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Katharine Sarah Moody

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Research Associate in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Liverpool, working on the Philosophy and Religious Practices Network ( My research centres on the relationship between continental philosophy, radical theology and lived religion, and especially between John D. Caputo, Jacques Derrida, Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek, and emerging Christianity. Get in touch with me via Twitter @KSMoody and follow the work I'm doing with the Philosophy and Religious Practices Network via @PhilRelPractice

    Monday, October 22, 2012 Giving Up God For Lent

    On the back of my Greenbelt presentation this year, “Giving Up God for Lent: A New Kind of Christian is A New Kind of Atheist”, I’ve been contacted by Third Way Magazine to write a short piece about Atheism for Lent for their Jan/Feb 2013 issue. I’m very excited about this, and more than a little nervous, since I’m more used to academic than journalistic writing styles and I’m not particularly familiar with the magazine’s audience. Still, I’ve had some useful suggestions from the Features editor at Third Way and hopefully the finished piece will inspire readers. 

    Also, my husband (Simeon Wallis) and I are hoping to pitch an anthology for Atheism for Lent to some popular Christian publishers in the next little while. It’ll include excerpts from philosophers, theologians and researchers of religion from modern atheists (like Freud, Marx and Nietzsche), new atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, etc), secular philosophical interpretations of Christianity (from figures like Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizek) to what I call the a/theism of people like Jack Caputo. Fingers crossed that we can get the finished manuscript out in time for Lent 2014. 

    — 1 year ago

    #Articles by me  #John D. Caputo  #Sigmund Freud  #a/theism  #alain badiou  #atheism  #atheism for lent  #books by me  #christopher hitchens  #friedrich nietzsche  #greenbelt  #karl marx  #lent  #richard dawkins  #slavoj zizek  #third way magazine  #atheism for lent book  #articles by me 
    Saturday, March 31, 2012 Atheism for Lent: Religion as A/Theism (Peter Rollins 4)

    While the (more traditional) strands of negative theology in Pete Rollins’ first publication, How (Not) to Speak of God, form a type of ‘believing in God while remaining dubious about what one believes about God’ (p.26), more radical implications can be drawn, since there can be not just doubt about ‘who or what God is’ but, further, ‘doubt about if God is’ (interview with Pete for my PhD thesis).

    Rollins’ second book, The Fidelity of Betrayal, follows the deconstructive theology of Derridean philosopher John D. Caputo (see here, here and here) to make a distinction between, on the one hand, the name and being of God and, on the other, the event of God (see Caputo’s The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event). This distinction is made in order suggest a betrayal of religious beliefs and practices that emphasise the existence of God in fidelity to those that encourage the transformative event of God.

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    — 2 years ago with 1 note

    #a/theism  #absence  #atheism  #atheism for lent  #derren brown  #event  #john d. caputo  #karl marx  #negative theology  #peter rollins  #ricky gervais  #sigmund freud  #friedrich nietzsche 
    Thursday, March 29, 2012 Atheism for Lent: Religion as A/Theism (Peter Rollins 2)

    Examining their theories of religion in the “Atheism for Lent” Course, we have seen that for Freud religion is primarily ‘ontological weakness seeking consolation;’ for Marx it is primarily ‘sociological power seeking legitimation;’ and for Nietzsche it is primarily ‘sociological weakness seeking revenge’ (Merold Westphal, Suspicion and Faith, p.229).

    But perhaps it is also possible for a hermeneutic of suspicion to interpret these critics’ sceptical atheism similarly? Perhaps atheism is also wish-fulfilment? Does atheism also function as an oppressive ideology? Does it also operate within slave morality?

    The claim that atheism – the “new atheism” of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, etc. in particular – is also a form of religious (i.e. dogmatic) belief system is often made in Christian rebuttals of atheist critiques of religion. But perhaps atheism and religion are alike in more radical ways than this.

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    — 2 years ago with 2 notes

    #atheism for lent  #peter rollins  #a/theism  #atheism  #sigmund freud  #karl marx  #friedrich nietzsche  #merold westphal  #ricky gervais  #derren brown  #nigel warburton  #how (not) to speak of god  #dis-courses  #negative theology 
    Saturday, March 24, 2012 Atheism for Lent: Religion as Lie (Ricky Gervais 5)

    The supposition at the heart of Ricky Gervais’ (2009) The Invention of Lying is that religion is so closely linked to story-telling and historical embellishment that it is understood as lying.

