THE DOOM OF RELIGION
Religion is doomed. It is a huge shipwreck sinking in a stinking swamp. Religiosity manifests itself in our contemporary culture as efficiently and accurately as the race of the glorious chicken with its head cut off. Religiosity is a dying out conditioned reflex. Claude-Adrien Helvétius (1715-1771) had noticed that fact a while ago: “In relation to religious truths, reason loses all her forces against two grand missionaries, Example and Fear.” (Helvétius 1970: 426). Consequently, it is still difficult to speak about religion with the cold mind of the philosophical perspective even today. Try to explain to people that god is nothing other than an old fart fading away from its initial source and observe the reaction! This is mainly due to the principal strategy of religion, that tends to root itself in the deepest of our irrationalities, this, of course, totally in accordance with the purposes of its crooked agents.
“Superstitious persons, who know better how to rail at vice than how to teach virtue, and who strive not to guide men by reason, but so to restrain them that they would rather escape evil than love virtue, have no other aim than to make others as wretched as themselves; wherefore it is nothing wonderful, if they be generally troublesome and odious to their fellow-men.” (Spinoza 1981: 206 – published in 1677)
In other terms the champions of religiosity behave as a bunch of muddy bullies allergic to a clean piece of cloth. Towards that irrationalistic attitude of religious prozelits, the philosophical position put forward here is the one of Historical Materialism:
“Historical Materialism does not fight religion directly; from its higher vantage point it understands and explains religion as a natural phenomenon under definite conditions. But through this very insight it undermines religion and foresees that with the rise of a new society religion will disappear.” (Pannekoek 1948: 22 – published in 1938)
I will try to present briefly here the long ugly path towards that disappearance. First, it is important to mention that all modern monotheist religions, despite the oppositions they stubbornly perpetuate around their details and specificities are, from the philosophical point of view, fundamentally similar garbage. Being the belief in the existence of a supernatural spiritual being creator of the world (Mister G, for Grotesque) they are all of the same variety of OBJECTIVE IDEALISM, namely the belief in the objective existence of independent spiritual entities. The main representative of that conception in philosophy was Mister Dummy Asshole Plato in person, the most awfully odoriferous stinkface of the history of known philosophy. Thus, religion has not always been an objective idealism. “Religion is human nature reflected, mirrored in itself.” (Feuerbach 1957: 63). Through time, religion DEVELOPED to become the flatulent objective idealism it is today. This development LEADS DIRECTLY AND INEXORABLY TO ATHEISM, as I will try to show it now. The millennial development of religion could be summarized in five broad successive steps:
Let us describe all these steps:
1) There are two opposed types of ANIMISM: HYLOZOISM is the attribution of a zoomorphic (i.e. animal-like) or anthropomorphic (i.e. human-like) life to an object of nature. FETICHISM is the zoomorphization or anthropomorphization of a material object by a material and social action (statues, totems). If we inquiry any philosophical grounding for such beliefs, we will find it in crude attempts to determine the chains of causality in a complex unknown tangled universe.
“Another disposition which serves to deceive the savage man, which will equally deceive those whom reason shall not enlighten on these subjects, is the fortuitous concurrence of certain effects, with causes which have not produced them, or the co-existence of these effects with certain causes which have not the slightest connection [sic] with them. Thus the savage attributes bounty of the will to render him service, to any object whether animate or inanimate, such as a stone of a certain form, a rock, a mountain, a tree, a serpent, an owl, &c., if every time he encounters these objects in a certain position, it should so happen that he is more than ordinarily successful in hunting, that he should take an unusual quantity of fish, that he should be victorious in war, or that he should compass any enterprise whatever, that he may at that moment undertake.” (D’Holbach 1970: 168 – published in 1770)
The animist phenomenon common to FETICHISM and HYLOZOISM is introjection, namely that tendency human being has to subjectivize his objective environment, and to objectivize himself. Introjection ONTOLOGIZES the gnoseological process of the interaction between subject and object (CF a previous contribution to DE NIHILO NIHIL for the distinction between ONTOLOGY and GNOSEOLOGY. If you are too lazy to click there right now, just note that I mean here that human being is treating his activity of knowledge as if it was an independent part of the external world). Consequently to introjection, (human) life is attributed to the non living, and the human being builds his first DUALISM that way.
