The Here and Now

(Adapted from the introduction to Paul’s New Moment: Continental Philosophy and the Future of Christian Theology.)

Slavoj Žižek is a contemporary philosopher, a material atheist who rereads Christianity through the filter of Hegel and Lacan.

The starting point for Žižek’s work could be said to take place with Paul’s stance: “now we see in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor. 13:12); the world is, in the first place, a congealed void of obscurity whose outcome is far from being known. Because for Žižek the world’s outcome is radically open: evil may indeed win the day, and so calls one to participate in a materialist struggle in the here and now. This is why Žižek critiques orthodox theology as being not truly Christian at all, precisely because orthodox Christianity is too prideful to live in the real and concrete materialist history where the outcome is not something to be taken for granted.

When God is the one who knows all things and ensures, no matter how nihilistic and secular the world gets, that the end result will be guaranteed, namely salvation, a materialist struggle in the present world is radically neutralized. In other words, the belief in God (as the big Other) is tantamount to a disbelief in one’s very materialist existence in the present, which then cancels out the very ability to struggle for liberation and truth – the heart of the gospel.

Christianity, on its own terms, commits its own negation–or in Pauline terms, a scandal that turns the entire world upside down. This happens when God in Christ utters the horrifying words, “Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?” This is the darkest hour within Christianity because the narrative offers up a meaning that is unthinkable, namely, that God the Father is not safely up there in heaven ensuring that all things will work out to his own glory. And here the “system” and “institutionalization” of Christianity cracks open, revealing its perverse core–a truth that there is no big Other, no paternal God, but nonetheless one continues believing in God. This is Žižek’s idea of “disavowal,” when one fully knows better but continues to believe precisely because it is absurd.

Žižek sees in the figure of Paul someone whose version of the Christ-event on the cross is something that cannot be domesticated but that inherently upsets the status quo on every level of the cosmos. This is why Žižek things that Christianity alone is the religion that can found a true materialist struggle–not by systematically containing and covering over its radical nature but rather by living into this struggle in the here and now.

Nietzsche << Previous  | |  Next >> Idealism

40 Comments

  1. Reply
    Chuck March 18, 2013

    Do you agree with Žižek’s critique that “orthodox Christianity is not truly Christian at all”? Why or why not?

    I don’t agree with him. I think he invents a dichotomy that doesn’t really exist. He doest this by cherry-picking scripture and ignoring the full biblical text. God might have left Jesus at that moment but there is a way of reading it that makes sense within the text better than his idiosyncratic one. Namely, that Jesus becomes the scape-goat for all sin and takes those on with his sacrifice, making a metaphysical space absent of god (sin being the existential absence of god’s perfect good). This more honest reading to the text actually reinforces the non-material arrogance Žižek would like to falsify. Christianity can’t be a materialistic religion dealing with the here and now because the seminal event in it’s birth deals with a non-material reality that defines the human experience (namely sin).

    In your own words, what is the “disavowal” within Christianity?

    The purpose of life being asserted by an absolute standard, rather than one created through individual reason and compassion.

    How has Christianity removed you from the material world? How has it rooted you in the material world, in the “here and now”?

    By claiming that a superstition of a three-person god somehow has meaning regarding what it means to be a human being in relationship with other human beings.

  2. Reply
    Barrett March 18, 2013

    I do agree with his view of Christ on the cross. To read Christ’s death as purely triumph over the metaphysical concept of sin is to only read part of that story. Christ’s entire life leading up to it was lived in the material world—the material poor, the physically ill, the people who make their living in all ways other than being “experts in the Law.” Christ preached and lived a new social order, died a physical death (taking on not just the metaphysical concept of sin but the physical effects/expressions of it), and then is said to have been raised with a new physical, material body that, while it could pass through walls, could be touched and could eat food and be “mistaken” for any other human being.

    Christ’s entire life was an upset of the status quo, so why should his death not be seen as such?

