ABSTRACT

Religion and ethics in mid-twentieth-century Europe appeared in terms of the dominant contemporary ideologies, as outdated, indeed atavistic phenomena. This essay is dedicated to my late father Aibhistin O Murchadha, the theologian in the family. The goals of redemption and salvation, consolation and meaning, had been usurped by competing ideologies, those of Nazism, Marxism, and liberal capitalism, among others. These ideologies shared a common pretension to scientificality and an understanding of the ends of humankind in terms of political and historically determinate solutions. In such terms religion and ethics if they had any real value were matters of the private sphere alone. Yet, and in part in response to this situation, this same period witnessed a renewal of intellectual traditions within Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism coupled with an increasingly insistent emphasis on the transcendent conceived in ethico-religious terms in opposition to the immanent spheres of technological science and politics.