“The introjection brought dualism with all its problems and contradictions. Let us look at its consequences already at the lowest state of civilization. On the basis of experience introjection takes place not only into fellow-man but also into fellow-animals, into fellow-things, into trees, rocks, etc.: this is animism. We see a man sleeping; awakened he says he was elsewhere; so part of him rested here, part left the body temporarily. If it does not return, the first part is rotting away, but the other part appears in dream, ghostly. So man consists of a perishable body and a non-perishing spirit.” (Pannekoek 1948: 42 – published in 1938)
2) Through millennia, such a situation slowly reversed itself to become POLYTHEISM. Polytheism is a multitude of MONISMS: a god activating the ocean, another god activating the volcano, each god and goddess being deeply fusioned in its material source. In the same time, these mythological gods and goddesses are highly anthropomorphic. Sextus Empiricus (1961: 91) wrote of them at the end of the second century that “whereas it is customary with us to revere the gods as being good and immune from evil, they are presented by the poets as suffering wounds and envying one another”. Everybody will remember having jerked off or played mandolin on mythology in their teenage. “Poetical”, oh yeah! The acknowledgment of that poetical dimension of the grasp of natural phenomena is crucial for an accurate understanding of the POLYTHEIST phase.
“The imagination being thereby continually kept in action, nature was held in entire subjection to the empire of poetry, which enlivened and invigorated every part of the universe. The summits of the mountains, the wide extended plains, the impenetrable forest, the sources of the rivers, and the depths of the seas, were peopled by the Oreades, the Fauns, the Napae, the Hamadryades, the Tritons, and Nereides. The gods and goddesses lived in society with mortals, took a part in their feasts, their wars, and their amours; Neptune supped with the king of Ethiopia. The Nymphs and Heroes sat down among the Gods. Latona had her altars. The deified Hercules espoused Hebe. These celebrated heroes inhabited the fields and the groves of Elysium.” (Helvétius 1969, vol.1: 67-68 – published in 1773)
With these anthropomorphizations of specific elements of the natural environment represented by that myriad of human-like gods and goddesses localized and fusioned with the unknown element they incarnate, THE REST OF ORDINARY REALITY IS DE-SPIRITUALIZED. They are getting less (dum)mystical in a sense with these multitudes of divinities fooling around everywhere. Faith was in the first phase a dense ocean. It is now simply a pack of creeping roaches with flat material spaces between them. The omnipresent animist dualism passes in a plurality of localized monisms. The spiritual wrapping of the world is cracking like the surface of a dried out dung. The pluralist-monist perception of POLYTHEISM is then already a solid abstraction compared to the precedent stage. Even if the gods and goddesses it produces continue to be projections of anthropomorphic characteristics in natural phenomena, they are clear abstractions. Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872):
“All religions, however positive they may be, rest on abstraction; they are distinguished only in that from which the abstraction is made. Even the Homeric gods, with all their living strength and likeness to man are abstract forms; they have bodies, like men, but bodies from which the limitations and difficulties of the human body are eliminated. The idea of a divine being is essentially an abstracted, distilled idea. It is obvious that this abstraction is no arbitrary one, but is determined by the essential stand-point of man. As he is, as he thinks, so does he make his abstraction.” (Feuerbach 1957: 97 – published in 1841)
Eventually this pantheon of gods and goddesses will see the emergence of one god among them, as their king or leader (Zeus for the Greeks, Jupiter for the Romans, Wotan for the Germanic tribes, Brahman for the Indian sub-continent etc.). An important factor in that evolution is that pantheons are generally eclectically constituted through the contact of several cultures on long periods of time. The mythological intermixings, often consecutive to very acute wars and conflicts between tribes and peoples, lead to forms of competition between faiths. This “my god is better than yours” dynamics is the intellectual breeding ground in which the unavoidable turd of monotheism eventually emerged. Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677) noticed that transition in the so called “holy (shmholy)” Scriptures, when it is referred to
“…the highest and supreme God, or (to use the Hebrew phrase) the God of Gods. Thus in the canticle of Exodus (ch.15 v.11) [Moses] said, “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the Gods?” And Jethro says, (ch.18 v.11), “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the Gods,” as much as to say, “At last I am forced to admit to Moses that Jehovah is greater than all the Gods and his power is without equal.” (Spinoza 1991: 82 – published in 1670)
3) With MONOTHEISM, we eventually move back toward a unique DUALISM: God on one side, the world on the other. But that dualism is qualitatively distinct from the one of the animist phase, since God is “in the sky” rather than everywhere on earth. By eliminating pluralism and monism(s), that new religious sensitivity terminates the movement of de-spiritualization of the material world. One can summarize that secular movement in the nice and polite terms, we owe to Paul Henri Thiry, Baron d’Holbach (1723-1789):
“Such was the fate of man’s imagination in the successive ideas which he either formed to himself, or which he received upon the divinity. The first theology of man was grounded on fear, modeled on ignorance: either afflicted or benefited by the elements, he adored these elements themselves and extended his reverence to every material, coarse object; he afterward rendered his homage to the agents he supposed presiding over these elements; to powerful genii; to inferior genii; to heroes, or to men endowed with great qualities. By dint of reflection, he believed he simplified the things in submitting the entire of nature to a single agent – to a sovereign intelligence – to a spirit – to a universal soul, which puts this nature and its parts in motion. In recurring from cause to cause, man finished by losing sight of every thing, and in this obscurity, in this dark abyss, he placed his God, and formed new chimeras which will afflict him until a knowledge of natural causes undeceives him with regard to those phantoms he had always so stupidly adored.” (D’Holbach 1970: 170 – published in 1770)