    • Reply
      Chuck March 18, 2013

      No. The stories in the Gospel are simply iterations of the three tiered cosmology of Jewish Apocalyptic religion and indicate the “first fruits” of the new Kingdom. Why do current religious believers read back into ancient texts current religious bias? Why do they separate out one episode to justify their bias without linking it to the other aspects of the story? That is flawed narrative theory in service of a confirmation bias. The narrative of the death and resurrection follow a template that is informed by “Son of Man” eschatology.

      • Reply
        Barrett March 18, 2013

        All people read texts with their own bias, so it’s only honest to state mine. I am a seminary student and believer that the story and life of Jesus call anyone who follows him into present action. Jesus and the writers of the gospels absolutely incorporate Jewish Apocalyptic and Son of Man eschatology in what they do because that’s the human context in which they live. I feel like you’re implying that the template given to a story negates paying attention to its context, including the specific actions taken by Christ in these stories to critique and perfect the ideas of the “kingdom of heaven” and the rule of the Son of Man.

        • Reply
          Chuck March 18, 2013

          No I am taking issue with your post-modern interpretation where you give the texts current meaning despite the fact the authors had no understanding of our current age.

          It makes sense that you’d do it because of your seminary status.

          You probably see the literature as sacred and prophetic.

          I see the stories as superstitious myths building on prior myths and as artifacts of an ancient culture, possibly relevant to the problems of their time, and unlikely relevant to our current time.

          • Barrett March 18, 2013

            Thanks for helping me out there. Sometimes these posts encourage me to really try on “atheism for Lent,” then others ask me to answer questions that pertain to faith commitments by which I read the Bible and present society.

            Those faith commitments admitted, though, I do desire to allow criticism and experience of reality to challenge those commitments. So thanks also for the challenge to how I view the narrative, because I do know I have a lot more to learn about how to handle all of the Bible stories.

          • Chuck March 18, 2013

            I read your comment as passive-aggressive sarcasm. Was that your intention?

          • Abigail March 18, 2013

            I didn’t read it that way, Chuck. Tone is so hard to convey in written text, though . Maybe he was… But I got the impression he was trying to be open to your perspective and gallant enough to revisit his.

          • Chuck March 18, 2013

            Maybe so. I haven’t heard from him so it is hard to tell.

          • Barrett March 25, 2013

            Oops, sorry to leave you hanging Chuck. I haven’t looked at this in almost a week, due to school work.

            I definitely didn’t mean that last comment in any passive-aggressive way. One of the best things about my seminary program is how often it (and my friends here) challenges the assumptions I had carried for 20 years. I was expressing genuine appreciate for the challenge you gave me, because I have a responsibility to myself and whoever might ever listen to me to examine my beliefs and rhetoric for the kinds of fallacies you brought up.

  3. Reply
    Will March 18, 2013

    All of these questions and narratives have brought me to a greater understanding that I am of a truly post modern state of mind. Each person in these writings as well as the people on this forum have shown me the truth of relativity. Our views, regardless of how informed, are always still our own views reflecting what we have gleaned in life to this point. I am convinced that there is NO one correct answer.

    Our actions are the true indicators of our beliefs and ideals.

    • Reply
      Chuck March 18, 2013

      When it comes to religion there is no one correct answer (except maybe for “I don’t know”).

      • Reply
        Ryan March 19, 2013

        Chuck, doesn’t this comment contradict your earlier comment about there being a “more honest” reading of the biblical text? It seems to me that you want to live in the best of both worlds… claiming that we can’t know something when someone makes a truth claim, but then claiming a superior or ‘more honest” interpretation when you want to assert your own “truths”. I’ve seen you do this through out the entire AFL project.

        • Reply
          Chuck March 19, 2013

          Biblical criticism is not religion. Textual criticism can operate best by a redactive or critical/historical approach. All religions are predicated on imaginative leaps driven by emotional need. All of them are possibly true (although probably false).

          You are confusing my demand for rigorous textual criticism with my agnosticism towards religious claims. If you want to believe there is a god based on your subjective experience all I can say is “I don’t know” if that god exists (e.g. Russell’s Teapot).

          If you want to tell me that the Bible is a living text I think there are better explanations for the claim rooted in historical critical exegesis that shows it to be an artifact of a dead culture.

