Sunday Godblogging: Thank God for Atheists
Christopher Lydon hosted a conversation with Harvey Cox, Mary Gordon and Cornell West at the Boston Book Festival last month, and the conversation showed up on Lydon’s Open Source Radio’s podcast. A little Lydon goes a long way, and there’s never just a little West, so I don’t necessarily recommend that you go listen to it. But toward the end (around 38:07), Cox quoted Tillich so:
Atheism is always the shadow of some understanding of God.
I don’t recall exactly what point Cox was trying to make; you can go listen for yourself, I guess. But I was curious about the context of the Tillich line, but I couldn’t track it down online—perhaps Cox was paraphrasing enough that Google couldn’t make the connection. While I was searching, I found this from Sri Aurobindo (Thoughts and Aphorisms, Bhakti, 538):
Atheism is the shadow or dark side of the highest perception of God. Every formula we frame about God, though always true as a symbol, becomes false when we accept it as a sufficient formula. The Atheist and Agnostic come to remind us of our error.
(Sri Aurobindo and Paul Tillich were more or less contemporaries. Is there more of a connection between them than that? I have no idea, but it seems likely. Frederic Spiegelberg is a likely bridge, and Google gives us some 1700 hits on the two names together.)