File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0109, message 79

Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001 22:11:32 -0500
Subject: Re: Mystify me!


I think we have established we are substantially in agreement concerning
our fear and loathing of the present regime.  I certainly don't think
you are a reactionary or anything like that.  As I said before, our
politics seem to be fairly close to one another.

Our disagreement, such as it is, revolves around this thing called
religion.  You said at one point we were speaking at cross-purposes and
perhaps that is a good way to describe it.  

I am talking about Islam, Christianity and Judaism.  You are talking
about religion in general.  I am talking about institutions. You are
talking about unverifiable beliefs.  I am talking about politics,
history and sociology.  You are talking about meta-science. 

I feel our whole conversation is not just taking place in different
rooms. It is taking place on different floors.  You have a suite at the
top.  I'm in the basement.

I am not arguing the Catholic Church is bad as you try to imply in your
syllogism.  I am saying the Church as an institution is relying on a
certain social definition of the body and gender that puts it in
conflict with those who advocate greater autonomy and individual
self-determination.  It does so, furthermore, not because it is
fundamentalist, but because it operates with a certain philosophy that
has the organization and the social power to perpetuate its views.  It
is simply not at all your previous example of a couple of guys drinking
beer in a bar and arguing about theology.  If it was, I would agree with
your arguments against mystification.

You also write:

The foundation of religion is faith, not geometric proofs.  It is the
definition of the differend to invoke rules of legitimation for
something that rule it out from the get go.  This scientism-believer
says that religion doesn't follow scientific reason and so they are
undergoing a crisis.  What do they need scientific reason for?

The reason religious institutions need scientific rationality today is
because in a highly technical secular society this kind of reason
carries a high degree of authority.  If religious institutions do not
legitimize themselves in terms of this rationality they begin to lose
both their authority and membership.  Yes, they can ignore this
rationality, but only at the risk of marginalizing themselves.  Look at
the flat-earth society!

To stay with my example of the Catholic Church in America, for example,
I would argue that because its arguments concerning natural law and
apostolic succession are not persuasive to the scientific community and
the general population, the church today certainly seems to be in a
crisis as an institution.  There is currently a shortage of priests,
parochial schools have closed, membership is falling off and a large
number of Catholics routinely ignore the church's teaching on matters
such as contraception and birth control.

This has nothing to do with meta-science.  It has, however, everything
to do with history and the drift of society.  You seem to be arguing for
religion in a kind of very generalized a-historical sense in which the
developments of science and technology have nothing to do with the
insulated narratives of faith teachings.  (It seems at times that your
argument is the following:  Because philosophy cannot make the killer
metaphysical punch to prove God does not exist, the development of
science and technology has no real historical impact on religious

What I would say is that the charisma of technology has historically
blown away the charisma of Monotheism religion over the past two hundred
years. (And remember it hasn't been that long historically since "The
Origin of Species" was published.) This has put these institutions into
a state of crisis.  They have become socially and intellectually
de-legitimized.  As they struggle to regain their authority, they must
engage in mystification because their metaphysical claims have been
historically exploded.  

Would you acknowledge that my historical view and your metaphysical view
are operating at different levels on Jacob's ladder?  (and would you
entertain the view that what I have put forward about the recent history
of religion is not my own personal philosophy of what religion might
become? ie. that I am not necessarily hostile to religion per se or even

Or is this all still more of the devil's terms for you? 



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