The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology

The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology

by Simon Critchley
     
 

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The return to religion has perhaps become the dominant cliché of contemporary theory, which rarely offers anything more than an exaggerated echo of a political reality dominated by religious war. Somehow, the secular age seems to have been replaced by a new era, where political action flows directly from metaphysical conflict. The Faith of the Faithless

Overview

The return to religion has perhaps become the dominant cliché of contemporary theory, which rarely offers anything more than an exaggerated echo of a political reality dominated by religious war. Somehow, the secular age seems to have been replaced by a new era, where political action flows directly from metaphysical conflict. The Faith of the Faithless asks how we might respond. Following Critchley’s Infinitely Demanding, this new book builds on its philosophical and political framework, also venturing into the questions of faith, love, religion and violence. Should we defend a version of secularism and quietly accept the slide into a form of theism—or is there another way?

From Rousseau’s politics and religion to the return to St. Paul in Taubes, Agamben and Badiou, via explorations of politics and original sin in the work of Schmitt and John Gray, Critchley examines whether there can be a faith of the faithless, a belief for unbelievers. Expanding on his debate with Slavoj Žižek, Critchley concludes with a meditation on the question of violence, and the limits of non-violence.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this thoughtful, illuminating exploration into the complex relationship between religion and politics, New School for Social Research philosophy professor Critchley (Infinitely Demanding) uses this topic to link several essays, beginning with Rousseau’s writings on government and the “social contract,” and the almost magical process by which, in a democracy, the majority of citizens believe their elected officials represent their wishes. He then analyzes the ways in which heretical mystical groups of the Middle Ages, such as the Movement of the Free Spirit, represent radical socialist and anarchist elements within mainstream Christianity, and follows with explorations of Heidegger’s thoughts on the apostle Paul and his writings, revealing that one of Christianity’s first thinkers held ideas that could be considered mystical and anarchist. Critchley concludes with an argument against fellow philosopher Slavoj Zizek, who contends that the best course of action against political oppression or tyranny is what he calls “divine violence”: simply stepping back and waiting for the situation to crumble on its own. Critchley makes the case that people must actively engage against government abuses of power to force change, even resorting to violent action if necessary. Erudite and measured, this book demonstrates the ways religion can alter the political status quo. (Feb.)
Guardian
A movingly optimistic work ... 'Everything to be true must become a religion,' Wilde says, and Critchley, poetically and persuasively, suggests ways in which this might be accomplished.— Stuart Kelly
Los Angeles Review of Books
The Faith of the Faithless provides a powerful vision of what our politics ought to look like.— David Winters
New Statesman
A sustained and fascinating reflection on the place of religion in political discourse.— Giles Fraser
Times Higher Education
The book amply demonstrates Critchley's many strengths as a thinker and teacher. Where the book is exegetical, it is strikingly clear ... Even better, the book displays Critchley's skill as one of the very best close readers of philosophical texts we have ... this fascinating and important book traces, as it were, a trajectory of his thought and is not an end in itself.— Robert Eaglestone
Stuart Kelly - Guardian
“A movingly optimistic work ... 'Everything to be true must become a religion,' Wilde says, and Critchley, poetically and persuasively, suggests ways in which this might be accomplished.”
David Winters - Los Angeles Review of Books
The Faith of the Faithless provides a powerful vision of what our politics ought to look like.”
Giles Fraser - New Statesman
“A sustained and fascinating reflection on the place of religion in political discourse.”
Robert Eaglestone - Times Higher Education
“The book amply demonstrates Critchley's many strengths as a thinker and teacher. Where the book is exegetical, it is strikingly clear ... Even better, the book displays Critchley's skill as one of the very best close readers of philosophical texts we have ... this fascinating and important book traces, as it were, a trajectory of his thought and is not an end in itself.”
From the Publisher
“[A] movingly optimistic work ... ’Everything to be true must become a religion,’ Wilde says, and Critchley, poetically and persuasively, suggests ways in which this might be accomplished.”—Stuart Kelly, The Guardian

“A a sustained and fascinating reflection on the place of religion in political discourse.”—Giles Fraser, New Statesman

“A thoughtful, illuminating exploration ... erudite and measured.”—Publisher's Weekly

“This version of a faithless faith that Simon is fleshing out in this book is a radical break in his own thinking ... in this new book Simon’s insights arrive in their most brilliant splendor: Unlike Derrida’s version of truth (and its political important) that keeps deferring and is always different, here the breakthrough happens precisely when we are able to confront our own toxic void and in the suffering of this confrontation we are able to connect with the immanent other in an act of love in the horizon of a broken embracement. Like Christ’s brokenness on the cross he opens up a way through suffering that does not cancel out the void and lack that grounds us, but unites us in the very brokenness itself.”—Creston Davis, Political Theology

“[T]he book amply demonstrates Critchley’s many strengths as a thinker and teacher. Where the book is exegetical, it is strikingly clear ... Even better, the book displays Critchley’s skill as one of the very best close readers of philosophical texts we have ... this fascinating and important book traces, as it were, a trajectory of his thought and is not an end in itself.”—Robert Eaglestone, Times Higher Education

The Faith of the Faithless provides a powerful vision of what our politics ought to look like.”—David Winters, Los Angeles Review of Books

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781844677375
Publisher:
Verso Books
Publication date:
02/01/2012
Pages:
302
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

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Meet the Author

Simon Critchley is Hans Jonas Professor at the New School for Social Research, and a part-time professor of philosophy at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. His many books include Infinitely Demanding, Ethics–Politics–Subjectivity and, most recently, The Book of Dead Philosophers.

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