Agata Bielik-Robson

Project leader:

Prof. Agata Bielik-Robson (Polish Academy of Science and Theology Department, Nottingham)


Sacred Secularity: Towards a Theology of the World


My project concentrates on the continental philosophical theology of the worldliness, by adding a speculative dimension to the famous debate on secularisation, which began in the 50’s around Karl Löwith’s Meaning in History. Its participants usually present modernity as the age of more or less ‘illegitimate’ worldly transformation of the premodern religious patterns (Löwith, Weber, Schmitt, Taylor, Milbank) which eventually leads towards full atheisation (Blumenberg, Marquard, Lyotard, Lefebvre, Gauchet, Žižek, Nancy), but never as an epoch which created its own form of religious belief. The latter claim – that secularisation created its own form of ‘the religion of modern times’ – derives originally from Hegel, but found a strong support in Gershom Scholem, the great scholar of Jewish religious history, who described the ‘modern religious sentiment’ in paradoxical terms of ‘pious atheism’ and ‘non-secular secularity’: a new attitude in which immanence replaces transcendence as a new object of religious interest. The Scholemian apparent oxymoron indicates that the ‘pious atheism’ cannot be reduced to a simple atheism: while the latter is a non-belief in the presence of God, the former is a belief in the absence of God, which makes possible the creation of the world. By starting from Hegel/Scholem’s diagnosis, I want to explain this paradox and demonstrate its driving force behind the major philosophico-theological achievements of modern thought which often cannot be easily classified in terms of orthodox belonging – either Christian or Jewish – and produces new speculative hybrids. The Hegelian-Scholemian approach to secularity/ worldliness is a part and parcel of the ‘secularisation debate,’ but still not properly represented: my project aims at filling this lack. I wish to make this unique voice heard as a universal proposition which crosses the boundaries of religious orthodoxies and enters the theological debate on the status of the world in the Abrahamic religions and their modern avatars.