Quotable (#213)

Girard in contemporary politics (insightfully explored):

In one of his seminars, Thiel made the political stakes of his concern with scapegoating more explicit, making reference to Occupy Wall Street: “The 99% vs. the 1% is the modern articulation of this classic scapegoating mechanism. It is all minus one versus the one.” The central task of controlling what Girard calls the “victimage mechanism,” for “founders” like him, is to deflect collective violence from themselves. Gawker, on the other hand, seemed to specialize in identifying targets for that violence, or at least for collective online vituperation – and those targets often belonged to the capitalist “founder” class, although many debated whether Gawker at times abandoned its proclaimed commitment to “punching up.” Crushing Gawker was not simply an attack on a particular organ of scapegoating that had offended Thiel, but an attempt to disarm a certain politicization of scapegoating in a digital world given over to it.

(The entire piece is excellent.)

Quotable (#211)

Critical traditionalism:

Today the signification of “Puritan” approximates that of “authoritarian”, but this is an abuse of language. The Puritan, while an almost psychotically punctilious and ruthless rule enforcer, is the opposite of an authority figure: a spiritual outlaw and renegade, a born leveler and enemy of all social orders of rank, an antinomian and anarchist, a sower of discord and force for social disorganization. All of this is hardly the stuff of which secure and stable authority is made. Authority represents the organized whole over the part, the universal over the particular. Puritanism, born of faction and separatism, does the exact opposite. It is, in fact, the historic germ form of the abovementioned secularizing particularism that erodes the universal authority and public truth of religion and finally dissolves its solidity into a gaseous cloud of idiosyncratic personal tastes and opinions held by isolated and disorganized private individuals. Once again, this sort of thing is powerful to tear down existing authority structures – but to build new ones, not so much.

The whole article is impressively done, even if — from an accelerationist perspective, at least — its practical (rather than diagnostic) significance is hard to make out.

Quotable (#185)

John Gray on atheism’s awkward specter:

There can be little doubt that Nietzsche is the most important figure in modern atheism, but you would never know it from reading the current crop of unbelievers, who rarely cite his arguments or even mention him. Today’s atheists cultivate a broad ignorance of the history of the ideas they fervently preach, and there are many reasons why they might prefer that the 19th-century German thinker be consigned to the memory hole. With few exceptions, contemporary atheists are earnest and militant liberals. Awkwardly, Nietzsche pointed out that liberal values derive from Jewish and Christian monotheism, and rejected these values for that very reason. There is no basis — whether in logic or history — for the prevailing notion that atheism and liberalism go together. Illustrating this fact, Nietzsche can only be an embarrassment for atheists today. Worse, they can’t help dimly suspecting they embody precisely the kind of pious freethinker that Nietzsche despised and mocked: loud in their mawkish reverence for humanity, and stridently censorious of any criticism of liberal hopes. …

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Religious Guidance

Francesco Sisci examines the subtleties of Chinese policy on religion in an article at Asia Times Online:

The CCP has made similar pronouncements on this subject in the past. In the latest case, Xi notes the party will have to “guide” religions. However, Xi has tellingly chosen to use a Chinese verb for “guide” for the first time that is fraught with new and subtle meanings. […] Using this verb means the CCP is de facto introducing an entirely new model that will govern its relationship with religious groups. The model tries to blend two elements — conservative and innovative. The party keeps the old role of guidance and management of religious organizations. But it is told to do so by recognizing each religion’s specific characteristics. […] The party will thus manage religious organizations by keeping “politics and religions separate.” This point has been conveyed by using the special verb in its rhetoric. The cryptic word play resembles a similar practice in Catholic scholastic tradition. It is easy for foreign media and other commentators outside China to miss this point — as has often happened in the past several days. …

Religion is — almost by definition — a topic that is highly-charged. Traumatic wars of religion, East and West, still shape the ways it is discussed, while structuring patterns of reciprocal blindness on each side. Sisci understands this with a clarity that is rarely matched, which lends his commentary its exceptional value.

Quotable (#153)

There a lot of excitable feedback circuits to be discovered on the way down the slope. This looks like one:

Analyzing data from a large, worldwide sample, two Chinese psychologists report people whose countries are more involved with wars and similar conflicts experience higher levels of existential fear, which drive them to greater religiosity. […] Previous surveys have found highly religious Americans tend to be more supportive of war, as well as of torturing one’s opponents. This raises a profound and troubling question: Could it be that armed conflict and intense religiosity are in a mutually reinforcing relationship? […] “The relationship between war and religiousness may be bidirectional,” write Hongfei Du and Peilian Chi of the University of Macau. “War strengthens individuals’ religiousness (due to) their worries about war, while fundamental religious beliefs result in violent conflicts and war.”

The Du and Chi paper is here.