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Looking Back at the "Is God Dead?" Movement of the 60s

by Tim Cavanaugh

Add the Almighty Creator of the Universe to the long list of beloved characters who have survived their own deaths. At Obit mag, Nathan Schneider resurrects the "death of God" movement of the 1960s. This theological school is best remembered today by a Time mag cover story that was quoted in Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby and misquoted in Bernie Taupin's lyric for "Levon" (which also wrongly attributes the quote to The New York Times; Taupin is correct, however, in noting that Mars is "cold as hell."

But there was a lot more to the death of God school, including some heady-sounding theosophy that approaches pretty closely to Hazel Motes' Church of Truth Without Jesus Christ Crucified:

It was as though the country itself was possessed by a theological fever," recalls Emory University professor Thomas J. J. Altizer, the most shocking of the “death of God” theologians, "one in which the most religious nations in the industrial world had suddenly discovered its own atheism." Like a good heretic, he traces his insight to a haunting vision of Satan himself, which he then came to interpret through the dialectical goggles of Blake, Hegel, and Nietzsche. By way of them, he concluded that modernity's turn away from a supernatural God represents a culmination of Christ's incarnation and death on the cross. Just as that death led to a resurrection, the death of God opens the way for a renewal of faith, one based in the fuller affirmation of temporal life and creativity. "In matters theological as well as personal," wrote Altizer's colleague Mark C. Taylor, "he simply cannot imagine a death that is not a resurrection."

Altizer took pains to insist that, Satanic inspiration notwithstanding, his ideas lie within the bounds of orthodoxy. His landmark book bore a puzzling title: The Gospel of Christian Atheism. "The intention throughout this voyage," he explained, "is to seek a truly radical and yet nevertheless fully Christian theology." He was serious about calling his message "gospel" -- he meant it as good news.

Read the whole article for more interesting stuff, including a Baalist-sounding call for "a renaissance of festivity and fantasy to bring the divine back."

Some quotable person said he couldn't be an atheist because that would require a god for him not to believe in. This seems to be the next logical step along that path: an atheism that requires a god, then requires the god to disappear, so you can better appreciate the world without god. I think there are less fussy ways to arrive at that conclusion, but maybe there are hidden depths in Altizer's argument.

Anyway they thought Chucky and Leprechaun were dead too, but they were wrong!


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