Slavoj Žižek on ‘The Death of God’ (AAR Annual Meeting 2009)

Slavoj Žižek‘s presentation on ‘The Death of God’, given at the recent AAR meeting, is worth watching [HT: to CT Moore], especially for those unfamiliar with Žižek’s atheistic sterilization of the centre of Hegel’s attention to the kenotic reality witnessed to in the gospel. Strange, then, that apart from Adam’s lament of Zizek’s predictable ‘long-windedness’ (a post, by the way, which includes some great discussion and a link to Kotsko’s own article ‘Politics and Perversion: Situating Žižek’s Paul’) I’ve heard/read very little about this session. Anyone who was present at that session care to remedy this for us?

Here’s a snippert: ‘Not only is atheism the truth of Christianity but one can only be a true atheist by passing through the Christian experience. All other atheisms continue to rely on some form of the Big Other’.


  1. I didn’t hear anything from ZIzek that I hadn’t heard or read previously, but it was good to see him affirm the similarity of his understanding of the Death of God with that of Altizer, and it was interesting, although not surprising, to hear how seriously Zizek takes his Christian atheism–it’s not just a pose or a frame for him to stage a Hegelian-Lacanian-pop-cultural-post-Marxist intervention. It’s easy for anyone of his stature to become a caricature of himself, but what I appreciate so much is that he is absolutely sincere and genuine in his self-presentation.

    I thought it was too bad that Altizer didn’t really want to engage, but I think he was pleased with the session. Many continental philosophers who engage with religion and theology sometimes treat theology very naively, as if it did not already harbor some of these ideas and phenomena within its own traditions. There is a tradition of radical theology in the US from Tillich through the death of God (Altizer, Gabriel Vahanian, William Hamilton, Richard Rubenstein) through American postmodern theology (Mark C. Taylor, Carl Raschke, Charles Winquist), etc., that is often forgotten or eclipsed when someone like Derrida or Vattimo or Zizek starts talking about God.


  2. The thing that I find most interesting about radical theology in the 60s is how different each theologian interprets the death of God. Vahanian’s the Death of God is much more of a cultural analysis of secularism whereas Hamitlon’s The New Essence of Christianity offers a reassessment of theology and the problem of evil in the wake of Holocaust following the likes of Camus, Bonhoeffer, and Tillich. Then of course you have Altizer whose work with Hamilton ever served to further display the proliferation of different meanings the death of God had for these theologians.

    Obviously Taylor’s interpretation of the death of God is well known as popularized in Erring, but I’d be curious to know in what sense did Winquist understand the death of God (perhaps Clayton could be of assistance). He stood in an interesting middle position between death-of-God theology and something like Caputo’s post-metaphysical theology.

    For me it seems that the death of God is just such an overused term, that it would be really helpful if we had a working definition when invoking it. Zizek and Altizer mean something very theological while these past theologians are often describing different linguistic, cultural, or spiritual phenomena.


  3. Zizek’s Hegelian vision of JC has little to do with the New testament. His Khrist is not the wise counselor of the Beatitudes, but …a Brutus.


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