Well, where is that Cody when you need her…

Is it possible for us, as secular philosophers, to overstep the boundaries that liberalism has so neatly drawn for us and perform a critique of religion? I would argue that yes, it is, and in these conservative times such an engagement is not only possible but necessary.

It is possible because we have cast aside mysticism. We hold that the Godly, the Sacred, and the Holy are not ineffable. Religion, like science, like literature, and like politics, takes the form of a discourse. It is qua discourse that a religious tradition is approachable. Having granted that something like, “I accept the Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior,” is a speech act, we can begin a dialogue and an analysis. Religion is structured like a language, that is it is not an ex nihilo Absolute Faith and Total Inwardness, but another encounter between the Symbolic order and the Real kernel as we have been working to define those terms here on this blog.

Crucially, we do not have to formulate our critique along the two false paths of secular thinking (rationalism and empiricism). Religion is neither a structure that can be rationally calculated, nor a set of goods, services, and norms that could be empirically aggregated. It is an embodied, libidinally charged praxis that takes place in a certain Symbolic state of affairs and with reference to a traumatic and indigestible Real around which that Symbolic is structured.

And so with the introduction of the Real we have come full circle back to mysticism, but with a crucial twist. While the Real of God may be ineffable and available only as absent, only through Faith, we do not stop there. We assert that it is the precise goal of analysis to make passes at the Real, the fruit of our labors being a reconfigured Symbolic, a deconstruction of the ego, the ego that asserts knowledge in order to hide ignorance. Mysticism merely asserts ignorance and goes home.

Example of deconstructed ego: he knew he was a God-fearing, family man, but he learned that he was gay.

Or, she knew that God had a plan for everyone, but she learned to face the terrible freedom of decision.

However, the point is not at all to perform a reverse conversion. Analysis of this sort (psychoanalysis) asserts that it has no need to preach or evangelize. This is because the analyst is analogous to the doctor, people go into therapy/philosophy (for here we blur the separation) because they are sick. Their sickness motivates them, not the analyst’s promises of greater happiness.

The love of God is not what concerns us, what concerns us is hatred of the self. There is a Nietzschean point here, Christians are often caught in the masochistic enjoyment of self-flagellation. Why do conservative Christians insist that abortion is murderous and sinful? Do they hate the act, or do they love to hate their own sin? The question we should pose is not, “what about a scientific definition of when a fetus becomes a child?” but rather, “where is your forgiveness and where is your love, why are you blind to the woman in front of you while you obsess over the hidden recesses of guilt?”

I don’t know if this is a perfect argument here, but this is the direction in which to move. As you said Will, meet Christians on Christian terms. As Zizek notes, the Holy Spirit is the egalitarian community of believers, it is the Christian Love that embraces difference rather than violently resisting it. For isn’t it before God that all men (and women) are equal?

I wish to read more of the Bible and Koran and their surrounding Canon in order familiarize myself with the Christian and Islamic traditions, because if there is a message of Love in there then that is where we make our stand against the intolerance and violence of the religious right. We must treat religion not as a system of lies and fables, but as a problematic and sophisticated “case.” Not that we, as “enlightened philosophers,” are tasked with burden of “curing” the religious. Rather, we need to take up the psychoanalytic question, what does a fundamentalist want?

That is, I think we need to crack open our Bibles and begin a dialogue. Is it possible that religion is really an ally of the Left but it does not yet “know what it knows?”

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