    From Scepticism to Suspicion

    In this film, the distinctions made by Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche in their critiques of religion (see here, here and here for “Atheism for Lent” Course material) between appearance and reality, or manifest and latent meanings, becomes that between lies and the truth. But in the world within The Invention of Lying there are no such terms; there are simply “things that are” (the truth) and “things that aren’t” (lies), just “the way things are” and Mark’s new-found ability to say “something that wasn’t”. This language of being or existence denotes Gervais’ scepticism: ‘God doesn’t exist… Hoping that something is true doesn’t make it true’ (Gervais, “Why I’m an Atheist”).

    But Gervais’ suspicion is also apparent in the ways that Mark’s theological inventions function as

    psychological wish-fulfilments (Freud’s critique of religion),

    oppressive ideologies (Marx’s critique of religion), and

    vengeful morality (Nietzsche’s critique of religion).

    Can Gervais’ film help us to understand the critiques of religion by these three great atheists?

    Once framed in the sceptical language of falsehood and lies, is it now possible to more clearly identify the functions that critics suspect religion plays?

    If religion existed in a world where we (like Mark) knew it to be deceitful, which of our religious beliefs and practices could we more readily identify as harmful?

    In other words, if religion is a lie…

    …what happens to my faith?

    — 2 years ago with 2 notes

    #atheism for lent  #atheism  #ricky gervais  #the invention of lying  #sigmund freud  #karl marx  #friedrich nietzsche  #scepticism  #suspicion 
    Monday, March 5, 2012 Atheism for Lent: Religion as Revenge (Nietzsche 1)

    The next set of posts in this Atheism for Lent series focus on Friedrich Nietzsche’s critique of religion as revenge. In many ways, this great atheist critique of religion was one of the hardest to come to terms with for the group with whom I ran this course last year, primarily because Nietzsche’s critique (and especially the death of God) have far-reaching consequences not only for religion, but for morality. What he refers to as ‘the whole of our European morality’ illustrates that we are, he says, still living in the shadow of the death of God.

    The greatest recent event – that “God is dead,” that the belief in the Christian god has become unbelievable – is already beginning to cast its first shadows over Europe. For the few at least, in whose eyes – the suspicion in whose eyes is strong and subtle enough for this spectacle – some sun seems to have set and some ancient and profound trust has been turned into doubt; to them our old world must appear daily more like evening, more mistrustful, stranger, “older.”

    But in the main one may say: The event itself is far too great, too remote from the multitude’s capacity for comprehension even for the tidings of it to be thought of having arrived as yet. Much less may one suppose that many people know as yet what this event really means – and how much must collapse now that this faith has been undermined because it was built upon this faith, propped up by it, grown in it; for example, the whole of our European morality.

    This long plenitude and sequence of breakdown, destruction, ruin, and cataclysm that is now impending – who could guess enough of it today to be compelled to play the teacher and advance proclaimer of this monstrous logic of terror, the prophet of a gloom and an eclipse of the sun whose like has probably never yet occurred on earth?

    Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, from Lee Spinks, Friedrich Neitzsche, p.118.

    Read more
    — 2 years ago with 1 note

    #atheism  #atheism for lent  #friedrich nietzsche  #morality  #suspicion  #values  #genealogy  #merold westphal  #will to power  #sigmund freud  #karl marx 
    Sunday, March 4, 2012 Atheism for Lent: Sunday 2 (Marx)

    Atheism for Lent: Religion as Ideology (Marx 1)

    Atheism for Lent: Religion as Ideology (Marx 2)

    Atheism for Lent: Religion as Ideology (Marx 3)

    Atheism for Lent: Religion as Ideology (Marx 4)

    Atheism for Lent: Religion as Ideology (Marx 5)

    Atheism for Lent: Religion as Ideology (Marx 6)

    Posts on Nietzsche’s critique of religion as revenge start tomorrow.

    — 2 years ago with 1 note

    #atheism  #atheism for lent  #karl marx  #marxism 
    Saturday, March 3, 2012 Atheism for Lent: Religion as Ideology (Marx 6)

    In this final Atheism for Lent post on Marx’s critique of religion as ideology, I raise some questions as to how his work might enable self-reflection about religious belief and faith.

    Because Marx gives to religion ‘an enormous responsibility for the political and economic shape of human life’ (Merold Westphal, Suspicion and Faith, p.165), it is possible, however, to also read in his critique of religion the prospect of religion as a form of social protest. But having introduced early on in his career the possibility of religion as ‘at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering’ (Marx, “Towards a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right,”), Marx himself them ignores it quite completely thereafter.

