“An Atheist Prophet?”

The Enlightenment is part of the intellectual heritage of Unitarian Universalism. Denis Diderot (1713-1784) was a philosopher of the French Enlightenment chiefly known as the main editor of the multi-volume Encyclopedia which has been called “the Bible of the French Enlightenment.” Jailed early in life for his criticism of the church and its faith, he nevertheless went on to write numerous works whose spirit prepared the way for both the American and the French revolutions. This talk will argue that, though an atheist, he was nevertheless a prophet in the line of Moses committed to advocating and enacting justice in an unjust world. It will conclude with some reflection on his relevance for us today as we, like him, see the forces of religion more arrayed for the maintenance of privilege than for the furtherance of liberty and justice for all.

Stephen Minnema served as a Presbyterian minister for 45 years. He has also taught ethics and religious studies at Viterbo and served as interim minister is Lutheran Churches in Westby and Viroqua. Currently he is writing a book about the history of the prophetic spirit. He lives in La Crosse with his wife, Deborah Buffton.

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