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Thomas J.J. Altizer - The Death of God
Posted: 02 April 2010 04:02 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Thomas J.J. Altizer burst onto the religious scene in the 1960s with his book The Gospel of Christian Atheism. He was one of the “Death of God” theologians discussed in the famous TIME cover story, “Is God Dead?” Altzier holds an M.A. in theology and Ph.D. in History of Religions from the Universeity of Chicago. Now 83 years of age, Altizer remains a Young Turk among radical theologians, insisting that only Christians can be true atheists and must proclaim the death of God.

In this conversation with Robert Price, Altizer delves into Death of God theology. He explains the difference between saying “There is no God” and “God is Dead.” He discusses his interactions with other theologians and what they thought of his work. Altizer gives his opinion of contemporary public atheists and what he likes and dislikes about them. He relates stories from his career involving other thinkers such as Paul Tillich and Mircea Eliade—including a personal “initiation” experience. He explains how he formerly debated evangelical Christians and how Death of God theology can be used when doing so.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/thomas_j.j._altizer_the_death_of_god/

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Posted: 02 April 2010 04:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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What a crock of manure. I had to turn it off after a while. I wanted to vomit.

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Posted: 02 April 2010 06:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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This weeks podcast is the most unlistenable bit of gobbedly gook that I’ve come across in a long time.  If this is an indication of the future for POI and CFI then the loss of DJ Grothe is probably fatal for the organization.  A specific example: the definition of an atheist as someone who thinks god is dead?  Are you kidding? Did I just not get the April fools joke?

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Posted: 02 April 2010 07:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’m a long-time fan of Robert Price, both from his bible geek podcasts and his books. I’m also a fellow Lovecraft fan and got a chance to meet him at The HP Lovecraft Film Festival last October. So this is coming from a place of love:

I just had no idea what was going on in this episode. None.

I think it needed to be about an hour longer and have some straight forward explanations about what the theology really was. Straight forward assertions like, God Really Died and only Christians can be atheists needed a lot more reason and inquiry before I could even understand the premise on which the discussion was based.

Clearly both men knew their topic well and had a great deal to discuss - so much so that there was a ton of jumping around from topic to topic, each of which assumed a lot of knowledge about people like Eliade that I think most listeners don’t have. It was frustrating because I wanted to understand and I could tell there was something interesting going on, but there was no way inside for an outsider.

Also, the cheap, dismissive shots at the New Atheists came off as haughty. I’ve got no problems with people criticizing them, but there needs to be an argument there. Just calling them weak thinkers or whatever it was Mr. Altizer said rubbed me the wrong way.

I remain super-excited that Mr. Price is part of the podcast, but in the future I hope more care will be given to both making the topics accessible to all listeners and being less cavalier with the dismissive ad hominems.

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Posted: 02 April 2010 08:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I agree almost entirely with Rick. Both this episode and the last suffered from Mr Price failing to adequately explaining the background to the topic, I noticed he did a bit this week but it’s not enough when discussing these theological topics in depth. I was really fascinated by the Jesus seminar and Christian-atheist theology interviews but I just can’t follow a lot of the discussion and I suspect many other listeners are having the same problem.

When Mr Price dismissed the quality of new atheist thought on theology what he doesn’t seem to realise is that many of his listeners think along the same lines and don’t have a formal theological training. A bit more time setting up the discussion with the guest might seem a bit boring to Mr Price but it would make his podcasts vastly more interesting and informative to the lay listeners.

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Posted: 02 April 2010 08:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The claim that “only Christians can be true atheists,” and that they must believe that God is dead, is patently absurd. It sounds like one of the criticisms I have read of the New Atheists, which is basically that they haven’t suffered enough angst in coming to their atheism (contrasting them with Nietzsche, Camus, Sartre and other “old atheists). (Victor Stenger quotes Becky Garrison and John Vaught as making such complaints, in his new book.)

My guess is that Price went through a painful struggle of believing in God and then deciding that He was dead. If so, he appears to feel that this is the only way to really understand the pain of there being no God. He appears to be mistaking the journey for the goal. There are many paths to becoming an atheist, and it is certainly not necessary to believe that there ever was a God who has since died!

In any case, I’ve listened to too much bullshit from theologians and philosophers who make absurd claims and then weave a web of complex ideas around them, trying to confuse and impress you so much that you decide the absurd is true, after all. I have no need to listen to more.

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Posted: 02 April 2010 09:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Aught3 - 02 April 2010 08:38 PM

When Mr Price dismissed the quality of new atheist thought on theology what he doesn’t seem to realise is that many of his listeners think along the same lines and don’t have a formal theological training. A bit more time setting up the discussion with the guest might seem a bit boring to Mr Price but it would make his podcasts vastly more interesting and informative to the lay listeners.

