The Revolution Betrayed

By Terry Eagleton

Apart from the signal instance of Stalinism, it's hard to think of a historical movement which has more squalidly betrayed its own revolutionary origins [than Christianity]. Christianity long ago shifted from the side of the poor and dispossessed to that of the rich and aggressive. The liberal establishment really has nothing whatsoever to fear from it and everything to gain. For the most part, it's become the creed of the suburban well-to-do, not the astonishing promise offered to the rifraff and undercover anti-colonial militants with whom Jesus himself hung out. The suburbanite response to the anawim, a term which can be roughly translated into American English as 'loser,' is for the most part to flush them off the streets.

This brand of piety is horrified by the sight of the female breast, but considerably less appalled by the obscene inequalities between rich and poor. It laments the death of a fetus, but is apparently undisturbed by the burning to death of children in Iraq or Afghanistan in the name of U.S. global dominion. By and large, it worships a God fashioned blasphemously in its own image -- a clean-shaven, short-haired, gun-toting, sexually obsessed God with a special regard for that ontologically privileged piece of the globe just south of Canada and just north of Mexico, rather than the Yahweh who is homeless, faceless, stateless, and imageless, who prods his people out of their comfortable settlement into the tractless terrors of the desert, and who brusquely informs them that their burnt offerings stink in his nostrils...Far from refusing to conform to the powers of this world, Christianity has become the nauseating cant of lying politicians, corrupt bankers, and fanatical neo-cons, as well as an immensely profitable industry in its own right...

The Christian church has tortured and disemboweled in the name of Jesus, gagging dissent and burning its critics alive. It has been oily, santimonious, brutally oppressive, and vilely bigoted. Morality for this brand of belief is a matter of the bedroom rather than the boardroom. It supports murderous dictatorships in the name of God, views both criticism and pessimism as unpatriotic, and imagines that being a Christian means maintaining a glazed grin, a substantial bank balance, and a mouthful of pious platitudes. It denounces terrorism, but excludes from its strictures such kidnapping, torturing, murdering outfits as the CIA...

This brand of faith fails to see that the only cure for terrorism is justice. It also fails to grasp to what extent the hideous, disfigured thing clamoring at its gates is its own monstrous creation. It is unable to acknowledge this thing of darkness as in part its own, unable to find its own reflection in its distorted visage...It is hard to avoid the feeling that a God as bright, resourceful, and imaginative as the one that might just possibly exist could not have hit on some more agreeable way of saving the world than religion.

I am talking, then, about the distinction between what seems to me a scriptural and an ideological kind of Christian faith -- a distinction which can never simply be assumed but must be interminably argued. One name for this thankless exercise is what Nietzsche, who held that churches were the tombs and sepulchres of God, called in Kierkegaardian phrase saving Christianity from Christendom. Any preaching of the Gospel which fails to constitute a scandal and affront to the political state is in my view effectively worthless. It is not a project which at present holds out much promise of success.

(See more excerpts: Einstein on God and the Good Life; Jung’s Observation about People; Rilke’s Imaginary Life Journey; Adorno on Modern Human Relations.)

A Criticism Of Social Scientists

By C. Wright Mills

Several men in the social studies now enjoy enormous reputations, but have not produced any enormous books, intellectually speaking, or in fact any contributions of note to the substantive knowledge of our time. Their academic reputations rest, quite largely, upon their academic power: they are members of the committee; they are on the directing board; they can get you the job, the trip, the research grant. They are a strange new kind of bureaucrat. They are executives of the mind, public relations men among foundations and universities for their fields. For them, the memorandum is replacing the book. They could set up a research project or even a school, but I would be surprised if, now after twenty years of research and teaching and observing and thinking, they could produce a book that told you what they thought was going on in the world, what they thought were the major problems for men of this historical epoch; and I feel sure that they would be embarrassed if you earnestly asked them to suggest what ought to be done about it and by whom. For the span of time in which The Scientists say they think of their work is a billion man-hours of labor. And in the meantime we should not expect much substantive knowledge; first there must be methodological inquiries into methods and inquiry.

Philosophical has attracted the attention of many of the world’s elite institutions, from Cambridge University and the Aspen Institute to Stanford University and the European Graduate School. Several of the site's articles have turned up on college course syllabi in the fields of media studies, rhetoric, and logic.

Philosophical has attracted the attention of many of the world’s elite institutions, from Cambridge University and the Aspen Institute to Stanford University and the European Graduate School. Several of the site's articles have turned up on college course syllabi in the fields of media studies, rhetoric, and logic.

The website has been mentioned in various print and electronic media, including The Huffington Post, Washington Post, and Discover Magazine.


Situated Identities

In his acclaimed work The Lucifer Effect, the psychologist Philip Zimbardo offers this observation on the nature of identity formation:

Our personal identities are socially situated. We are where we live, eat, work, and make love. It is possible to predict a wide range of your attitudes and behavior from knowing any combination of “status” factors – your ethnicity, social class, education, and religion and where you live – more accurately than by knowing your personality traits.

Our sense of identity is in large measure conferred on us by others in the ways they treat or mistreat us, recognize or ignore us, praise us or punish us. Some people make us timid and shy; others elicit our sex appeal and dominance. In some groups we are made leaders, while in others we are reduced to being followers. We come to live up to or down to the expectations others have of us. The expectations of others often become self-fulfilling prophecies. Without realizing it, we often behave in ways that confirm the beliefs others have about us. Those subjective beliefs can create new realities for us. We often become who other people think we are, in their eyes and in our behavior.

Subject though human beings are to the pressures of groups, to the molding capabilities of culture, and to the Weltanschauung of time and place, they nevertheless retain some power of transcendence.

There is something in us which knows that the verdict of others is not necessarily ‘true’ or ‘right,’ that appearances can conceal or distort as much as they reveal, that ‘what is’ is not necessarily ‘what ought to be.’ An identity can be imbued as much by this spirit of questioning and opposition as it is by any tendency to conform or assimilate.

To call one’s society into question, to stand apart from any prevailing formation, to imagine a better and more decent life, is to some extent to transcend the moment of one’s existence. Another way to put this is to say, with Whitman, that ours is a life “both in and out of the game”: we are situated in a historical moment, fated to live out our life in a particular culture, but through it all we have one eye on the eternal, can see above or beyond it all or into the distance.