  4. Reply
    Abigail March 18, 2013

    OK, I’ll answer the questions, then I have a question of my own.
    1) Do you agree with Žižek’s critique that “orthodox Christianity is not truly Christian at all”? Why or why not?
    The question presupposes that there is a way to determine what is “truly Christian,” and what isn’t. This assumption is at the heart of all the splintering within Christianity! Each faction claims to be the True Representation of Christianity, using spurious proofs and arguments to make their case. The fact is, there’s very little objective basis on which to decide what is actually “Christian” and what isn’t.

    2) In your own words, what is the “disavowal” within Christianity?
    I wasn’t very clear on what he meant by that word… I’ll wait for more elaboration. The way I read it, it sounded like he thinks that most Christians don’t actually believe in God, but they pretend to, because it’s absurd. Which doesn’t make any sense. But I’m still a bit under the effects of this head cold…

    3) How has Christianity removed you from the material world? How has it rooted you in the material world, in the “here and now”?
    This touches on a very sensitive spot for me, one that I haven’t shared with very many people. (But now it’s being broadcast to the entire world! Ack!) I struggled with serious depression for years. Only last year did I feel like I am finally mostly done with it. In looking back, I think one major factor (there were several) that contributed to the depression is exactly this issue of being involved in the material world. To my understanding, depression can result from a psychological issue that keeps trying to resolve, and your mind/emotions keep going round and round, (often very much unconsciously) zapping your energy, and making you feel hopeless. They’ve replicated depression in animal studies by putting food behind a glass barrier. The animals try and try to get it, and eventually give up. After a certain point, even if the barrier is lifted, their depression keeps them from trying again. (By the way, babies who are made to “cry it out” in efforts to “sleep train” produce depression chemicals in their brains, for what it’s worth).
    In my case, one of these unreachable objects behind the glass barrier was a sincere love of life. I love to be alive. I love existing. I love beauty, story, people, a pencil between my fingers, dirt between my toes, holding someone’s hand, the sound of a well-trained choir, a warm bath, solving puzzles, bicycling, raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens… 😀 I love challenge, struggle, and adventure too. And yet, the Christian culture I grew up in indirectly made me feel guilty for participating in this material world. Nobody would ever say it directly, of course, but most of the emphasis was on a non-material God, non-material qualities like character and piety, and the afterlife. I was extremely devoted to my faith. I loved my faith as much as everything else combined. But in a sense, my faith denied my very right to exist! Who am I to dare to exist in a physical body, when God is so almighty, so holy, so lofty? So the two forces in me were warring, and it was impossible to reconcile them, given the theology I had available at the time. I don’t know if I’m explaining this very well, but it was only by allowing myself a mental “check-out” from my faith that I was able to give myself permission to fully experience life without feeling guilty. My depression was complicated, that wasn’t the only issue, but it was a biggie. These issues weren’t fully conscious; I didn’t know what was warring inside of me. I just felt tired and disconnected a lot. Even if someone had confronted me with this issue at the mental level, at the time, I don’t know if I would have accepted it. It’s only in retrospect that I see what was going on. I feel a bit exposed sharing this, but it’s pertinent to the subject… maybe there are others out there who can relate.
    On a less personal note, this issue reminds me of the struggle with the Gnostics in early days of CHristianity. Didn’t the Gnostics split reality into material and non-material, and shun the material? And Christians at the time rejected this teaching, saying that because Christ incarnated into a physical body (I know, that’s redundant), God demonstrated his desire to interact with the material world. And yet, I think a huge portion of Christendom has subtly bought in to Gnosticism, with their rejection of “the world, the flesh, and the devil.”

    OK, now my question. Today’s passage said that Zizek is a materialist, who also holds the assumption that evil may actually win, which is why we must fight it. If I understand materialism, though, materialists do not believe in evil. Evil is a value judgement created in our own heads… Is his a modified form of materialism?