Of course, Mr. Price, being a theologian, would think that it is important for people to understand theology. However, I don’t understand why it is necessary to understand theology in order to decide that there is no personal God. The fundamental problem with all theology is that it has no fundament. Theologians make all sorts of claims about the nature of God, but they never answer the question of how they know that any of those claims are true. Since God has not revealed him/her/itself to humankind in an objective, interpersonally verifiable way, every claim about the nature of God eventually comes down to a statement that person X (or persons X1, X2, ...) said this or that about God. Even if it weren’t the case that there have been a great many such persons who have said quite different things about the nature of God, the argument from authority is simply not a valid argument. So, unless theologians first come up scientifically valid evidence that God even exists, I see no point in wasting my time trying to read and understand their claims about the nature of a non-existent entity.

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Posted: 02 April 2010 10:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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@Stanley
My point is that on one hand Mr Price thinks a lack of theological training does not allow atheists/skeptics to take part in discussion on theological topics and on the other hand he proceeds to have an in-depth theological discussion to an audience composed primarily of atheists/skeptics. Like any field of study, theology has it’s own jargon which can make it hard to understand. You may not be interested in what Mr Price’s guests have to say, but I am.

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Posted: 02 April 2010 11:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’m glad I’m not the only one who found this episode baffling.  I wanted to turn it off, but felt that I had to listen to the whole thing in order to complain about it.  I really don’t like this direction that Point of Inquiry is going.

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Posted: 03 April 2010 01:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Count me as another totally baffled person. I have been a long time listener of this normally wonderful podcast. I feel a little guilty that it took this episode to make me want to register on this forum. The first time I listened to this episode I felt like I was enduring torture. One second I was full of indignation, the next I thought that maybe there is something to what was being discussed and that it was just My lack of knowledge of philosophy or theology that made me not able to comprehend. I could not however get away from the fact that I really thought it was one huge bunch of crock.  I have listened to many podcasts of topics that I am definitely not an expert in, presented by eminently qualified experts. They usually go out of their way to embrace the listener and present just enough relevant and easily digestible information in order to take one along the path of their presentation. Even Dr Dawkins has spoken about evolution, DNA, genes etc in such away that I can say I understand what the topic is about and I understand what he has wanted to present.  Heck I have even listened in fascination to a one hour presentation of Quantum Mechanics , String Theory and M Theory.  I may have concluded that most of the stuff was beyond me, but it never made me feel angry at guest and presenter as This episode of POI.  I checked the Date of the Podcast .. it was the second of April, If it was the First, I would have been relieved and satisfied.  By the way , the second listening to the episode did NOT make me feel or think any better. (Maybe I am not at their intellectual level, but hey I am in good company)

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Posted: 03 April 2010 03:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I do want to recommend that people check out Mr. Price’s Bible Geek podcast series that was part of the Infidel Guy show for a while. I found these to be very interesting and accessible. They do a great job of putting the bible in historical context, pointing out inconsistencies, and generally viewing it all with a rational, skeptical eye.

Obviously in this episode Bob is talking with someone he has admired for a long time and I think he maybe gets swept up in the excitement of getting to talk to Altizer. I imagine that if he’d had a chance to chat for an hour first before hitting the record button, it might have helped.

I think he should have S.T. Joshi on and they can discuss Lovecraft’s atheism and atheism in science fiction. That would be awesome, especially since I know they don’t agree on everything but still seem to get along well.

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Posted: 03 April 2010 04:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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vinny - 02 April 2010 06:00 PM

This weeks podcast is the most unlistenable bit of gobbedly gook that I’ve come across in a long time.  If this is an indication of the future for POI and CFI then the loss of DJ Grothe is probably fatal for the organization.  A specific example: the definition of an atheist as someone who thinks god is dead?  Are you kidding? Did I just not get the April fools joke?

It actually is kind of a coup for Robert Price to get this guy to interview.  Just like Chris Mooney, Price has access to some of the top theologians.
But he needs to interview these guys in a Time-magazine type way that gets the point across to non-theologians…..
It MIGHT be that just as Mooney’s podcasts are bringing in new people primarily interested in science and a rationalist view to public policy,  Price’s podcasts will bring in folks primarily interested in religion and religious philosophy. This will help POI—except you are suggesting that folks who like column 1 on the menu might hate column 3 and vice versa….

