Since its original publication in 1968, Ernst Bloch’s Atheism in Christianity: The Religion of the Exodus and the Kingdom has been the book to deal with by any serious quester after knowledge of the deep symbiotic relationship between those über-‘Others’, Christianity and Atheism. As an unabashed utopian Marxist thinker philosopher, Bloch (1885 – 1977) eschews that ‘excess of hyper-rationalism or dogmatic materialism’ his more prosaic musular atheist stable mates generally bring to discussions of religion. In the words of Peter Thompson, Director of the Centre for Ernst Bloch Studies at the University of Sheffield, in his excellent Introduction to this long unavailable classic, ‘Ernst Bloch and the Quantum Mechanics of Hope’ (i – xxx, i):
(R)eligion as both debate and way of life has not crumbled in the face of an apparently inexorable rationalist, scientific, modernising Enlightenment and the globalisation of the market economy, but retains a potency and strength which remains far in excess of its ability to explain.
Bloch himself rubbed shoulders with that unique coterie of enlightened radical Marxists – Brecht, Adorno, Benjamin, for example. Perhaps we have the embryo of some such today in Eagleton, Badiou, Žižek, Habermas and others for whom religion-averse aggressive sorts of atheistic fundamentalism are as intellectually uncongenial as the ‘exclusively modern phenomenon’ (Habermas 2001: 10) of their religion counterparts. Marx’s own dialectical understanding of religiosity, captured well in his open-minded insight into ‘the opium of the masses, the heart of the heartless world’ pervades Bloch’s ‘detective work’, as he himself called it, on the emancipatory – for which, read ‘heretical’, a favourite Blochian trope – potential within Christianity. Bloch’s exegesis of the Bible is an insider’s hermeneutic, unlike that verstehen-free religion-cynical spleen of Hitchens, Dawkins, Gray and other high priests of resurgent Darwinism.”
Read the full piece on Bloch’s “courageous adventure to put the best fruits of Christianity and Marxism in the same basket” here.