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Thomas J.J. Altizer - The Death of God
Posted: 17 April 2010 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 106 ]
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Stanley Dorst - 13 April 2010 10:30 PM

....I thought I would attempt to look at this portion of the interview in some detail.

Early in the interview, as a followup to Altizer’s statement that he considers Nietzsche, Hegel, Blake, and others to be sources for his views, Price says, “One of the first things I question, though I think I understand it better now, is how do you know these thinkers are telling us the truth? What gives them such revelatory authority in your thinking?” Altizer’s response was to say, and I quote:

“Hegel gave us the most purely and comprehensively logical thinking that has ever been created, and it’s all grounded in an absolute self-negation. In Hegel we have this conceptual enactment, this incredible, logical, purely conceptual demonstration of an absolute self-negation, which pervades all of his thinking. In Hegel you have a total realization of the death of God, which is simultaneously a total enactment of reality itself and of totality itself. So that here we can realize a total conception or a total vision of everything, which is inseparable from absolute self-negation and the crucifixion. To me, these are enactments of Christianity, realizations of Christianity.”

Mr. Price seemed to believe that this was actually an answer to his question, because his response was to say, “That does make sense. Why, I wonder, are you the only one or first one to say these things?” I hope that he has the insight, at least in retrospect, to be embarrassed by how obsequious and fawning this response was.

....

vinny and I discussed how some of the dialog was reminscent of the Sokal Affair perpetrated by Alan Sokal in about 1996—he submitted a fake article to the journal Social Text with post modern/quantum gobbledy-gook and the meaningless paper was accepted for publication.  One might ask whether Robert Price knows this is baloney but as part of the interview encourages the interviewee to express himself. D.J. Grothe did this in a POI interview of Michael Behe.  However—I have to agree—if Price is skeptical he fools the listener as well.  I remembering wondering about the line “why are you the only one or first one to say these things”—- this can be viewed as a very indirect challenge to Altizer.

Thank you for actually going back and listening to the audio multiple times and transcribing this.  A lot of work. I have only listened to it once and what I remembered was hard to follow gobbledy-gook a la Sokal—but the transcript makes it much clearer.

What does self-negation mean anyway?

[ Edited: 17 April 2010 08:30 AM by Jackson ]
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Posted: 17 April 2010 10:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 107 ]
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DavidW - 17 April 2010 08:04 AM

I’ve a feeling that I will avoid this presenters episodes in the future, but I would love to know what “death of god” theology actually is, if anyone fancies explaining it…

D

IMHO if one of these guys sat you down and went through it with you, you would still be none the wiser.  Someone I had to be professionally polite to the other day tried to explain auras.  Same thing.

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Posted: 17 April 2010 10:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 108 ]
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Jackson - 17 April 2010 08:19 AM

vinny and I discussed how some of the dialog was reminscent of the Sokal Affair perpetrated by Alan Sokal in about 1996—he submitted a fake article to the journal Social Text with post modern/quantum gobbledy-gook and the meaningless paper was accepted for publication.
...
What does self-negation mean anyway?

This is a very pertinent analogy.  With Sokal, his paper came loaded with the authority of his his professional standing, the obscurity of his language, key catchphrases, and mutual credulity.  This was the mix that got Sokal’s brilliant (and unreadable) parody into publication.  This is also the mix that propelled this podcast to it’s sticky conclusion.

[ Edited: 17 April 2010 10:28 AM by WetaMan ]
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Posted: 19 April 2010 08:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 109 ]
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I did found this interview interesting. It should have been longer and more “newbie” friendly - explaning more some basic points before jumping into de discussion.

The interesting thing with Robert M. Price is that he interviews people that we’re not used to hear on skeptical podcasts. And frankly, I love that. I’m tired of hearing always the same people in rotation in skeptical podcasts (one week on the SGU, the following week on the “For Good Reason”, the next week on “Point of Inquiry”...).

That kind of interviews are fresh, and brings new ideas on the table.

All that to say: keep up the good work, Mr. Price. grin

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Posted: 23 April 2010 09:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 110 ]
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I just listened to this podcast this morning, and I just had to laugh when he said you have to be a Christian to be an atheist. What an incredibly stupid notion.

One of the ears on my headphones is broken and I was listening on the bus so I couldn’t hear that well at times, but was it just me or did Altizer say he accidentally became a theologian when he said he was a professor of theology instead of religion?

I just don’t see the value in theology, if this guy is a respected theologian, what do they have to offer? It was a short podcast but it would have been nice if Altizer had backed up a single one of his statements.

I love Robert Price so I’m hanging in there with his episodes in the hopes that he’ll read the feedback on this forum. He’s so knowledgeable about the Bible that I almost wish he would have religious people on as guests to challenge him on his non-belief. I agree with previous commenters who said he’s better as a guest on podcasts than as an interviewer. Hopefully he’ll learn to play the devil’s advocate more and take more of a back seat to let his guests explain what it is they’re all about.

