Polemic and Question



I’m really tired of people acting as if religion developed for the sole purpose of satisfying humanity’s inherent spiritual needs. As if being spiritual but not religious is a return to our true roots before the oppressive theological dogmatics quashed our openness to transcendence. That position reminds me of Zizek’s favorite description of our postmodern culture’s desire for the good aspects of things minus the dangerous supplement (e.g. coke minus sugar, coffee minus caffeine, beer minus alcohol, and I’d argue spirituality minus religion). This idea that religion’s primary function is to satiate that spiritual desire fails to consider that this sort of transcendentalist stance on spirituality is something that has only been around for the last 200 years. To pretend as if Jesus of Nazareth or Muhammad preached a message that was a-political but focused merely on one’s inner journey with/towards the divine is ridiculous. Recall the Last Temptation of Christ where Judas wants a political revolution, but Jesus desires a revolution of love as a perfect example of the over-spiritualizing (or Gnosticizing) of Christianity. Religion needs more than just spiritual exercises, it also requires community, rituals, narratives, and theology. I would argue that the mystic sects of different religions tends to develop after community and narrative have been established.


In Freud’s The Future of an Illusion he explains religion away as wish-fulfillement. More or less, God is the projected father that never was, and he possesses all of the characteristics we desired him to have. Clayton Crockett said, “As someone who has studied theology and psychoanalytic theory, I struggle with the conflation of theology with idealistic wish-fulfillment…Yes, it is good, yes, mommy and daddy love me and God loves me. Yes, the USA and democracy are good and yes, love and hope and faith are sustained and rewarded now and forever, amen. I want to affirm that too, but I also know better, which means that I know differently, and it seems faithless to disavow that knowledge, which is also an ethical form of knowledge”. This is something that I struggle with as well. My question is to what extent does Christianity not offer you the religion you would ideally wish for? What aspects of Christianity do you wish didn’t exist? Are there any theological doctrines that seems especially suspect once we take Freud’s critique seriously?


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