Existentialism seems to necessarily require that one abandon any belief in God, because the concept of God contradicts the idea of personal responsibility that is at the center of the movement. Jean-Paul Sartre, the most prolific existentialist writer, was a fervent atheist, as were Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus. The characters in their novels can be seen as people coping with the loss of the concept of God by trying to determine the proper behavior in His absence.
There is, however, a strong subcategory of existential writers who combine religious feelings with Existentialism. One was Søren Kierkegaard, who solved the question of how to reconcile a belief in God with responsibility of one’s own actions in his philosophical works such as Either/Or, Fear and Trembling, and The Concept of Dread. For Kierkegaard, there was no contradiction between freedom and God. In fact, the basis of religious belief was the ability to choose freely to believe. Another religious existentialist was Martin Buber, whose 1923 philosophical work I and Thou brought together Jewish, Christian, and humanist beliefs. The book uses personal relationships, such as the ones one forms with other humans (“Thou”), to explain the human relationship to God, who is seen as the ultimate “Thou.”
Existentialism proceeds from the principle that human behavior is based on nothing except free...
(The entire section is 1426 words.)
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