I can have some fun from this episode in that now if I want to annoy a Christian I can say that if they’re a true Christian they believe God is dead…Jesus is God, Jesus is dead, God is dead. And I have a theologian to back me up! Honestly though I wouldn’t care to do that if it involved reading up on Altizer. I often end up buying the books of POI guests because they’re interesting, but this guy did not spark my interest in the least. He was so smug in his confidence in his silly ideas that are dismissable after 5 seconds of critical though! He didn’t bring anything to the table in this episode that would make me want to learn more.

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Posted: 27 April 2010 06:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 111 ]
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I absolutely HATED this episode.  Complete and utter rubbish.  I am an A..THEIST.  As in, I don’t believe in a god.  So how can someone who never existed die??  AAAAAARG I got even more annoyed than I do after listening to Skeptico.

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Posted: 27 April 2010 09:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 112 ]
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saffagirl - 27 April 2010 06:10 AM

AAAAAARG I got even more annoyed than I do after listening to Skeptico.

Just checked it out. The host is absolutely obnoxious.

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Posted: 03 May 2010 11:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 113 ]
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I just well… Originally I signed up to voice concern for the choice of hosts for the podcast, never got around to that but… C’mon… this podcast was ghastly. This and the wonderful blogging that is being done from the soap boxes CFI is handing out these days just makes me really sad. And seeing as POI is representing CFI out and about it makes me even sadder to not see some sort of… response… from CFI on this. Well besides the always popular “atheists call us soft, theists call us hardliners, therefore we are the golden mean” crap.

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Posted: 09 May 2010 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 114 ]
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I have to admit that this episode has really put me off on POI and CFI. My skept-o-meter nearly broke from pinging. I was trying really hard to relate to the out of hand dismissal of Dawkins and Harris on the one had with the same out of hand dismissal of Christian and religious fundamentalism layered over with some other undefined mysticism and woo.

Really unsatisfying.

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It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear to be a fool than to post a reply and remove all doubt. I guess it’s too late for that though.

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Posted: 09 May 2010 02:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 115 ]
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Bill Goodwin - 09 May 2010 10:17 AM

I have to admit that this episode has really put me off on POI and CFI. My skept-o-meter nearly broke from pinging. I was trying really hard to relate to the out of hand dismissal of Dawkins and Harris on the one had with the same out of hand dismissal of Christian and religious fundamentalism layered over with some other undefined mysticism and woo.

Really unsatisfying.

Bill, other POI subjects have generated pages and pages of controversy on this site, but this is the only one I have heard that has generated so much universal dislike. You will find a few supporting posts on this thread, but they are few, and far between!

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Posted: 11 May 2010 07:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 116 ]
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I feel that if POI is going to include interviews with misty-eyed new-agers: the podcast should be hosted by a true skeptic. Although I am accustomed to hearing the work of The Four Horsemen maligned (the sad shaking heads; the tut, tut, tut, followed by the nearly inevitable “There’s something that they just don’t understand”). I would have expected any POI host to politely suggest to Thomas Altizer that, perhaps there were significant gaps in his understanding of Dawkins, Hitchens &c. The icing on the cake came for me, when, Altizer said he found the books of the new atheists impossible to read. I couldn’t have been the only listener left wondering: had he?

[ Edited: 11 May 2010 11:02 AM by eplommer ]
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Posted: 16 May 2010 04:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 117 ]
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WetaMan - 17 April 2010 10:12 AM
DavidW - 17 April 2010 08:04 AM

I’ve a feeling that I will avoid this presenters episodes in the future, but I would love to know what “death of god” theology actually is, if anyone fancies explaining it…

D

IMHO if one of these guys sat you down and went through it with you, you would still be none the wiser.  Someone I had to be professionally polite to the other day tried to explain auras.  Same thing.

Hmm. ‘Death of God’ can and usually does mean several things; the lack of precision is part of what makes philosophy so difficult. Some consider mutual contradictory bits of information to mean a paradox, while in the material world we see paradoxes as what they are - invalid evidence, incorrect assumptions or invalid theories. Philosophers, and especially theologians spend an inordinate amount of time focused on apparent paradox. It’s not that philosophy is valueless, but rather the field is littered with worn and useless constructs that confuse the issue. A good weeding is in order…

In this case Nietzsche meant literally that the concept of god was holding us back; by killing the concept of god we could advance to become the ‘overmen’. Altizer means something else entirely, that god as pure spirit was somehow separate from the world he created and was unified with it by the sacrifice of christ. This leads to some interesting, if wildly improbable ideas like the continuing death of god by his own hand in order to maintain immanence.

I must say his (Altizers) theology appears to be mystical more out of attempts to confuse more than anything else, and aside from a surge of popularity in the 60’s (recreational drugs may have helped this) is little regarded. The assertion that only christians can be atheistic is provincial nonsense, and the snobbish insistence that ‘only philosophers can understand this’ is vanity run amok. The thinking persons rejection of theology after study is a common, and completely understandable (although not inevitable) position. Only in theology, especially Christian theology is the nature and existence of god given a free pass on rules of evidence we apply to everything else in life.