With the institution of modern MONOTHEISM, the religious development will now build itself around the characteristics of that unique God. The first monotheist phase is THEISM, the anthropomorphization of an invisible spiritual being, able to act on man, to punish or to reward, to get angry or become compassionate, to say to such prophet to eat shit, to the other to fuck his daughter, to the third one to gut his child, like a real Lord or a genuine Father would do. Highly historicized and anthropomorphic is “the theism which regards the Supreme Being as a personal being. But personal theism conceives God as a personal being, separated from all material things; it excludes from him all development…” (Feuerbach 1957: 97). God is human-like but he does not live, die, or fuck with human beings like the gods of the polytheist mythologies use to do. That situation is due, of course, to his status of spiritual (i.e. non material) being. The three main modern monotheisms were initially THEISMS. Early idealist philosophers (like shitface Plato -I hate the son-of-a-bitch- and his ass-licker cretin Plotinus) were theists as well:
“The religion of Abraham appears to have originally been a theism imagined to reform the superstition of the Chaldeans; the theism of Abraham was corrupted by Moses, who availed himself of it to form the Judaical superstition. Socrates was a theist, who, like Abraham, believed in divine inspirations; his disciple, Plato [Asshole! – P.L.], embellished the theism of his master with the mystical colors which he borrowed from the Egyptian and Chaldean priests, and which he modified himself in his poetical brain. The disciples of [butthead – P.L.] Plato such as Proclus, Jamblichus, Plotinus, Porphyrus &c. were true fanatics plunged in the grossest superstition. In short, the first doctors of Christianity were Platonists, who combined the Judaical superstition, reformed by the Apostles or by Jesus, with Platonism. Many people have looked upon Jesus as the true theist, whose religion has been by degrees corrupted. Indeed in the books which contain the law which is attributed to him, there is no mention either of worship, or of priests, or of sacrifices, or of offerings, or of the greater part of the doctrine of actual Christianity, which has become the most prejudicial of all the superstitions of the earth. Mahomet, in combating the polytheism of his country, was only desirous of bringing back the Arabs to the primitive theism of Abraham and of his son Ishmael, and yet Mahometism is divided into SEVENTY TWO sects. All this proves that theism is always more or less mingled with fanaticism, which sooner or later finishes by producing ravages and misery.” (D’Holbach 1970: 257-258 – published in 1770)
The theist phase is the one with the most sophisticated clerical organization since the God-with-a-will needs flunkies to interpret and dictate to the mass of reluctant and fidgety ass-lickers what that will is. Any society with a highly sophisticated clergy is at the peak of the theist phase. In such cases we are given the opportunity to observe another type of anthropomorphization of the divinity: the god-churchy!
“The priests […] found their religion on revelation, and declare themselves the interpreters of that revelation. When anyone is the interpreter of a law, he changes it at his pleasure, and at length becomes the author of it. From the times the priests charge themselves with announcing the decrees of heaven, they were no longer men, but divinities. It is in them, and not in god, that men believe. They can in his name command the violation of every law contrary to their interest, and the destruction of every authority that rebels against their decisions.” (Helvétius 1969, vol.2: 150 – published in 1773)
In the theist phase, religiosity loses all the dimension of free-minded poeticity it might have had in the polytheist period. Jerk-off and mandolin are forbidden from now on! The ideology of THEISM is not free-minded poetry anymore and not free-minded investigative activity yet. The God-with-a-will accepts neither metaphorical delirius nor rational learning. “What does the priest persecute? Learning. Why? Because a man of learning will not believe without examination; he will see with his own eyes, and is hard to be deceived. The enemies of learning are the bonze, the dervise, the bramin, in short, every priest of every religion” (Helvétius 1969, vol.1: 350). But, from the strict philosophical perspective, it is clear that THEISM was also a mode of logical organization filled with mysticism and irrationality. The movement of abstraction already described perpetuates itself:
“There the Chaldeans searched for the divinity by way of abstraction, not knowing what to affirm about it; and they advanced without demonstrations and syllogisms, and tried to penetrate further by brushing aside obstacles, furrowing the field and clearing the forest, by a forceful denial of every species and predicate whether comprehensible or secret. Plato [Shitface! – P.L.] searched for it by alternately tearing down and building up barriers, so that the inconsistent and floating species would remain as in a network held in a row of definitions; for he considered that superior things exist by participation, similitude and reflection in inferior things, and that inferior things according to their greater degree of dignity and excellence exist by their participation in superior things; and he considered that the truth is in the one and the other according to a certain analogy, order and scale in which the lowest degree of the superior order joins the highest degree in the inferior order. In this way, by traversing the intermediary degrees, he contributed a progression from the lowest in nature to the highest, a progression from evil to good, from darkness to light, from pure potency to pure act. Even Aristotle boasted of being able to arrive at the desired prey by means of the footprints and vestiges that could be traced when from effect he wished to reascend the cause. However most of the time (and more than all the others who preoccupied themselves in such a chase) he lost the way, hardly knowing how to distinguish between the vestiges.