    I can see this stance as being crippling, though, as well. If the entire outcome of humanity/the world/the universe rests on my activism, it would be easy to burn out, or get so overwhelmed by the world’s problems that you become paralyzed. For someone like me, a single mom with two very young children, barely able to pay the bills, dropping balls left and right, this message can be another subtle guilt trip. I do what I can, whenever I can. But sometimes… I can’t… If the world is going to end because I don’t do enough to fight evil, well, sorry! It’s comforting (though maybe it’s a lie, who knows) to think that somewhere, at some level, there is an invisible hand guiding history, and eventually, everything will be OK. At least, it helps me sleep at night, so I have energy to get up the next day and start fighting again! :)

    • Reply
      Chuck March 19, 2013

      My hospitalization for my depression started me to re think my faith and led me to see how it kept me from healing. When medication worked where prayer and piety never had, I came to see how naturalism contained the answers my mind sought. I wanted to let you know I am recovering from depression too.

      • Reply
        Abigail March 19, 2013

        Thanks for sharing. It’s not easy to share these kinds of personal things. I’m glad you are on the road to healing.

    • Reply
      Ryan March 19, 2013

      I think you missing the obvious and intimate link between the two (religion and textual criticism). Is not religion, especially Christianity, built around an interpretation of text? I don’t believe I am , “confusing my (your) demand for rigorous textual criticism with my agnosticism towards religious claims.” I believe you are claiming an inherent objectivity in one and dismissing the other as purely subjective… which itself is a presupposed bias. You so boldly claim, “The stories in the Gospel are simply iterations of the three tiered cosmology of Jewish Apocalyptic religion and indicate the “first fruits” of the new Kingdom.”… but this itself is an overlay on the text (possibly a completely false one!)You do not have the privileged access to the writers of the gospels, or the historical context that it appears you believe you do. The author (as Derrida would say) is gone, and no amount of textual criticism will bring him/her back. You are holding your methodology as an objective tool, and it is not. This has been the critique of narrative theologians of the last several decades. So, I am not saying that we shouldn’t be diligent in our methodologies, but I think you are not being realistic about the subjective nature inherent in them. I am simply pushing back to what appears to me to be a blindness to your own biases. Perhaps I am wrong, but it seemed like a pattern in your posts. I look forward to you telling me why I’m wrong =)

      • Reply
        Ryan March 19, 2013

        Sorry… this was meant to go under your other post, but you probably figured that out

        • Reply
          Chuck March 19, 2013

          The Bible authors may not exist but historical critics do. As for Derrida I side with Chomsky on that one.

          • Ryan March 19, 2013

            So… we have found your “god”

          • Chuck March 19, 2013

            I have no clue what that means. Knowledge claims seem best left to humble analysis with a consideration for probability. The post modernist ignores that for their own fancy.

          • Paul March 19, 2013

            “The postmodernist ignores that (probability) for their own fancy” sounds like a modernist reading of postmodernism.

            Biblical criticism and exegetics seem like a modernist project in that they seek an objective “correct” explanation (erklarung), whereas hermeneutics is a more post-modern approach in that it seeks understanding of phenomenological meaning (verstehen). We need both.

            Personally, I’ll take Ricoeur’s critical hermeneutics because he emphasized “belonging” and “distanciation”, which acknowledges the radical subjectivity of interpretation, while leaving room for degrees of distance (but, not objectivity). It’s kind of like supplementing psychotherapy (a very subjective process) with distancing tools, such as the DSM-IV, PET scan, and other tools that help the clinician recover a dose of distance to revise their working subjective hypothesis based on the client’s story. Add, revise, add, revise…in a dialectic movement between parts, whole, parts, whole.

            Between extremes of objectivity without presuppositions and embeddedness in tradition, Ricoeur asks, “Would it not be appropriate…to reformulate the question (how do we understand) in such a way that a certain dialectic between the experience of belonging and alienating distanciation becomes the mainspring, the key to the inner life, of hermeneutics?”

