He was born in Belfast and only left that idyll to read Law at the University of Kent. There, he came under the influence of the Catholic Marxist, David Mclellan who, despite holding the Chair in Political Theory, decided to also read for a Law degree. Following graduation, Conor moved to the University of Dundee to study for an M. Phil., in Philosophy under the supervision of the Jean-François Lyotard and Giles Deleuze scholar, James Williams. On completing his M. Phil. with distinction, Conor went to the University of Cambridge to read for the Diploma in Theology. Upon completion of this, he was awarded a British Academy Studentship to study for a Ph.D. Initially doing so under the supervision of John Milbank, but when he took up a Chair at the University of Virginia, Graham Ward took over the mantle.
After completing his PhD., he was awarded a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Nottingham, where he set up the Centre of Theology and Philosophy - www.theologyandphilosophycentreco.uk. Conor was then offered a lectureship in theology, and has since been made an Associate Professor in Theology and Philosophy.
In 2009, Conor wrote and presented the award-winning BBC documentary - 'Did Darwin Kill God/?'
In 2012-2013 he was a Fellow at the Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton, where he worked in a team of 12, composed of mainly atheist scientists, a philosopher and three theologians on the question of 'Evolution and Human Nature'. Whilst in Princeton, he was 'theologian in residence' in 2013 at Princeton Theological Seminary.
Conor's first monograph was Genealogy of Nihilism: Philosophies of Nothing and the Difference of Theology (Routledge: London and New York, 2002),
Spanish: Genealogía del nihilismo (Granada: Editorial Nuevo Inicio, 2016)
Chinese: 虚无主义谱系 (Shanghai: East China Normal University Press, 2018)
''An exciting and comprehensive reading of the philosophical tradition. The concept of nihilism is produced through an argument that is erudite, complex and properly controversial. A tour de force'' Ken Surin (Duke).
'The intellectual daring and ambition of this project, sketched on a vast canvas stretching from antiquity to contemporary Continental thought, deserves praise for the power of its argument, its erudition and eloquence.' Simon Critchley (New School of Social Research, NYC).
'This is an audacious work and it is difficult to do justice to the complexity of the argument or the subtlety of the terms invoked. However, this work also sparkles with simplicity. Overall this is a dazzling performance ... It provides an important addition to the literature on nihilism.' Reviews in Religion and Theology
Conor's second major book was entitled - Darwin's Pious Idea: Why Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get it Wrong. (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans, 2010) -560 (Winner of a Press Award for 'Sceince and Religion'.) Korean translation: 다윈의 경건한 생각(Darwin Ui Kyung GeonHan Saenggak) (Holy Wave Plus Publishing Co., 2012); Spanish translation: Idea Pías de Darwin (Granada: Editorial Nuevo Inicio, 2014)
This book was recently reviewed in the Quarterly Review of Biology (Chicago) by an atheist evolutionary scientist, who described it thus: "Cunningham is not shy about pulling the ontological pants of materialism down to its ankles. He supplies an unremitting attack on the scientific and philosophical views of Dawkins and his ilk in the course of his first four chapters. The level of scientific sophistication on display is remarkable for a theologian; his reading and his ruminations have been extensive, more than sufficient to provide a devastating critique of the narrative stories and metaphors of Dawkins not just with respect to religion, but also with respect to evolutionary biology itself."
In addition, it was also reviewed by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in the Times Literary Supplement: "Despite its length, Darwin's Pious Idea is a very readable book, engaging and often acerbically witty. It has some serious and original things to say about what always threatens to turn into a sterile debate between rather fictionalized and trivialized versions of science and religion. . . . The sheer exuberance of the presentation is a delight. The final, largely theological chapter, is a tour de force of condensed exposition and reflection, worthy of commendation to anyone who wanted to see the logic of the classical orthodox synthesis laid out with lyricism as well as intellectual depth.. . . This is certainly the most interesting and invigorating book on the science-religion frontier that I have encountered.'