Finally, some theologians, nurtured in the doctrine of various sects, seek the truth of nature in all its natural and specific forms; and they consider that it is through these forms that the eternal essence specifically and substantially perpetuate the everlasting generation and mutation of things called into existence by those who create and build them…” (Bruno 1964c: 224 – published between 1583 and 1585)
At a certain moment of its development (namely in the early Middle-Age, as far as good old rotten western culture is concerned) the main problem of theist theology has been to perpetuate the belief in a God in socio-historical contexts more and more de-spiritualized by the progress of techniques and knowledge. The theist God became more and more abstract and, in the purpose of imposing faith over reason, delirius over reflection, stupidity over intelligence, hot-dog over salad, theologists worked to make of that supreme being a total challenge for the understanding. One of the main constituents of that strategy of irrationalist ontology of God was the use of incompatible characteristics in the definition of his essence:
“”Ut sic intelligamus Deum, si possumus, quantum possumus, sine qualitate bonum, sine quantitate magnum, sine indigentia creatorem, sine situ praesidentem, sine loco ubique totum, sine tempore semp itenum”. (“We must understand God, if we can and in so far as we can, as being good without quality, as being great without quantity, as being creator without necessity, as presiding without throne, as being everywhere without space, as being eternal without time”.)” (Saint Augustine (354-430) quoted in Plekhanov 1967: 11)
4) The last step in abstracting the supreme being leads to DEISM i.e. the elimination of all the anthropomorphic powers assigned to god within faiths such as the three main monotheisms. That movement seems to start with the disparition of tyrannical will in the supreme being. The tyrannical figure remains sometimes under the form of a “devil” (which is often nothing other than a former god trashed in the abstracting process). Helvétius (1970: 257, footnote) mentions the following ethnological curiosity: “In the city of Bartam, the inhabitants offered their first fruits to the evil spirit, and nothing to the great Deity, who, they say, is good, and stands in no need of these offerings”. It is clear that in such an intermediary situation, the tyrannical anthropomorphic god is getting replaced in the supreme position by a more abstract “good” entity toward which no religious fuss and servile butt-kissing is required. When such a movement of abstraction of the deity is totally completed, we reach DEISM: God is “there”, it determines and created the world but does not act anymore as a FORCE on or within that world.
“One is a theist if one supposes that this transcendent force is nevertheless immanent after some fashion in what there is, continuing to affect it one way or another. If, on the other hand, one holds the force to be strictly transcendental, and excludes it from the world once made, then one is a deist.” (Nkrumah 1964: 8-9)
Consequently, in the deist vision, God has no human characteristic such as pity or anger. It is not a father or a lord since it does not have a sex or any human characteristic whatsoever. It does not dictate orders anymore. We passed from EAT SHIT to SHIT HAPPENS, so to say!. The god is rather some form of fly-floating spiritual entity, calmly and silently constituting the inner structure of existence. We cannot talk to it through prayer and the notion of “act of God” becomes meaningless. Consequently, the connection of the believer to it is not to be mediated by any body of priests whatsoever. The churchies are considered meaningless parasitic defenders of an obsolete cult by DEISM. Helvétius describes the consequences of the transition from theism to deism on priesthood as follows:
“When it is left to God to take his own vengeance and to punish heretics; and the inhabitants of the earth do not arrogate to themselves the right of judging offenses against heaven; in short, when the precept of toleration becomes a precept of public instruction, the priesthood having no longer any pretense for persecuting mankind, fomenting the people to rebel, and usurping the temporal power, their ambition will be extinct. Then, divested of their ferocity, they will no longer curse their sovereigns, nor arm a Ravaillac, nor open the gates of heaven to regicides.” (Helvétius 1969, vol.2: 383)
God being, in the deist view, independent from any clergy falsely interpreting its “reality”, the knowledge we have of it is private, undirect and unclear. Then a very difficult scholastic problem appears in the intellectual representations of deist believers, specially when arguing with theists: WITHOUT ANY POWERFUL CLERGY TO BACK THEIR VIEWS AND KICK THEIR ENEMIES ASSES, DEISTS HAVE TO PROVIDE A CONVINCING EXPLANATION FOR ALL THE ANTHROPOMORPHIC CHARACTERISTICS GIVEN TO THE GOD OF THE THEIST PHASE IN SACRED TEXTS THEY USUALLY STILL ACKNOWLEDGE. The deist philosopher Spinoza is the champion in that type of scholastic bullshit: to him the supreme being simply had the “cleverness” to make itself understandable to the narrow mental representations of the human pygmies it was inspiring:
“It is therefore by no means surprising that God adapted himself to the imagination and preconceived beliefs of the prophets, and that the faithful have entertained very diverse ideas about God […]. And it is again not at all surprising that the sacred books frequently speak so inexactly about God, attributing to him hands, feet, eyes, ears, mind movement, and even emotions such as jealousy, pity, and so forth, and depicting him as a judge sitting on a royal throne in heaven, with Christ on his right hand. For they are speaking in accordance with the understanding of the common people, in whom Scripture seek to inculcate obedience, not learning.” (Spinoza 1991: 218 – published in 1670)
That elitist conception of the propagation of “faith” hides its internal contradictions with difficulties. Struggling to ground the credibility of the deist spiritual non-anthropomorphic supreme being, Spinoza is forced, within the implacable rationalist logic of his, which is tearing apart the consistency of his scholastics, to say things that discredit the very old judeo-christian religious tradition and that we could translate more clearly in the following terms: theists are mere morons!
“All who have any smattering of education know that God does not have a right hand or a left hand, that he neither move or is at rest, nor is he in any particular place, but is absolutely infinite, and contains within himself all perfections. These truths, I say, are known by those whose judgment is formed from the perceptions of pure intellect, and not from the way the imagination is affected by their outward senses. This latter is the case with the masses, who therefore imagine God as corporeal, holding royal sway from his throne in the vault of heaven above the stars – which they believe to be at not great distance from the earth.” (Spinoza 1991: 136 – published in 1670)
Any deist reading the Talmud, Bible or Coran is shocked by how gross and stinkily human-like the theist god can be. DEISM rejects that dimension and tries at the same time to stay within the standard monotheist culture. A delicate gig to perform. The major intellectual crisis in religious representations that constitutes the passage from THEISM to DEISM makes of the new supreme being a very puzzling entity to conceptualize. The crucial question of its relationship to humankind becomes suddenly a highly complicated problem. If God has no contact whatsoever with us, how the fuck can we even know its existence… or trust that it exists? The republican Quaker Thomas Paine (1737-1809), described the God of DEISM in the following terms:
“We can know God only through his works. We cannot have a conception of any one attribute but by following some principle that leads to it. We have only a confused idea of his power, if we have not the means of comprehending something of its immensity. We can have no idea of his wisdom, but by knowing the order and manner in which it acts. The principles of sciences lead to this knowledge; for the Creator of man is the Creator of science; and it is through that medium that man can see God, as it were, face to face.” (Paine 1984: 187 – published in 1794)
“We can know God only through his works”. It is the initial clock-ticker of Newton, the “Dieu” of Voltaire, the Supreme Being of the Free-Masonry, the quaking source of the Quakers. The belief in the possibility for God and Human beings to talk directly to each other like Jack and Jill on the orchard’s hill is short-circuited by DEISM. As a corollary, deism ends up seeing explicitly the traditional theology of the three main monotheisms as irrational anthropomorphic and immoral superstitions:
“But the Christian story of God the Father putting his son to death, or employing people to do it (for that is the plain language of the story) cannot be told by a parent to a child; and to tell him that it was done to make mankind happier and better is making the story still worse – as if mankind could be improved by the example of murder; and to tell him that all this is a mystery is only making an excuse for the incredibility of it.
How different is this to the pure and simple profession of Deism! The true Deist has but one Deity, and his religion consists in contemplating the power, wisdom, and benignity of the Deity in his works, and in endeavoring to imitate him in everything moral, scientifical, and mechanical.” (Paine 1984: 51 – published in 1794)
DEISM eventually scraps all the endlessly tangled folk-lore of the Talmud/Bible/Coran. It is simpler because it is more abstracted from life. The fart is beginning to seriously fade away with DEISM. With the emergence of DEISM, theology, the “science of god” entered a major “epistemological” crisis. In the strict philosophical sphere, Spinoza was definitely the first major deist thinker. At the beginning of the personal reign of the very Catholic Louis XIV, bringing the thought of Descartes to its logical consequences, Spinoza wrote:
“Although theology declares that God accomplishes many acts through his good pleasure and in order to display his power to many, however, since those things that depend solely on his good pleasure are not known except by divine revelation, they must not be admitted in the Philosophy where only what Reason dictates is investigated, to avoid confusion between Philosophy and Theology.” (Spinoza 1961: 82 – written in 1663)
Slyly using the strategy of splitting a theist theology from a deist philosophy, Spinoza puts God under the lens of rational investigation, as he would do with a vulgar squashed fly. The real issue at stake is the destruction of god’s last connection with day-to-day reality: its kit of human-like “intellectual” or “psychological” characteristics.
