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Forum Philosophicum

Volume 26, Issue 2, Autumn 2021

Only a God Can Save Us ("Nur noch ein Gott kann uns retten")

Mark T. NelsonOrcid-ID
Pages 303-327

Could there be an Atheistic Political Theology?

“Only a God can save us.” So says Martin Heidegger in his pessimistic assessment of merely human philosophy’s ability to change the world. The thought is not unique to Heidegger: another thinker who arrived at a similar conclusion was Heidegger’s contemporary and sometime admirer, Carl Schmitt, in his idea of “political theology.” I take up Schmitt’s version of the idea and use it to examine the New Atheism, a relatively recent polemical critique of religion by an informal coalition of English-speaking scientists, philosophers, and writers. Taking Sam Har­ris’s book The End of Faith (2005) as my test case, I ask whether the New Atheism can instructively be read as a Schmittian “political theology”, not least because of its strongly anti-liberal implications for toleration of religious belief and practice. I close by posing the question of what sort of theory would deserve to be called an atheistic political theology and whether such a theory exists, or could exist.