Thursday, November 18, 2010

A God-Eat-God World

A self-identified “Christian atheist,” Zizek wants to de-sanctify God but not kill him entirely. There are two main problems with a totally godless world. First, as the murderous regimes of modern history have proven, the absence of divine authority creates a power vacuum that is easily exploited. Second, when we lose the feeling that God is watching over our shoulder, we don’t gain freedom. Rather, God’s presence is replaced in our psyche by an even more powerful anxiety. “If there is no God, then everything is prohibited,” Zizek said, quoting Lacan. The committed multiculturalist is cursed to live in fear of violating someone else’s rules.

I've been staring at this paragraph for some time now, waiting for it to stop goofing around and start making sense, but it looks like this is all I'm going to get. So, then.

1. There is never going to be a "totally godless world".

1b. The murderous regimes of modern history simply replaced "God" with "the State" or "the dictatorship of the proletariat" or "the Völk" (and for the record, Hitler's personal relationship with Christianity was ambiguous and contradictory, but the Nazis on the whole were by no means implacably hostile to religion.) The worship of abstract concepts remained the same.

2. A traditional belief in or acceptance of "divine authority" has hardly been a bulwark against the depravity of kings, emperors, prime ministers, presidents and other tyrants, to put it ever-so-mildly, and worldly rulers with the same human, all-too-human goals have been cynically appealing to it ever since Constantine himself. Many of them, if possessed of the same technology and infrastructure as 20th-century monsters, would have been happy to rack up similar body counts while paying lip service to whatever metaphysical beliefs were in fashion at the time.

3. What the fuck? Seriously, just...what the fuck? The fear of being insensitive to other cultural preferences is more psychologically damaging than that of trying to please an inscrutable, psychotic deity while condemning and suppressing all the thoughts and feelings that most essentially comprise your humanity? Seriously, is that what he's saying? Show your work here, please.


  1. Oh Scribbles! You're awesome. I just had to post that. I read the excerpt, thought "Huh?" and then read your first sentence and laughed into an empty room. I just wanted to say, you're awesome. I'm gonna go finish the article now.

  2. I'm back. I, too would like to see his line of reasoning. I'm reminded of an old SF story: George RR Martin, "The Way of the Cross and the Dragon" Omni, 1985.

    A priest invents a new religion based on Judas as the good guy and it spreads like wildfire, because, let's face it, a traditional God was a little harsh and uncaring. This is a kinder, gentler god.

    Life imitating art? As they say, the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense

  3. the absence of divine authority creates a power vacuum

    Well, yes, I suppose it does. In fact, the universe is mostly vacuum. How can people not see that saying, "We have to believe it!", is not a good argument? In fact, it actually argues for the opposite.