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Posted: 16 May 2010 05:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 118 ]
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Randy Grein - 16 May 2010 04:55 PM
WetaMan - 17 April 2010 10:12 AM
DavidW - 17 April 2010 08:04 AM

I’ve a feeling that I will avoid this presenters episodes in the future, but I would love to know what “death of god” theology actually is, if anyone fancies explaining it…

D

IMHO if one of these guys sat you down and went through it with you, you would still be none the wiser.  Someone I had to be professionally polite to the other day tried to explain auras.  Same thing.

Hmm. ‘Death of God’ can and usually does mean several things; the lack of precision is part of what makes philosophy so difficult. Some consider mutual contradictory bits of information to mean a paradox, while in the material world we see paradoxes as what they are - invalid evidence, incorrect assumptions or invalid theories. Philosophers, and especially theologians spend an inordinate amount of time focused on apparent paradox. It’s not that philosophy is valueless, but rather the field is littered with worn and useless constructs that confuse the issue. A good weeding is in order…

In this case Nietzsche meant literally that the concept of god was holding us back; by killing the concept of god we could advance to become the ‘overmen’. Altizer means something else entirely, that god as pure spirit was somehow separate from the world he created and was unified with it by the sacrifice of christ. This leads to some interesting, if wildly improbable ideas like the continuing death of god by his own hand in order to maintain immanence.

I must say his (Altizers) theology appears to be mystical more out of attempts to confuse more than anything else, and aside from a surge of popularity in the 60’s (recreational drugs may have helped this) is little regarded. The assertion that only christians can be atheistic is provincial nonsense, and the snobbish insistence that ‘only philosophers can understand this’ is vanity run amok. The thinking persons rejection of theology after study is a common, and completely understandable (although not inevitable) position. Only in theology, especially Christian theology is the nature and existence of god given a free pass on rules of evidence we apply to everything else in life.

Thank you for this very clear and non-inflammatory summary. I understand this much better now.

Stan

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Posted: 16 May 2010 06:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 119 ]
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Stanley Dorst - 16 May 2010 05:38 PM
Randy Grein - 16 May 2010 04:55 PM
WetaMan - 17 April 2010 10:12 AM
DavidW - 17 April 2010 08:04 AM

I’ve a feeling that I will avoid this presenters episodes in the future, but I would love to know what “death of god” theology actually is, if anyone fancies explaining it…

D

IMHO if one of these guys sat you down and went through it with you, you would still be none the wiser.  Someone I had to be professionally polite to the other day tried to explain auras.  Same thing.

Hmm. ‘Death of God’ can and usually does mean several things; the lack of precision is part of what makes philosophy so difficult. Some consider mutual contradictory bits of information to mean a paradox, while in the material world we see paradoxes as what they are - invalid evidence, incorrect assumptions or invalid theories. Philosophers, and especially theologians spend an inordinate amount of time focused on apparent paradox. It’s not that philosophy is valueless, but rather the field is littered with worn and useless constructs that confuse the issue. A good weeding is in order…

In this case Nietzsche meant literally that the concept of god was holding us back; by killing the concept of god we could advance to become the ‘overmen’. Altizer means something else entirely, that god as pure spirit was somehow separate from the world he created and was unified with it by the sacrifice of christ. This leads to some interesting, if wildly improbable ideas like the continuing death of god by his own hand in order to maintain immanence.

I must say his (Altizers) theology appears to be mystical more out of attempts to confuse more than anything else, and aside from a surge of popularity in the 60’s (recreational drugs may have helped this) is little regarded. The assertion that only christians can be atheistic is provincial nonsense, and the snobbish insistence that ‘only philosophers can understand this’ is vanity run amok. The thinking persons rejection of theology after study is a common, and completely understandable (although not inevitable) position. Only in theology, especially Christian theology is the nature and existence of god given a free pass on rules of evidence we apply to everything else in life.

Thank you for this very clear and non-inflammatory summary. I understand this much better now.

Stan

I think what you meant to say is “Thank you for this very clear and non-inflammatory summary. I DON’T understand this much better now.”

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It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear to be a fool than to post a reply and remove all doubt. I guess it’s too late for that though.

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Posted: 16 May 2010 07:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 120 ]
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Okay, so god is dead as a source of moral guidance. Cool. That’s exactly what the new atheists are also saying, and trying to move that along into common acceptance.

He did drop one interesting nugget about how the resurrection and ascent negates the whole point of this evolution in morality. That completely contradicts salvation. Tough sell that, but needed.

Edit - Saying that only Christians can be atheists seems short-sighted. Weren’t there several god-murders that pre-dated Jesus? Have we been trying to kill god off all along so we can step up to the plate and be responsible for our own morality?

[ Edited: 16 May 2010 07:34 PM by Tom Wood ]
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