What is post-theism?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question: What is post-theism? (From Europe)

Answer: Post-theism is a word used by philosophers to describe a society when it no longer believes in God… but it’s more like when people no longer believe in a flat earth. You see, even in enlightened societies we still find a few people who choose to believe that the earth is flat — which is their right — but we assign such people to the fringe. When a society treats its theists as we treat our flat-earthers, then it is post-theistic.

This phrase post-theism has been around for 100 years now, and many people have claimed this for society… or at least dreamed that it would soon come true. But if I may borrow from Mark Twain, the reports of God’s death have been exaggerated. As long as there are people, God will reach them. The question for me is, will we theists persist in sufficient quantities to keep theism viable in America’s don’t-tell-me-hard-things culture?

I see that you are from Europe, and Europe is further along the path to secularism than we are in America (although I do not pretend to speak for you or for your county). Some countries will be more nontheistic than others, but I don’t see any as being post-theistic… and I’m including countries with state-sponsored atheism like the late Soviet Union, China, North Korea and Vietnam. Christian activity (both overt and covert) is increasing in these countries.

Indeed, Christianity tends to grow when under persecution. Unfortunately, the inverse is often true. Christianity tends to become less vital under freedom. So, in free countries like Canada, America and those of Europe, we are heading towards post-theism… although towards doesn’t mean that we’ll necessarily arrive there.

Why use the term post-theistic when we already have terms like atheism, nontheism and antitheism? These terms don’t quite do the job. Each fails by being only half a thought — halves of binary concepts.

Let’s look at the term atheism as an example. The word theism must exist first before the word atheism can make any sense. Only then can we prepend it with the letter “a” to make it its logical opposite. So, theism (the belief in God) can not become atheism (the lack of belief in God) except where we have the notion of a God one might believe in to negate. It works the same way with the terms nontheism and antitheism.

The problem is that even though people use these words to speak against God, they cannot do so without proving that the idea of God came first and that it is ubiquitous. The term post-theism dodges that problem because it stands alone both as a phrase and a concept. So, people can talk about a world where people don’t believe in God… but without giving God a word-level nod at the same time. Post-theism relegates God to history without giving him etymological currency.

For people who are fussy about words and their meanings (like philosophers), using terms with such binary baggage as atheism, nontheism and antitheism is unacceptable. There’s a difference between choosing not to believe in God (atheism vs theism) … and believing that the concept of God shouldn’t even be considered in the discussion of worldviews… and this is the dream of many nontheists: to create a world where God is not even in the discussion.

If such a society existed, it would be a post-theistic. But I don’t see one existing… except in the minds of “elite thinkers” like Karl Marx and Frederick Nietzsche. Attempts to force people into post-theism by governmental decree have been failed experiments… costing millions of lives. And unless I’m overlooking something, there have been no successes. If post-theism comes, it will come by way of attrition, not by governmental edict or by philosophy.

To review then, a world where people give God no more credence than we do the ancient mythological gods is not atheistic… it is post-theistic. In such a world we would have traveled beyond the point where belief in God is a commonly accepted philosophical position and arrived at a point where believing in God would be the equivalent of believing in a flat earth. The “enlightened” societies are not quite there yet… but that’s our trajectory.

I hope that this helped you. God and I have this in common — we love earnest seekers. So, let me invite you to examine an article at Mainsail Ministries that discusses further implications of your question. Follow this link.


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