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Making the Heavens Speak Religion as Poetry

by ;
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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2023-02-21
  • Publisher: Polity

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The idea of a connection between poetry and religion is as old as civilization. Homer consulted the Olympian gods on the fate of the fighters on the plain before Troy, and the poet made the heavenly ones speak. It was through poetry that the gods were brought within reach of human hearing. In the centuries after Homer, the Athenian stage became the setting where gods made their poetic interventions, resolving human impasses and contributing to the emotional synchronization of the public life of the city.

Sloterdijk argues that, as with the culture of the Ancient Greeks, all religions inscribe a kind of “theopoetry” at the heart of their cultural life and thought, even as they strenuously obscure these poetic origins through the cultivation and enforcement of orthodox norms. Sloterdijk also shows how, in conditions of religious pluralism, religions poetically reshape themselves to accommodate the demands of the religious marketplace.

This highly original study of the poetic devices that inform accounts of the otherworldly offers a new interpretation of religious practice and its theological elaboration through history, as well as a fresh perspective on our contemporary age in which collective life, interwoven with imaginative fabrications, is fraying under critical stress.

Author Biography

Peter Sloterdijk is Professor of Philosophy and Aesthetics at the Karlsruhe School of Design. He is one of the most influential philosophers writing today and is the author of many books including The Critique of Cynical ReasonIn the World Interior of CapitalSpheresYou Must Change Your Life and What Happened in the 20th Century?

Table of Contents



I     Deus ex machina, Deus ex cathedra

1     The gods in the theater

2     Plato’s contestation

3     Of the true religion

4     Representing God, being God: an Egyptian solution

5     On the best of all possible heaven dwellers

6     Poetries of power

7     Dwelling in plausibilities

8     The theopoetical difference

9     Revelation whence?

10    The death of the gods

11    ‘Religion is unbelief’: Karl Barth’s intervention

12    In the garden of infallibility: Denzinger’s world

II    Under the high heavens

13    Fictive belonging together

14    Twilight of the gods and sociophany

15    Glory: poems of praise

16    Poetry of patience

17    Poetry of exaggeration: religious virtuosos and their excesses

18    Kerygma, propaganda, supply-side offense, or, When fiction is not to be trifled with

19    On the prose and poetry of the search

20    Religious freedom

In lieu of an afterword



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