  5. Reply
    Paul March 18, 2013

    Just wanted to say thanks to y’all that keep checking in with this process of Atheism for Lent. Hearing your experiences (in this case, thank you Abigail), your commiserations (thanks Chuck), and ownership of your “angle of care”; that presupposed faith stance we all take in terms of how apprehend, make meaning, and care for the world (so many have done this). Checking in and dialoguing about the questions posed is great fun, but the story is equally rewarding.

    Abigail, I resonate deeply with the dualistic Christianity of which you speak. I heard this phenomenon referred to as the “excarnation”; the emptying of the world and the body of divine content, which leaves us with a bunch of dead stuff easily instrumentalized as a means to an of profit, rather than valued as an end it itself. I think of this as living in a 3-D ontology; a reality wherein we are decontextualized, disembodied, and displaced.

    As to the questions posted above:

    1. Whose Orthodox Christianity are we talking about here? I don’t really know enough about it to comment. I know there are some fancy theological tricks to hold onto human freedom and the concept of a divine victory, but I don’t care to hash em out. I agree with Abigail’s critique of what constitutes the “truly Christian”. I would be interested to hear more from Chuck about “a more honest reading to the text”. Are we reading according to Luther, Augustine, Irenaeus…through a Latin, Classic, or Moral view of Atonement theory? Which is more honest? Is it more honest to read through modern eyes focused on universal truths, empirical knowledge, and positivist methods or postmodern eyes focuses on context, narrative, subjectivity? I don’t know? I think it’s safe to say that none of us have access to the “angle of care” through which the authors penned the text. What do we assume about human nature? How is sin different than buddhist ignorance, hindu illusion, existential isolation, or any of the other words we use to talk about what separates us from the good life for self and other?

    Let’s suppose that the “honest” reading involves the Classic view of atonement wherein Christ’s death and sacrifice (although I have issues with violence as propitiation, but that’s more of a Latin view, correct) provides a cosmic reorganization of the forces of good/evil by way of his sacrifice; or as I prefer, maturity/immaturity. Hereafter, a life of faith, hope, and love becomes possible, although perhaps not always probable. From what I know about psychological change and transformation, “sacrifice”, which a neuroscientist might compare to empathy given by way of mirror neurons, is a central feature of human healing, well-being, and connection. What if that sacrifice is “salvation” insofar as it points to essential material realities that have to do with human connection. Granted, I’m dropping the whole physical/metaphysical dichotomy here to assert a materialist interpretation of the value of sacrifice.

    This is why I don’t read the Bible; just don’t have the time to work through all the hermeneutic issues involved.
    My religion is material. I like how MLK said it, “any religion concerned with sin and salvation, but not social justice is a moribund religion destined for the grave”. Something like that anyway.

    2. The disavowal within Christianity (again, whose/which Christianity) reminds me of Mother Theresa, whose letters were published against her will following her death, but that, nonetheless, revealed how someone who embodied a life of service lived much of her life in a dark night of the soul. She became gods hands in the world, perhaps because she understood, better than most, that there is no god.

    3. Christianity removed me from the world because I used it as a giant castle of neurotic defense from the suffering I was not yet able to accept or integrate. I used Christianity the same way Adam stitched together clothing from leaves when he could not bear with the reality that he was naked in this existence (exposed before the sheer absurdity/contingency of life). Since then, the values of Christianity…compassion, justice, discernment, the “body” metaphor…have inspired everything from civil disobedience to starting a neighborhood garden.

    • Reply
      Paul March 19, 2013

      “The postmodernist ignores that (probability) for their own fancy” sounds like a modernist reading of postmodernism.

      Biblical criticism and exegetics seem like a modernist project in that they seek an objective “correct” explanation (erklarung), whereas hermeneutics is a more post-modern approach in that it seeks understanding of phenomenological meaning (verstehen). We need both.

      Personally, I’ll take Ricoeur’s critical hermeneutics because he emphasized “belonging” and “distanciation”, which acknowledges the radical subjectivity of interpretation, while leaving room for degrees of distance (but, not objectivity). It’s kind of like supplementing psychotherapy (a very subjective process) with distancing tools, such as the DSM-IV, PET scan, and other tools that help the clinician recover a dose of distance to revise their working subjective hypothesis based on the client’s story. Add, revise, add, revise…in a dialectic movement between parts, whole, parts, whole.

