Spiritual Investment in the World: Modern Theologies of Worldliness
The aim of the conference is to add a speculative dimension to the famous debate on secularisation, which began in the 50’s around Karl Löwith’s Meaning in History.
Its participants usually present modernity as the age of more or less ‘illegitimate’ worldly transformation of the premodern religious patterns (Löwith, Weber, Schmitt, Taylor, Milbank) which eventually leads towards full atheisation (Blumenberg, Marquard, Lyotard, Lefebvre, Gauchet, Žižek, Nancy), but never as an epoch which created its own form of religious belief.
The latter claim – that secularisation created its own form of ‘the religion of modern times’ (die Religion der neuen Zeiten) – derives originally from Hegel, but found a strong support in Gershom Scholem, who described the ‘modern religious sentiment’ in paradoxical terms of ‘pious atheism’ and ‘non-secular secularity’: a new attitude in which immanence replaces transcendence as a new object of religious interest.
The Scholemian apparent oxymoron indicates that the ‘pious atheism’ cannot be reduced to a simple atheism: while the latter is a non-belief in the presence of God, the former is a belief in the absence of God, understood as the necessary condition for the creation of the world (tsimtsum).
The Scholemian approach to secularity/ worldliness constitutes a part and parcel of the secularisation debate, but it has not yet been interpreted as such: the aim of the conference will be to include this unique Jewish voice on the theological status of the world (saeculum) into the current debates on the meaning of modern secularity.