Emilio Gentile: Politics as Religion


There’s an interesting Emilio Gentile interview on “sacralization of politics”: 

DH     How do you see the sacralization of politics extending into the 21st century?

EG      It’s been present in modern times since the American and French revolutions. We need to distinguish it from any type of politicized religion in old and present times.

In the Egyptian monarchy, the pharaoh was a god, or a son of a god, or embodied the god. In the Roman Empire, after Christianization, the emperor was in a sense consecrated by the church. And the Christian monarchs in Europe were always consecrated by institutional religion. This is not sacralization of politics in the sense that politics has become a religion. It is a politicization of a religion—the use of religion to sanctify monarchs in terms of the traditional gods, or the God of the Bible. In the period after the French and American revolutions, you have the secular entity of the nation. The nation is not a person, nor does the church consecrate it. It is consecrated because it is a new secular entity now conveying the meaning of life. The sacralization of politics is politics becoming religious, independent of the traditional church. It was not the pope who consecrated Hitler as the leader; it was not the pope who consecrated Napoleon (and I mean more than the fact that Napoleon took the crown from the pope and placed it on his own head). The sacralization of politics in modern terms is an autonomous form of religion based on politics, not on traditional church-state religion.

The rest of the interview is here.

Doctor Shot At A Church (Updated)


UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has a nice collection of link here

George Tiller, a doctor and abortion rights activist was shot at his church in Wichita Kansan  this morning

WICHITA – George Tiller, the Wichita doctor who became a national lightning rod in the debate over abortion, was shot to death this morning as he walked into church services.
Tiller, 67, was shot just after 10 a.m. at Reformation Lutheran Church at 7601 E. 13th, where he was a member of the congregation. Witnesses and a police source confirmed Tiller was the victim.
No information has been released about whether a suspect is in custody. Police said they are looking for white male who was driving a 1990s powder blue Ford Taurus with Kansas license plate 225 BAB.

I thought we were done with that sort of things in the 1990s. We should probably thanks hysterical right-wing radio/TV hosts for exciting the crazies and making them think it’s the end of the world or something. I’m sure they’ll do anything for the ratings, right? 

Still, shot in a church? Do they have any standards at all? Outrageous!

Scientology on Trial


So a woman in France is suing The Church of Scientology for fraud – apparently after a “free” psychological test she was pressured into paying large sums of money: 

The woman at the centre of the case says she was approached by church members in Paris 10 years ago, and offered a free personality test. But, she says, she ended up spending 21,000 euros ($29,400, £18,400) on lessons, books and medicines she was told would cure her poor mental state.

Her lawyers are arguing that the church systematically seeks to make money by means of mental pressure and the use of scientifically dubious “cures”.

Does that mean if she wins I can sue my old university for giving me a scholarship and then demanding I pay up when it ended in three years? Was there a mental pressure to graduate and make something of myself? Interesting.

God Is Back


A discussion of a new book – God is Back: How the Revival of Religion is Changing the World, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge – on the issue of religion, sounds like a sensible position:

I wondered if they realised the alarm with which rationalists and atheists would greet their suggestions that as democracy increases around the world we should expect to see the emergence of more “parties of God”. Did they recognise that this was a kind of nightmare for many of us? “If the parties of God are Hezbollah then they are nightmares for us too,” says Micklethwait. “The thing is, when democracy is concerned the secular-minded always think that people will go off and vote for ‘normal guys’ but of course they don’t. It’s not just the most oppressed who do this – in India and Turkey the educated bourgeoisie, exactly the people who should be the most secular, the driving force of the economy, have flooded towards religiously inspired parties.” 

This is not necessarily a welcome development for either Micklethwait or Wooldridge. They are pragmatists. Religion is there, and you have to deal with it. 

Zizek’s The Monstrosity of Christ


Although Shahar’s repeated reaction to this book and to the very idea of the book has been, and I suspect will be for a long time, if not fovever, a prolonged yawn followed but a dismissinve sigh (yes, only Shahar can actually sigh dismissively), I am still somewhat intrigued by it, probably due to hearing Zizek say a few things about Christianity at Syracuse this past weekend. Plus, it’s a good distraction from all the seriousness of undying Realism Wars™, so I might give it a chance, at least I will probably read Zizek’s essays and I am very likely to skip John Milbank – anyone else intended on reading it?

