existentialism and Christianity

There are aspects of existentialism.that have long attracted me. I first encountered Camus and Sartre in high school. I really loved the Great Courses series No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life 1. I’ve listened to it twice.

ExistentialistCafeI was therefore delighted to learn of the new book At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails, which Los Angeles Times reviewer Karen Long gave a glowing review. I’m looking forward to reading it soon.

I think the “no excuses” in the Great Courses title summarizes what is important to me in the existentialist philosophy. Of course as a Christian and an Episcopalian there are some conflicts. The existentialist catch phrase “existence precedes essence” is at odds with Christian belief. Many of the best known existentialists were atheists or agnostics.

At the same time Kierkegaard and Dostoyevsky (both of whom I have trouble reading) were considered “Christian Existentialists.” The great Hasidic Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber of I and Thou fame was also called an existentialist.

While I could never embrace the totality of existential philosophy, I think that the idea of individuals taking responsibility for themselves and their world is central to humankind’s ultimate survival.

As always, it’s about achieving the proper balance.

1 My usual Great Courses disclaimer applies: If the course is not on sale, check back. The sale price will come around again.

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