      Between extremes of objectivity without presuppositions and embeddedness in tradition, Ricoeur asks, “Would it not be appropriate…to reformulate the question (how do we understand) in such a way that a certain dialectic between the experience of belonging and alienating distanciation becomes the mainspring, the key to the inner life, of hermeneutics?”

      • Reply
        Chuck March 19, 2013

        Guilty as charged on being a modernist.

        • Reply
          Ryan March 19, 2013

          Chuck, one could describe God as the thing that someone looks to in order to make sense of life and provide meaning. You are claiming an attachment to history via trained academics that gives you a sense of understanding and even mastery. What relationship do you really think we have to the past? With all the complexities and dynamics inside even the most simplistic culture, do you really think history is something we can speak with any real confidence about? Again, I don’t think you see the presuppositions and biases of your own positions, yet you feel empowered to critic everyone else’s for not being as “established” as yours. I think Zizek’s reading is just as “honest” as yours because your presumed access to history (and the people who recorded it)is deeply subjective. However, you don’t see it as such but instead use your ideas of historical/textual criticism to make meaning in your life… hence, your “god” is your own presumed rationality. By accepting to be a modernist, you betray the fact that you are historically situated and cannot interact with the past apart from those biases (btw, I accept that I am in the same boat, I’m just not trying to escape it). My guess is that you will dismiss all this as “post-modern” but I figured I would give it one last shot. Perhaps your atheism for lent would mean that you face the possibility that the world you have intellectually created could be false… what would letting that god in your life die mean?

          • Chuck March 19, 2013

            It would mean intellectual laziness and emotional reasoning. Sorry, probable answers based on time tested methods are not my “god”. They are sound analysis that recognize the potential for cognitive bias.

          • Abigail March 20, 2013

            @Ryan: “one could describe God as the thing that someone looks to in order to make sense of life and provide meaning.”
            I’d like to challenge your teleological definition of “God.” What authority do you have to create this definition? None of my dictionary entries define “god” in this way.

    • Reply
      Abigail March 20, 2013

      @Paul: “My religion is material. I like how MLK said it, ‘any religion concerned with sin and salvation, but not social justice is a moribund religion destined for the grave’. Something like that anyway.”

      Again I’m seeing the term “materialism” come up in the context of social justice/activism.
      I’m not as educated in these areas as many on this site are–can someone explain how this term was seemingly co-opted from (what I understand to be) its original meaning? I thought materialism meant simply a belief that “matter” (and, by extension, energy that we can “prove” scientifically, such as gravity or magnetism) are all that exist. So concepts such as justice, evil, etc., are not really appropriate terms for a materialist to use, since they don’t actually exist, right? Not that I think materialists are committing cognitive dissonance by being politically active, etc., but the wouldn’t a true materialist choose different language?

      • Reply
        Ryan March 20, 2013

        You can find it in the dictionary of “those who use language in a non technical manner” =)I believe the dictionary is more about definitions than descriptions, but this is my own sense of things and I am often shown to be wrong. I did not mean this in a teleological sense, but only a practical or material sense… this is the way that many (in my view) “use” god (or I would say a god is anything we use in this “meaning making” way). Therefore, if I am depending on intellectual methods to ultimately guide me to meaning, these are acting as a “god” in my life. Perhaps the Christian equivalent is to call them “idols”? As far as authority, that’s a whole other issue that would take more time and energy than I current have to unpack. I appreciate the challenge, I think!

        • Reply
          Abigail March 20, 2013

          Hope you know the challenge was respectful, i am not trying to be virulent. I still disagree with how you are choosing to define “god”…. But that’s ok. Thank you for your thoughts!

      • Reply
        Paul March 20, 2013

        Yeah, good questions. Caught in the snares of language and logical inconsistency again. Wittgenstein’s laughing!

        Gonna break a lot of “rules” here, but here goes. I guess I would suggest that there are a number of ways of being a “materialist”, the one that resonates with me is the idea that “matter is what matters”. But what constitutes matter and isn’t our understanding of matter evolving?

