The fading of the religions of the axial era…
April 29th, 2018 •
R48G: Toward a new reformation: the exit path from axial era christianity
In Last and First Men we discuss the fact that historical materialists confront a world system still with billions of monotheists far outnumbering their ranks.
The left however produced in many ways one of the concluding episodes of the Reformation in the post-kantian/post-hegelian Feuerbach. This was however an excessively narrow view with, nonetheless, an important challenge to theistic authoritarianism. The outcome of the Reformation produced a strong revolutionary version of Christianity from the proto-communism of the period of Munzer to the revolutionary seed democracy of the Puritans, to the abolitionism of the Quakers. In many ways the form of modern revolution and democracy emerged from radical christian perspectives in the reformation. Then the system rapidly moved beyond the religious mode in the French Revolution as the Reformation found a concluding phase in the realm of kant, hegel and schopenhauer, with Spinoza echoed from the start and a Feuerbachain refoundation in the wake of this set of transformations. The persistence of reformation churches (and catholicism is really the outcome of its own reformation, a far cry from the traditional church of the era of Luther).
The implications are clear: christianity got one tank of gas for a brief renewal in the early modern and then began to move again toward a post-religious secularism. That latter however was confused by its secular humanist and atheist emphasis to become a reductionist view based on scientism and positivism. The system had challenged metaphysics with kant, reinvented god with hegel, and produced a master outlook in the deep insights post-theistic Schopenhauer. Throwing this away for the marxist reductionist positivism seems now like a strategic error. The solution is simple: adopt the whole spectrum in a dialectical feast of reason. This factor of scientism actually fueled a reactionary religious reaction set on a postmodern/antimodern restoration of religious traditionalism. The complexity of modernity is such that its own exemplars cannot understand it.
But the tide of modernity is inexorable. The left is pressured to compromise on the issue of religion and in fact it should do so: it can welcome religious viewpoints to a nonetheless feuerbachian challenge to authoritarian godism by simple tolerance and a new project of religion with outcomes more in tune with the future. The legacy of Christian theology is so flawed this would not be hard to do. A simple solution is that of tolerance, and yet to project a project of study, critique, kantian debriefing, and twin aspects of the study of man’s consciousness and the cosmic questions of source universes and their antinomial aspects. A kantian challenge to metaphysics can help to move beyond the misleading and collapsing ‘faith’ religions to a new consideration of ‘faith’ in a new and more robust mode. These three are not a new religious dogma but, as hegel noted, a signpost as religious dogma graduates to the modern of philosophy.
In Last and First Men, we discussed the ‘virtual church of the Holy Brick’, an ironic or humorous version of a set of religious constructs in motion. We can adopt such a perspective to create a radical post-christian version of the reformation that is a far better produce than the traditional impoverished christian theology whose reign is coming to its ‘running on empty’ point. This can create a flexible set of transitional churches under the flag of radical social action. Whatever traditional legacies the individual brings to radicalizing left deserve close tolerance and an equal challenge to the study of new forms of post-belief.
In a strange sense kant, hegel and schopenhauer are the conclusion to the reformation, next to the radicalism of the Puritans and the abolitionism of the quakers. This can, next to Munzerian Christianity, provide a path beyond the rapid conservatizing of the mainstream protestant movements with their calvinist capitalism and antimodern mindsets.
The theology of christianity is actually a hopeless hodgepodge. Done right it could be vehicle into the future of religion in a secular context.
Some issues: the question of god is not an issue of faith but of antinomial metaphysics. That same is true of questions of soul and free will.
We can easily envisage an ‘atheist’ cristianity (the quotation marks are important!) that challenges the primitive pop theism that came to replace the original visions of an unknown IHVH of the Hebrew prophets. The whole idolatry of theistic superstition was never a successful religious mode at all and can be transcended in a new perspective of the issues of cosmic source, now informed mostly by science, however limited the latter’s reductionist canon.
Despite its historical limitations the legacy of Christianity is easy to upgrade to a radical social vision, and the left while remaining more or less neutral could assist in the generation of a new reformation, one that might also move to inform the transition of Islam to a modernist version…