Thursday, June 24, 2010

Altizer - The Gospel of Christian Atheism


"It is the thesis of this book that the Christian, and the Christian alone, can speak of God in our time; but the message the Christian is now called to proclaim is the gospel, the good news or the glad tidings, of the death of God" (15). Altizer laments the fact that the language of the theologian today (Barthians) has become largely one of polemical attack and lauds the coming of a new kind of theologian in America, a modern and radical Christian who is seeking a totally incarnate Word. This kind of radical Christian (as opposed to the religious Christian) abandons the idea that theology is a continual elucidation of an eternal and unchanging Word, rejecting both the literal and historical interpretations of the Bible for a pneumatic/spiritual understanding of the Word. The radical Christian is inspired by the works of protest against Christianity, namely those of Nietzsche, Blake and Hegel, who deem Christianity a "No-saying," a flight from life, an evasion of suffering, a refusal of the burden and anguish of the human condition. All this is an attack on God as transcendent Other, and the radical Christian understands that the death of that God is necessary for true Christianity to emerge.

Chapter 1: The Uniqueness of Christianity

I. Religion: Altizer begins by comparing Christianity with "Oriental mysticism," which is essentially a way of radical world-negation that seeks in a backward movement to return to the primordial Totality at a paradisical Beginning. In its religious form, Christianity is not so different from this mysticism; but "a reborn and radical Christian faith must renounce every temptation to return to an original or primordial sacred" (40).

II. Word and History: The uniqueness of the Christian Word lies in the fact that it is a dynamic, a living, and a forward-moving process (in contrast to Oriental mysticism). The Word is real for Christians only to the extent that it becomes one with human flesh. "An understanding of a fully kenotic Christ continues to elude the theologian, who at best has reached Karl Barth's ironic and antikenotic conclusion that God's omnipotence is such that it can assume the form of weakness and in that form can triumph" (43). There is an inevitable incompatibility between the primordial Christian God and an incarnate or kenotic Christ; so long as the Christian God continues to be known as transcendent, he cannot appear in his uniquely Christian form as the Incarnate Word and kenotic Christ. When Blake said "God is Jesus," he meant that God abandoned his transcendent form. If, as in the Christian religious tradition, he does not become the Incarnate Word, he becomes the solitary God of Blake's Satan, Hegel's abstract spirit or Melville's Moby Dick.

III. Fall and Death: Religious Christianity resists the movement of the Word, opposing its abandonment of an original and primordial sacred by resurrecting the Word in a religious form. A fully consistent or radical Christianity knows the totality of the Fall and consequently condemns the religious quest for an unfallen sacred, repudiates the God who alone is God and renounces all attachment to the past. Christianity alone proclaims the death of the sacred, and thus only in Christianity do we find a concrete experience of the factuality and finality of death (i.e., ain't no afterlife). Radical Christians are thus open to death as an ultimately real event. But once again, the historical forms of Christianity have failed to embody the full and radical consequences of the Christian Word. It is faith's resistance to the Word becoming fully actualized in the flesh that has driven it to the backward movement of religion.

Chapter 2: Jesus and the Incarnation

I. The Name of Jesus: In the radical Christian vision, we understand that the Jesus of the Christian tradition was born only by means of the negation of the original Jesus. The image of the dead Jesus is perpetuated by Christian orthodoxy in the mask of the God-man, while the true Jesus has passed through his death from a particular to a universal form. What is unique about Jesus is the epiphany of the totality of the sacred in the contingency of a particular moment of time: in this name the sacred appears and is real only to the extent that it becomes actual and realized in history. The Jesus of the radical Christian is best represented in Nietzsche's Zarathustra, whose goal is to "will backwards," to transform the dreadful accident of all "it was" into "thus I will it" or "thus shall I will it," thereby making possible a Yes-saying to the oppressive contingency of time.

II. Kenosis: The "atheism" of a radical Christian is a prophetic reaction to a distant and nonredemptive God who by virtue of his very sovereignty and transcendence stands wholly apart from the forward movement and the historical presence of the Incarnate Word. Christian scholasticism made the mistake of identifying God with Aristotle's actus purus, thus removing him completely from the world. In Eckhart's and Bohme's mysticism, and then in Hegel's dialectics, however, one finds a different conception of God as Spirit, or the kenotic or emptying process of negativity. Hegel does not simply negate the root idea of the aseity of Being, he reverses this idea by conceiving Being as a perpetual process of becoming its own other. It is only in Hegel that we may discover an idea of God or Being or Spirit which embodies an understanding of the theological meaning of the Incarnation, which is that Spirit only comes to know itself and fulfill its destiny by completely emptying itself into its otherness. "God is Jesus" means the Incarnation is a total and all-consuming act: as Spirit becomes the Word that empties the Speaker of himself, the whole reality of Spirit becomes incarnate in its opposite. A Christian proclamation of the love of God is a proclamation that God has negated himself in becoming flesh, his Word is now the oppposite of the intrinsic otherness of his primordial Being, and God himself has ceased to exist in his original mode as transcendent or disincarnate Spirit.

III. The Universal Humanity: Blake named Jesus the "Universal Humanity," and the comprehensiveness of Blake's vision impelled him to seek the presence of Jesus in that world of experience most estranged from the Christ of Christian orthodoxy. The death of God in Jesus effected a transition from Innocence to Experience, but Jesus cannot appear as the "Universal Humanity" until the transcendent realm has been emptied and darkened.

Chapter 3: God and History

I. Dialectic and Theology: We can sense the estrangement of the contemporary Christian from his own theological heritage by simply noting the inability of all traditional forms of theology to speak in the presence of our history. Theology must open itself to the address of a Word that has become fully actual in the present and abandon a religious form, for to the extent that theology remains bound to a primordial Word it will remain closed to the present and human actuality of history. Augustine and Luther both attempted the dialectical thinking proper to radical Christianity: "Augustine's conception of the omnipresence and the omnipotence of grace proceeded out of a dialectical negation and reversal of the ontological givenness of Being, just as Luther's understanding of the free gift of grace in Christ rested on an abridgment or annulment of the transcendent distance and the sovereign authority of the Creator" (78-79). Yet both remained bound to past and heteronomous norms, closing themselves off to the real and dynamic movement of the Word. A Christian dialectical theology must direct itself to an understanding of a Word that is penetrating the present, or a transcendent Word becoming immanent. Only a false dialectic posits an ultimate and irreconcilable chasm between opposites. Certainly no Christian or incarnational theology can submit to a final and absolute opposition between time and Eternity or the finite and the infinite. Nothing less is demanded of contemporary theology than that it open itself to the meaning of an apocalyptic and total redemption.

II. The Christian Name of God: In a nutshell, "from the point of view of a radical and dialectical Christian theology, the absolutely decisive and fundamental theological prnciple is that the God of faith so far from being unchanging and unmoving is a perpetual and forward-moving process of self-negation, pure negativity, or kenotic metamorphosis" (84). We must repudiate all religious conceptions of the mystery of the Godhead, with their inevitable corollary that the sacred or ultimate reality is impassive and silent. The God who reveals himself in history is the God who empties himself of the plenitude of his primordial Being; thereby he actually and truly becomes manifest in history, and finally history becomes not simply the arena of revelation but the very incarnate Body of God. A consistent and radical Christianity will embody no knowledge of the primordial God but instead will incorporate and make real that "Kingdom of God" which is a consequence of the absolute self-negation of God.

Non-dialectical understandings of Christianity, both natural and revealed theology, invariably establish a chasm between God and his redemptive acts: natural theology in conceiving a primordial or eternal nature of God that is incapable of either forward movement or redemptive action, and revealed theology positing a sovereign Lord who is infinitely removed from the immediate or historical reality of his creation. Blake saw that the Gods of deism and orthodoxy were the same.