“Further, I would have you observe, that, while we speak philosophically, we ought not to employ theological phrases. For, since theology frequently, and not unwisely, represents God as a perfect man, it is often expedient in theology to say, that God desires a given thing, that he is angry at the actions of the wicked, and delights in those of the good. But in philosophy, when we clearly perceive that the attributes which make men perfect can as ill be ascribed and assigned to God, as the attributes which go to make perfect the elephant and the ass can be ascribed to man; here I say these and similar phrases have no place, nor can we employ them without causing extreme confusion in our conceptions. Hence, in the language of philosophy, it cannot be said that God desires anything of any man, or that anything is displeasing or pleasing to him: all these are human qualities and have no place in God.” (Spinoza 1955: 347 – letter written to Blyenberg in 1665)
5) With the DEISM of Spinoza (who got flushed out of his synagogue in 1656 for “heretism”, and was constantly hassled afterward by the christians, who hated the force of his rationality in the destruction of THEISM), we are on the straight path leading to ATHEISM (No/god): God is being slowly removed from reality. At the deist stage, it lost one of its crucial characteristics: OMNIPOTENCE (he cannot say “fuck your daughter” or “gut your child” anymore, remember). That shift is ancient. One can quote as an example of it the two successive names given to God in Jewish faith. In the very old texts, it is called El, or Eloah “which signifies nothing other than ‘powerful'” (Spinoza 1991: 216). Later, it is “quoted” in the following terms: “And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob as El Sadai, but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them.” (quoted in Spinoza 1991: 216). That second name, Jehovah, “is to be found to indicate the absolute essence of God, as unrelated to created things.” (Spinoza 1991: 216). This is already the God of DEISM: we shifted from the “powerful” to the “UNRELATED spiritual essence of existence”. Not acting on the world anymore, God is OBJECTIVELY POWERLESS (“shit happens”, remember). It is just “there”. The only characteristic remaining (the last one to loose) is actually that OMNIPRESENCE. In deist view, God’s “help” is then only and strictly the manifestations of that “omnipresence”. It is around that last characteristic that Spinoza shaped his deist ontology of God:
“… I wish to explain briefly what I shall hereafter mean by God’s direction, by God’s help, external and internal, by God’s calling, and, finally, by fortune. By God’s direction I mean the fixed and immutable order of Nature, or chain of natural events: for I have said before, and have already shown elsewhere, that the universal laws of nature according to which all things happen and are determined are nothing but God’s eternal decrees, which always involve eternal truth and necessity. So it is the same thing whether we say that all things happen according to natures laws or that they are regulated by God’s decree and direction. Again, since the power of Nature in its entirety is nothing other than the power of God through which alone all things happen and are determined, it follows that whatever man – who is also part of Nature – acquires for himself to help to preserve his own being, or Whatever nature provides for him without any effort on his part, all this is provided for him solely by the divine power, acting either through human nature or externally to human nature. Therefore whatever human nature can effect solely by its own power to preserve its own being can rightly be called God’s internal help, and whatever falls to man’s advantage from the power of external causes can rightly be called God’s external help. And from this, too, can readily be deduced what can be meant by God’s choosing, for since no one act except by the predetermined order of Nature – that is, from God’s eternal direction and decree – it follows that no one chooses a way of life for himself or accomplishes anything except by the special vocation of God, who has chosen one man before others for a particular work or a particular way of life. Finally, by fortune I mean simply God’s direction in so far as he directs human affairs through causes that are external and unforeseen.” (Spinoza 1991: 89-90)
In other terms, Bozo, God is nothing other than existence itself! The gnoseological consequences of the Spinozist deist option are along the same line:
“… we acquire a greater and more perfect knowledge of God as we gain more knowledge of natural phenomena. To put it another way, since the knowledge of an effect through its cause i[s] nothing other than the knowledge of a property of that cause, the greater our knowledge of natural phenomena, the more perfect is our knowledge of God’s essence, which is the cause of all things.” (Spinoza 1991: 103)
In other terms, Bozo, to know God is nothing other than to know existence itself! The Christian theist, Henri de Oldenburg (1620-1677), saw clearly the ultimate atheist consequences of the pure and systematic deist definition given by Spinoza to the concept of God, ontologically and gnoseologically. Oldenburg to Spinoza:
“Do you clearly and indisputably understand solely from the definition you have given of God, that such a Being exists? For my part, when I reflect that definitions contain only the conceptions formed by our minds, and that our mind forms many conceptions of things which do not exist, and is very fertile in multiplying and amplifying what it has conceived, I do not yet see, that from the conception I have of God I can infer God’s existence. I am able by a mental combination of all the perfections I perceive in men, in animals, in vegetables, in minerals, &c., to conceive and to form an idea of some single substance uniting in itself all such excellences indefinitely; it may thus figure forth for itself a most perfect and excellent Being, but there would be no reason thence to conclude that such a Being actually exists.” (Spinoza 1955: 280 – letter written to Spinoza by Oldenburg in 1661)
In a sort of ultimate phantasmagoric movement out of dualism, God vanishes in a mish mash of abstract characteristics that makes of it a sort of subjective mode of conceptualizing the totality of the existing universe. In nominalist terms we could say that “God” is just another NAME given to the substance of existence. The so-called OMNIPRESENCE of God means that “all” is God. This explains the origin of the name of the ultimate hyper-monist deviation of DEISM: PANTHEISM (All/God). No faith or mystic in the traditional sense can be grounded in such a concept anymore. we passed from SHIT HAPPENS to ALL IS SHIT. Well, try to argue consistently that the integrality of reality is grounded on a deeply shitty ontological foundation, and you will eventually be answered: WHAT YOU CALL SHIT I SIMPLY CALL EXISTENCE (Oldenburg to Spinoza!) Religion as a human mode of “interaction” with God is then fatally doomed. God reaches a level of abstraction that makes of it the non existent. The fart finally fades away… such are the truths! “The arms of fanaticism may destroy those who support these truths, but they will never destroy the truths themselves” (La Mettrie 1988). God is a non existing lunacy and Religion, as a tradition, is a slowly rotting corpse.
If we summarize the intellectual phases of the religious putrefaction, aged each of them by hundreds of years, we see that animism and polytheism are the VITALIST steps, the two varieties of monotheism (theism and deism) are the OBJECTIVE IDEALIST steps, and that the natural final step, through the ultimate phantasmagoric smoke curtain of PANTHEISM, is ATHEISM. Constantly swinging between pluralism/monism and dualism, religious development is nothing other than the fade out of idealist introjection, i.e. the slow de-objectivization of (our own subjective) spirit. “The course of religious development which has been generally indicated consists specifically in this, that man abstracts more and more from God, and attributes more and more to himself.” (Feuerbach 1957: 31).
Presently, in 21st century North America, we are still in the midst of the OBJECTIVE IDEALIST step. Whatever your specific confession can be (if, of course, you are the type of looser who still have any), it is quite likely that you are a monotheist, and most interestingly, that YOU ARE PROBABLY ALREADY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DEIST PHASE WITHOUT HAVING REALLY REALIZED IT. Ask yourself a simple question. Do you kneel at night by your bed, praying to God with the ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that that son of a bitch hears you and will (or will not, if He is angry because you fingered your anal crack or ate a hamburger on a Friday) do something about what you ask for? To be a genuine theist (and consequently an authentic traditional Jewish/Christian/Muslim) this is what you should actually spontaneously do. That type of “interactive” spirituality was possibly the one of your great grand parents or grand parents. It is not yours anymore. That is a flat fact, even if you are still moron enough to “pray God” in a form or another of traditionalist lip service. Diderot’s character Jacques the Fatalist is a deist, without exactly realizing it. He is also, as his nickname suggests, believing in the existence of a fully pre-organized destiny. For him, God is the author of a “Great Scroll” slowly unrolling in the sky, and on which all our destinies are written once and for all. Jacques does not realize yet that his religious views are actually the one of DEISM: he still prays as if his God was hearing him, like in the old theist phase. But Jacques the Fatalist’s prayer is actually the purest deist statement. It goes as follows:
“Here Jacques stopped talking and his master asked him: ‘What are you thinking about, what are you doing?’
JACQUES: I am saying my prayer.
MASTER: Do you pray?
MASTER: And what do you say?
JACQUES: I say: ‘Thou who mad’st the Great Scroll, whatever Thou art, Thou whose finger has traced the Writing Up Above, Thou hast known for all time what I needed, Thy will be done. Amen.’
MASTER: Don’t you think you would do just as well if you shut up?