    His scathing observations of the history of Christian social principles quoted earlier (here) perhaps indicate the main reason for his cynicism, but Karl Mannheim also points to the privatization of religion, when he writes that ‘[t]o live consistently, in the light of Christian brotherly love, in a society which is not organized on the same principle is impossible’ (Ideology and Utopia, pp.194-195). But whilst such pessimism may be a function of his sceptical atheism, Marx’s hermeneutic of suspicion (see the distinction drawn here) provides an opportunity to ask some hard questions of our own faiths.

    Read more
    — 2 years ago with 2 notes

    #atheism for lent  #karl marx  #marxism  #religion  #ideology  #protest  #merold westphal 
    Friday, March 2, 2012 Atheism for Lent: Religion as Ideology (Marx 5)

    Marx has a materialist conception of history, which came to be referred to as his “historical materialism”. Just as suspicion (see post here) is directed at the historical question of the extent to which beliefs self-deceptively hide our own operative motives and not the (sceptic’s) metaphysical question of the “truth” of those beliefs, so Marx’s materialism is not an answer to the metaphysical question of ‘whether mind or matter is the basic stuff of the universe’ but expresses an historical concern to ask about the material relations ‘between economic, political and intellectual factors in social structures and their transformation’ (Merold Westphal, Suspicion and Faith, pp.154-155).

    I mentioned yesterday the “Illusion of Overcoming the World”. Marx’s materialism exposes another illusion of both religion and the state, “The Illusion of Autonomous Origin”, which relates to the conditioned character of religious and political beliefs and practices.

    Marx writes that,

    [t]he ideas of the ruling class [or classes] are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production… The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships.

    Marx, Selected Writings, p.176.

    When we lose sight of the contingent nature of ideas and practices, which according to Marx express the dominant ordering of relationships between classes, we are trapped in The Illusion of Autonomous Origin. We are, in other words, unaware of the way in which ideas and practices are expressions of certain “ideologies”.

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    — 2 years ago with 2 notes

    #karl marx  #atheism for lent  #marxism  #materialism  #ideology  #religion 
    Thursday, March 1, 2012 Atheism for Lent: Religion as Ideology (Marx 4)

    Religion attempts to overcome evil and sin with ‘high-sounding stories’ of love, justice and forgiveness (Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rainbow, Michel Foucault, p.108), just as the state’s narrative of common good will attempts to overcome individual self-interest. And since ‘religion is the archetype of politics’ (Merold Westphal, Suspicion and Faith, p.151), the critique of religion is the presupposition of the critique of the state and of socio-political relations in general.

    Marx, as Merold Westphal summarises, is therefore ‘telling the story of the ways in which religion not only endures but eventually embraces evil’ (p.152).

    Marx writes, clearly bitterly, that

    …[t]he social principles of Christianity justified the slavery of Antiquity, glorified the serfdom of the Middle Ages and equally know, when necessary, how to defend the oppression of the proletariat, although they make a pitiful face over it.

    The social principles of Christianity preach the necessity of a ruling and an oppressed class, and all they have for the latter is the pious wish the former will be charitable.

    The social principles of Christianity transfer the… adjustment of all infamies to heaven and thus justify the further existence of those infamies on earth.

    The social principles of Christianity declare all vile acts of the oppressors against the oppressed to be either the just punishment of original sin and other sins, or trials that the Lord in his infinite wisdom imposes on those redeemed.

    So much for the social principles of Christianity.

    Marx and Engels, On Religion, pp.83-84.

    For Marx, both religion and the state are illusions, then, manifestly professing to overcome, yet latently preserving, current socio-economic divisions and injustices.

    [T]he political illusion consists in the unreality of the community and general will, which is so prominent in political self-consciousness, and in the unrecognized reality of conflict among the classes generated by the division of labour…

    Similarly, the religious illusion consists in the unreality of the happiness it promises and in the unrecognized reality of the class interests at work in ethical-religious and metaphysical-religious ideas.

    Westphal, Suspicion and Faith, p.157.

    For Marx, ‘religion offers an illusory comfort and politics an illusory community’ (p.156), both forming unreal illusions that purport to overcome but actually sustain the real worlds of sin and self-interest.

    Thus they are illustrative of what Westphal calls “The Illusion of Overcoming the World”, to which we shall return tomorrow.