III. God and Satan: Nietzsche's attack on the infinitude of guilt and punishment is Blake's attack on Urizen and Hegel's attack on an alien and lifeless form of Spirit. Altizer agrees with Nietzsche that the Christian God is the deepest embodiment of No-saying, the absolute negation of life, but that in his absolute self-negation, that God becomes wholly Other. If God truly negates himself, then his alien and empty form is an inevitable consequence of his own act of self-negation, and thence God himself can only be present or real in his divine form as the absolute antithesis of life and energy. Thus, only a Christian can know a God that is wholly Other. The kenotic movement of the Incarnation reaches its consummation when God finally appears in human experience as the contradiction of life and the deification of nothingness. In his Angst, the radical Christian recognizes the "smell" of God's decomposition. For to know an alien and empty nothingness as the dead body of God is to be liberated from every uncanny and awesome sense of the mystery and power of chaos.

Satan is the power enclosing energy and stilling movement, the power of darkness standing over against and opposing all life and light. In the end, the Christian God is Satan. Satan's chaos is present wherever his "web of religion" binds life and energy to the laws of his own identity. Religion becomes repressive when it arises in response to the kenotic movement of the Incarnation, regressing to a now empty and alien form of Spirit by binding itself to that dead body of God which Blake names as Satan. When the radical Christian confronts us with the liberating message that God is Satan, he is stilling the power of that negation, breaking all those webs of religion with which a regressive Christianity has ensnared the Christian, and unveiling the God who had died in Christ.

Chapter 4: The Self-Annihilation of God

I. The Death of God: The proclamation of the death of God is a Christian confession of faith. For to know that God is dead is to know the God who died in Jesus Christ. Only the radical Christian knows that God has ceased to be active and real in his preincarnate or primordial reality. It is Christianity alone which witnesses to a concrete and actual descent of the sacred into the profane, a movement wherein the sacred progressively abandons or negates its particular and given expressions. And it is precisely the radical Christian's alienation from the religious world which can make possible our relation of the fundamental if underlying meaning of the earliest expressions of the Christian faith. Paul and the early church were not able to fully or decisively negate the religious forms of the old history. Consequently, early Christianity was unable either to negate religion or to absorb and fully assimilate an apocalyptic faith, with the result that it progressively became estranged from its own initial proclamation. The radical Christian happily proclaims the death of God, which does not propel man into an empty darkness, but liberates him from every alien and opposing other. But the kenotic movement does not happen at any given moment: the actualization of the metamorphosis of the Word into flesh is a continual and forward-moving process, a process initially occurring in God's death in Christ, yes, but a process that is only gradually and progressively realized in history, as God's original self-negation eventually becomes actualized throughout the total range of human experience. Let the contemporary Christian rejoice that Christianity has evolved the most alien, the most distant, and the most oppressive deity in history: it is precisely the self-alienation of God from his original redemptive form that has liberated humanity from the transcendent realm. The radical Christian recognizes the spiritual emptiness of our time as the historical actualization of the self-annihilation of God.

II. Atonement: When we understand the Incarnation and Crucifixion as dual expressions of the eschatological consummation of the self-negation of God, as an extension of the atoning process of the self-annihilation of God, it is clear that we need a new conception of atonement. The whole kenotic movement is an atoning process, a forward moving process wherein a vacuous and nameless power of evil becomes increasingly manifest as the dead body of God or Satan. Atonement is thus a negative process of reversing every alien other, a process of negating all negations.

We can understand our present alienation the moment before proper atonement, as Satan's becoming totally and comprehensively present in his apocalyptic form as the lifeless residue of the self-negation of God. In other words, we must pass through Hegel's unhappy consciousness in order to come to know the dissolution of the wholly Other. Consequently, the radical Christian repudiates the Christian dogma of the resurrection of Christ and his ascension into a celestial and transcendent realm because radical faith revolves around a participation in the Christ who is fully and totally present to us. Radical Christianity thus transposes the traditional vision of the resurrection into a contemporary vision of the descent into Hell: the crucified Christ descends ever more fully into darkness and flesh.

III. The Forgiveness of Sin: Protestant theologians have insisted that we can only know sin when we understand the forgiveness of sin, but in isolating sin from grace, they foreclose the possibility of understanding the forgiveness or annulment of sin. The radical Christian believes that the demands of the God of law and judgment are annulled in the grace of the God who died on Calvary. Faith takes as its task the negation of law and guilt and the abolition of the consciousness of sin. Guilt is a product of self-alienation, and forgiveness of sin is the process of self-annihilation of that guilt. It is only when man has been delivered from the threat of condemnation, a threat always present wherever humanity exists in a state of isolated selfhood, that a truly forgiven humanity can be liberated from Satan's power. Man must be delivered from good and evil, from self-hood, from his solitary and autonomous ego. When he ceases to be aware of the distance separating himself from others, his sin is forgiven. In Blake, this is when Satan and Jerusalem engage in a mutual embrace and actualize a new Totality of Love. The forgiveness of sin is an atoning process embodying the progressive realization in experience of the self-annihilation of God.

Chapter 5: A Wager

I. The Living Christ: The original heresy was the identification of the Church with the body of Christ; this kind of "forward movement" is simply an all-too-human regression to the will to power. The radical Christian, on the other hand, seeks the living Christ in the actuality and fullness of history. This does not mean, however, that we should simply submit to the brute reality of the world. We must rather understand the forward movement of Christianity to be a truly negative or self-emptying process, a process simultaneously negating both the Word and world which it embodies, and therefore a process transcending and moving beyond the initial expressions of its own movement.

Just as the Crucifixion makes real a divine movement into immanence, so too does the death of God progressively annul every human possibility of returning to transcendence. Only by willing this death of God can we be liberated from a transcendent beyond. This willing involves a genuine risk, but so too does religious Christianity, in alienating itself from the contemporary world. The radical Christian chooses a darkness issuing from the death of every image and symbol of transcendence and must bet that the darkness of his destiny is the present form and actuality of a totally incarnate body of Christ.

II. Guilt and Resentment: For Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, existence = guilt. For everything we know as consciousness and experience is grounded in repression, and to broaden or deepen our consciousness is to recognize the power of repression, a power creating all those dualistic oppositions or antinomies which split human existence asunder, dividing and isolating that shrunken energy of life. This power is that of law, judgment and sin, but the New Testament promises its forgiveness. When Jesus said, "Judge not," he was calling for an end of all moral judgment. Betting that the Christian God is dead, which is betting on the real and actual presence of the fully incarnate Christ, means that the ultimate ground of guilt and resentment is broken. We should nonetheless realize that this is all a bit nuts: "No honest contemporary seeker can ever lose sight of the very real possibility that the willing of the death of God is the way to madness, dehumanization, and even to the most totalitarian form of society yet realized in history" (146) (clearly Altizer rejects Paul's messaging tactics).

III. Yes-Saying: In alienation from the absent God of Christianity, people are increasingly turning towards Oriental mysticism without looking to the western tradition first. In Nietzsche's vision of the Eternal Recurrence, he proclaims a Yes-saying which embodies a total affirmation of meaninglessness and horror. This affirmation is only possible when man gives all the energy that he once directed to the transcendent beyond to the immediate moment. If we can find a way to affirm absolute immanence, then we can give ourselves to the darkest and most chaotic moments of our world as contemporary ways to the Christ who even now is becoming all in all. It is precisely by a radical movement of turning away from all previous forms of light that we can participate in a new totality of bliss. The sacred center of Oriental mysticism is a return to an interior depth or transcendent beyond which negates the profane, whereas Zarathustra's "center" lies at the very heart of profane existence. We must renounce every backward movement to eternity for the affirmation of a new eternity which is here and now.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Epistle to the Romans

Karl Barth

Barth = Calvin + Kierkegaard

The book begins with the rediscovery of Paul and a polemic against the historical-critical method of Biblical criticism. The purpose of all historical investigations is to demonstrate the triviality of differences between the present and the past. The doctrine of inspiration is superior, Barth claims, to historical criticism, even granted that the latter has some uses. Thus, the goal of this book is to see “beyond history and into the spirit of the Bible,” with the assumption that what was important in the past remains relevant today.

First Chapter: Introduction
God is absolutely other. The purpose of the Gospel is to proclaim the radical incommensurability between God and man, and to stress the degree to which salvation is unearned and undeserved.

The Gospel is what gives time meaning; it is the “the seed of eternity” and the “fruit of time.” Here Barth adopts the fairly medieval practice of claiming that the New Testament unlocks the Old. He also adopts something like Kierkegaard’s understanding of the paradox and the role of the contemporary witness. Jesus/the resurrection were historical events in one sense, but in a deeper sense, divinity is radically incommensurable with the human.

Jesus gave Paul grace and apostleship. “Grace us the gift of Christ, who exposes the gulf which separates God and man, and, by exposing it, bridges it” (31). Grace means bearing witness to the fidelity of God to man, which is revealed in Christ. It brings with it a demand for obedience.

Personal Matters:
The existence of Christians, even in Rome, proves the power of the resurrection. The existence of this faith sets the “krisis” in motion. In one sense, believers feel a sense of community with each other. And yet, the realized existence of that community is not central to the existence of the Church. Paul never visits Rome, because God needs him to proselytize to the uninitiated.

The Theme of the Epistle
The Gospel is not in competition with other creeds. Rather, it exists above all other philosophies and religions, commenting on their limitations. “It sets a question mark against all truths” (35). IT - and the resurrection - reveal the power of God, which is not set above all other powers, as if it were the sum of all finite powers, but, rather, is wholly other.

The current world is marked by total sinfulness. Our bond with God is shattered and we are totally powerless to revive it. The Gospel does nothing to free us from this world; rather, it points to something we can’t comprehend. The Resurrection is both the forgiveness of sins, and the condemnation of the world. God says “no” to the world, and this is both tormenting and hopeful, because it comes from God. Because Christ both makes clear the gap between man and God, and overcomes it, faith means assenting to both the fallenness of the world, the “no” of God, and the hope of the resurrection.

Everyone is interpellated by the Gospel. The Jew is the first called to hear it, but it is an advantage without precedence. Everyone is equal before the Gospel. The Gospel reveals God’s righteousness. God’s righteousness consists in his harsh judgment on the world. The God which merely affirms creation, without condemning its sinfulness, is “No-God.” the true God must establish the absolute difference between himself and man. He affirms himself by condemning us, and the redeems us via Christ. God is faithful to us; he never forgets us.

The night
We are subject to the wrath of God, insofar as we do not love the judge and accept his negative judgment on creation. Men alienate themselves from the truth by seeking to obscure the distance between man and God. Basically, man deliberately obscures the difference between the two, then becomes trapped in that blindness, in various ways, such as divinizing nature.

Second Chapter: The Righteousness of Men
All humanity - whether righteous by its own standards or not - is subject to the wrath of God. Even men of God know this; they know faith is not an achievement, not part of a system, but, rather, the ground of all perception.

Grace is sight; it is the totally unjustified glimpse of reality, granted to specific individuals by God for literally no reason we can understand. To be this righteous man, to be saved, means to be negated and reformed and redeemed. There is no righteousness or hiding before God.

the Judgment
The law is a sign of God’s presence or a relic. Those who possess the law live their lives around the incomprehensible remainder of revelation. and yet, those with the law may become too reoccupied with it to look beyond it to the God it indicates. The Gentile may also fulfill the law without knowing it. Moreover, the Gentile may have the advantage of seeing more starkly the disintegration and sinfulness of the current world. We can never know who is marked by grace, and who is not; God often levels judgments that seem to contradict the state of facts.

Chapter 3: The righteousness of God
The judgment of God ends history; it doesn’t bring together a new era. The entirety of the world and history bears witness to God, is oriented by reference to the unknown.

God responds to our faithlessness with faithfulness, our evil with good. It would be a mistake, though, to believe then that our actions in the world are indifferent, or that we could cal forth greater goodness from God through evil.

Man’s righteousness is not God’s. Even possessing the law is not a guarantee of righteousness. Rather, the law points toward the abyss between man and God, it makes men aware of their sinfulness, and produces a horror of history.

Grace in this world exists as a promise, which is to say it exists as an indictment of the present, strictly a negative. Jesus

The Voice of History
Reiteration of idea that God is wholly other. Turn to Abraham. Christ encapsulates the meaning of Abraham. History declares Abraham famous for his deeds, but faith means that he is famous for what, in his action, points beyond the temporal, to what is other. While his human righteousness might provide a ground for boasting, faith cannot. At most, God works through Abraham. Man must be broken down utterly before God.

Faith is reckoned to Abraham a righteousness, but such faith is distinct from his circumcision. Circumcision is a sign, pointing beyond; faith is something other. The church likewise possesses the same sort of righteousness as circumcision. They demand promise the the faith that is reckoned as righteousness before god, but they are not faith.

The entirety of Barth’s discussion of Israel can be summed up in this line: “Th Law, the History, and the Religion of Israel are the context in which men can await the heavenly inheritance; but they are not the effective power through which they enter it” (138).
Faith is essentially ahistorical. It provides a point puncturing time, making the past and the present contemporaneous. And yet, particular episodes in history can possess universal importance, precisely by dissolving the difference between past and present.

Faith requires annihilating reason, and making the absurd leap to belief in God. Here, Barth resembles somewhat Kierkegaard.

Chapter 5: the Coming Man
The new man is the subject of which faith is the predicate. Seen humanly he is merely negation. The known, human man, must enter into a state of peace, which is to say a proper relation with God. The new man is a promise, not a reality.
Moreover, the man of faith cannot be recognized, either by his external or internal happiness.

Death enters the world through sin; sin is the negation of the righteousness of Christ. the law serves to draw us back to the sense of sin and, perversely enough, to our relation to God, however shattered. The fall is not caused by a single act; rather, it is the presupposition of all history. Likewise, the revelation of the new man in Jesus is not the revelation of a single individual; rather, it is the revelation of “the” new personality, the new man.

Transformation occurs where sin and catastrophe are present.

Chapter 6: Grace
Everything is transformed in the moment, which is outside of time. However, we live in sin, which is to say that we necessarily level the difference between man and god. Grace is forgiveness of this.

The sacrament of baptism is a means to grace. It points beyond us to another reality. In it, the new man is born. We must die to sin in order to be born to grace; we must utterly negate the present to have a glimpse of the future. Grace is obedience, grace is self-abnegation, grace is the impossibility which is the end of man. Etc.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Niebuhr, Reinhold - Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics


In the introduction to this work Niebuhr states his thesis clearly and succinctly. His overarching thesis is that a sharp distinction must be drawn between the moral and social behavior of individuals and groups, including nations and economic classes. Individuals are able to overcome their egotism and transcend themselves and their interests and consider others. Groups, however, lack this capacity. This is a result of collective egoism in which individuals sublimate their individual egos into the group, but the group re-expresses this egoism at a higher level causing intergroup conflict.

Niebuhr, thus, aims to engage in a polemic against moralists, those thinkers who think that the same resources that allow individuals to transcend their egos in their personal relationships, rationality or religion, can also be used in order to establish harmony between groups. Niebuhr argues that the moralists do not realize the limitations of rationality and religion to check the overwhelming egoism and self-interestedness of groups. They also do not realize the way in which rationality is bent in order to serve group interests and how human being lack the moral imagination to sympathize with others outside of their personal interactions. In contrast, he argues that the relationships between groups, both classes and nations, will always be governed by a clash of forces. Ethics may govern relations between individuals, but politics and, thus, the power of coercion must always govern the relations between groups.

Chapter One: Man and Society: The Art of Living Together

Niebuhr's overarching point in this chapter is that social relations are governed by a dialect in which "power sacrifices justice to peace within the community and destroys peace between communities."