        Unless one is a positivist materialist (is that a tautology?), I would think it’s possible to retain a sense of imagination for things meta-physical (quarks, goodness, love, awe) or at least retain room for meta-physical descriptions of things we experience; I.E; love is not merely “hugs per day” or merely “brain chemistry” while still being a materialist. Otherwise, that would seem like an awfully colorless existence. I would argue that empiricism is not a material thing we have scientifically proven, but it’s a useful method for explaining material processes. Reductionism and determinism are useful as tools, but need not be applied in a positivistic way, as ontological/epistemological propositions.

        By my statement, “My religion is material” I was trying to convey that matter is all that I can know, beyond which I am agnostic. I don’t believe in doing onto-theology, but I do believe in playing around with theology from below, that begins with matter, which parts with formal “materialism”. I am also opting for a religion that emerges from the material and takes the immanent world of here and now as its primary concern.

        As to the co-opting of the term…I guess I assume that living in a pluralistic world means we speak in many voices, some of which may logically directly contradict one another. We are premodern, modern, postmodern.

        • Reply
          Abigail March 20, 2013

          Hope it didn’t sound like I was accusing you, personally, of co-opting the term! :)
          I recognize that on this forum I’m probably the least knowledgable in these areas (my degrees are in music, audio engineering, and instructional design… Have not been required to take philosophy courses…), and I’m genuinely trying to learn.
          I guess I would have a hard time seeing how someone could be concerned about social justice issues without some kind of convictions/beliefs about the value of the human soul, that at that level (whatever the heck that term “soul” even means) we are all equal… and worth fighting for. I’m still working these things out. Intellectually I don’t know how I’d describe it. But instinctively, I feel great empathy for people. I see what poverty does to the human soul. What discrimination and prejudice do to the soul. What slavery, hatred, inequality do to the soul. That immaterial quality about people, that I’m choosing to call the soul, for who knows what reason… That is why I get involved in social justice issues. Maybe “soul” should be replaced with “psyche”, to avoid religious overtones… I don’t know. I’m rambling now. My point is, I don’t know how materialism fits with that, and I’m curious.

          • Paul March 20, 2013

            Perhaps justice, empathy, and compassion are another part of the evolutionary legacy passed down by our ancestors. From an evolutionary psychology standpoint, justice–expressed as caring for the soul and well-being of others–would be adaptive in many circumstances…winning favor with the tribe, preserving a larger tribe, which means safety in numbers, more opportunity/options for procreation, ect…

            It’s interesting to consider how certain behaviors and emotions, such as concern for kin, that evolved as part of our cultural and evolutionary DNA are now overwritten by all sorts of meanings and religious traditions, which are in turn, pressing in our still evolving sense of concern for the other. For example, MLK said, “if one of us is not well, then none of us is well”. That was probably inspired by his religious/theological convictions, but in a more primoridal sense began as an archetypal form of caring for the tribe that evolved over countless generations.

            I guess as our brains grew in size and complexity, we started applying poetry, aphorisms, and all sorts of elaborate stories, myths, and folktales to celebrate the particularly adaptive behaviors as “virtues”.

            There is a jewish word for soul, nefesh, that is considered purely material.Though, there is debate on the words meaning. Big surprise.

            For all these reasons, Christianity is going to have to welcome the critique of other disciplines if it wants to remain relevant to the here and now as more than an escape ladder out of hell.

  6. Reply
    Paul March 18, 2013

    I really must start proof-reading before I post; apologies.

    • Reply
      Adam Howie March 19, 2013

      Thats why I gave up doing any major writing, art thankfully doesnt need grammar/spell-checking :)

      • Reply
        Paul March 19, 2013

        My stick figures almost look like people ; ). I’m afraid I’m stuck with words…seems to be a theme through these posts!

        • Reply
          Abigail March 20, 2013

          Typos or not, I really enjoy reading what you write, Paul. Thank you for your insights.

          • Paul March 20, 2013

            Thanks Abigail. The feelings are mutual.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *