Is Postmodernism An Inherently Atheistic Philosophy?


#1

Postmodernism is a philosophy that is (in a broad sense) characterized by relativism (in every sense) and skepticism as well a general suspicion of reason. In my article here: https://www.ce-debate.org/blog/postmodernism-and-atheism I make the argument that “postmodernism” is an inherently atheistic philosophy. Suffice it to say, I do not expect that everyone here will agree with all of my theses, but I would be delighted to hear what other’s perspective on this issue is, and hope that we can have a productive discussion!


#2

How are you defining postmodernism?

How are you defining modernism?

Do you think modernism is somehow better than postmodernism?


#3

I don’t really make an argument for “modernism,” (or a discussion of modernism) but more as a critique of postmodernism. Postmodernism and Modernism are very large concepts, and are both multi-faceted.

Postmodernism is difficult to define, but I would define it’s core philosophical thesis as being “there is no absolute truth.” With no absolute truth, all “truths” become subjective, and relative from person to person. This article is mostly about this postmodernist philosophy.


#4

I’m not sure if that actually is the best way to describe postmodernism. Where do you get your definition from?


#5

What do you think would be the best way to describe postmodernist philosophy?

(In an effort to better see where you are coming from here)…


#6

As the name implies, it seems to be a reaction to the excesses of modernism. It also seems we have moved past postmodernism to something else. Regardless, we can’t really talk about postmodernism’s excesses (which it has) without engaging with modernism’s excesses too.


#7

This is interesting to me…If I am not mistaken, one philosopher (the name now escapes me) theorized that the postmodern era would be “the final era of western civilization.” What would you say we have we moved on to?

Just out of curiosity, why not?


#8

We are now in a fractured society, the aftermath of postmodern society.

The answer is not a return to modernism, which had major problems, but perhaps to Confident Pluralism. In the Church, I hope it is a return to Jesus.

Also see this:

For everyone here at Peaceful Science, I highly recommend reading this book by John Inazu.


#9

Or we might repeat all the errors of modernism. Usually, a reaction to a reaction just takes us back to where we began. We need a new way forward.


#10

This is very interesting to me. Thanks for sharing…It does sound a bit like the end of western civilization.

Once again, thank you for the comments, but I feel that this discussion misses the mark a bit…I would encourage you to examine the arguments presented in the article (which I re-post for convenience’s sake):


#11

Hi. Just a general query here. Lately, I’ve been getting up to 100 messages in my email every day from all these discussions. About five or ten would be more to my liking. Is there any simple way I can get it down to around that number? Cheers.


#12

Yes in your settings.


#13

@swamidass

What do you mean by your use of the word “reaction?” Do you mean in the sense that postmodernism became the antithesis of modernism, or are you saying that postmodernism was the logical conclusion of modernism?


#14

So, I’ll take the quotes you have one by one as I can. I’m not sure I’m reading them the same way as you.

“Once you believe in an absolute authority that tells you what to do, you’re heading down the road to perdition, I think.”

This statement seems to support the postmodern thesis that the existence of an absolute authority depends on a person’s own belief, or lack thereof. God’s existence does not depend on whether or not humans choose to believe in Him. Our need for a Savior does not depend on whether or not humans choose to believe in God and repent of our sins. Despite what postmodernist philosophy may say, there is only one way to Heaven. There is only one ultimate truth. And there is only one way to gain eternal life in a world marred by death: Jesus Christ.

I’m not sure I agree with your analysis. This is not a claim that there is no absolute authority, just that it is dangerous to believe in an absolute authority that tells you want to do. This an example of somewhat postmodern thought, and it is best understood as a reaction to modernism.

In modernism, science or religion becomes an absolute authority, and people do things that can be very injurious to others. Postmodernism is sometimes a reaction to abuse of this authority. Have you ever seen or experienced religious abuse? Where people claim God’s authority to do horrible things? I have seen this. Others have too, and this abuse of authority can make people very suspicious of people who claim to have authority from religious (or scientific) truth.

