File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0109, message 74

Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2001 20:53:28 -0500
Subject: Re: Mystify me!

Matthew wrote:

Only fundamentalists take that story literally and blame women for shame
and evil because God said it was their fault............

Pick your devil term.   I like fundamentalist for mine. What I mean is
that I am willing to be misrepresent fundamentalists in order to achieve
less misrepresentation of religous people in general.


As I see it, our main disagreements are over the use of the term
mystification and the fact that you want to contain the virus within
fundamentalism and not see it spread to infect the rest of religion as a

Consider this, however.  Unless you are operating with a different
definition of fundamentalism that the one currently in use, I don't
think you would describe the institution of the Catholic Church as
fundamentalist.  I think you would agree it would be fairer to describe
it as a broad-based institution which contains some who may be described
as fundamentalist and others who may be described as liberal and

Nonetheless, I think you would agree that, as an institution, the church
has pursued policies that are anti-feminist on a vast array of issues
that include ordination, divorce, contraception, abortion and
ecclesiastical representation.

I don't really think you can get away with merely blaming this on a
bunch of lone gunmen fundamentalists.  The policy of the church is far
too pervasive and structural for that.  

By coincidence, I received my copy of the New York Review of Books
yesterday and there was an article in it by Frederick Crews entitled
"Saving Us from Darwin."  In this article he discusses the plight of
creationism and the extent to which they have been forced to retreat in
their argument because of the power of what Daniel C. Dennett has termed
"Darwin's Dangerous Idea."  Here is a quote from the article:

"the theory's success at every later stage has tipped the explanatory
balance towards some naturalistic account of life's beginning.  So, too,
competitive pressures now form a more plausible framework than divine
action for guessing how the human brain could have acquired
consciousness and facilitated cultural productions, not excepting
religion itself.  It is this march toward successfully explaining the
higher by the lower that renders Darwinian science a threat to
theological dogma of all but the blandest kind."

If I use the term mystification to describe the "religions of the book"
it is not because I want to invoke a devil term, but because I see them
as currently undergoing a crisis of legitimation.  The authority of
scripture comes supposedly from God, but more and more the foundation
for the existence of such a God has been shown to be illusory within the
current scientific framework that provides the basis for all of our
global technology.  

How do church leaders maintain their authority in the face of such
unmasking and how do they react to the growing change in demographics it
has caused? (All of which, I might add, has nothing to do with my own
subjective opinion or a vague penchant for devil terms.)

As Negri and Hardt have indicated, such Fundamentalism is not
traditional at all, but a contemporary reaction and refusal of the
contemporary historical passage to Empire.  Here is what they say about

"they emphasize ijihad, original thought.  Contemporary Islam
radicalisms are indeed primarily based on "original thought" and the
invention of original values and practices, which perhaps echo those of
other periods of revivalism or fundamentalism but are really directed in
reaction to the present social order.  In both case, then, the
fundamentalist "return to tradition" is really a new invention."

In a similar vein, Jerry Falwell appeared on the 700 club and blamed
9/11 on the pagans, abortionists, feminists, homosexuals, the American
Civil Liberties and the People for the American Way. As this great man
of God put it:

"All of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in
their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"

And before you have a knee jerk response to this and exclaim that Jerry
Falwell is merely a fundamentalist, I want you to pause and reflect for
a moment.  

Who are George W. Bush, John Ashcroft and other highly placed officials
in the current United States administration, if not fundamentalists?  Is
your conceptual framework really adequate for explaining what is going
on, after the incident of 9/11?  What role does religion really play
within the current crisis anyway?

Still adapting to changes in my environment,



Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005