What is post-theism?
Question: "What is post-theism?"
Answer: Post-theism is a word used by philosophers to describe a society that no longer believes in God. Post-theism sees belief in God as a stage of human development, but when humanity has evolved to the place where we no longer need religious belief, we can and should jettison theism and embrace post-theism. In a post-theistic society, the God of the Bible would be viewed on the same level as the ancient mythological gods.
Post-theists view theism as obsolete, much as most people view the flat-earth theory. Even in enlightened societies, we still find a few people who choose to believe that the earth is flat, 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.
The word post-theism has been around for 100 years now, and many people have claimed that society is now post-theistic—or at least dreamed that it would soon be. In the past years, some pastors have admitted to being atheists, but they retain their position in church leadership, speaking and writing of what they see as the “post-theistic church”—an oxymoron, if ever there was one.
Some countries are more atheistic than others, because of government fiat, but there is probably no society that could be considered truly post-theistic. Even in countries with state-sponsored atheism such as North Korea and Vietnam, Christian activity (both overt and covert) is increasing. Wherever there are people, God will reach them.
Indeed, Christianity tends to grow when under persecution. Unfortunately, the inverse is often true, as well. Christianity tends to become less vital under freedom. So, in free countries like Canada, America, and those of Europe, we are heading toward post-theism, although that doesn’t mean that we’ll necessarily arrive there.
Why use the term post-theism when we already have terms like atheism, nontheism, and antitheism? Those terms don’t quite do the job. Each fails by being only half a thought—they are halves of binary concepts.
Take the term atheism, for example. The word theism must exist first before the word atheism can make any sense. Only then can we add the prefix a- to turn it into its logical opposite. So, theism (the belief in God) cannot become atheism (the lack of belief in God) except where we already have the notion of a god to negate. It works the same way with the terms nontheism and antitheism.
People use words such as atheism to speak against God, but 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 word and a concept. Using post-theism, people can talk about a world where people don’t believe in God—without giving God a semantic nod. Post-theism relegates God to history without giving Him etymological currency.
There is a difference between choosing not to believe in God (atheism vs theism) and shrugging off the very concept of God as antiquated and superfluous. The latter is the hope of many nontheists: to create a post-theistic world where God is not even in the discussion.
Post-theism is the pipe dream of “elite thinkers” like Karl Marx and Frederick Nietzsche. Attempts to force people into post-theism by government decree have failed. If true post-theism ever saturates a society, it will come by way of attrition, not by government strong-arming or philosophical opining.
Recommended Resource: I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norm Geisler and Frank Turek and The Real Face of Atheism by Ravi Zacharias
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Questions about Worldview
What is post-theism?