, and Leo Strauss impel us to pay particular attention to a few recurring argumentative [...] Read more.
This article traces the emergence of what is nowadays called “postsecular” religion from German-Jewish philosophy of the 1920s and 1930s. The three different cases of Franz Rosenzweig, Alexander Altmann, and Leo Strauss impel us to pay particular attention to a few recurring argumentative and rhetorical strategies. The emergence of postsecularism marks a shift in the epistemic foundations of Jewish religious thought, which had long been under pressure from secular European thought. Beginning with Rosenzweig, Jewish philosophy used secular categories of European philosophy to facilitate a return to the foundations of Judaism, eventually turning against what it sees as the epistemic weaknesses of secularism itself. This article traces the new phenomenon to Rosenzweig’s evolving view of secularism, especially to his ridicule of Siegfried Kracauer’s secular messianism, before examining a few key arguments in his book The Star of Redemption (1921). A brief discussion of Alexander Altmann’s writings of the early 1930s provides that even modern Orthodox Jewish thought, which had never been “secular”, used postsecular categories and arguments to make the philosophical case for orthodoxy. Leo Strauss’s introduction to his Philosophy and Law (1935) provides a far more elaborated form of Rosenzweig’s argument. As this article seeks to show, postsecular Jewish thought comes with a slight twist of epistemic relativism, particularly when it comes to the juxtaposition of the Biblical and scientific “world-views”. But here it merely draws the full consequences of modern science, beating scientism with its own weapons. Furthermore, religious thought in the 20th century had no other option than to rebuild itself on postsecular grounds. Full article
12 pages, 281 KiB  
Article
‘Let Us Just Be Humans’: Reading Allard Pierson’s True Humanity through the Lens of Caputo’s Religion without Religion
by Sabine Wolsink
Religions 2024, 15(3), 340; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15030340 - 12 Mar 2024
Viewed by 784
Abstract
The Dutch intellectual Allard Pierson (1831–1896) is often considered to be an example of secularism. In 1865, he resigned as a minister from the Dutch Reformed Church in order to promote true humanity in society at large. This article explores how Pierson’s true [...] Read more.
The Dutch intellectual Allard Pierson (1831–1896) is often considered to be an example of secularism. In 1865, he resigned as a minister from the Dutch Reformed Church in order to promote true humanity in society at large. This article explores how Pierson’s true humanity can be considered as an ultimate concern (Tillich) or a religion without religion (Caputo) by reading him through the lens of John D. Caputo’s thinking. Both Caputo and Tillich developed a non-institutional and undogmatic understanding of religion, in which religion is related to a universal human love, passion, or ultimate concern that is not necessarily linked to a religious institution or doctrine. After an elaboration of Caputo’s religion without religion, the article discusses Pierson’s thinking in the context of nineteenth-century theological modernism and debates on the modernist’s right to stay in the church. Then, Pierson’s reasons for his resignation and his true humanity are examined. It becomes clear that Pierson did not choose secularism over religion, but rather surpassed the religious-secular divide by a focus on our common human nature. Being human was more important than being Christian, which exemplifies the late-nineteenth-century move from a theistic Christianity towards a humanistic religiosity or humanism. Full article
17 pages, 242 KiB  
Article
Back to Exile: Current Jewish Critiques of the Jewish State
by Elad Lapidot
Religions 2024, 15(2), 250; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15020250 - 19 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1773
Abstract
This article reviews recent books by Jewish thinkers that critique the idea of a Jewish state from the perspective of Jewish exile. It outlines two main approaches. The first, secular approach, rejects the Jewish state in favor of a secular state, seeing Judaism [...] Read more.
This article reviews recent books by Jewish thinkers that critique the idea of a Jewish state from the perspective of Jewish exile. It outlines two main approaches. The first, secular approach, rejects the Jewish state in favor of a secular state, seeing Judaism itself as the problem, whether arising from biblical violence or collective identity. The second, post-secular approach, rejects the Jewish state as secular, and finds resources in Jewish tradition for an alternative political vision centered on exile, understood as resistance to sovereignty and violence. This article argues that Jewish opposition to the Jewish state aims to limit sovereignty, integrate Jews into the Middle East space, and recover an exilic Jewish tradition of social ethics and pluralism. The idea of exile thus provides resources for envisioning decolonization and coexistence in Israel–Palestine. Full article
10 pages, 268 KiB  
Article
God or Self? The Re-Emergence of God in the Unconscious
by Rico Sneller
Religions 2023, 14(8), 1026; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14081026 - 10 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1430
Abstract
Toward the end of the Age of Enlightenment, rationalism’s demise gradually entailed the transcendent God’s demise. In this article, I will draw on the resurfacing of God in the ensuing tradition of the unconscious. Whereas philosophers such as Schopenhauer or Eduard von Hartmann, [...] Read more.
Toward the end of the Age of Enlightenment, rationalism’s demise gradually entailed the transcendent God’s demise. In this article, I will draw on the resurfacing of God in the ensuing tradition of the unconscious. Whereas philosophers such as Schopenhauer or Eduard von Hartmann, undermining the alleged rational consciousness, assumed the existence of an impersonal, unconscious, yet collective will, others took one step back and maintained a higher yet individual “consciousness” beyond the threshold of sense perception. I am referring to the philosopher–spiritualist Carl du Prel (1833–1899), whose notion of a personal unconscious inaugurated both Freud’s and Jung’s “psychologies” of the unconscious. In many respects, Du Prel’s “personal unconscious” (“transcendental consciousness”) interestingly corresponds to the traditional conception of God; it is morally binding and has a cosmological impact. I will explore to what extent Carl du Prel, in his philosophy of the unconscious, allows for a re-emergence of God in the form of a personal unconscious. I will also try to specify the conditions of possibility for equating these unruly notions (“God” and “unconscious”). My question will be as follows: can we consider the personal unconscious (or transcendental consciousness), as developed in Carl du Prel’s work, as a re-emergence of a more traditional conception of a transcendent God in terms of reason and intelligibility? Full article
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