'[This book] is nothing short of magnificent. Every now and then Providence sends a book to save the day. Darwin's Pious Idea may be one of those books.' - Andrew Davison, The Church Times
The research from this book formed the basis of a module taught at Nottingham and a major documentary:
'Did Darwin Kill God?' BBC2 - Sole presenter and writer; the program has since won two broadcasting awards. In the UK 1.4 million people watched initially, after which it was syndicated around the world.
This is the sole documentary on religion sold to schools in the BBC's - 'BBC Active: Video for Learning: Bringing education and training to life'
It can be viewed here: https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/did-darwin-kill-god/
Conor is also co-editor of three book series: Veritas (Wipf and Stock Publishers, and SCM); Interventions (Wm B Eerdmans); and Kalos (Wipf and Stock). He is also a co-editor of two professional journals: Radical Orthodoxy: Theology, Politics and Culture, and Syneses: Beyond Secular Faith, and he is on the editorial board of the new, peer-reviewed journal, Science, Philosophy, and Theology.
Conor's expertise includes:
- philosophical theology
- systematic theology
- the relationship between science and theology,
- and metaphysics.
He is currently writing a book on the soul (which is under contract with Wm B Eerdmans), after completion of that work, he is writing a book on cancer.
- The relationship between science and theology
- Phenomenology in relation the natural and the question of the divine
- Grace and Nature, or the supernatural and the natural, how are they to be understood?
- Metaphysics and ontology, and their relation to the very possibility of thought: is there someone to think, and is there something to be thought, and what is it to think?
- Reason and Faith: Do they require each, maybe to the extent that are inseparable?
- The question of Beauty: What is its theological significance, and how does it relate to the Good and the True, what the medievals called the transcendentals?
- The question of whether the idea of the soul and indeed the person is tenable in light of modern philosophy and science. If the soul and the person does exist, how are we to understand them?
- Trinitarian theology, and how it might be the highest form or indeed the very possibility of metaphysics
- Nihilism, both in analytic and continental philosophy, as well as in literature and art: what can nihilism tell us about theology?
- Philosophical theology
PEOPLE OF ESPECIAL INTEREST:
Plato and Aristotle
The Church Fathers and Doctors, generally, but particularly, St Irenaeus, St Grergory of Nyssa, St Augustine, St Maximus, and most of all St Thomas Aquinas
Johann Georg Hamann
Henri de Lubac
I am writing a book that will explore whether the soul is real. Simply put, is there a soul or not? If there is not, can we still speak of people? If there is a soul how should we understand it? The… read more
CONOR CUNNINGHAM, 2021. - ‘Thomas Aquinas’s Anthropology: Stuck in the Middle with You’. In: Theological Anthropology in Interreligious Perspective Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.
CONOR CUNNINGHAM, 2020. 'Survival of the Fittest' Encyclopaedia Britannica.
CONOR CUNNINGHAM, 2020. - ‘Homo ex machina: The nightmare Dreams’. In: ЯЗЫКОВА ИРИНА, ed., Theology of Freedom: Festschrift for Alexei Bodrov St. Andrew’s Institute Press. pp.93-132.
CONOR CUNNINGHAM, 2018. In: ZOE LEHMANN AND ANDREAS LOTZE, ed., Our Common Universe Bloomsbury. 20 (In Press.)
I am writing a book that will explore whether the soul is real. Simply put, is there a soul or not? If there is not, can we still speak of people? If there is a soul how should we understand it? The book examines the work of the Church fathers, and a number of the Church Doctors, especially Thomas Aquinas, doing so in an effort to bring their theological and philosophical insights into a conversation with current philosophy and science regarding the human being, especially the mind. Doing so in an effort to construct a powerful account of the soul that not only is valid, but without which our common sense world would collapse, including, reason, ethics, the person, and so on. In short, it is not a question if science allows for the soul, but, rather, without the soul can there be any science.
- Nihilism and Theology
- Theology and Science, especially evolution
- The work of Thomas Aquinas regarding metaphysics and Trinitarian theology
- Examining the question whether philosophical, ontological naturalism is really possible - I concluded that it is not
- Michel Henry, Jacques Lacan, Giorgio Agamben, Alan Badiou, Quentin Meillassoux
A second volume on nihilism and theology.