I will have to read the Fragile Absolute before I make up my mind, but here is what I think right now; Zizek, in performing a return to Christian theology, has reached the pathetic heights of pseudo-deep academic buffoonery.

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He is clearly writing for an audience of bourgeoisie intellectuals, people who have long considered themselves atheistic or polytheistic or ipodistic or whatever. Maybe they have “personal religious views” which is another annoyance altogether. Or maybe they have succumbed to the revival of magical thinking and have “sacred stones” and whatnot.

“It is in this precise sense that today’s era is perhaps less atheist than any prior one: we are all ready to indulge in utter scepticism, cynical distance, exploitation of others ‘without any illusions,’ violations of all ethical constraints, extreme sexual practices, etc.etc.

So Zizek thinks he is being cleverer than the average bourgeoisie intellectual, he fancies that he goes beyond secular humanism and is not afraid to examine belief,  “this is the extreme paradox of Christianity as THE religion of modernity.” Ok, and now religious bigotry is a valid philosophical position?

When Zizek veers into Christian territory, he loses me. The “religious right” is utterly homophobic and misogynist. They do not, as Zizek claims, confuse “knowledge for belief.” They believe. Perhaps this is a cultural rift, Zizek being more familiar with Europe, but fundamentalist Christians are our “values voters.” They use their liberties to obstruct the liberties of others because of what they believe in; those are their values, and they feel entitled to their values. So entitled, in fact, that the truth or falsity of the claims those values are based on is not granted discussion. They have “an opinion,” and others have, “a different opinion.” Everyone is entitled to “their opinion.” We have seen how this plays out. The presence of belief continues to obstruct civil rights and equality.

In light of this, Zizek’s attempt to read Christianity strikes me as disengaged and downright irresponsible. He is “playing the provocateur,” but with ongoing religious violence, religious intolerance, and religious ignorance, this seems like a dumb gimmick to me. While Zizek hopes that he is a clever, unpredictable philosopher, able to read Christianity as humorous, I am struck by his ability to overlook massive contradictions. To begin with, Christianity as a teaching is concerned with suffering and salvation. As a result, the Christian tradition is chock full of martyrdom and persecution. Christ, meanwhile, is a self-righteous messiah. If there is comedy anywhere in the picture, it is lost on me.

Zizek takes a highly conservative tack, he reiterates the claim that the modern world has lost its way because we have lost our faith and therefor our moral guideposts. Perhaps we should return to ancient spiritual texts. This is absurd. The Bible is tricky, all those that read it take what they like, discard the rest, and then vehemently cling to their chosen dogma. Zizek is no exception. Rather than arguing a point that could be subject to critique, he urges us to make an illogical “leap.” Perhaps, “a leap to opinion.”

Furthermore, Zizek does not understand Kierkegaard. What made Kierkegaard so interesting and so radical was that he was a bad Christian. Kierkegaard’s best works are about his failure to believe. The reason that Kierkegaard was a thinker rather than a preacher was that he could not simply accept the nonsensical terms of Christianity. Kierkegaard failed to convert, at first at least, and that is why he is so funny and so insightful. His later works, his fully Christian works, are boring, preachy (obviously), and seriously unfunny. The irony and observation evident in earlier works disappears and is replaced by a regurgitation of scripture.

The only place Zizek gets it right is when he notes that Kierkegaard is surprisingly close to his supposed nemesis, Hegel.

Hegel and Kierkegaard were up to the same project, and together they usher in Nietzschean arrogance. Unlike Nietzsche, they both uphold Christianity, but they invert it. For Hegel, what we find in the modern Christianity is a man made into a God, rather than a God made into a man. That is, Christ became God and not the other way around.

And did not Kierkegaard perform the same gesture, the paradoxical inversion of Divinity and its movement from God to human?  With Kierkegaard, we find that “the knight of faith” becomes what they become through “inwardness.” The circuit of faith reverses from acceptance of an external Divine Truth, to the recursive manifestation of inward Faith. Rather than God sustaining the believer, for Kierkegaard, the believer sustains God. Here, with the modern era, we move toward a sense of radical autonomy rather than the given and Eternal Truth.

To be fair, Zizek does reach the idea that Christ directly is God, that Christ is God precisely in being human . So can he make the truly modern turn, the truly democratic turn?

It is not ONLY Christ that is God, it is humanity as such in all its plurality and diversity.

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