John Caruana at the LA Review of Books:
THIS IS AN ODD TIME in history to be reading and discussing theology. On the one hand, Richard Dawkins — a rock star, if atheists ever had one — avers with the utmost confidence that no sane, educated person could possibly take theology seriously. Thinking about God, for him — and a significant segment of the educated classes — is akin to mulling over the existence of unicorns. The only measure of truth is empirical observation: if we can’t observe it, it ain’t real.
On the other hand, some of the most brilliant secular minds of our time have stumbled on theology and discovered it to be an indispensable tool. These late-comers to theology see in it an important antidote to the ethical and political cul-de-sac brought about by the past century’s fashionable intellectual bandwagons. Ironically, just as organized religion has effectively collapsed in Western Europe, some of the most important European thinkers have been insisting that theology offers invaluable critical resources for thinking about the most vexing problems we face today.
For many of these philosophers, the turn to theology is not motivated by a newfound faith (most are self-declared atheists), but rather a recognition that theological questioning allows us access to ways of thinking that conventional philosophy might otherwise foreclose. Thinkers such as Giorgio Agamben, Jean-Luc Nancy, Simon Critchley, and Slavoj Žižek have defended, sometimes vociferously, the necessity to engage with theology.