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Influences of Atheists and Humanists on Posttheistic Public Discourse about Ethics

Research Proposal


In recent years, there has been an increasing influence of religions on public discussions. Different religions such as Christianity, Islam and Buddhism have a significant part in public discourse and in politics.  In the past, atheists and the religious used to debate the existence of God. Atheists reject religious principles when it comes to questions of morality. However, a new type of theism called post-theism has emerged as a result of lack of resolution in these debates. By definition, post-theism refers to a kind of progressive Christianity which posits to change the concept of God with regards to developments in science and human thought. According to Lindsay (2015), posttheistic people believe that the general term for “God” can be best ignored by viewing it as not relevant while the specific use of the term can be seen as wrong. Posttheism acknowledges that theism is not wrong except when it becomes bothering. In addition, posttheism sprung from criticisms on theism. It is not a complete break away from theism but a selective departure from it. It still believes that God exists yet it does not endorse the old perspective of the world having three levels namely heaven, earth and the underworld (Van Aarde 2009). With this type of reasoning, it completely changes the dynamics when it comes to putting forth arguments regarding issues about morality. This research project will explore how post-theism is being used to change people’s perceptions about ethical issues.

 Aim of Study

The main purpose of the study is to examine how atheists and humanists are shaping public discussion about ethics that is “after” God or post-theistic. Post-theism is defined as a type of nontheism that suggests that the separation of theism and atheism is obsolete and that God is a phase in human development in the past. The objective of the study is to analyze the influence of atheists and humanists in relation to public discourse and ethics that is post-theistic in America.

Problem Statement

From the preceding, the following general research questions could be posed:

  1. What is the difference between theism, atheism and posttheism?
  2. What is the distinction between Christian metaphysics and morality?
  3. What are the consequences of posttheism in public discourse about ethics?

 Preliminary Literature Review

A preliminary literature review shows that past studies are primarily focused on understanding atheism. There are limited studies on posttheism because it is still in the infancy stage. As such, the results of this study will be beneficial to shed more light about posttheism and its impact on ethical public discourse.


The primary research method for this study is literature review. First, for a better grasp of posttheism, the most important proponents will be analyzed who have contributed significantly to the development of posttheism such as Paul Tillich. A fair and critical analysis will be presented of the ideas in relation to the topic of this research proposal (ethics and public discussion). Second, a comparative analysis is needed between atheism and posttheism. This research also tries to ascertain how these two models differ in terms of debating about ethical issues.


Amarasingam, A. (Ed.). (2010). Religion and the new atheism: A critical appraisal.

Graham, E. (2013). Between a rock and a hard place: Public theology in a post-secular age.

Grigg, R. (1985). Symbol and empowerment: Paul Tillich’s post-theistic system. Macon: Mercer University Press.

Habermas, J. (2008). “Secularism’s Crisis of Faith: Notes on Post-Secular Society”. New perspectives quarterly 25: 17-29.

Lindsay, J. (2015).Everything is Wrong about God. Pitchstone Publishing.

Smith, J. M. (2010). Becoming an atheist in America: Constructing identity and meaning from the rejection of theism. Sociology of Religion, srq082.

Smith, J. M. (2013). Creating a godless community: The collective identity work of contemporary American atheists. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion52(1), 80-99.

Taira, T. (2012). Atheist spirituality.

Taylor, C. (2007) A Secular Age. United States of America: Charles Taylor.

Van Aarde, A. G. (2009). Postsecular spirituality, engaged hermeneutics, and Charles Taylor’s notion of hypergoods. HTS Theological Studies, 65(1), 0-0.

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