Yes Jesus is the Truth, but that is not what modernist-fundamentalist Christians are actually saying. They are often saying that their Christian Worldview, not Jesus, is the truth. And then in the name of that worldview they do things that hurt other people. It is that sort of thing that makes people react to take a postmodern position.

Modernism and Fundamentalism

It is worth pointing out the link between modernism and fundamentalism. They are historically and ideologically connected. They both take very similar approaches to understanding truth and establishing authority, but the modernists took science as absolute truth, and the fundamentalists took Scripture (not Jesus) as absolute truth. However, they both take very similar epistemologies and conception of the world, both insisting on absolute truth, and both close-minded in many ways, and both unaware of cultural differences and contexts, and both reading the Bible literally.

That last part might be surprising but its true. Both had a tendency to read Scripture literally. Fundamentalists would take it literally, and say its true (so science needs to change). Modernists would say it is literal, but that is why we know we cannot take it seriously (because science contradicts it).

Also, and this is often a big surprise for some, the modernist-fundamentalist debate had Christians on both sides. However the modernists did not affirm the Resurrection of Jesus, but the fundamentalists did. This is important to remember. Modernists called themselves Christians, but did not believe Jesus rose from the dead, because that was scientifically impossible. There is a really helpful book in making sense of all this:

With that being said, yes, there are atheists modernists too. So there are Christian modernists, atheist modernists, and Christian fundamentalists (which are the other side of the modernist coin). We have avatars of these movements among us still: Fransisco Ayala (Christian modernists, and other mainline denomination evolutionists), Richard Dawkins (atheist modernist), Ken Ham (fundamentalists), and the ID movement (a mix between fundamentalism and Christian modernist). To be clear, of course, most ID Christians affirm the Resurrection (that is partly how it is a fusion of the two).

We will not get into it right this moment, but there are atheist and Christian versions of post-modernism too. It is not really sensible to link post-modernism to Atheism specifically. anymore than it makes sense to link modernism to Atheism.


We will get to your other quotes eventually too…

You would really benefit from the Mark Knoll book. Thought about reading it?


#15

Yes, I would agree with that postmodernism is an inherently atheistic philosophy. Pretty much the default position now a days especially among young people.


#16

How are you defining modern and postmodern?


#17

Very casually, I consider “modern” as 20th century and post modern as 21st Century. But I am in the camp of philosophy is dead, or totally irrelevant to living in the secular scientific world we live in today.


#18

A so-called ‘philosophy’ to non-philosophers, perhaps? :wink:

Do you mention “especially among young people” because they are born into what is called, not a philosophy, but a time period, the post-modern era?

It could be very hard for someone born in the post-modern era to not be a philosophical postmodernist. That seems to be the point you are making. But ‘not impossible’ is the moral of your story. And if the only other linguistic option for what ideology J.E.S. prefers just uses ‘modern’ somewhere in the name, then isn’t it a rather irrelevant proposed solution?

So how to live in a post-modern era and not be a philosophical postmodernist? I guess, ‘be an old person & argue backwards rather than now or forwards’ does qualify as an answer suitable for some here.


#19

Quite telling, indeed. I think one would find that statement to be a common evangelical Protestant sentiment in North America about both Wisdom and Loving it. Little sense of phronesis respect even. Anti-philosophy and philosophy apathy is a HUGE problem in this discussion that throwing no amount of science or technology at will ever satisfy.

Those who are proudly ‘Christian’ about intentionally marginalising philosophy with their words in public are most troubled when confronted with questions their non-philosophical silos of thought can’t appropriately address. Lord help us from lazy thinkers and anti-Wisdom (not to mention anti-science) evangelicals parading as coherent about grand questions of origins!

She’s much stronger than you think, Patrick, so don’t worry, your ‘total irrelevance’ stance doesn’t hurt her. :laughing: Someone call Boethius!


#20

Keep in mind that @Patrick is an atheist, not a Protestant.