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Introduction to Kierkegaard: The Religious Solution

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Faith and Existentialism

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Transcending Boundaries in Philosophy and Theology

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Name of resource. Problem URL. Describe the connection issue. SearchWorks Catalog Stanford Libraries. Kierkegaard and Levinas : the subjunctive mood. Responsibility Patrick Sheil. Physical description xviii, p. Series Transcending boundaries in philosophy and theology. After all, who is there to tell us otherwise? Without a God there is no authority for any particular law or moral, or at least, no authority higher than each individual. Does that then mean individuals are free to set their own moral standards, their own values, become their own gods?

Spirituality and religion were important within existentialism throughout the twentieth century, though many still associate existentialism with atheism. Many of the major figures within existentialism were not only theologians, but religious leaders within their faiths. Several of the existentialists were ordained ministers, for example.

We cannot ignore faith, therefore, as part of any study of existentialism. The following individuals are key figures in modern theological discussions of existentialism:. Trying to defend faith actually proves the believer has doubts. Faith is a surrender to something beyond what can be known. That churches and religious zealots try to prove the existence of the Creator s is evidence these individuals care more about what others think than what is personally experienced. Theological existentialism tends to view faith in the following light:.

None of these concepts is alien to organized religion, but the theological existentialists see the alienation as far from extreme than previous philosophers. True faith is so apart from a group understanding that it can only be damaged if the believer entrusts his or her spirituality to an organized church. Even explaining faith reduces its purity, to some degree, but it is important to be authentic and honest about believing.

Existential Primer: Theology

Religious existentialism does not attempt to escape the absurdity of life. An existentialist seeking a system has to admit that the system itself does not give his or her life meaning.


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  • If there is a Creator, an existentialist assumes that this Creator is beyond human logic and reason. It is the fact we cannot understand the Creator that causes us to feel anxiety and despair within religious existentialism. Existentialism by its nature suffers a contradiction: if the individuals defines meaning, it seems strange that various existential figures found meaning in organizations, political theories, and religions. At least unlike some of the social and political theories embraced by some figures, religion does not claim to be easily understood.

    However, religions still impose an external understanding of life and morality on adherents. It is not a metaphysical attempt to explain and categorize what is the world and what is the beyond, and it hence does not seek to prove or disprove God. While ontological, cosmological and teleological attempts to prove the existence of God may be seen to miss the point, it should be noted that, for Kierkegaard, God is simply the unknown and he hence avoids the trap that he thinks afflicts much theology: presuming that rational discourse can make the religious experience comprehensible.

    Religious existentialists argue that faiths aim to bring men closer together via rules, rituals, and doctrines. The adherents of a faith are given a tool by which to relate to each other, and when people relate to each other, they are also relating to creation — indirectly as close to the Creator as men and women can get in life. Adhering to external rules is a choice at all times, even within a religion. As with all existentialism, the individual is constantly aware of choices relating to faith and religion. The contradiction of external meaning remains, to some extent, though.