Atheist theologians are neither a new idea nor startling. Merely one that may be undergoing a revival. Nathan Schneider, a freelance writer who also edits the online magazine Killing the Buddha, touched on the movement's origins and drive for the Guardian:
At the American Academy of Religion meeting in Montreal last year, [James Wood] may have gotten his wish [for "a theologically engaged atheism"], or something resembling it. Following an apocalyptic sermon from "death of God" theologian Thomas J.J. Altizer, to the podium came the ruffled Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, a self-described atheist and "materialist through and through", before an audience of religion scholars, theologians, and costumed adherents. He spoke of truths Christianity alone possesses and how Christ's death reveals that "the only universality is the universality of struggle." Atheism, he explained, is true Christianity, and one can only be a real atheist by passing through Christianity. "In this sense, I am unconditionally a Christian", said Žižek.
He is one of several leading thinkers in recent years who, though coming out of a deeply secular and often Marxist bent, have made a turn toward theology. In 1997, Alain Badiou published a study of the apostle Paul, whom he took as an exemplar of his own influential philosophy of the "event". Three years later, Giorgio Agamben responded in Italian with The Time That Remains, a painstaking exegesis of the first ten words of Paul's Letter to the Romans. The purpose of both was not a more enlightened piety, but an inquiry into the texture of revolution. Paul is significant to them because he ushered in, and in the process described, a genuinely transformational social movement.
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