    — 2 years ago with 2 notes

    #atheism for lent  #karl marx  #ideology  #religion  #marxism  #merold westphal 
    Wednesday, February 29, 2012 Atheism for Lent: Religion as Ideology (Marx 3)

    In the opening paragraphs of one of his earliest philosophical essays, Marx writes that ‘[a]s far as Germany is concerned, the criticism of religion is essentially complete, and the criticism of religion is the presupposition of all criticism’ (“Towards a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”). Merold Westphal explains that, here, Marx asserts that the critique of religion offered by philosophers like Feuerbach ‘has gone as far as it can go while concerning itself merely with religion’, and that it must now ‘go on to play its proper role’ (Suspicion and Faith, p.136); namely, as illustrative of the critique of ideology more generally.

    When Marx writes in the same early essay that ‘man has found in the imaginary reality of heaven where he looked for a superman only the reflection of his own self’, he deduces that humanity ‘must seek his true reality’ elsewhere. Since religion is, for Marx, a ‘general theory of the world’, the world’s ‘logic in popular form’, its ‘moral sanction’ and ‘universal basis for consolation and justification’, he concludes that, ‘the struggle against religion is indirectly the struggle against the world whose spiritual aroma [i.e. deodorant] is religion’.

    This is why he writes that the critique of religion presupposes all criticism, since ‘[t]he criticism of religion ends with the doctrine that man is the highest being for man, that is, with the categorical imperative to overthrow all circumstances in which man is humiliated, enslaved, abandoned, and despised’ (Marx, Selected Writings, p.69). 

    This means that the critique of religion must play its proper role in the critique of the world as it is currently socially, politically and economically ordered.

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    — 2 years ago with 1 note

    #atheism for lent  #atheism  #karl marx  #ludwig feuerbach  #merold westaphl  #marxism  #religion  #ideology  #revolution  #society  #individualism 
    Tuesday, February 28, 2012 Atheism for Lent: Religion as Ideology (Marx 2)

    Although this series of Atheism for Lent posts is about religion as ideology, Marx can be said to radicalize Ludwig Feuerbach’s critique of religion.

    Feuerbach’s theory of religion involves the central assertion that religion is a projection – not, as Freud suggests, of humanity’s shameful desires and needs, but of humanity’s own best attributes, ‘that which is worthy of adoration’ (Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, p.12).

    What man praises and approves, that is God to him… Religion is a judgement. The most essential condition in religion – in the idea of the divine being – is accordingly the discrimination of the praiseworthy from the blameworthy, of the perfect from the imperfect (p.97).

    For Feuerbach, then, ‘[m]an first unconsciously and involuntarily creates God in his own image, and after this [it is believed that] God consciously and voluntarily creates man in his own image’ (p.118).

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    — 2 years ago

    #atheism for lent  #karl marx  #ludwig feuerbach  #religion  #ideology  #merold westphal  #hope 
    Monday, February 27, 2012 Atheism for Lent: Religion as Ideology (Marx 1)

    Abridged from Karl Marx, “Towards a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction,” cited in Merold Westphal, Suspicion and Faith, pp.134-140:

    Man has found in the imaginary reality of heaven, where he looked for a superman, only the reflection of his own self. He will therefore no longer be inclined to find only the appearance of himself, the non-man, where he seeks and must seek his true reality… The foundation of irreligious criticism is this: man makes religion, religion does not make man…

    Religious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the feeling of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless circumstances. It is the opium of the people…

    The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusions about their condition is a demand to give up a condition that requires illusions… Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers from the chains not so that man may bear chains without any imagination or comfort, but so that he may throw away the chains and pluck the living flowers…

    It is therefore the task of history, now the truth is no longer in the beyond, to establish the truth of the here and now. The first task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, once the holy form of self-alienation has been discovered, is to discover self-alienation in its unholy forms. The criticism of heaven is thus transformed into the criticism of earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.

    From Merold Westphal, Suspicion and Faith, p.159:

    The idea that our political, legal, economic, moral, religious, and metaphysical theories are deeply conditioned by the world into which they are born, in which they live, and from which they die, especially by the economic class struggles of that world, is expressed by Marx in a single word, “ideology.”

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    — 2 years ago with 1 note

    #atheism  #atheism for lent  #friedrich nietzsche  #karl marx  #marxism  #merold westphal  #religion  #sigmund freud  #ideology