Institute For Creation Research.


It does exist and it is not studying “creation” as in “creativity” – it is studying “creationism” – “does God exist?” you wonder – wonder no more: 

While absolute proof of the existence of God cannot be realized by any human being, the great weight of evidence, when rationally evaluated, clearly balances the scales heavily in favor of God. We can demonstrate “beyond a reasonable doubt” that “He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

That’s a quote, friends! Demonstrating “beyond a reasonable doubt” apparently means quoting the Bible – read on.

Trying to reconcile Sciene and Religion: So Gauche!


Don’t worry, having been shamed by Nicole, this not another whiny post about baby talk and idiot colleagues. I found this exchange on the New Humanist Blog to be funny:

In our current issue, AC Grayling reviews Questions of Truth by John Polkinghorne and Nicholas Beale, a collection of essays that claims to address 51 “Questions About God, Science and Belief”. Suffice to say, Grayling wasn’t a fan (one star was awarded in the print magazine).

Polkinghorne is a particle physicist-turned-theologian who won the Templeton Prize (which rewards attempts to reconcile religion and science) in 2002, while Nicholas Beale is a former student of Polkinghorne who, while he describes himself as a “social philosopher/management consultant” in real life, manages Polkinghorne’s website and blogs about religion and science in his spare time.

On top of dissecting the text itself, at the end of his review Grayling outlined his problem with the fact that the book was receiving a launch at the Royal Society (an event which happened on 2 March): “Polkinghorne dishonours the Royal Society by exploiting his Fellowship to publicise this weak, casuistical and tendentious pamphlet on its precincts, and the Royal Society does itself no favours by allowing Polkinghorne to do it.”

Beale must have picked up on Grayling’s review, and in particular his comments about the Royal Society, as he wrote to him questioning his objections to that event and inviting him to a similar event coming up at the Royal Institution on 1 April, which will be chaired by historian of religion Stewart Sutherland. I’ve reproduced Beale’s email to Grayling below, followed by Grayling’s fantastic response. Enjoy.

The exchange is below the fold.

Continue reading

Badiou, Rosenzweig and the word “Jew”


Mostly a thinking out loud post based on some visceral reactions, really. I have heard the charge of antisemitism directed at both Badiou and Zizek for sometime now, and while I’m not completely unsympathetic to such claims, they do tend to misinterpret and simplify both thinkers, which of course, have the effect of missing the mark completely. Now, in particular, with regards to Badiou and the term “Jew,” this seems to me to be an old problem of particularism vs universalism rather than the typical knee jerk reactions towards the state of Israel (see here and here). In this sense, it’s hard not to think of Isaac Deutscher, who remarked in a speech he gave to the World Jewish Congress in 1958:

Religion? I am an atheist. Jewish nationalism? I am an internationalist. In neither sense am I therefore a Jew. I am, however, a Jew by force of my unconditional solidarity with the persecuted and exterminated. I am a Jew because I feel the pulse of Jewish history; because I should like to do all I can to assure the real, not spurious, security and self-respect of the Jews.

Now because I’m without shame, here’s my original comment pertaining to the above passage. This is a very interesting response, and really, a very Jewish one. This begs a number of questions: Is it ever possible to reconcile ethnic fidelities with a commitment to “universal human emancipation? ” Is the only option to simply choose sides, that is, either a nationalist (particularism) or a “non-Jewish Jew” (universalism/cosmpolitanism)? But here’s the thing, if Judaism is a particular community/ethnicity/religion with a universal aims/goals/ramifications (e.g. a light unto the nations) to begin with then there is no choice to be made, the “Jew” as such would not have to choose either/or, but then again, perhaps I’m just not very dogmatic.

I still have the same response, but I often find myself feeling somewhat uncomfortable when I hear Badiou discussing these issues. In an article I dug up on lacan.com, “The Uses of the Word “Jew,”” Badiou writes this: Continue reading

Root Of All Evil? (Video)


Richard Dawkins scares us with a cool video (and a soft British accent saying things like “There are people out there trying to kill you and me…”) – the question mark in the title of the program is, of course, a kind of gesturing, since we all know what Dawkins thinks about religion, therefore I dedicate this post to the lost art of gesture: Continue reading