Take the 2-minute tour ×
Philosophy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for those interested in logical reasoning. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Søren Kierkegaard is generally considered to be the "father of existentialism". This always bothered me, since to me Sartre and Camus are the defining figures of the movement, and it seems that there is no room for God in an existential worldview.

Kierkegaard was focused on concrete reality and the individual so you could say that there are elements of existentialism in his philosophy, but is that enough given that he held a faith in a power outside the self which provides immortal value?

share|improve this question
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_existentialism Basically, no. Theistic existentialism is alive and well. See Martin Buber, for example. –  Cody Gray Jun 8 '11 at 6:45
Who calls Kierkegaard the "father of existentialism"??? I've only heard that title in reference to Sartre. He was the first self-proclaimed existentialist. The term wasn't even in use when Kierkegaard was alive. –  smartcaveman Jun 29 '11 at 6:05
I've heard or read (cant remember) one or many (cant remember) references to Kierkegaard being the "father of existentialism". I've heard it go Kierkegaard -> Heidegger -> then on to the French. –  Jeong Kim Dec 3 '12 at 15:15

4 Answers 4

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Perhaps a better question to ask is the inverse: whether traditional religion is compatible with existential philosophy; Kierkegaard's existential beliefs certainly affected his view of the role of religion, to the point that his theology was extremely controversial among his contemporaries. Existentialism doesn't necessarily require the outright rejection of the possibility that a God exists; just the rejection of the notion that we must place God before all else in choosing how to live our lives.

share|improve this answer
Atheism also does not require the outright rejection of the possibility that a God exists. –  philosodad Jul 5 '12 at 15:24

An existentialist philosophy is nothing more than a philosophy who's subject is human life and the human experience. The substance and particulars of existentialism cover a wide spectrum of beliefs and ideas.

share|improve this answer

God is negotiable under existential tenets, as is any other exigency. Just as neither the weather in Brazil nor the affairs of Peter Pan bear much impact on a day to day accounting of life for me, neither does god; it is not to say the same for others' accounting.

share|improve this answer

Much of the answer to this depends on what you mean by 'atheism.' As the opposite of 'theism,' that form of atheism is just as dogmatic as what it seems to reject. The existential project looks at the event in the present in all its contingencies, so our relationship to a deeper or 'divine' reality might well be part of that. This a/theism does not affirm that there is a transcendent being who/that created the world and now controls what happens on it--that is a difficult reality to justify in the face of ever-increasing evidence of the uneveness or unjust realities that just happen...such a vision of the divine has to affirm the incompetence of the divine agent. But that does not mean that there is not a deeper or other dimension to reality which is related intrisically to our actions. Quantum physics, string theory, and the worke of Brian Greene and others have opened up this possibility, not as a necessity, as Hawking pointed out, but as an enrichment of the existential moment.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.