He argues that while human beings may be motivated by the sentiments of benevolence and social goodwill to consider the needs of others, there are limits to these capacities. Human beings lack the rationality and moral imagination to fully extend their sympathy for others and their interests beyond a certain boundary. Thus, all social cooperation beyond the level of an intimate social group requires a measure of social coercion in order to prevent individual from merely pursuing their own interests.
In order to ensure unity within a social group the will of the dominant subgroup will be imposed by force on the others. This will not necessarily be amoral; there will always be an interpenetration of ethics and coercion in politics.

However, the coercive aspect of politics, while allowing for social cohesion and peace, also allows for injustice. Social power necessarily develops towards social inequality as the more dominant group uses the force necessary for social cohesion in order to serve its own interests, chiefly its economic interests
A dialectic thus develops in which social power is necessary in order to ensure peace, both internal unity and protection from external forces; but, because social power inevitably leads towards social inequality, this inequality can undermine social peace because of the animosities that it fosters.

Additionally, because this social, intergroup inequality is at variance with the individual, interpersonal moral codes that individual live by, hypocritical, rationalizing ideologies are developed in order to justify the inequality. Even democracy is not free from this problem of social power and social justice. Democracy is enmeshed in the interests of the commercial classes that played a major role in its development.

Moreover, individual use the larger group in order to sublimate their basic egotism. They play out their drive for power through the relations of their group to other groups, thus exacerbating inter-group relations.

Therefore, Niebuhr claims society is in a perpetual state of war. Coercion is necessary but it leads to perpetual conflict. The goal therefore is not to create a social ideal, where power and coercion are absent; rather it is to strike the right balance between power and justice.

Chapter Two: The Rational Resources of the Individual for Social Living

In the next two chapters Niebuhr examines the arguments of the rationalist and religious moralists. His basic claim is that while they are right about the role that rationality and religion can play in the support of morality between individuals, they are wrong about its effectiveness in inter-group relations.

Because the basic source of social conflicts and injustices is ignorance and selfishness, rationalists often maintain that increased intelligence and rationality can overcome social conflict and injustice. Niebuhr disagrees. He claims that reason does allow individuals to transcend themselves and to consider the needs of others. Rationality increases our moral imagination and, thus, allows us to vividly appreciate the need of others. However, there is a basic limit to the range of humans' moral imagination and sympathy. Moral imagination and sympathy depends on personal contacts and direct relationships. Within a larger society moral imagination and sympathy must give way to a purer rationality of duty in order to check selfish impulses and consider the needs of others. Thus, growing rationality can destroy the uncritical acceptance of injustice. However, there are limits to the power of pure rationality as well.

Niebuhr writes that "Men will never be wholly reasonable and the proportion of reason to impulse becomes increasingly negative when we proceed from the life of individuals to that of social groups." (35) Niebuhr sees the social group as a collective entity, one that has a diminished rationality and a magnified will-to-power. Reason can be extended in order to control individuals' impulses, but its power drops off when it is applied to a group.

Additionally, reason can serve to augment collective egoism both by providing rationalizing justifications of social injustices and, through self-consciousness, spurring individuals' on to transcend themselves and give absolute significance to the interests of their group. In self-conscious awareness of her own finitude the individual seeks to transcend herself by participating in something greater than herself. Therefore, she reifies the group and its interests. Thus, she dedicates herself to promoting the interests of the group at the expense of justice for other groups. In this way the very extension of human sympathies beyond the individual to the group, while reducing conflict on a local level, increases conflict on a higher level. This allows the individual to see herself as moral, though this is an illusion.

Thus, while reason does allow the individual to extend beyond themselves to others, it lacks the ability to abolish social and political conflicts and may, in many cases, exacerbate them.

Chapter Three: The Religious Resources of the Individual for Social Living

Religious idealists believe that religion provides the resources for the abolishment of social and political conflict. Niebuhr wants to defend the role of religion in supporting morality on the level of individuals from the criticism of those that deny that religion has any moral benefit. However, he also argues that religion does not have the resources to abolish social and political conflict between groups.

Religion does have role in supporting morality. This is because, according to Niebuhr, "religion is a sense of the absolute" (52). It creates a perspective above and beyond humans' interests and concerns from which to judge them and find them lacking. This general insight is cashed out in four religious concepts, Asceticism, Love, Introspection, and Hope. The focus on asceticism in many religions inculcates the subordination of individual ego and self-interestedness to something beyond the self. The focus on love in religion inculcates the positive focus on others and providing for their needs. The religious attitude of contrition crucially involves introspection. Introspection allows for the discovery and rooting out of egoistic impulses. The religious messianic hope for an absolute society in which the ideal of love and justice will be fully realized allows for a vantage point from which to critically evaluate the present state of society.

However, religion does not have resources to solve the problem of social and political conflict. Indeed, paralleling his discussion of rationality, Niebuhr claims that it may exacerbate it. This is because, at the same time that religion expresses the relativization human interests before the absolute, it is also the fullest expression of human interests. God is not only the absolute before which humans' humble themselves, he is also the absolutizing of the self. Following Feuerbach, Niebuhr argues that, though God is seen as transcendent, he is also conceived as related to humans' both in terms of his qualities and his interest in humans. Thus, God and religion can be seen as a sublimation of the will-to-live. Religion can therefore be used to justify and encourage the pursuit of the interests of the self and the religious group

Additionally, religion with its focus on the absolute and otherworldliness can encourage moral, social and political indifferentism, removing the drive to establish justice in the world. Also, the religious focus on love as the motive for concern for the welfare of others has two drawbacks: As an emotion there are definite limits to the social range to which it can extend. Therefore, it is powerless to really effect relations in large social group, not to mention between groups. It draws the focus to the possession of a perfect motive as opposed to actual consequences. Finally, because religion envisions an absolute society as the goal, it may encourage defeatism in improving actual society. The distance between the actual society and the absolute society is vast. Religion, therefore, might encourage the idea that there is nothing humans can do in order to create the absolute society; this must come about through God.

In sum, religion cannot provide the resources for the building of a just society because its "highest visions are those which proceed from the insights of a sensitive individual conscience." (81) These can be realized in an intimate religious community but not in wider society or in the relations between nations or societies.

Chapter Four: The Morality of Nations

In this chapter, Niebuhr brings central focus on his thesis that "group relations can never be as ethical as those which characterize individual relations" (83) He does this through an analysis of the structure of groups as well as through historical examples, I will only focus on his analysis.

Nations, according to him, are intrinsically selfish. There are a number of reasons for this:

As a collective entity, a group, in contrast to an individual, does not have direct contact with others. Individuals from different groups may come into contact with one another, but the group does not directly come into contact with another group. Contact with others is a prerequisite, however, for the perception of need and the development of sympathy and justice. Because a group does not have these contacts, therefore it does not develop sympathy for others and their needs.

Additionally, the collective group, or the nation, only possesses the rationality that is necessary in order to curb egotism in attenuated sense. Some or even many of its citizens may be highly intelligent, but the nation as a whole functions more as a result of will and emotion than intelligence. Thus, the nation lacks the means for self-criticism and the transcendence of its own interests. Indeed, the nation often interprets internal criticism and disloyalty and punishes its critics.

Moreover, because social unity is attained through social power and results in inequality, the nation will often pursue the interests of the dominant power within it.

National selfishness is also magnified by the paradox of patriotism. Patriotism and patriotic sacrifice involves the self-transcendence of the individual in his or her subordination of his personal interests to that of others and the nation. At the same time, however, "the unqualified character of this devotion is the very basis of the nation's power and of the freedom to use the power without moral restraint. Thus the unselfishness of individuals makes for the selfishness of nations." (91)The nation, therefore, allows for the projection and vicarious satisfaction of individual egotism. It is therefore both" a check upon and a vent for the satisfaction of individual egoism "(93)

In addition to its intrinsic selfishness, the nation is infected with hypocrisy. The nation uses hypocrisy in order to rationalize its selfish motivations. It identifies its particular interests with universal values and ideals, which are, in truth incompatible. It asks for its members' loyalty both as an expression of their devotion to their own particular community as well as purported universal values and ideals. Niebuhr gives a number of historical examples in order to illustrate this phenomenon.

