In an article for the New York Times, Mark Edmundson writes: Late in life — he was in his 80s, in fact — Sigmund Freud got religion...You can read the rest of the article here. I wont say too much about this article, beyond pointing out that it is one of the most creative arguments by omission (the author makes no mention of the account of God and the experience of the sacred as developed in Totem and Taboo, The Future of an Illusion, and Civilization and Its Discontents, and speaks of Freud’s late life “turn”, as if Freud had somehow changed his position on these matters), I’ve ever come across. Note the way the author hints that Freud was undergoing some sort of “death-bed” conversion due to his cancer. The author’s argument is a bit like suggesting that Marx later had a change of heart with respect to capitalism and the bourgeois because he often spoke of the emancipatory potentials of these things. Moreover, he conmpletely ignores the nature of genetic and immanent critique that strives to account for how some phenomena came to be on the basis of immanent devlopment and historical conditions. These sorts of sophistries seem increasingly common… Or perhaps they’ve always been about. It would appear that rightwing media spin has now even entered academia.
I feel that I’ve become such a man of ressentiment towards religion in the last year and I am growing tired of my own rotting stench. In part, I believe this sickness has grown from some exceedingly ugly and frustrating exchanges regarding matters of religion, where rhetoric was overblown and there was little recognition of the legitimacy of certain claims. On the other hand, this obsession results from certain forms of religiousity I witness here in Texas on a daily basis. But finally, there can be no doubt that this sickly obsession is attached to completely unrelated frustrations in my life pertaining to being overworked and other things I won’t go into here. I reflected on all of this over the weekend, while attending a Liberal Catholic Church service in honor of a good friend and colleague who was celebrating his seventh year as the leader of his congregation ((those Liberal Catholics are up to some good things). In so many respects, my experiences with a number of believers has been deeply at odds with the nature of my obsessions. Throughout graduate school, one of my best friends was a Southern Baptist who was home-schooled (I was in his wedding and introduced him to his partner; though were we ancient Greeks I believe the story would have been very different). Although his beliefs changed dramatically throughout his schooling, he never lost his faith, and he was among the most admirable and earnest thinkers I ever met. One of our recent hires here in the philosophy department is a Mormon who is among the most careful, rigorous, and generous thinkers I’ve ever met. I have found my engagement with David of Indiefaith to be highly productive and stimulating, even if we do not ultimately agree on all the issues. Moreover, when Adam and Anthony don’t rhetorically have their heads up their ass and aren’t acting like rabid dogs, I generally admire and appreciate what they have to say and enjoy their company. Even in the case of my fundamentalist coworkers who find it appropriate to make offhand comments when you’re sick like “I’ll pray for you”, or who bring me books showing how Jesus (even in his divinity) can be historically verified, or who make offhand comments discounting global warming because “they already know the way the world will end”, are generally good and upright people (so long as you look like them… I don’t advertise my own views at the office or in the classroom). To add even more odd spin on these issues, I actually enjoy heated discussions about Biblical Hermeneutics. Jeff (the Southern Baptist) and I would argue late into the evening about various points of significance in the Old and New Testament. I have done this with the Liberal Catholic Father– Father Tony –as well (perhaps one is inclined to oblige Father Tony when he’s the one pouring the scotch). These are never questions of the truth or falsity of the text, but always discussions about what models of human life and action these texts propose. Apparently my readings are persuasive enough for Father Tony to even ask me to come lead their Sunday reading group, which I find both flattering and disturbing on a number of levels.
Deleuze once wrote an essay entitled “To Have Done With Judgment” and I believe, in part, it was ressentiment to which he was referring. There is a bit of a paradox here. On the one hand, how does one struggle against reactive forces (as is a necessity). On the other hand, how does one avoid falling into reactive passions oneself when struggling against reactive passions? Such would be, as Nietzsche put it, the subject of a Gay Science or a froliche wissenschaften. Or perhaps the idea that one needs to struggle against anything is the whole rotten assumption… Perhaps, rather, it is a question simply of affirming, producing, and developing. At any rate, for me the question is one of how to excise a putrifying tumor.