Saving God: Religion after Idolatry
Johnston (Mark)
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Cover Blurb

  1. Each monotheistic religion has its characteristic ways of domesticating True Divinity, of taming God's demands so that they do not radically threaten our self-love and false righteousness. Turning the monotheistic critique of idolatry on the monotheisms themselves, Mark Johnston shows that much in these traditions must be condemned as false and spiritually debilitating. In Saving God, he argues that God needs to be saved not only from the distortions of the "undergraduate atheists" such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris, but, more importantly, from the idolatrous tendencies of religion itself. Remarkably, Johnston rehabilitates the ideas of the Fall and of salvation within a naturalistic framework; he then presents a conception of God that both resists idolatry and is wholly consistent with the deliverances of the natural sciences.
  2. Winner of the 2010 Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion, Constructive-Reflective Studies, American Academy of Religion
  3. One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2010: “This accessible, sophisticated, and thoughtful work will be an important addition to collections of both philosophy and theology.”
  4. “[A]n astonishing book. . . . [A] daring blend of human depth and philosophical originality.”
    Tony Coady, Australian Book Review
  5. Saving God is a rich and provocative book. . . . I found Saving God to be original, complex and insightful. However one reacts to Johnston's naturalistic reinterpretation of Christianity and the other monotheisms, one may still applaud his rejection of idolatrous uses of religion to serve human ends.”
    Lynne Rudder Baker, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
Amazon Product Description1
  1. A central claim of the book is that supernaturalism is idolatry. If this is right, everything changes; we cannot place our salvation in jeopardy by tying it essentially to the supernatural cosmologies of the ancient Near East.
  2. Princeton University Press is publishing Saving God in conjunction with Johnston's forthcoming book "Johnston (Mark) - Surviving Death", which takes up the crux of supernaturalist belief, namely, the belief in life after death2.
Amazon Product Reviews
  1. “The non-fiction book I most enjoyed this year might be a stocking-stuffer for both atheists and believers (it is slightly more likely to appeal to the former, but would certainly intrigue believers willing to think about their belief). It is Saving God: Religion After Idolatry (Princeton University Press), by the Princeton philosopher Mark Johnston. This book demolishes, with far greater precision and elegance than anything by Richard Dawkins.”
    James Wood, New Yorker
  2. “This witty and philosophically subtle book is . . . very Maimonidean in its thoroughgoing rejection of superstition and idolatry as an offense to true religion.”
    Menachem Kellner, Jewish Review of Books
  3. Surviving Death and Saving God both provided me with intellectual pleasure of a high order, even though I found many of the author's conclusions false and some morally repugnant. Johnston is the kind of atheist it's good for Christians to read, because he is intelligent, intellectually energetic, and serious about what he engages, and because he shows very clearly just where fastidiousness leads.”
    Paul J. Griffiths, Commonweal
    Preface – xi
  1. Is Your God Really God? – 1
  2. The Idolatrous Religions – 18
  3. Supernaturalism and Scientism – 37
  4. The Phenomenological Approach – 53
  5. Is There an Internal Criterion of Religious Falsehood? – 70
  6. Why God? – 80
  7. After Monotheism – 95
  8. Process Panentheism – 115
  9. Panentheism, Not Pantheism – 126
  10. The Mind of God – 152
  11. Christianity without Spiritual Materialism – 160
  12. Postscript – 187
    Index – 189

In-Page Footnotes ("Johnston (Mark) - Saving God: Religion after Idolatry")

Footnote 1: With extracts from the Cover Blurb removed to save repetition.


Princeton University Press (31 July 2011)

"Johnston (Mark) - Saving God: Religion after Idolatry"

