Bataille’s Atheism

04/14/2021

[NOTE: I advise you read my A Treatise on Atheology, it address these questions in a more nuanced, energetic, and lucid fashion]

A Note on the Usage of the Male Pronoun

I only use ‘He/Him/His’ for God because of Georges Bataille’s usage as well as Nick Land’s “justification” for this usage of the male pronoun for God by viewing God as the “Omniphallus”.[1]

What is the Death of God for Bataille?

“[F]or Bataille, the death of God is the point at the summit of creation in which God’s name refers to nothing because God is not subordinate to human needs and demands”.[2] In other words, God is sovereign, and it is in God’s sovereignty that He is “NOTHING, a nothing that is a slipping away” of Himself.[3] Do not confuse God’s absence with transcendence of this reality but rather with His death.[4]

What is Atheism for Bataille?

Bataille’s atheism is not a belief in the non-existence of God. Rather the word atheism, for Bataille, is derived from the word atheology, just as the word theism is derived from the word theology. It is in this way that atheism, like atheology, is the belief in the death of God. God being dead does not therefore imply God’s nonexistence for Bataille.

Stoekl puts forward an interesting argument in Bataille’s Peak, when he says, “God’s death, ‘His’ own radical atheism, which ‘He’ undergoes in order to be God (in order to know all)”.[5] If God knows all things then God must also know what it feels like for Himself to die. It is in this way that observing the death of all that which is other is not adequate for filling God’s burden of absolute knowledge. God Himself must die to know what “it is like” for God to die.

God’s Atheism

“[F]or Bataille God himself is an atheist: he does not “believe” in himself, least of all as a subservient, limited human construct”.[6] God does not see God as we all see Him. God in this way hates himself. His humanly constructed self is antithetical to God as our conception of God makes Him nothing more than a servile concept in service of humanity. Is God sovereign?

If God is sovereign then He serves nothing, certainly not humanity.

If God is sovereign then He cannot be the “cause, principle, and end” as if He were then He would be nothing more than a “mere projection of the human need for stability and permanence”.[7] God would have a purpose, He would serve a purpose.

In the same way that God is an atheist, we are as well when we are sovereign. The inner experience of sovereignty has experience as its only authority, which precludes the authority of God.

Pawlett puts forward another perspective on God’s atheism when he says, “[f]or Bataille, God is beyond or in excess of Himself”.[8] It is Pawlett’s latter remark that gives me full insight into Bataille’s classic remark that,

“God finds rest in nothing and is satisfied in nothing. Every existence is threatened, is already in the Nothingness of His instability… He knows nothing, he knows nothing of Himself. If he were to reveal himself to Himself, He would have to recognize himself as God, but He cannot even for an instant concede this. He only has knowledge of His Nothingness, that is why He is [an] atheist”.[9]

God cannot recognize anything, even Himself, as God. It is in this way that God eludes Himself and it is in this absence that God has presence-in-absence.

I’m afraid to say that I no longer have full insight into Bataille’s latter remark. I lost my insight as I began to write down his latter words onto this page. I will make note of this, for this is the first time I truly have had the excess of Bataille’s work escape me and resist my comprehension. I must admit my failure in trying to understand Bataille’s atheism. I will have to come back another time to understand this part of Bataille’s atheism, I suppose.

[NOTE: I do come back and understand it (see the essay recommended in the NOTE at the top]

Bibliography

Bataille, Georges. Inner Experience . Translated by Leslie Anne Boldt. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1988.

Land, Nick. The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism (an Essay in Atheistic Religion). London, UK: Routledge, 1992.

Noys, Benjamin. Georges Bataille A Critical Introduction. London, UK: Pluto Press, 2000.

Pawlett, William. Georges Bataille: The Sacred and Society. New York, NY: Routledge, 2016.

Stoekl, Allan. Bataille’s Peak: Energy, Religion, and Postsustainability. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.

References

[1]: Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism (an Essay in Atheistic Religion) (London, UK: Routledge, 1992), 88.

[2]: Allan Stoekl, Bataille’s Peak: Energy, Religion, and Postsustainability (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 168.

[3]: Benjamin Noys, Georges Bataille A Critical Introduction (London, UK: Pluto Press, 2000), 75

[4]: Allan Stoekl, Bataille’s Peak: Energy, Religion, and Postsustainability (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 168.

[5]: Ibid., 91.

[6]: Ibid., 88.

[7]: Ibid., 90.

[8]: William Pawlett, Georges Bataille: The Sacred and Society (New York, NY: Routledge, 2016), 116.

[9]: Georges Bataille, Inner Experience , trans. Leslie Anne Boldt (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1988), 103.