A brilliant account of religion's role in the political thinking of the West, from the Enlightenment to the close of World War II.
The wish to bring political life under God's authority is nothing new, and it's clear that today religious passions are again driving world politics, confounding expectations of a secular future. In this major book, Mark Lilla reveals the sources of this age-old quest-and its surprising role in shaping Western thought. Making us look deeper into our beliefs about religion, politics, and the fate of civilizations, Lilla reminds us of the modern West's unique trajectory and how to remain on it. Illuminating and challenging, The Stillborn God is a watershed in the history of ideas.
Vintage Books USA
Vintage Books USA
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In The Stillborn God, Mark Lilla, Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University, has written a cogent history of "political theology" (the unholy marriage of church and state, religion and politics).
Although Lilla deals briefly with Judaism, and mentions Islam (just barely), he concentrates on Christendom and its conflicted theology, which has often led to heated controversies, doctrinal schisms, and religious wars.
Here a puzzling paradox emerges: why does a Christian doctrine that blesses the peacemakers and considers the lilies of the field too often inspire racism, intolerance, fanatical hatred, and violence?
At the heart of Christianity, Lilla explains, there is a conceptual confusion, an ambiguity found in dogmas such as the Trinity, which leads to a bifurcation of Christian perspectives between "already" and "not yet." While some theologians emphasize the "there and then" (a transcendent God and a future redemption in heaven), others...
With books about atheism doing well in bookstores (like Christopher Hitchens's _God is Not Great_ or Richard Dawkins's _The God Delusion_), believers might worry that a book titled _The Stillborn God_ (Knopf) offers more of the same. This is not the case. The book's subtitle, _Religion, Politics, and the Modern West_, gives a bit better picture of its subject and theme, but does not make its content completely clear. Mark Lilla, a professor of the humanities at Columbia University and frequent contributor to the _New York Review of Books_, has written a book about the separation of church and state, but you won't find here references to Thomas Jefferson or the U.S. Constitution. This is a broader and generally Eurocentric view of how theology became pried apart from politics, a process that has taken many centuries. We take for granted now that there is something inherently wrong with a government that imposes or favors one church's belief system, and we are aghast at governments...
Mark Lilla's "Stillborn God" is a book about politcal theology, and more particularly, the gradual "evolution" of ideas about how and whether the State should be founded on religious precepts. There are two major problems, though: first, Lilla deals more with the history of theology than the history of its relationship to political thought; secondly, Lilla focuses so much on the history of ideas that he ignores how theology has influenced the ACTUAL world of politics in favor of dealing with how the PHILOSOPHY OF religion has influenced the PHILOSOPHY OF politics.
Before I elaborate, here are the positives. Lilla is a very knowledgable scholar who dissects and explains various thinkers religious philosophies very well. He explains the gradual progression of religious thought, from the Aristotle-informed writings of Augustine, to the atheistic rationalism of Hobbes, to the more emotionalistic view of religion espoused by Rousseau. Through LIlla's evocations, we see how...
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