“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
As a Christian atheist this is moment where God denies the existence of God. It’s the moment where the Big Other, or Signifier who signifies everything else is no more. This is the birth of Christian atheism.
Slavoj Zizek spoke so eloquently when he stated, “Christian atheism isn’t the bullshit atheism of say, Dawkins or Hitchens.” For me, Christian atheism is not the denial of God, but rather, embracing and even willing the death of God. I can only speak for me, but this happens through the complete self-emptying of Gods transcendence into immanence through a pure dialectic. God dies, absolutely pouring himself out kenotically and resurrecting in and as the material universe.
A quote from Zizek about the death of God:
“the transcendent God guaranteeing the making of the universe, God as the hidden Master pulling the strings…we get a God who abandons this transcendent position and throws himself into his own creation, fully engaging himself in it up to dying, so that we, humans, are left with no higher Power watching over us, just with the terrible burden of freedom and responsibility for the fate of divine creation, and thus of God himself.”
This freedom that Zizek speaks of is powerful and haunting. That which gave us meaning is dead, and now we are faced with the responsibility of caring for ourselves and others. Most cling to the idea of a Signifier because the responsibility is so great. So as long as we are guaranteed a Guarantor who signifies our existence, we seem content to deny the kingdom of God.
The entire New Testament has a theme, and this theme is the kingdom of God. Some see this as dying into another realm, where God will either accept or reject us. Yet I believe the New Testament authors spoke of the kingdom of God as something to have here and now. It’s the desire to live within God and not the Empire.
So the divine kenosis of the Sacred meeting the profane through the life of Jesus of Nazareth is the creation of this kingdom. The Godhead is realized in the completion of the dialectic, or death of God. We see this when Christ was asked, when will you return? He answered, when you’re in community, I will be there.
So by putting Christ back in the sky as sidekick to deus ex machina we inevitably allow Rome to continue its reign. By labeling Christ the son of God, Jesus’ followers were pushing back against the Empire. To say, Jesus is Lord, is to say Caesar is not. The Incarnation brings transcendence to immanence, and the cross brings death, which leads to Spirit in the material world. This movement from Nothing to Something, from No-saying to Yes-saying is the kingdom of God.
A quote from Thomas Altizer about Christian atheism:
“Our deepest atheism is an anti-Christian atheism, as most clearly manifest in Nietzsche, and therefore our uniquely modern nihilism is an anti-Christian nihilism, and one, indeed, that would be impossible apart from Christianity.” Altizer continues, “But if Nietzsche and Joyce alike could celebrate that nihilism as a liberating nihilism, and liberating above all in that absolute affirmation or Yes-saying which it alone makes possible, that Yes is the Yes which the Christian knows as the Yes of the gospel, a Yes which faith knows as a total Yes, and a total Yes which is an all comprehending totality.”
For me, you must past through atheism to be Wholly Christian. By facing the terror on the cross that puts the ultimate burden on our shoulders, we accept Gods fate and subsequently our own. Not by turning Christ into a cosmic Being, but rather by calling Christ Lord, and not the Empire. To herald in the kingdom of God, the Christian must realize the immanence of Spirit which creates a forward movement into modernity.
A quote by Nietzsche about the death of God:
“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”
The death of God is not a mere theological assertion about Christ and the meaning of his presence in the secular world. The death of God is a divine sacrifice for the redemption of the profane. In this way, the death of God is ontologized and universalized. The death of God becomes the self-annihilation of the Spirits primordial nature and deficient actuality [the transcendent being] pours into the world and becomes flesh. For me, the death of God is now seen in ontological and existential terms.
In closing, Nietzsche’s proclamation of the death of God shattered the transcendent being of Christendom. The death of God as the negation of the pure transcendent God of the Christian tradition is Christian atheism. The God who stands beyond the world is a non-redemptive God who by virtue of his transcendence stands apart from the historical presence of the Incarnation. The transcendent God cannot redeem the world, therefor, it must be declared dead. To say that God is dead, is an attempt to say that the transcendent ground of the world has died. But ultimately, God died for the redemption of the world.
The questions we must ask ourselves are, are we ready to face it? Are we ready to carry our cross and face the unknown? To accept and will the self-annihilation of God we must face the dark night of our soul and say:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? “