Niebuhr then closes this chapter with reflections on why this situation is irremediable. He argues that subordinating the use of force to morality by placing its control in the hands of an impartial authority has not worked both within the nation, where powerful classes control the courts, and in the international arena, where powerful nations control the League of Nations. Furthermore, the economic and social structure within nations, where dominant classes use the nation in order press their interests, ensures the conflict between nations. Until this internal problem is rectified, the clash between nations is inevitable. He moves in the coming chapters to discuss these class conflicts and the possibilities for their resolution.

Chapter Five: The Ethical Attitudes of the Privileged Classes

According to Niebuhr, the economic circumstances of classes inevitably influence, or even determine, the social and ethical outlook of their members. This is a fact that, while appreciated by many economists, has not been noticed by the religious and rational moralists. Thus, they do not take it into account when they claim that social conflict can be abolished through religion or rationality. The selfishness of classes may be qualified by religion and rationality but it cannot be done away with.

The privileged classes' ethical attitudes are colored by self-deception and hypocrisy, in which they elevate their particular class's interests to the status of general interests and universal ideals.
They mobilize their intelligence in order to defend the social inequalities that favor them, when in fact the inequality is too great to have any justification.

The most common form of this hypocrisy is the claim that their special privileges are just compensation for performing especially useful or meritorious functions, like I-Banking. The privileged classes claim that the underprivileged classes lack the capacity to perform these functions, either congenitally or because of lack of education. Education, in fact, is a good example of the potential and limitations for the abolishment of class conflict through rational means. While it can allow underprivileged the opportunity to attain a measure of equality with the privileged classes, it also can be used by the privileged to inculcate their own hypocritical ideology among the lower classes.

Beyond claiming greater intelligence and capacity for performing special functions as the source of the privileges, dominant classes often assert their moral superiority in order to buttress their claim for privilege. A particular example of this is the ideological belief that hard work and thriftiness always results in the attainment of privilege. This belief is often held by the middle classes. The upper classes often identify 'class' and 'manners' with the moral superiority that justifies privilege.

More generally though, privileged groups often identify the political and social arrangement that benefit themselves the most as necessary for the peace and order of society in general. They then defend this organization in the name of law and order. The privileged classes' claim to only want to protect peace and order is belied, however, by their embrace of violence in international relations.

Because of the way these economic factors affect the ideology of the privileged classes, social conflict is less susceptible to abolishment by reason than the moralists believe. Indeed, their belief that rationality can dissolve these conflicts is a result of their comfortable economic situation, which blinds them to the desperate problems of social justice that afflict the proletarian class.

Chapter Six: The Ethical Attitudes of the Proletarian Class

According to Niebuhr, while social injustice has always been present in the past, the particular conditions of the industrial age and the rise of democratic movements has allowed for the emergence the proletarian class as a self-conscious class. The depersonalized nature of industrial labor along with its mass scale has intensified the conflict between the classes, while the education that comes along with the democratic movements has given the proletarian class the means for self-expression.

The proletarian class is marked by a unique combination of ethical attitudes. On the one hand, moral cynicism about the actual morality of men, along with, on the other hand, an 'unqualified equalitarian social idealism' as a goal for society.

Moral cynicism is expressed in terms of a Marxist materialistic and deterministic interpretation of history. Society is viewed as solely a realm of conflict between classes; all other cultural, ethical, or religious features of society are seen as mere rationalizing ideologies meant to obscure this fact.
Social injustice must, therefore, be rectified only through the use of force. For the true proletarian Marxist only revolutionary struggle will end injustice. This view of society is directed against democracy along with all other societal arrangements. The proletarian classes' loyalty to the nation is inversely related to the amount of injustice it suffers in the nation. Similarly, its self-consciousness as a class as well as individual's loyalty to the class is related directly to the amount of injustice that is suffered.
Niebuhr believes that this moral cynicism is both a negative and a positive development. It is negative in that it represents "modern man's loss of confidence in moral forces." But it is positive because it tears away rationalizing hypocrisy and exposes the true nature of mankind's collective history.

Additionally, like the development of national self-consciousness, the proletarian class, as it begins to become self-conscious, universalizes its own interests and ideals as valid for all of society. This is the source of its unqualified social idealism. In this way, the proletarian class engages in a Nietzschian transvaluation of values, exalting the values and ideals that they have acquired as an oppressed class as those of highest value. While there is an aspect of rationalizing ideology in the universalization, Niebuhr finds it less problematic than that done by nations and the privileged classes. The oppressed position of the proletarian class provides it with a more true view on society and better vantage point from which to project a social ideal. Moreover, the absolute nature of the Marxist ideal of social equality is a legitimate social ideal and serves as an antidote to any rationalizing of injustice. The fact that this ideal emerges as a rationalizing of an oppressed position and not from pure ethical imagination does not delegitimize it. Its ethical quality should be affirmed.

Niebuhr also believes that there is religious aspect to the proletarian unqualified social idealism. Contrary to the Marxist claims to provide a materialist science of history, what is really being provided is an apocalyptic vision, the realization of the absolute. At the same, there is an aspect of romantic illusion in this ideal of a classless society. The destruction of economic privilege will not remove human beings' desire to make selfish use of power. Additionally, there are questions about the preferable means for achieving social equality. It is to this issue that Niebuhr turns in the next two chapters.

Chapter Seven: Justice through Revolution

Niebuhr begins this chapter with a discussion of the immorality of violence. According to him, violence is not intrinsically immoral. Nothing is intrinsically immoral except ill-will and nothing is intrinsically good except good-will. As a result of his analysis of the motives of the proletarian class' motives, he concludes that they are as pure as the motives of a collective entity can be. Thus, prima facie, revolutionary violence on behalf of the proletarian social ideal is permissible. Indeed, the Niebuhr claims that the objectives of Marxist politics are "identical with the most rational possible goal, that of equal justice." (Anyone think that Obama and McCain had that line in mind when the said the Niebuhr was their favorite theologian, or at least meant to admit that when they made the statement?) However, a balance must be made between means and ends. It is not true that the end never justifies the means; at the same time, it is also not true that the ends always justify the means.

The assumption that violence is immoral rests on two errors. The first is that violence is always an expression of ill-will, while non-violence is always an expression of good will. But once is it is admitted that society must always have a measure of coercion involved with it, this absolute distinction cannot be drawn. The second is due to an uncritical identification of traditional instrumental values with intrinsic moral values. But if only a good-will is intrinsically good, then all other values are instrumental in nature and must be balanced in any concrete situation. What is needed is a reflective morality, which reanalyzes purported intrinsic moral values as instrumental values. The conflict between the middle class values of individuality and hypocritical moral sentimentality and the proletarian values of classes and moral cynicism cannot be adjudicated a priori. If Marxist revolution can succeed in establishing social justice then it is legitimate.

So the question is about the real political possibility of establishing justice through violence. However, Niebuhr does not think that the prospects are good for two main reasons. First, there are too many different classes in a complex modern society, each with its own distinct interests, which would resist a proletarian revolution. Second, there is division within the proletarian class. (This division will occasion the discussion in the next chapter about the possibilities of justice through political force.)

An additional question is about the possibility of maintaining such an ideal society, were it to be established. There are a number of reasons to suspect that it would not. First, the abolition of economic privileges requires the assertion of strong centralized political force. This centralization of political power may itself give rise to inequality and injustice. Second, and more generally, while selfish egotism may be curbed, it is a romantic illusion to believe that it can completely abolished. Egotism will resurface through any means possible and, thus, bring about social inequality. Thus, it seems that the maintenance of the social ideal of the proletarian as a reality also does not seem realistic enough to justify the violence of revolutionary action.

