Sunday, 18 April 2010

Time for rational systematics rather than demagogic self-serving in the atheism-religion discourse?

This is a theme I have been thinking about a lot during the last few years, and I have been sketching on a blog piece without yet having come to a publishable result. However, my Australian colleague Russell Blackford has, so awaiting my results, please check out what he writes, as well as the comments!


  1. That was one of the more confused posts on this issue I have read. Russell is rightly opposed to everything that is "totalitarian, apocalyptic, arrogant, officious, intolerant, misogynist, homophobic, puritanical, prurient, and persecutory". He observers that this is present within and outside of what he calls the "Abrahamic tradition" and also that it is not at all always present within this tradition. Nevertheless the Abrahamic tradition is somehow responsible for it all anyway. Never mind that totalitarianism is mostly associated with political movements opposed to the "Abrahamic tradition" like Jacobinism, Bolchevism, Maoism, the Juche ideology and Nazism to name the most salient. His logic certainly defies me.

    All these totalitarian ideologies certainly were utopian in that they promised a future paradise on earth given adherence to a certain political recipe, which would require great human sacrifices.

    I think this kind of utopianism is a deadly threat to society, especially in times of economic hardship where people desperately want to find something to put their hope in.

    Traditional Christianity is actually an antidote to this in that it locates the object of utopian hopes and dreams in an existence that transcends the material world. At the same time it has a pessimistic non utopian view of human society: Human nature and society will necessarily stay the same in a moral sense, hence it makes no sense to try to reshape humanity the way totalitarian regimes have attempted.

    Marx rightly observed that there is a radical opposition between Christianity and the kind of utopian political philosophy he was proposing when he said that religion is the "Opium of the people." By believing in a transcendent paradise the Christians would not rise to the kind of political action required for building the earthly utopia.

    Since the totalitarian ideologies arose in Europe it could quite reasonably be argued that they inherit much from Christianity. There are interesting connections in the history of ides between classical Christianity through Calvinism to Jacobinism and then Bolchevism. The decisive step in this evolution is when the utopian goal was secularized into a goal that was supposed to be achievable in material history. So the problem is not the Abrahamic tradition it is rather immanent utopiansim.

  2. Well, Johan, I suggest you post this comment on Russell's blog, then, and see what he replies.