Original Research - Special Collection: Christianity as a Change Agent in the 4th Industrial Revolution World

Finitude, temporality and the criticism of religion in Martin Hägglund’s This Life: Why Mortality Makes Us Free (2019)

David Biernot, Christoffel Lombaard
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 2 | a6072 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i2.6072 | © 2020 David Biernot, Christoffel Lombaard | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 April 2020 | Published: 04 November 2020

About the author(s)

David Biernot, Department of Jewish Studies, The Hussite Theological Faculty, Charles University in Prague, Prague, Czech Republic; Department of Christian Spirituality and Missiology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Christoffel Lombaard, Department of Christian Spirituality and Missiology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Based on two presentations during a February 2020 South African academic visit at the University of Pretoria and the University of Johannesburg, in this contribution, the authors of this article engage with one of the bestselling recent volumes in philosophy, Martin Hägglund’s This Life: Why Mortality Makes Us Free (here, the 2020 edition; initial publication date, 2019). In this book, Hägglund propagates ideas akin to those promoted within secular humanism. Whilst on the one hand this article elaborates the shortcomings of Hägglund’s criticism of religion, on the other hand it also strives for an empathetic reading of his secular humanist philosophy. The authors place this conversation within the post-secular religio-cultural climate currently rising internationally, along with some further contextualising remarks. The most important part of this article is the last section (‘Pitting some theological voices…’) in which the authors engage Hägglund’s main arguments theologically, which elaborate on the finitude of human life all the whilst denying it a prospect of immortality. The debate in this section procceeds along the lines of religious thought of Emmanuel Falque, Ebenhard Jüngel and Dewi Zephania Phillips, with a view to reconcile the radical awareness of finitude and temporality of human life, characteristic for modern discourse(s), with the religious language practices sustaining belief in eternal life.

Contribution: This article engages with how Martin Hägglund’s This Life: Why Mortality Makes Us Free does not fairly convey aspects of the sense of secularism, and can additionally on the senses of finitude and temporality be improved by insights from Emmanuel Falque, Ebenhard Jüngel and Dewi Zephania Phillips.


Keywords

New atheism; Secular humanism; Martin Hägglund’s This Life (2019); Martin Hägglund; The temporality of life; Immortality

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