Thanks for the one example, and for the reference to “gobbedly gook”...

http://mb-soft.com/believe/txn/deathgod.htm

Thomas J J Altizer believed that God had actually died. But Altizer often spoke in exaggerated and dialectic language, occasionally with heavy overtones of Oriental mysticism. Sometimes it is difficult to know exactly what Altizer meant when he spoke in dialectical opposites such as “God is dead, thank God!” But apparently the real meaning of Altizer’s belief that God had died is to be found in his belief in God’s immanence. To say that God has died is to say that he has ceased to exist as a transcendent, supernatural being. Rather, he has become fully immanent in the world. The result is an essential identity between the human and the divine. God died in Christ in this sense, and the process has continued time and again since then. Altizer claims the church tried to give God life again and put him back in heaven by its doctrines of resurrection and ascension. But now the traditional doctrines about God and Christ must be repudiated because man has discovered after nineteen centuries that God does not exist. Christians must even now will the death of God by which the transcendent becomes immanent.

I haven’t listened to this one yet, and it sounds like it could be a tough commute that day…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_J._J._Altizer

On a pure level, Altizer’s religious proclamation viewed God’s death (really a self-extinction) as a process that began at the world’s creation and came to an end through Jesus Christ—whose crucifixion in reality poured out God’s full spirit into this world.

If your conclusion is that it is gobbledy-gook,  at least you listened and gave him a chance.  I think Robert Price needs to act as an “audience surrogate” and ask naive questions and get the interviewee to explain themselves so uninformed listeners come away with the gist (which still might be unfavorable). I think Price needs to decide what his audience is.  Chris Mooney has an analogous challenge if there are non-science listeners.

Another reference to a book summarizing Altizer.
http://www.sunypress.edu/p-4004-thinking-through-the-death-of-g.aspx

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Posted: 03 April 2010 05:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Jackson, I appreciate your thoughts on this. And it’s a fair thought that each of the new hosts needs to find their voice.  I’m not a huge fan of Mooney, but I thought his outings so far were strong enough that I’d listen to his shows.  But I’m sort of confused about what POI/CFI is all about.  I’m not sure that

Just like Chris Mooney, Price has access to some of the top theologians.

is a good thing.  Theologians don’t strike me as spokespeople for a reason-based world view.  Am I looking at this wrong in some way?

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Posted: 03 April 2010 05:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Rick Dakan - 03 April 2010 03:40 AM

I do want to recommend that people check out Mr. Price’s Bible Geek podcast series that was part of the Infidel Guy show for a while. I found these to be very interesting and accessible. They do a great job of putting the bible in historical context, pointing out inconsistencies, and generally viewing it all with a rational, skeptical eye.

He’s still doing the bible geek, just go here and enjoy.

But I agree with the previous comments. I’m a Price fan, but this show sounded like “gobbedly gook”, either because it really is that, or because the interview didn’t explain the basic points on this subject.

I remain optimistic and think that future interviews Bob conducts will be great.  grin

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Posted: 03 April 2010 09:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Aught3 - 02 April 2010 10:23 PM

@Stanley
My point is that on one hand Mr Price thinks a lack of theological training does not allow atheists/skeptics to take part in discussion on theological topics and on the other hand he proceeds to have an in-depth theological discussion to an audience composed primarily of atheists/skeptics. Like any field of study, theology has it’s own jargon which can make it hard to understand. You may not be interested in what Mr Price’s guests have to say, but I am.

Aught3,

I hear your point, but I think he needs to step back even further. I think he needs to convince me (and apparently others, given the posts in this thread) that it is worth our time to learn enough theology to participate in such discussions. A thoughtful discussion on “Why Does Theology Matter to on Atheist” would be a great way to start. Without that, he reminds me of a professor I had during my graduate studies in philosophy of science, who “taught” a course on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. I use the word “taught” in quotes, because he really had no interest in helping us learn. Instead, he spent the time showing off how profound he could be when discussing the book, and carrying on a discussion with those in the class who already knew how to speak Kantian. I was actually very interested in learning about Kant’s views on epistemology, but that course did absolutely nothing to help me in that quest. I dropped the course, and have never regretted doing so. (I have, on the other hand, regretted that I never learned about Kant’s views on epistemology!)

Stan

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Posted: 03 April 2010 09:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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It’s clear from the comments that most people felt the same way about that podcast as I did.  Frankly, the only thing I understood was that Richard Dawkins and his ilk are not deep thinkers, though apparently, I’m not a deep enough thinker to understand why not.

I actually would have been very interested to hear what is meant by ‘the death of god’.  Too bad I couldn’t figure it out from the podcast.

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