Orca Richard Curtis, PhD
Philosopher | Theologian | Educator | Activist
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Current Project

There is an old saying in theological circles that every generation needs it own theologians. The idea is that theology is providing organized reflection on how to live, and theology does this by trying to understand some conception of the divine and humanity’s relationship to it. In my work there is no divine for us to relate to, and as I have demonstrated in my first book all people are religious in a generic sense and therefore need the cultural material theology provides. What people do not need, in my view, is theology in the formal sense of reflections on the nature of the divine. We do need reflections on the nature of reality and how human beings fit with that reality. This is a point made especially strongly (in a theistic way) by the late Juan Luis Segundo, SJ.

The Next Book

Father Segundo argued that history was a process by which God teaches us how to live and how to live with each other. For Segundo this meant that theologians had to understand the natural and social sciences so as to reflect on the word of God as it applies to the present. Segundo believed that the profound wisdom of scripture is precisely its openness and therefore its call to us to interpret, which really means making the core ideas (peace and love) actual in our history.

Segundo was the greatest theologian of his generation, perhaps the greatest theologian of the 20 th Century. This is true because he pointed the way for religion and theology to be relevant and productive in the modern world. Fundamentalists, Segundo said, got it all wrong because they deluded themselves by thinking that scripture could be read literally. It cannot, and anyone who claims to offer a literal truth from scripture is the worst sort of lair.

I believe we, humanity, are moving past the notion of a god. Nietzsche observed that God is dead, and what he meant is that humanity no longer needed god. But some habits are hard to break and this one (reliance on a projection called God) is still with us, but fading markedly today.

What I intend to do in my second book is to write “theology” for this generation, the first generation of the 21 st Century. We face incredible problems, indeed the very survival of our species is at stake. It is not clear that we will find the wisdom to confront global warming, the population problem, or the evils of the imperial stage of capitalism. But we must try.

This generation calls out for a “theology” that is informed by what modern science tells us about ourselves and our world. It calls out for a “theology” that is informed by the best science and the most clear headed philosophy. We need to think and talk about how to live with the challenges we face. This is what theology does when it matters.

As an atheist I cannot write theology, in a literal sense. So I will write “A/Theology” for this time in our history. That will be my second book. I have toyed with using the term, “Zoism” from the Greek “hylozoism,” which means (roughly) the view that all life is inseparable from matter (it was an early form of philosophical materialism, and so a predecessor to my form of dialectical materialism). This term is in use already but so is “A/Theology” although in that case the published use of the term relates vaguely to my use of it. The inspiration, of course, is Mary Daly’s groundbreaking work, “Gyn/Ecology.” For now these details remain undecided.

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