Source: Johnston (Mark) - Saving God: Religion after Idolatry

Preface (Full Text)
  1. What follows is an essay, a sustained attempt to get something across, written more or less extempore. It uses the limited range of literary forms the author has at his disposal: quotation, argument, exegesis, midrash, mythic framing, the via analogica, readings against the grain, and the interrogation of the reader. (A poem would do so much better; there your man is Hopkins, and before him Rumi.)
  2. The essay begins, dryly, with a simplified review of the semantics of names; and it gradually evolves into a sort of jeremiad. It contains some philosophy but is not a work of philosophy. My fellow philosophers will all too readily recognize the many places where I have declined the philosophically interesting pathways that branch off from what I say. Still less is it a work in academic theology, and I beg the forbearance of professional theologians as they read what must be, at so many points, glaringly at odds with their creedal commitments and their standard ways of explaining those commitments.
  3. The work is offered simply as the expression of a certain sensibility. I give expression to it, at whatever risk, only because I hope that it has not entirely passed from the world. One kind of ideal reader would be an intelligent young person who is religious, but who feels that his or her genuine religious impulses are being strangled by what he or she is being asked to believe, on less than convincing authority, about the nature of reality. Such a person could begin with the postscript in order to see if what comes before might be in any way helpful, and so be worth the effort.
  4. For those who are looking for a philosophical defense of the spiritual irrelevance of supernaturalism, one place to look is in my Hempel Lectures, entitled "Johnston (Mark) - Surviving Death". Those lectures take up the crux of supernaturalist belief, namely, the belief in life after death1.
  1. Better to end in the middle of things than create a false impression of completeness, or the aspiration to completeness.
  2. Our exploration of the ban on idolatry has led us to an idea of the Most High as the one whose transcendence is just the other side of his immanence in this world. This world, properly seen, is the outpouring and self-disclosure that is the Highest One. This outpouring and self-disclosure, this kenosis or self-emptying of Being that envelops everything, is the site of the sacred. So we are "already on holy ground." A saved human being is just a finite manifestation of the kenosis, filled with an awareness of itself as such, an awareness made manifest in that human being's turn toward reality and the real needs of others.
  3. For one who is saved, the glory that is negates the necessity of the glory to come. There need be no next world. There need be no heavenly antechamber where the decisive events of spiritual history occur. These ideas may just be leftovers from the superstitious and idolatrous attempts to placate spiritual powers and principalities.
  4. There is, however, another world — it is this world properly received.
    Preface – xi
  1. Is Your God Really God? – 1
    ... Believing In God
    ... On The Names Of God
    ... The Meaning Of "God" And The Common Conception Of God
    ... What Is Salvation?
    ... Salvation Versus Spiritual Materialism
  2. The Idolatrous Religions – 18
    ... The Ban On Idolatry
    ... Idolatry As Perverse Worship
    ... Graven Images And The Highest One
    ... Idolatry As Servility
    ... The Rhetoric Of Idolatrousness
    ... The Same God?
    ... The Pharisees' Problem With Jesus
    ... Could We Be Idolaters?
  3. Supernaturalism and Scientism – 37
    ... Scientism And Superstition
    ... Supernaturalism
    ... Legitimate Naturalism
    ... Scientism Versus Science
    ... The Argument For Naturalism From True Religion
  4. The Phenomenological Approach – 53
    ... The Method And The Question
    ... Yahweh’s Use Of The Method
    ... A Criterion, Or An Enclosed Circle?
    ... Yahweh's Criterion Applied To Himself
    ... Forgiving The God
    ... A Reply To Yahweh’s Answer To Job
  5. Is There an Internal Criterion of Religious Falsehood? – 70
    ... The Pope's Criterion Of Religious Falsehood
    ... A Consequence Of The Pope's Criterion
    ... Religious And Scientific Fallibilism
  6. Why God? – 80
    ... Doesn't Substantive Reasonableness Suffice?
    ... The Fall
    ... Homo Incurvatus In Se
    ... The Redeemer?
  7. After Monotheism – 95
    ... The Highest One
    ... The Tetragrammaton
    ... The Paradox Of The Highest One
    ... Speaking Of The Highest One
    ... Existents As Dependent Aspects Of Existence Itself
    ... An Alternative To The Thomistic Interpretation Of The Highest One
  8. Process Panentheism – 115
    ... The Goodness Of The Highest One
    ... The Analogy Of Logos
    ... Process Panentheism
    ... The Self-Disclosure Of Existence Itself
    ... The Problem Is With The Pantheon
  9. Panentheism, Not Pantheism – 126
    ... Distinguishing Panentheism And Pantheism
    … Presence
    ... Presence As Disclosure
    ... Is Being Almost Entirely Wasted?
    ... Ubiquitous Presence
    ... Against Natural Representation
    ... Representation And "Carrying Information"
    ... Can Causation2 Account For Aboutness?
    ... What Could Replace The Representationalist Tradition?
    ... A Diagnosis Of The Representationalist’s Mistake
    ... A Transformed Picture Of "Consciousness" And Reality
    ... Confirming The Surprising Hypothesis
  10. The Mind of God – 152
    ... The Objectivity Of The Realm Of Sense
    ... How The Structure Of Presence Might Impose Evolutionary Constraints
    ... Objective Mind And The Mind Of The Highest One
    ... The Doubly Donatory Character Of Reality
    ... Does God Exist?
    ... The Highest One
  11. Christianity without Spiritual Materialism – 160
    ... Religion And Violence
    ... The Gospel According To Girard
    ... Where Is Original Sinfulness?
    ... Original Sinfulness As Self
    ... Will And False Righteousness
    ... Christ Destroys The Kingdom Of Self-Will And False Righteousness
    ... The Afterlife3 As An Idolatrous Conceit
    ... Against "Man's Quest For Meaning"
    ... The Afterlife4 As Resistance To Christ
    ... Naturalism's Gift: Resurrection Without The Afterlife5
  12. Postscript – 187
    Index – 189

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