The Return of Religion in Europe?: The Postmodern Christianity of Gianni Vattimo
Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, 14(2), 15-36, April 2011
Rev. Thomas G. Guarino, S.T.D. School of Theology
With the onslaught of recent books extolling atheism, speaking of the contemporary "return to religion" sounds a bit naive, akin to nervous whistling in the dark rather than to the rigors of critical analysis. Yet there is such a movement afoot, often linked to the rise of postmodernism. One of its most acute practitioners is the Italian thinker Gianteresio (Gianni) Vattimo, a philosopher well known throughout Continental Europe and rapidly becoming known in English-speaking lands as well thanks to the impressive translation project of his numerous works undertaken by Columbia University Press. Not that Vattimo has gone entirely unnoticed in the United States. The American philosopher Richard Rorty has said that Vattimo's "writings are among the most imaginative contributions to the tradition of philosophical thought that flows from Nietzsche and Heidegger."
In this article, I would like to introduce the reader to the fundamental themes that characterize Vattimo's philosophical work—particularly his reading of Christianity's contributions to contemporary culture—and then offer an evaluation of his thought. Despite its patent opposition to anything resembling historic Christian orthodoxy, Vattimo's interpretation of Christianity constitutes an influential achievement that has proven, either explicitly or implicitly, to be attractive to large segments of contemporary society.