Chapter Eight: Justice through Political Force

As mentioned above, the proletarian class itself is divided. This division is into two major groups. The unskilled workers, who are less favored. They tend to support revolutionary action. The second group, the skilled workers, is more favored by the capitalistic system. As a result they tend to support parliamentary and evolutionary methods in order to achieve justice. The goal of the second group requires the acquisition of political power.

This method for the achievement of greater social equality has been partial successful. The political system corrects some of the injustice perpetrated by the economic system. As a political process, there is the usual mixture of ethical and coercive factors in it.

There are problems with trying to achieve social justice through democratic political means, however.
Transfer of wealth through taxation is affected by the law of diminishing returns. Additionally, the proletarian class must rely on the cooperation of the middle classes in order to achieve a parliamentary majority. However, the middle class, because of its own comfortable position in the current system, is ill-equipped to really appreciate the plight of the proletarian classes. Education cannot full rectify this situation. Additionally, experts cannot be counted to identify social inequalities and to rectify them as they themselves are influenced by their class and the power of interest groups. Finally, it cannot be hoped that the peasant and the farmer can be counted on to join with the proletariat in order to form a parliamentary majority. All these factors militate against the full achievement of the ideals of the proletarian classes.

Perhaps, however, it can achieve some of its goals gradually by collaborating with the other classes politically, while relinquishing the full realization of its ideal. There are problems with this approach as well. The abandonment of the absolute goal of complete social equality might remove the fervor that is necessary to keep the movement going. Also, there is the possibility that the political leaders of the proletariat might be co-opted through the political process by the other classes. This might occur because of personal weakness or because of more political reasons. The proletariat leaders might be co-opted because by participating in the political process they have already identified with the national unit. This leaves them susceptible to the lures of nationalism. Indeed, the proletarian movement that chooses gradual and democratic means for pressing for social justice as a whole always lies open to being complicit in nationalism. This nationalism perpetuates intra-national injustice as well as international conflict.

Thus, there are advantages as well as disadvantages both to trying to achieve social justice through revolution and through politics. A choice between the two is not possible merely on the basis of rationality or morality. It will always be determined by other factors.

Chapter Nine: The Preservation of Moral Values in Politics

After examining these more specific issues, Niebuhr returns to consider a problematic feature of his political realism. He writes, "A too consistent political realism would seem to consign society perpetual warfare. If social cohesion is impossible without coercion, and coercion is not possible without the creation of social injustice, and the destruction of injustice without the use of further coercion, are we not in an endless cycle of social conflict?" (231)

Niebuhr claims that the solution is that there is no solution. A delicate balancing act must be performed in which peace and injustice are balanced against coercion and justice. Both coercion and injustice can never be fully eliminated, but they must be minimized in order to maximize peace and justice. In

Moralism and social intelligence cannot totally eliminate coercion and injustice, but they can help in trying to strike the balance. They can also help in determining the best means used to achieve the goal of justice, just because coercion is a necessary part of political life does not mean that any coercive force should be used. Coercive power should be vested in the most impartial authority that can be found. It should not, however, be assumed that the government can ever be totally divorced from the interests of dominant classes. Also, it should not be assumed the distinction between violent and non-violent coercion is as clear as it might appear. Even the principle of mere non-cooperation can result in consequences similar to that of violence. Education as well contains coercive elements. There is an element of propaganda in all education.

The central issue in the use of coercive powers is thus whether it proceeds from good-will or bad-will. Whether the coercive force is violent or non-violent is important, but not essential. Thus, it is more the temper of non-violence then the method of non-violence which is important. Both the temper and the method of non-violence are useful, however, because they deprive the opponent of the moral conceit of defending the peace and order of society.

Another issue, related to the temper and method of non-violence, is resentment. Limiting resentment helps to see the situation clearly and discriminate between the evils of a social system and particular individuals. Resentment does have certain uses, however. A complete lack of it seems to express a lack of moral vigor.

Non-violent coercion and resistance seems to be the most effective and least disruptive means for pressing for justice while maintaining peace. The religious imagination plays a large role in developing non-violent resistance. Principally, it allows one to appreciate common human frailty of oneself and one's political opponent. It is a major problem that religion has been sentimentalized in Western Civilization and is not seen as a source for strength in this area. History will always be an arena of conflict. It should not be thought that religion can be used to bring about an eternal peace. Nor should it be thought that religion has nothing to do with this world. Instead religion should play the role of qualifying and limiting the inevitable strife of the world.

Chapter Ten: The Conflict between Individual and Social Morality

Because of the clash of forces that are ineliminable in social life, there is an irreconcilable conflict between "the needs of society and the imperatives of a sensitive conscience" (257), between politics and ethics. The highest ideal of society is justice, while the highest ideal of the individual is unselfishness. Justice requires self assertion, resistance, coercion and resentment. Unselfishness requires "losing and finding oneself in something greater than oneself."

This conflict is no absolute, but it is not easily harmonized. Moral imagination can lead to foolish idealism. But, moral imagination is needed both if justice is to be approximated and not to degenerate into injustice. Moral imagination makes individuals aware of the needs of others. It also moderates the means with which justice is pursued.

Politics and ethics must be balanced in regards to their overarching goals as well. From the perspective of morality, the highest act is one that comes from disinterested motives. But, from the perspective of society, a competition of interests is necessary to preserve its highest ideal - justice. The former can be identified with religious morality, while the latter can be identified with political morality. Religious morality might encourage the injustice of others, while political morality might enable injustice through its approval of self-assertion. Rational morality attempts unsuccessfully to mediate between the two. An uneasy harmony between the two is necessary.

Pure religious idealism fails to appreciate the tension between ethics and politics. True, in intimate communities love is the only way to attain justice. However, the validity of love as a social ideal is attenuated as the social group gets larger. Indeed, as result of considering the plight of African Americans, Niebuhr claims that, "[e]very effort to transfer the pure morality of disinterestedness to group relations has resulted in failure" (268).

A double dualism is thus necessary. There must be a distinction between the moral judgments applied to the self and those applied to others. Egotism and selfishness must be disapproved more strongly in oneself than in another. There must be another distinction between what we expect of individuals and groups.
The selfishness of groups must be regarded as inevitable. The selfishness of a group can be checked only be an opposite assertion of power. Moral goodwill can only qualify, but not eliminate this conflict.
But unselfishness should remain as a goal for the individual. This will indirectly aid the promotion of the interests of the group. But it is, moreover, intrinsically valuable.

In closing, Niebuhr stresses the importance of social issues for our age. It is no longer feasible for individuals to think that they can focus on their own perfection and cultivation. At the same time it is important not to get carried away into social idealism. Idealism must be tempered by a realism that moderates, but does not destroy its vision.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Schleiermacher - On Religion

1. First Speech: Defence

Where is there room for the eternal and holy Being that lies beyond the world in our worldly focus on the arts and sciences? Human beings are torn between striving to establish their individuality and longing to surrender themselves. The first leads to an insatiable sensuality (empiricism) and the second to abstract principles (rationalism). Both are distorted and smoothed away to a dull mediocrity in which no excess appears. Those who unite both impulses in experience are mediators between limited man and infinite humanity.

What is the origin of religion? Fear of eternal being and desire for immortality? Perhaps, but Schleiermacher wants to be clear that religion is not a system. Religion is discovered in the emotions, and not in the plastic spirit of high contemplation. In order to understand religion, one must transport oneself into the interior of a pious soul and seek to understand its inspiration (18). "I maintain that in all better souls piety springs necessarily by itself; that a province of its own in the mind belongs to it, in which it has unlimited sway; that it is worthy to animate most profoundly the noblest and best and to be fully accepted and known by them" (21).