JACQUES: Perhaps yes, perhaps no. I pray on the off-chance, and no matter what might happen to me I would neither rejoice nor complain if I could keep control of myself.” (Diderot 1986: 154-155 – published in 1796)
Lots of modern “believers” are actual varieties of Jacques the Fatalist. Do you see the notion of direct interactive prayer and the type of religiosity associated to it as dopey, childish and old-fashioned? Or is the only type of “prayer” you formulate unavoidably sounds like Jacques the Fatalist’s prayer and brings you to “theological” conclusions similar to the ones formulated by his master? (namely: what is the difference between eructing such a statement and shutting your stupid slot?) Furthermore, do you reject all types of cults and preachers for their dishonesty and the falsity of the “prayer” they are supposed to convey to God on your behalf? Do you then rather go directly, privately and in all simplicity for a pure Supreme Being creator and incarnator of the universe? That is it. You are already at step 4): DEISM. Believers reading this text are mainly in that situation: MONOTHEISTS (polytheism or animism is nothing other than an ethnological curiosity to them), they claim themselves as OFFICIALLY THEISTS (because they affiliate themselves to one of the traditional theist religions… slowly sliding themselves in the direction of DEISM, as collective beliefs) but ACTUALLY AND CONCRETELY DEISTS, since god is absent from their day-to-day life, they do not talk to it, they see it just as some distant non-human abstraction. In a word, they do not give a fuck about it.
Many of my readers are also already at step 5): ATHEISM. They are then natural philosophical adversaries of objective idealism under all its forms, including the crappy religious one.
“Indeed, what is an atheist? He is a man who destroys chimeras prejudicial to the human species, in order to reconduct men back to nature, to experience, and to reason. He is a thinker, who, having meditated upon matter, its energy, its properties, and its modes of acting, has no occasion, in order to explain the phenomena of the universe, and the operations of nature, to invent ideal powers, imaginary intelligences, beings of the imagination, who, far from making him understand this nature better, do not more than render it capricious, inexplicable, unintelligible, and useless to the happiness of mankind.” (D’Holbach 1970: 300 – published in 1770)
Atheists are not noisy people, but they have been “out there” for centuries. In the second half of 18th century, an obscure encyclopedist by the name of Deleyre already described the foundations of the peace of mind of atheists:
“FANATICISM has done much more harm to the world than impiety. What do impious people claim? To free themselves of a yoke, while FANATICS want to extend their chains over all the earth. Internal zealomania! Have you ever seen sects of unbelievers gather into mobs and march with weapons against the Divinity?” (Deleyre in Diderot et Alii 1967: 106-107 – published between 1750 and 1765)
That is why believers can kiss the ass of atheists. Religion being doomed, why do we even bother talking about it. Well, the why-bother-then gig around religion is as old as old uncle Karl with his OPIUM OF THE PEOPLE (in modern English we would call it: THE VALIUM OF THE TRAMP) development. Here, for the pure joy of it, is that historical fragment, written 170 years ago:
“For Germany, the critique of religion is essentially completed; and the critique of religion is the prerequisite of every critique.
Error in its profane form of existence is compromised once its celestial ORATIO PRO ARIS ET FOCIS [DISCOURSE IN DEFENSE OF ALTARS AND HOMES – P.L.] has been refuted. Man, who has found only his own reflection in the fantastic reality of heaven, where he sought a supernatural being, will no longer be disposed to find only the semblance of himself, only a non human being, here where he seeks and must seek his true reality.
The foundation of irreligious criticism is this: man makes religion; religion does not make man. Religion is, in fact, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet gained himself or has lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man, the state, society. This state, this society, produce religion, which is an inverted world consciousness, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritualistic POINT D’HONNEUR, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human being because the human being has attained no true reality. Thus, the struggle against religion is indirectly the struggle against that world of which religion is the spiritual aroma.
The wretchedness of religion is at once an expression of and a protest against real wretchedness. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is a demand for their true happiness. The call to abandon illusions about their condition is the call to abandon a condition which requires illusions. Thus, the critique of religion is the critique in embryo of the vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
Criticism has plucked the imaginary flower from the chain, not so that man shall bear the chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall cast off the chain and gather the living flower. The critique of religion disillusions man so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality as a man who has lost his illusions and regained his reason, so that he will revolve about himself as his own true sun. Religion is only the illusory sun about which man revolves so long as he does not revolve about himself.
It is the task of history, therefore, once the other-world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of this world. It is above all the task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, to unmask human self-alienation in its secular forms, once its sacred form has been unmasked. Thus the critique of heaven is transformed into the critique of the earth, the critique of religion into the critique of law, the critique of theology into the critique of politics. (Marx 1970: 131-132 – published in 1844)
Like it or not, the critique of religion is over. The present text is a pure exercise of self-indulgent (e)sc(h)atological shit disturbing. God-Ass-Lickers and Mother-Mary-Fuckers can sit on their religiosity and spin like the meaningless humming tops they are. Religion has this in common with the previous millennium: it is doomed…
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