Some friends and I are beginning a reading group on Jose Miranda’s Marx and the Bible. It’s a fascinating text that I’d highly recommend. I stumbled across this quote in the second chapter that I thought deserved some commentary.
“The reader is not going to find here another book on the “God is dead” theme or on the much-discussed “secularization,” nor the nth attempt to “recover” the atheists by making them see that although they might say that they deny the existence of God, deep down they accept it. We have had more than enough apologetics in recent centuries, and in my opinion the atheist has the right to be an atheist in peace without someone continually interpreting his position as undercover theism” (p. 35)
I couldn’t agree more. Although this text was written back in 1971, it is amazing how pertinent it is today. Over the last two years I’ve been avoiding theology (for professional and personal reasons), and I must say that I’ve becoming increasingly annoyed with Christian theology’s engagement with atheism. The Christian theologian’s relationship with atheists has always been a violent one. Too many theologians seem intent on appropriating atheism and somehow Christianizing and colonizing atheistic voices. For example, Westphal’s work on atheism was geared towards subjecting Christianity to the critiques of Marx, Nietzsche and Freud (the holy Trinity of atheism) and enabling Christians to use these critiques to strengthen their faith. It reminds me of the ways in which some evangelicals have courses in apologetics to prepare students for (imagined) hostile and secular university professors with the hopes that the young believer will be impenetrable to competing worldviews. I also wonder if postmodern theology’s project to integrate doubt and atheism into the Christian tradition is just one more attempt to domesticate atheistic critiques. Perhaps Miranda is right that we should leave the atheists alone because they are inevitably used as means by which Christianity attempts to convert non-Christians to the faith.