Contemporary Perspectives in Philosophy of Religion
Edited By Sebastian Kolodziejczyk and Janusz Salamon
Theological Fictionalism: A Postmodern Heresy
Theological fictionalism maintains that religious monotheistic commitment does not necessitate the truth of theism. According to this position, God could have the same ontological status as a fictional character in a novel or a movie. Such a character does not exist. We know that the character does not exist, but we think about this character and experience emotions (or quasi-emotions) that concern it and what it does. Like the experience of fiction, religious experience could consist in a game of make-believe. Robin Le Poidevin defends such a theological fictionalism (without using this label) in chapter 8 (‘Is God a Fiction?’) of his book, Arguing for Atheism,2 partly inspired by Kendall Walton’s theory of make-believe.3 In the first section of this paper, I will review Le Poidevin’s version of theological fictionalism.
But theological fictionalism is not simply a theory held by philosophers. It also appears to be widespread in postmodern cultures. The assumption is that we do not have to accept full-blooded theological realism – that God exists, that He revealed himself, that Christ was resurrected, and so on – in order to be religious persons. Such realism, it is thought, has been definitively disproven in the post-Enlightenment period, thanks to the human and social sciences. My second point will consist in inspecting this postmodernist flowering of theological fictionalism.
Fictionalism was already recognized in the Dogmatic Constitution of the Catholic Faith, in the text known under the name...
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