Atheism is at the heart of Sartre’s philosophy but also of his reflections on writing and the choice of the imaginary. Nonetheless, atheism for him is not a matter of an acquired and self-assured spiritual option. It is a struggle against the temptation of faith, a struggle which is nothing else than the aspiration to Being, to a justified existence, to the surpassing of contingency. This is why Sartre can qualify atheism as ‘cruel’. To be victorious against the illusions of necessity, against the confusion of literature and religion, atheism is a never-ending process of liquidation of the very idea of ‘Salvation’.
Godless People, Doubt, and Atheism
Ruy Llera Blanes and Galina Oustinova-Stjepanovic
In the introduction to this special issue, we set the agenda for researching the aspirations and practices of godless people who seek to thin out religion in their daily lives. We reflect on why processes of disengagement from religion have not been adequately researched in anthropology. Locating this issue's articles in the anthropological literature on doubt and atheism, we argue for the importance of a comparative investigation to analyze people's reluctance to pursue religion.
Drawing on my experience of a Muslim version of exorcism in urban Macedonia, this article continues a methodological discussion of the implications of being an atheist anthropologist when researching religion, a situation known as 'methodological atheism'. Methodological atheism is often linked to the problem of suspending one's intellectual disregard of people's religions as delusions. This article will argue instead that there are barriers to participation in religious rituals that are not covered by questions of disbelief. The notion of 'dispositional atheism' is discussed against the backdrop of the anxieties, uncertainties, and inhibitions experienced by an atheist anthropologist caught up in a moment of religious intensity.
We all have our conceptual bugbears, terms which, as anthropologists, cause us trouble. Over the past couple of years, an increasing number of anthropologists working in the anthropology of religion have had to face some newly prominent ones: atheism, godlessness, and (worst of all) non-religion.
Notes toward an Ethnography of Religious Belief and Doubt
Paul-François Tremlett and Fang-Long Shih
New Atheism is characterized by a binary logic that pits religion against science, belief against doubt, a pre-modern past against a modern present. It generates a temporal sensibility and attitude toward being modern that is a 'survival' of late-nineteenth-century anthropology, where religious belief and the past were bound together in opposition to science and the present. We analyze this binary logic and then, in response, present two ethnographic accounts—one from the Philippines, the other from Taiwan—to support our contention that religion is not just a matter of personal convictions. Rather, it is a public practice in which belief and doubt are constituted socially and dialogically.
Ruy Llera Blanes and Abel Paxe
In this article we chart the histories and political translations of atheist cultures in Angola. We explore the specific translations of atheist ideologies into practical actions that occurred in the post-independence period in the 1970s–1980s and perform an ethnographic exploration of their legacies in contemporary Angola. We also debate the problem of atheism as an anthropological concept, examining the interfaces between ideology, political agency, and social praxis. We suggest that atheism is inherently a politically biased concept, a product of the local histories and intellectual traditions that shape it.
Ronald E. Santoni
Before addressing Ronald Aronson’s Living Without God, I wish, first, to make a brief remark or two about the perspective from which I come, and secondly, to offer a few summary comments about “Sartre and Atheism,” a theme that underlies much of Aron- son’s analysis and represents a kind of subtitle for this panel-discus- sion and exchange.
Adrian van den Hoven
While reading Ron Aronson’s illuminating guide to the secular life, it struck me that, given the context, an exploration of the topic of Sartre and atheism was very much in order.
John H. Gillespie
This article examines the main references to the Death of God in Sartre’s work (in ‘Un nouveau mystique’, Cahiers pour une morale, Le Diable et le bon Dieu, and Mallarmé : la lucidité et sa face d’ombre), and examines how his use of the term reveals his understanding of the development and progress of atheism in the modern world, contextualises his belief in the purity and correctness of his own version of atheism, and illustrates the persistence of his focus on God in his writing.
Renaat Demoen’s Au pays de la grande angoisse (1950–1951)
It is well known that from 1920 to 1950, Belgian comics, embedded in a Catholic milieu, sometimes promoted anti-Communism. Au pays de la grande angoisse, drawn by Renaat Demoen and published from 1950 to 1951 in Zonneland and Petits Belges, fits into this category. Nonetheless, its ideological stance can be differentiated from that of series appearing in major Franco-Belgian magazines. Au pays de la grande angoisse is Flemish, intended only for the Belgian market, and therefore not subject to the control of the French Control Commission set up by the July 1949 law. Its critique of Eastern bloc countries is more explicit and more violent. Moreover, the story appeared in comics with a religious affiliation. It sets out to denounce the atheism of the Communists and to glorify the resistance of the believers. Ultimately, Au pays de la grande angoisse is as much a Christian comic as an adventure comic.