The debate over the place of religion in secular, democratic societies dominates philosophical and intellectual discourse. These arguments often polarize around simplistic reductions, making efforts at reconciliation impossible. Yet more rational stances do exist, positions that broker a peace between relativism and religion in people's public, private, and ethical lives.
Christianity, Truth, and Weakening Faith advances just such a dialogue, featuring the collaboration of two major philosophers known for their progressive approach to this issue. Seeking unity over difference, Gianni Vattimo and René Girard turn to Max Weber, Eric Auerbach, and Marcel Gauchet, among others, in their exploration of truth and liberty, relativism and faith, and the tensions of a world filled with new forms of religiously inspired violence.
Vattimo and Girard ultimately conclude that secularism and the involvement (or lack thereof) of religion in governance are, in essence, produced by Christianity. In other words, Christianity is "the religion of the exit from religion," and democracy, civil rights, the free market, and individual freedoms are all facilitated by Christian culture. Through an exchange that is both intimate and enlightening, Vattimo and Girard share their unparalleled insight into the relationships among religion, modernity, and the role of Christianity, especially as it exists in our multicultural world.
Vattimo and Girard are perhaps not household names in the United States but are well-known philosophers in Europe: Vattimo, a Catholic nihilist and a clever deployer of the ideas of Martin Heidegger; Girard, admired author of such books as Violence and the Sacred. Both men, from varying viewpoints, see Christianity as a crucial influence on world culture. This short volume is a compilation of conversations between the two held between 1996 and 2006, as well as essays written by each between 1999 and the present. Bracing and even daunting in its intellectual adventurousness, the book shows two very different minds with Christianity as "the religion of exit from religion" and one of the most important sources of democracy, individualism, and the free market—some of the very forces that have weakened its grip on contemporary society. VERDICT Rich, difficult, fascinating, and provocative reading on Christianity and culture from two of the new Europe's leading eggheads.