This funny title suggests the dramatic relationship between French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and Christians (i.e. some of his books were once banned by the Catholic Church, some Christians have co-opted his ideas). Sartre is useful to the Emergent movement, because popular Emergent thought both resonates with and reacts passionately against his version of existentialism. Therefore, the next discussion (Sun. 7/5) will be all about Sartre. By the end of the discussion my goal is for us to decide whether or not to place Sartre’s Complete Works on our cohort’s list of prohibited reading material.
We will focus on “Existentialism is a Humanism,” an essay Sartre wrote in 1946 that outlines the basics of his philosophical position (at least in the 1940s) with a broad audience in mind. The text can be found at http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/sartre/works/exist/sartre.htm. Before reading it, I would suggest reading the Wikipedia article on existentialism. You can also read a scholarly overview of the subject that I have posted on our YahooGroups page. If you aren’t a member of the group, you’ll need to sign up to get to the files (see the button on the right panel of the blog). Once you’re into our page, click on “files,” to the left. The latter overview is on the one hand a more difficult read, but on the other hand treats the subject in a broader way that might better stimulate thought. I’m planning on putting Sartre’s essay front-and-center, so if you don’t have time to read much, please focus on his essay. Something that I like about Sartre is that he was suspicious of lofty philosophical exercise, so that even his non-fiction works are surprisingly easy to approach without a background in the material. Read the essay with an open mind that allows Sartre’s ideas to spark your own ideas, and a critical mind that causes you to test his ideas against what you believe about the nature of human experience.
If you would like a more guided reading, you might keep these questions in mind:
1) Does anything Sartre says bring Biblical passages into your mind?
2) How does Sartre’s philosophy accord with your own spiritual beliefs?
3) What does Sartre say that really bothers you? Why?
4) What do you think of Sartre’s critiques of Christianity?
5) Do you believe that humans are ultimately responsible for every choice?
6) Do you find existentialism to be a positive or negative way to approach life?
7) Does existence precede essence?
8) Why did Sartre choose atheism?
9) Does the decision process Sartre advocates resemble how you make decisions?
May you remain in the depths of existentialist anguish until Sunday!