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Suspicion and Faith: The Religious Uses of Modern Atheism Paperback – September 1, 1998
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About the Author
Merold Westphal is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University and author of Suspicion and Faith: The Religious Uses of Modern Atheism.
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Westphal has also been reading Paul, and Augustine, and Luther, and Kierkegaard, in addition to the three founders of the "school of suspicion" as Ricoeur calls them: Frued, Marx, and Nietzsche. Westphal has brought back from his travels with these men a powerful and critical message for the church today; and when criticized, the church should pay close attention to the criticism. All three of these philosophers raise valid and very important concerns about not only the praxis of Christianity, but Christianity qua Christianity, as belief system and structure.
Nietzsche is indeed a Christian philosopher insofar as he shows us the will-to-power implicit in belief. He is correct that the Christ-idea of Christianity is antithetical to a will-to-power or a triumphalistic worldview, and that it would never and could never produce der Übermensch (that, in part, is why he hated it so). When Christianity weds itself to power, any power at all, it needs to read Nietzsche. It also needs to read Freud, badly, if it hopes to confront its wish-fulfillments in this-worldly "Kingdom of God"-speech, and its death-wishes in indulging apocalyptic orgies (note to Tim LaHaye: read more Freud).Read more ›
Westphal rightly notes the failures of any forms of Positivism to critique religion, and although Freud was a thorough-going positivist, his critique or religion did not rest on those assumptions. His critique of religion was that it was a wish-fulfillment. And in many ways, we Christians do make God into what we "wish" for Him to be. He had the most chapters on Freud, because his thinking is very complex and he had to go over all the facets of his thought.
The section on Karl Marx was very good, too. Marx (and Nietzsche for that matter) rested their critique of religion on ideologies. Marx relied heavily on Feuerbach's critique of religion for his crituqe, although he said Feuerbach didn't go far enough. Marx critisized religion because of the so-called German state being "Christian". The state was being oppresive. What Christians need to realize is that the Gospel does have political consequences and that God does care for the poor, and Marx definitely shows this. He compared Marx to the prophet Amos.
The section on Nietzsche is very good, also. Nietzsche was a terrific Philosopher, even though I definitely do not agree with him on everything. He has many good things to say. He bascially said that we use religion to get revenge on others. That is often the case, too. He said that we used religion to use our own "will to power". He compared Nietzsche's critique to Jesus' critique of the pharisees.
This was a terrific book on describing how these men's critique of religion is much like the biblical critique of religion, and is a very powerful look at human nature.
Westphal, perhaps like other intellectuals I have known, may be content to relax in the shade of the "capitalist" tree while simultaneously laying an axe to the root of that which benefits him. Never mind that he has no other sapling with which to replace the one he destroys. While Westphal decries the inhumanity of capitalism, he offers no alternative. He seems to not notice that capitalism, as we find it in America, has enjoyed periods of full employment and has contributed greatly to upward mobility from poverty to wealth. Neither does Westphal consider that capitalism has enabled many Christians to earn wealth in order to give wealth, and that on a global scale. Socialism and communism, on the other hand, have proven to be surefire ways to universal poverty and misery. As of this writing, the socialism of American Democrats and President Obama have created and maintained a high unemployment level in America. Not only this, but more Americans are receiving entitlements than are actually working to provide the money for entitlement spending. So, I ask Westphal, who are the oppressed now? So much for the evils of capitalism. Perhaps the adage that Socialism spreads misery equally is correct.Read more ›