Let's bite religion
Hello, boys and girls! *slaps thigh*. For your diversion, for your delectation, one thousand words of wank based on a page in the Orange notebook, which is not a pro-Ulster pamphlet. Enjoy x
'One of the most useful things about religion is that it gives you a backbone for moral discussion.' -Barbelith thread, 17th March. What's that I smell?
When George Dubya bypasses another piece of vital human rights legislation in the name of Jesus, it's easy for the liberal left to point and snicker and gingerly dismiss the entire ostensible basis for American foreign policy as fundamentalist nonsense. This, of course, is a dangerous self-indulgence. But the British spiritual self-justification of its international human rights record - polite, amorphous, tentative - has its own quiet terrors.
In last week's Parkinson, Mr Blair stated his opinion that 'God would judge' his actions in Iraq: view the interview here.
Of course, the broadsheets are in uproar. A British Prime Minister, bringing religion into politics? How very...tasteless. How very nineteenth century. The hysterics of the former colonies can be politely indulged for as long as jihad doesn't interrupt the cricket, but really, well, it's all a bit too much, isn't it? Pass the bread basket.
The Guardian and the Independent were, of course, the first to decry this lapse in Blair's previously golden record in keeping religion separate from political discourse, hinting at a Republicanesque political evangelism which, of course, any Guardian reader would no more condone than buy sub-quality foccacia, Not only are the columnists providing the left with pitifully superfluous self-referential moral wank-fodder, they are missing the point. Horrendously, and on two counts.
British politics is terrified of religion; to decry the muddying of the moral waters even in this small degree is certainly nothing new. Unlike our bonkers Stateside cousins, we've seen our country ripped apart by religion, brother fighting brother; there is an unspoken recognition of the human potential to take dangerous and dynamic religious fundamentalism way, way too far, which explains why, despite the varied efforts of the Jesus Army, British evangelism remains tepid and squishy; it explains why the established Anglican church in all its various manifestations is content to lack the visceral mysteries of the Catholic dioceses, the hyperbolic self-promotion of the American protestant denominations; it explains why, to get anywhere in British politics, one can profess only to token religious principles.
And that's the really, really scary part.
What the columnist have missed, of course, is that Blair's appearance on Parkinson was remarkable not the religious moral claims it did make, but for those it didn't. When asked if he prayed to God for guidance on matters of state, Blair quickly claimed that he 'wouldn't like to go into something like that;' even more gobsmacking is Blair's remark that while religious beliefs might colour his politics, "it's best not to take it too far". In the British governing dirigisme, the Christian meme has become the most dangerous form of tokenism; a meme by whose justification our leaders can abdicate measure of socio-political responsibility - if 'God will judge' Blair's decisions over Iraq, he certainly needn't bother judging himself- a meme whose discourses shape and are encoded in our legislation, our social and political policy making. It may be more subtle than American political bible-bashing, but at least the American left has something to shoot at, should it by some miracle so choose.
The British left and much of the American thinking classes are shameless spiritual cowards. A cringing, casual agnosticism has become the dopamine of the moneyed middle classes.
You hear it every time an educated person says that 'whilst they have problems with some bits of the bible, they agree in principle with the moral basis of Jesus' message.' Complacent, self-indulgent, apathetic acrid bullshit; every time Blair, Brown, your headteacher, your company director, gets down on his or her knees to pay token homage to a crustified Anglican after-image in which they have little or no spiritual interest, they are giving Jesus of Nazareth a juicy blow-job, not to mention failing to subvert any number of tempting paradigms.
This cringing religious tokenism is a neutering of the superego; the sentiment that 'God will Judge' absolves us from a degree of responsibility not only for our own actions, but, perhaps more vitally, of responsibility collectively and individually for our reaction and response to the actions of the society in which we cannot but invest some fraction of our being. In a Western culture in the process of affecting its own, tragic, blundering 'atomisation' (to bastardise Houellebecq), in a world with so much potential to gruesomely self-destruct, we cannot afford to undermine the cultural superego with the blunt blade of middle-class moral masturbation.
Is there an alternative ? Of course there bloody well is. Surprise, surprise, chaps, Western spiritual adventurism did not die with Timothy Leary. Our parents' generation may have abandoned Psychadelia, Eastern pantheism, New-Age magick and the searing self-scrutinies of Buddhism in favour of a complacent, sold-out, casual agnosticism or, worse, a grudging, flabby atheism, and these dangerous memes are precisely what we need to shatter. And we can do that simply by refusing to be complacent; by keeping our own spiritual juices bubbling by whatever means necessary; by refusing not to think.
We've got Zazen, we've got Set Theory, we've got Chaos Magick. We are a generation of brilliant, broken creatures with easy access to our own conceptions of justice and humanity and we have a duty to ourselves and to each other not to be complacent, not to sell out. By abandoning religious tokenism, abandoning the polite political agnosticism of our parents, we are abandoning ourselves to the chaos of moral self-determinism, of belief as distinct from the judgements of approved organised religion. And yes, it can and should be fucking terrifying, because once we've accepted - as any intelligent, irrational creature must - that there is no religious precedent keeping our darker sides in check, governing our actions and judging us as a society, we assume the full weight of moral and spiritual self-determinism. And it's going to be tiring, and terrifying, and need constant energy input, because it's power; it's raw political energy; it's the right to reject the complacencies of our parents, our teachers, our leaders, its the right to create our own spiritual and moral universes with their own gruesome beauty, their own risks and rules. It's freedom.