2. Second Speech: The Nature of Religion

Religion is usually thought to be either a way of thinking or a way of acting, but it is not essentially either. One may say that religion is contemplative, "but this contemplation is not turned, as your knowledge of nature is, to the existence of a finite thing, combined and opposed to another finite thing. The contemplation of the pious is the immediate consciousness of the universal existence of all finite things, in and through the Infinite, and of all temporal things in and through the Eternal" (36). Religion in itself is affection, a revelation of the Infinite in the finite, God being seen in it and it in God. Morality is always manipulating, but piety can be passive. When one does not acknowledge religion as the third, knowledge and action are so much apart that you can discover no unity (38). If man is not one with the Eternal in the unity of intuition and feeling which is immediate, he remains, in the unity of consciousness which is derived, forever apart. "The inner sanctuary of life - there alone you discover the original relation of intuition and feeling from which alone this identity and difference is to be understood. Wherefore as soon as you have made any given definite activity of your soul an object of communication or of contemplation, you already begin to separate" (41).

Feeling = immediate, raised above all error and misunderstanding, lying directly on the bosom of the infinite world. This is the true sphere of religion. Your feeling is piety, in so far as it is the result of the operation of God in you by means of the operation of the world upon you (45). Schleiermacher makes an Impt. distinction between religion and knowledge about religion (theological principles). If theological ideas and principles are not from reflection on a man's own feeling, they must be learned by rote and are utterly void. Without feeling, religion is dead. To take what are meant as descriptions of our feelings for a science of the object necessarily leads to mysticism and vain mythology (49). The sum total of religion is to feel that, in its highest unity, all that moves us in feeling is one (50).

The essential oneness of religiousness spreads itself out in a great variety of provinces, and again, in each province it contracts itself (51). Religion thus fashions itself with endless variety, down even to the single personality. Religion is like music, one great whole; it is a special, self-contained revelation of the world. Everything is to be found immediately and not proved from something else (anti-Thomas) (53). The whole circumference of religion is infinite, and is not to be comprehended under one form, but only under the sum total of all forms. Consciousness of infinity accompanies religion.

So "what is it in religion about which men have quarrelled and made parties and kindled wars? About definitions, the practical sometimes, the theoretical always, both of which belong elsewhere. But religion does not, even once, desire to bring those who believe and feel to one belief and one feeling. Its endeavor is to open in those who are not yet capable of religious emotions, the sense for the unity of the original source of life. But just because each seer is a new priest, a new mediator, a new organ, he flees with repugnance the bald uniformity which would again destroy this divine abundance" (55). There is in religion such a capacity for unlimited manysidedness in judgment and in contemplation as is nowhere else to be found (56). Religion is the natural and sworn foe of all narrowmindedness. People who say otherwise confuse religion and the knowledge which belongs to theology (56). Religion by itself does not urge men to activity at all.

The whole religious life consists of two elements, that man surrender himself to the Universe and allow himself to be influenced by the side of it that is turned towards him is one part, and that he transplant this contact which is one definite feeling, within, and take it up into the inner unity of his life and being, is the other (58).

Where now among all it produces is religion chiefly to be sought -> feeling (63). The outward nature is little else than the outer court (Tillich's worry) (63). One can have joy in nature, but the truly religious joy in nature is not it itself, but the essence of it, the external law in virtue of which nature is wondrous and beautiful. The religious sense corresponds not to the masses in the outer world, but to their eternal laws. The multitude of forms of life and the enormous mass of material which each uses in turn, there is enough for all. What a feeling of endless fullness and superabundant riches! See how attraction and repulsion everywhere and always active, determine everything.

The sense of the Whole must not primarily be found in nature but rather in our own minds, the nearest world is the seat of religion (71). But this does not mean that one must go it alone; one must rejoice in everything and share with a found humanity by accepting a mediator between our normal limited way of thinking and the eternal laws of the world. Each individual has a necessary complement of a complete intuition of humanity because each individual has a connection to the Whole.

Schleiermacher then describes a few stages on the path to consciousness of the infinite: 1) We start as crude empiricists, who seek to conduct our own existence according to own self-will and not be disturbed by the eternal current of the world (78). 2) Then the ego vanishes into nothingness, and 3) the Whole becomes clear to us in fellowship with others. 4) Finally, one realizes that "You are a compendium of humanity. Your Ego, being multiplied and more clearly outlined, is in all its smallest and swiftest changes immortalized in the manifestations of human nature" (79).

In religion, history is not science, but prophecy. What is finest and tenderest in history cannot be communicated scientifically, but can only be comprehended in the feeling of a religious disposition (80).

In religion, the universe is not the moral world, which cannot include immediate feeling without at once having its original power and purity disturbed. Nonetheless, religion is for morality an indispensable friend.

Religion is a necessary complement to our existence as imperfect, finite creatures. Individuals can pursue excellence, but only in certain spheres...hence most virtuosos are one-sided and defective, or at least, outside of their own sphere, they sink into an inferior kind of life (86). The only remedy is for each man to allow himself to be affected by the Infinite (86). Man sets alongside of the finite that he concentrates on, an Infinite; alongside of the contracting endeavor for something definite and complete, expansive soaring in the Whole and the Inexhaustible. In this way he restores the balance and harmony of his nature (87).

Religion leaves physics untouched. A miracle = the religious name for an event. Every event, even the most natural and usual, becomes a miracle, as soon as the religious view of it can be dominant (88). Revelation = that which proceeds from every intuition and every original feeling. Inspiration = the general expression for the feeling of true morality and freedom. Prophecy = religious anticipation of the other half of a religious event. Grace = the common expression for revelation and inspiration, for interchange between the entrance of the world into man, through intuition and feeling, and the outgoing of man into the world, through action and culture (90).

To wish to have and hold a faith that is an echo, proves that a man is incapable of religion; to demand it of others, shows that there is no understanding of religion (91). "You must belong to yourselves. This is an indispensable condition of having any part in religion. Not every person has religion who believes in a sacred writing, but only the man who has a lively and immediate understanding of it, and who, therefore could most easily do without it."

So what about God and immortality? They are ideas, and as ideas can have no greater value in religion than ideas generally (93). But the divine in us is immediately affected and called forth by feeling -> God! The proper standard of religiousness is a sense for the Deity. But to which idea he will attach himself depends purely on what he requires it for, and whether his imagination chiefly inclines towards existence and nature or consciousness and thought. Imagination is the free generation of thoughts, whereby you come to a conception of the world; such a conception you cannot receive from without, nor compound from inferences (98). In religious life then we may well say we have already offered up and disposed of all that is mortal, and that we are actually enjoying immortality (100). By focusing on an afterlife, people lose the immortality that they could always have, and their mortal life in addition, by thought that distress and torture them in vain. The usual conception of God as one single being outside of the world and behind the world is not the beginning and the end of religion. It is only one manner of expressing God, seldom entirely pure and always inadequate. Religion is in the midst of finitude to be one with the Infinite and in every moment to be eternal in the immortality of religion (101).

3. Third Speech: The Cultivation of Religion

Religious people desire to make proselytes from unbelievers, but they should remember that one can only communicate conceptions; no one can arrive at the point of making others think what thoughts he will (121). Schleiermacher intends to show that the cultivation of religion is like the cultivation of an artistic sense: "The whole world is a gallery of religious scenes, and every man finds himself in the midst of them." How then does the Universe train its own observers?

Man is born with religious capacity, but a sense for the profoundest depths of his own nature is crushed out by the rage for calculating and explaining, which seeks to bind man to a very small part of the finite. Schleiermacher reverently regards the longing of young minds for the supernatural and laments the way in which they are cheated of their natural sense by a hostile intellectualism, "whereby a world does not disclose itself (130).

Religious man is tempted toward two poles: one is to focus exclusively on the world, the other is to focus too much on the self. The former detaches the religious person from the Infinite; the latter do not open themselves to nature and are compelled to circulate eternally in an all too narrow sphere.

An end must be made to the slavery in which the sense of man is held, for the benefit of exercisings of the understanding whereby nothing is exercised (136). We are tired of seeing barren, encyclopedia versatility. Everyone should seek something definite, and follow something with steadfastness and concentration. Art more than anything else can combine a sense of ego and world. Religion and art stand together like kindred beings. To unite their waters in one channel, is the sole means for bringing religion to completion. When religion is accorded its proper place, philosophy, ethics and natural science are all allowed to proceed with their individual tasks successfully.

4. Association in Religion, or Church and Priesthood

There are many corruptions in the outward manifestation of religion, the church, but religion must be social if it is to be religion at all. This socialness stems from the vivid feeling of man's utter incapacity ever to exhaust the religious feeling for himself alone. This urges him to give his religion full expression and, seeking his own perfection, to listen to every note that he can recognize as religious. Yet religion is not just sociality; it withdraws itself from mirth and laughing, from too wide circles. Religious men seek the melodies of thought and feeling interchange and give mutual support (152). Religion in this way seeks unification, the Whole, and not division. "If unconstrained universality of the sense is the first and original condition of religion, you can surely see that the whole religious world must appear as an indivisible whole" (154). It is thus out of desire for wholeness that religion seeks extension, and not in order to divide into sects.

The great association which is the object of so much criticism is the counterpart of the true church (157). The visible church is without knowledge or guess of true religion. They desire ideas, opinions, dogmas, not religion. Their services have a school-mastering, mechanical nature, which indicates that they merely seek to import religion from without.

Nonetheless, this visible church should not be destroyed, but reorganized and seen in its relation to the true church. The problem with the visible church is that it seeks to decorate the simple grandeur of the heavenly structure with rags from earthly splendour; instead of fulfilling holy vows, they have left worldly gifts as offerings to the Highest. The visible church melds together political ambitions and pride and covetousness, thus forcing out the truly pious. The state also plays a large role in dividing the visible church from the true church; it pollutes religious fellowship by introducing into its deepest mysteries its own interests (169).

So what form should the church take? The priest should seek an assembly, not a congregation. He should want an open fellowship, to speak for all to hear. The visible religious society can only be brought nearer the universal freedom and majestic unity of the true church by becoming a mobile mass, having no distinct outlines, but each part being now here, now there, and all peacefully mingling together. The hateful sectarian and proselytizing spirit which leads ever farther astray from the essentials of religion, can only be extinguished when no one, any more, is informed that he belongs to a distinct circle, and is for other circles of a different faith (176). Besides closed fellowships, mechanical labor also keeps people from religion: "there is no greater hindrance to religion than that we must be our own slaves, and everyone is a slave who must execute something it ought to be possible to do by dead force" (178).

The more everyone approaches the Universe and the more they communicate to one another, the more perfectly they all become one. No one has a consciousness for himself, each has also that of his neighbor" (180).

5. The Religions

It is in the nature of religion that it be multiple. No man can perfectly possess all religion because men are determined in one special way and religion is endlessly determinable (212). But plurality of religions is another thing than plurality of the church. The essence of the church is fellowship. Its limit, therefore, cannot be the uniformity of religious persons. It is just difference that should be brought into fellowship. We must abandon the vain and foolish wish that there should only be one religion (214).

Schleiermacher opts to support the diversity of antagonistic positive religions over the so-called "natural religions" which blur distinctions. "The whole of religion is nothing but the sum of all relations of man to God, apprehended in all the possible ways in which any man can be immediately conscious in his life. In this sense there is but one religion, for it would be but a poverty-stricken and halting life, if all these relations did not exist wherever religion ought to be" (217). "You are wrong therefore with your universal religion that is natural to all, for no one will have his own true and right religion, if it is the same for all" (217). As long as we are individuals, every man has greater receptiveness for some religious experience and feelings than others. In this way everything is different. Manifestly then, no single relation can accord to every feeling its due (218).

Schleiermacher spends some time rejecting the "natural religions," from naturalism to pantheism, polytheism and deism, for they all lack what individual religions lack, which is the great relation of mankind to the HIghest Being. "Where religion is so moulded that everything is seen and felt in connection with one relation to the Deity that mediates it or embraces it, it matters not in what place or in what man it is formed or what relation is selected, it is a strictly positive religion" (223). Religion can only be exhibited in definite form, and only those who pitch their camp there have the well-earned right of citizenship in that world. But must every pious person associate with some religion? No. But his religion must be developed in himself characteristically and definitely. Whosoever does not find himself at home in an existing religion must belong to none but should be held bound to produce a new one for himself (224). The existing forms of religion should not in themselves hinder any man from developing a religion suitable to his own nature and his own religious sense.

In religious life, a definite connection with a past, a present and a future is made (227). Every subsequent moment after someone enters the religious life displays the purest expression of the whole nature. A new man arises, a peculiar nature. Every intelligent finite being announces its spiritual nature and individuality by taking you back to what I may call a previous marriage in him of the Infinite with the finite, and your imagination refuses to explain it from any single prior factor, whether caprice or nature (228). All this being considered, it is hard to complain against the positive religions.

Positive religion is a reflection of our situatedness: by the very fact of a man's existence he is set in a world, in a definite order or things, and becomes an object among other objects, and a religious man, by attaining his individual life, enters by this very fact into a common life, which is to say into some definite form of religion (230). Against the calm rationalists who argue against baleful enthusiasm and slow progress, Schleiermacher claims that they have mixed religion with metaphysics and morals. The religion of men of this kind is an inarticulate echo of the piety around them. The essence of natural religion consists almost entirely in denying everything positive and characteristic in religion and in violent polemics (233). It springs from wretched generality and vain soberness (234). Their resistance to the positive and arbitrary is a resistance to the definite and real. Positive religion on the other hand has a holy zeal with which it is contemplated, communicated and enjoyed, a child-like longing with which new revelations of heavenly power are expected (235). It asks you to dig deeper where your magic rod has once pointed, and without fail you will bring forth the heavenly stream to the light of day (what is the psychoanalytic reading of this?).

But it also asks you to regard the human which is to receive the divine. Do not forget that religion bears traces of the culture of every age and of the history of every race of men. Never forget the difference between the essence of religion and its historical forms. Religious men are throughout historical. Never forget that the fundamental intuition of a religion must be some intuition of the Infinite in the finite, some one universal religious relation, found in every other religion that would be complete, but in this one only placed in the centre (237). Guard yourself from both rigid systematizers and shallow indifferentists.

The whole idea of Judaism is childlike. The original intuition of Christianity is more glorious, more sublime, more worthy of adult humanity, penetrates deeper into the spirit of systematic religion and extends itself further over the whole Universe. It is just the intuition of the Universal resistance of finite things to the unity of the Whole, and of the way the Deity treats this resistance -> sin and grace (241). Corruption and redemption, hostility and mediation, are the two indivisibly united, fundamental elements of this type of feeling (241). Just because religion is nowhere so fully idealized as in Christianity, perpetual warfare against all that is actual in religion is presented as a duty that can never be sufficiently fulfilled (243). An infinite holiness is the aim of Christianity. If the mind is for a moment without intuition and feeling of the Infinite, it at once becomes conscious of hostility and remoteness. Christianity demands that piety be a constant state (245). With Christians, holy sadness is not occasional, but is the dominant tone of all their religious feelings. The truly divine element of Christianity is the idea that all that is finite requires a higher mediation to be in accord with the Deity (246). No man knoweth the father but the son, and he to whom the son shall reveal him.

But Christ never maintained that he is the only mediator. His disciples too were far from confusing his school with his religion. He always pointed to the living truth which would come after him. The BIble should not be regarded as a finished, fixed work. A time will come, it says, when there shall no more be any mediator, but the Father shall be all in all. But when shall this time come? I, at least, can only believe that it lies beyond all time.

Christianity scorns the idea that it is the only type of religion. Not only would it produce in itself variety to infinity, but would willingly see even outside all that it cannot produce from itself. As nothing is more irreligious than to demand general uniformity in mankind, so nothing is more unchristian than to see uniformity in religion (252).