God of Our Fathers, Gods for Ourselves: Fundamentalism and Postmodern Belief
15 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2010
Date Written: June 16, 2010
Prepared for a symposium on “Families, Fundamentalism, and the First Amendment,” this essay uses the “death of God” as a frame for recent developments in law and religion in the United States. Western culture has been obsessed with the death of God at least since Nietzsche. During the 1900s, this obsession took the form of a prediction that modernization had so undercut belief that the latter would eventually disappear entirely. That prediction turned out to be spectacularly wrong in the United States; popular and academic literature is now filled with triumphant - and regretful - expositions of the contemporary vibrance and vitality of religion. God has cheated death (or, at least, Nietzsche).
Or has he? The God whose death was widely predicted and the God who today is alive and well are not the same God. The God who died is the God of Christendom, who bound together western society with a universal account of the world that did not survive the advent of postmodernism; this God, indeed, is dead. The vibrant God of today is the one adapted to postmodernism; the vitality of that God is on display in contemporary American religion, especially in the spirituality movement. The most pressing religious problem now confronting the world is posed by believers who refuse to recognize the demise of the first God and the rise of the second; these “fundamentalists” continue to press for government recognition and enforcement of absolute religious truths. All three of these phenomena - the death of God, his rebirth in postmodernity, and his remnants in fundamentalism - are manifest in recent Religion Clause decisions.
Keywords: death of God, fundamentalism, Religion Clauses, pluralism, politics, postmodern religion, postmodernism, spirituality
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation