Pushback on Peter Rollins

Mar 6th, 2015 | By | Category: Articles

lemley-somethingnothingSince the interview with Peter Rollins on 4/3/15 I've received a bit of flak. Nothing too mean spirited really. In fact, almost all of it has come to me in the form of what I'd call comradely criticism. The issues raised, especially the issues raised by Patrick Holt, are important ones.

So, to begin with, here is Patrick Holt's comment from the Zero Books facebook wall:

I find this kind of stuff very futile, except as an exercise in intellectual gymnastics. To me this isn't theology, except in the most generalised sense in which all data and all disciplines are subsets of theology given that theology recognizes no limitations upon its remit. For me this has the same flaws as Hegelianism, which is to say it is trying to transcribe Judaeo-Christian terms of reference and narratives into abstract forms imagining that by doing so you can universalize the particular and render it more effective and applicable, but which actually has the opposite effect because it has created a mere abstraction and that is the real mystification, and that by mistranslation in the process of transcription misdiagnoses of reality and the human condition have been formed which make the proposed tool considerably less useful and beneficial than the original Judaeo-Christian project. Peter Rollins may or may not be a radical theologian, but this stuff is at best liberal theology rather than radical theology, which is about the divine programme of world transformation whose premiss is the absolute condemnation of really-existing human socio-economic, socio-political and ecological injustices. in conflict with brands of conservative theology which are actually heretical which posit existing human order as the divine plan to be protected and reconciled with. I can relate to not finding the question of God's existence interesting, but I see no value whatsoever in treating God as a mere relativised proposition, rather than reality. The issue of "if not scripture as absolute source, then what and why" applies here. If scripture is relativised, it just means that something else is being absolutised, usually without being either acknowledged or justified. If someone is absolutising a variation on Freud, that needs to be acknowledged and defended, rather than ignored as an initial assumption. Also, I always have an issue with the terminology of "religion" & "secular" which posits a false and biased dichotomy, when in fact neither as normally conceived actually exists at all.

I'm reminded of a joke frequently deployed by Rollins's (and my) hero Slavoj Zizek but originally attributed to Freud. It goes like this:

From Zizek's essay "The Iraqi Borrowed Kettle":
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We all remember the old joke about the borrowed kettle which Freud quotes in order to render the strange logic of dreams, namely the enumeration of mutually exclusive answers to a reproach (that I returned to a friend a broken kettle): (1) I never borrowed a kettle from you; (2) I returned it to you unbroken; (3) the kettle was already broken when I got it from you. For Freud, such an enumeration of inconsistent arguments of course confirms per negationem what it endeavors to deny - that I returned you a broken kettle.

Your argument above fits into this logic nicely, not so much in regards to Rollins but in regards to Hegel (whom I'm much more interested in defending): To summarize nicely it goes like this 1) Hegel tries to universalize what is really particular, namely his Christianity 2) the concept of God cannot be a mere particular or individual or relativised proposition 3) every particular claim is always underwritten by an unjustified or unacknowledged absolute claim.

Here's my primary objection to what you wrote: you end up agreeing with Hegel as you try to disagree with him. The charge that by relativising scripture Rollins is secreting away his psychoanalytic assumptions is justified here by the implicit claim that every relativised claim comes along with an absolute claim, and this is an Hegelian observation. It is one of the primary observations in the Phenomenology.

Now, I could explain this further, and I'd be glad to in the comments, but I want to just start this discussion by pointing out that for Hegel and left-Hegelians like Marx, there is a real absolute that isn't a mere abstraction but is lived out through political and (for Marx) economic life. That is, the absolute is always particular.

Also, I would say that the extent to which Rollins approach to theology is helpful is exactly that extent to which his version of Christianity allows us to see and question the absolute that is unjustified and unacknowledged today. What I want to suggest to Rollins and others like him, including Zizek, is that the unacknowledged absolute at work today is lived out at the point of Capitalist production. It's to be found in the commodity and is called Value. What this means for Christians is that, if Christianity is to really be enacted as Rollins suggests, it will have to negate Capitalism. I don't think Christianity, as it is now, is up to that task, and I wonder if the projects that go along with Rollins' critique and interpretation of Christianity will fare any better.

However, on the level of a thought experiment, or as a way in to understand Hegel, I think Rollins is helpful.

Edit/Addition: I also think that Rollins' interpretation of Christianity is the most interesting one around today, or is part of a heretical/heterodox history of Christian theology that is fundamentally interesting and helpful.

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18 Comments to “Pushback on Peter Rollins”

  1. KB says:

    …and for the fundamentalist, their particular is always absolute.

  2. KB:

    Care to unpack that a bit?

    • KB says:

      Find it interesting that those who push for absolutes tend to do so in very particular ways. The absolute that they propose is almost always one that has to be accessed in the particularity that they have the key to. When there is disagreement on this, there is a schism. There has to be, because to not split, to accept some diluting of the particular is to doubt the absoluteness of their chosen absolute.

      To put it another way, to a blind man, every mole hill feels like Everest. Every direction they feel out is down, so surely they are on top of the world. In this sense, the role of the kind of Christianity that Rollins (and I) are proposing is that of an ‘agent of decay.’ It does not stand as an absolute itself, but instead functions to debunk all absolutes. The cross is the place where all gods are put to death, where all absolute claims are killed off.

      In Simon Critchley’s language (from Infinitely Demanding) this is ‘continually working from below to prevent any attempt at establishing order from above.’ In the language of art and literature, it is the function of the Trickster (as I’ve explored in some of my work). In political and economic terms, this is played out by the pirate/mutineer (I did a TEDx talk on this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=escnWFDUYhI ) In biological terms, this is what predators do in evolution: chase down particular iterations from local maxima.

      Of course, what the traditional Christian narrative highlights is that this has to be a continual process, because gods damned well keep on getting resurrected! So we keep on having to recrucify them. This, for me would be the central rite of a radicalised theology: the eucharist as the repeated decomposition of gods, the continual breaking down and reassimilating of their material, a constant reminder that ‘each one of us at the table should remember that we will one day become part of the meal.’

      What I took from Thacker’s ‘Dust of this Planet’ is that this is an essentially horrific move, one that we find very difficult to make, and one of Christian-Capitalism’s main tasks is to regenerate gods to avoid having to face it.

  3. George says:

    I think also there are other things hiding in plain sight in the critique.

    (1) Objectivity as Fantasy –> For Zizek, fantasy is a screen upon which we can justify our ideological positioning. For me, as one who does both philosophy and activism, I personally do not see that anything objective exists, (now to someone who does, they might read that my claim is ‘objective’ – that belief in the objective does not prove that the objective exists, it simple proves the belief in the objective exists. I am working on a concept now, whereby only subjects interact with subjects. A semiotic phenomenology of reality. But, this object-subject distinction, if I can be so bold is essentially the most mundane of arguments. There is nothing objective about reality, there never has been.

    (2) Peter is a friend. We’ve shared the stage. Of course, my defense is going to be biased. But, where Peter is important is that he inaugurates a discourse that has been needing to happen for quite some time. Radical Theology, if taken literally is going to the ‘root’ of the study of God. I feel that Pete does this succinctly and creatively. For me, and where I stand, he is a bit conservative, that might come to a shock to hear that phrase in connection to Peter, but I do not use it pejoratively, only comparatively. Meaning, for me, Christianity has no use as a historical phenomena, or religious structure, nor does the Church. I think both smack in the phase of Christ’s Anti-Roman Zealotry, and also his mystical teachings. I think Christianity as a religion and yes, even as a religious experience, should have died a long time ago. Whereas, Peter desires to set up on the model of neo-church movement (under different terminology & practice, that is). For me, the message of Christ is that all structures hide the void inside (i.e., the temple is empty/the curtain was rend into). Also, it doesn’t go far enough, it flirts with Atheism by using its terminology. For me, the point of the Lost sheep was that he was lost, it was a traumatic break from anything structured. The sheep didn’t come back.

    I say all that comparatively. However, Peter is an important voice in the segway to a more universal expression of religion faith. A much needed one for those who are beginning to see that Christianity is found wanting.

    • Vladimir Estragon says:

      re: ” I am working on a concept now, whereby only subjects interact with subjects. ”

      This basically Alfred Whitehead’s point in “Process and Reality” – that the starting point for metaphysics (i.e. ontology) is that the world consists of interacting subjects rather then objects. See also David Chalmer’s work.

  4. Myron Penner says:

    Or there’s always the Zizek joke about the snobbish idiot with a prosaic grasp of French who goes to a fancy restaurant and consistently misinterprets the waiter b/c he doesn’t have a sufficient grasp of how to contextualize his French properly in a conversation – he consistently misses the point and mispeaks b/c he thinks he understands when, in fact, he does not.

    Rollins’ attempt to appropriate Zizek’s Lacanian reading of Hegel reads a lot like that to me most of the time and, your above point notwithstanding (Holt demonstrates his agreement w/ Hegel by alleging to disagree), Rollins seems to want to have his Zizek to prove he is “a man of culture” but at the end of the day bids us “Nota bene” when he should be saying “bonne nuit.” There’s no real thinking going on here and he sounds an awful lot like Zizek w/out the Absolute – or the Kierkegaard.

    • Myron,

      Nice reference to a Zizek joke, but remember Zizek ends up siding with the snobbish idiot whenever he tells that joke. Here’s an explanation of that joke as lifted from, what else, Zizek’s Jokes:

      “Do most of the dialogues in philosophy not function in a similar way, especially when a philosopher endeavors to criticize another philosopher? Is not Aristotle’s critique of Plato a series of “Nota bene!” not to mention Marx’s critique of Hegel, etc., etc.?”

      That aside, I do wonder about how Rollins is tagged with the label of a “Postmodern Christian” while Zizek is seen as a critic of postmodernism. What’s interesting to me is how John Caputo’s influence on Rollins might temper or stifle his understanding of Zizek and Lacan. I’m not expert on Caputo having only listened to a couple of lectures by him, but it is worth noting that Caputo’s “weak theology” is significantly different from Zizek’s Christian Atheism.

      That said, there is plenty of room for improvement in all these names because none of them precisely agree with me.

      So, to push forward a bit, how familiar are you with Caputo and Postmodern Christianity and how do you see it in relationship with something like Altizer’s Death of God theology and Zizek’s similar stance?

      Here’s Zizek on the Death of God:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOFfPMWyUAQ

      • Myron Penner says:

        Zero Books Editor (Douglas?) – Really!? Žižek sides w/ the snobbish idiot? I should think that the joke is on those who think they make progress in philosophical disputes. At any rate, we certainly don’t want to say that the snobbish idiot is performing the function that he thinks he is, do we? And niether is he actually saying anything really all that interesting. But I suppose we might say that at least the misunderstanding is generative. And I will give Rollins at least that much. And he’s an incredibly likable guy to boot – just the kind of guy I’d love to have a pint with!

        I have some familiarity w/ Caputo, Kearney, et al. and their version of the pomo Xian discourse. Rollins’ project, as you note, is deeply sympathetic and you have put your finger exactly on a serious point of contention I have with Rollins. I am not at all sure that he sees how Caputo is fundamentally different than Žižek – he seems to pick & choose what he likes in order to keep himself in this clever little place. I would love, for instance, to hear Rollins champion St Paul & Stalin in the same sentence! And if he can’t/won’t, why the hell not!? That would be a very interesting conversation. To date, all Rollins seems to do is acknowledge they don’t mix well but that he thinks they can compliment each other in “pretty powerful ways.” But that’s not at ALL obvious, particularly in light of Caputo’s Derridean gnostic drift and Žižek’s virile affirmation of materiality. But the real point here is: I know (programmatically) why Caputo & Žižek do what they do. I have no idea why Rollins does. And I don’t even know how to understand what he’s trying to effect – b/c he’s so busy theorizing that he’s not actually doing anything. I am reminded of Žižek’s little rant on the “falsity” of posmodern liberal “undecidability” – such as Caputo, Derrida (Rollins?) which emanates from a lofty, serene distance & dismisses every fully pledged engagment, as opposed to the angst-ridden dogmatic taking of sides by a “fundamentalist.” Žižek says that in this instance he sides w/ the fundamentalist.

        And this is my real problem w/ Rollins. He lacks the self-ironic, self-deprecating stance of Z, which rescues everything for him. I come to different conclusions that Žižek but I can make sense of him – and by that, I mean who he is. There is a kind of subjective appropriation that has the ring of Kierkegaardian truth to it. Rollins seems, to me, right now – with his videos w/ Rob Bell, his publicity machine, & his grand tours – to be performatively saying the opposite of what he avows.

        But then again, these are more 1/2 developed ideas than a thought-through critique.

        • Myron Penner says:

          P.S. In the sentence above which runs “seems to acknowledge that they don’t mix well,” the “they” is Caputo & Žižek not Stalin & St Paul. Rereading, I realize that that’s ambiguous.

        • Yeah. Zero Books Editor = Douglas Lain.

          So I agree with you that Rollins is a likable guy and that the most Christian way to treat him is to criticize his ideas mercilessly. That’s fine by me. If I take exception to anything it is just the tinge of resentment and disdain that I find in some comments. Again, if Aristotle is a snobbish idiot who misunderstand Plato then we should all of us aim at being similarly idiots.

          So, to follow-up on a few points, I agree with you that Zizek’s embrace of St. Paul might be an important difference between Z and Rollins. And I can see how somebody might charge Rollins with reducing over Christ to a nice guy relativist or an advocate of tolerance.

          Now, since you’ve said that you don’t know what Rollins is up to ultimately, maybe we should look at this to help us figure it out. That is, what DOES Rollins say about Paul?

          In his book the Divine Magician he says

          “The new community envisage by Paul is not some alternative to what already exists, but is a vision that can be adopted by already existing communities. If it were as simple as the idea of creating some new group, this would itself become its own tradition that would need to be challenged. This idea of the neither/nor should be approached as a way of revolutionizing already existing communities.

          […]

          By taking this approach to Paul, we gain a picture of what it might be like to found a community that is not in submission to its political, cultural, and religious markers. Of course, new communities will arise out of old ones,and no community will ever be free of bias, conflict, and prejudices. But the possibility is held out for communities that are willing and able to challenge themselves, face their internal conflicts, and strive to better enact liberation.”

          What I take from this is that Rollins is suggesting that we introduce self-consciousness, something close to what Zizek calls the gap, into existing communities. That we should aim at bringing awareness of this gap to peoples in order to open up a space for change. Zizek might criticize this approach to Paul/Hegel/Lacan (who get interesting conflated I think) with something like the following lines that I’m taking from his book the Parallax view.

          “Hegel’s starting point is the fact that the fundamental structure of the human mind is self-reflective: a human being does not simply act, it (can) act(s) upon rational freely assumed norms and motivations, which means that, in order to account for our statements and attitudes, one cannot ever simply refer to some positive data (natural laws and processes, divine Reason, God’s Will…) – each of these reference has to be JUSTIFIED, its normative binding power has to be somehow ACCOUNTED FOR. – The problem with this elegant solution is that, in contrast to the robust direct metaphysical reading of Hegel as rendering the structure of the Absolute, it is too modest: it silently reduces Hegel’s logic to a system of global epistemology.”

          • Myron Penner says:

            I’m all about the gap that is constititive of the community… I guess what I should have said is something like this: Žižek’s starting point is Hegel’s – as you said so well, the assumption that “that the fundamental structure of the human mind is self-reflective.” And this, of course, is the path to the Absolute (for Hegel-Žižek). This is tantamount to The Event which introduces a gap, a “middle” (Rose), between antitheses (i.e., the speculative standpoint). However, St Paul’s starting point is the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ – that he has been apocalypsed, if you will, by the resurrected JC & this has relativised everything in his world (& Žižek could learn a few things from Agamben). That is, for the Žižek-Hegel-Lacan complex there is a philosophical project to be performed (which ultimately is an ethical-political project) founded on this Event, while for St Paul there is an (unreplicable) apocalypse to be announced.

            But I don’t know where Rollins is on this. Has he been apocalypsed by speculative Reason or by JC?

  5. Jake says:

    Rollins’ critique and crafting of a new Christian faith/non-faith is creative and very much needed for what is actually left for the dying structure of what constitutes as Christianity today.

    The reality is that Rollins is in a symbiotic relationship with the Church and is possibly using the church as a defense mechanism to not deal with his own horror and trauma, which he is continually writing for others to face and give up. Without the church he has no stage and without a stage he has no source of income in which to continue to travel and write his books as most of his lectures are out of churches and seminaries.

    He would truly demonstrate the death of his own big Other and relinquish his own defense mechanisms if he allowed his stage to be burnt and open up his philosophy to a wider audience other than the Christian community at large.

    He has a lot to offer, I just think he should follow through and embody his own radical writings.

    • Hey

      I think you bring up an important point. Although I hope you allow me to reshape it a little. Perhaps you won’t recognize your concern when I reframe it in the way that it strikes me, but feel free to come back at me. First I want to distance myself a little from some of your concerns,

      – While I think my work in general is part of a defense mechanism, I don’t think that my work within the church is. Without getting into my psychoanalytic reflections on myself (which would be as boring to hear as someone recounting their dreams), my work reflects my own tarrying with lack, but that lack for me rests more in the area of relationships and sexuality than church based religion (which I’ve never been that attached to, even in my late teens, when I went to a church).

      – In terms of making a living, it is true that my main source of income at the moment is from speaking, much of which comes from churches. However, again this isn’t really a big reason for me staying in the line of work I do. I have opportunities to make a living in other ways, some of which appeal to me more than the way I currently survive.

      – You bring up the issue of platform, and it is true that I work within the church largely because of the way that it allows me to address lots more people than I could have had I chosen a different path. This was partly circumstance and partly deliberate. The circumstance was in the fact that I knew the Christian world well and was coming from that location. The deliberate part was strategic in that I felt that I might be able to instigate more far reaching change in a movement that had built in structures for teaching, ritual, community etc.

      I know it probably sounds like I’ve just said that I disagree with you, but what I heard in your comment was something connected to the idea that 1) I should try to apply this thinking to a wider audience and 2) that I might be propping up the very system that I am critiquing.

      In terms of the first, I agree and am trying to enact that (I’m currently writing a more broadly based book, doing lectures in more classically secular environments, and have been focusing on doing interviews with non-religious podcasts – like Zero Squared, Pete Holmes, Eliot Morgan etc.). Whether or not I will succeed has yet to be seen!

      In terms of the second, I think that this is an important critique and one that I do wrestle with… to what extent does my presence in a church allow that church to feel ‘edgy’ while not enacting what is being said. Thus keeping people in that system when it might be better for people to leave it. It is true that it can often feel like a knife wrapped in bubble wrap… a talk about the death of the Big Other that is bookended by prayers and music that enact the Big Other.

      Now I’m tempted to write a lot about the various things I think about this, but I should stop. Maybe I’ll try and address it in a blog.

      Anyway, thanks for your comment, and I hope that I didn’t twist it beyond all recognition

      • Jake says:

        Peter, I want to say that your honesty in your response is refreshing.

        I think I hear you saying I am both right and wrong in my original reply (of course). I can hear some tension in your writing as you seek to be congruent to who you are and what you value. I appreciate that.

        You write that you have never been attached to church-based religion. Ironically you are probably more attached to it now than you have ever been. You acknowledge that the church is your main source of income and then you know very well how that dynamic can tether and bind a person to it. Much like the doubt ridden pastors you have previously written about in your books who know they should of left a long time ago but circumstances, mostly connections and money (sacred objects/idols), keep them in it. Whether or not you wrestle with what they wrestle with is your journey alone.

        If there is no Big Other transcendent yet immanent metaphysical God, if Jesus was not God or in some sense divine (although how could Jesus be if the Divine doesn’t exist?), if the Bible is not the word of God, all of which most churches believe in some form or another and if you yourself don’t believe in those claims, then why use Jesus, Paul and the Bible as your primary sources for your works? It not only perpetuates the very systems and structures that are not only nonsensical but also which are idolatrous (comforting and giving people a sense of security). If Jesus and Paul were just ordinary men yet who were radically and deeply effected by “the event”, than why not open your material up and allow it to sift through other important figures radically changed by the event other than Jesus, Paul and thus the Christian community at large?

        But it sounds like you are starting to do that to some degree and I am excited about that. I have listened to some of your interviews with non-faith people and they have been excellent.

        Ironically, I can actually see you on Oprah, the same reasons your mate Rob Bell is on there. Like all of them gurus, you offer a way towards freedom, salvation and happiness. Or as you say, “a salvation that takes places within our unknowing and dissatisfaction” (Idolatry of God). Elsewhere you write, “There is a way of celebrating life that is more authentic, enriching, and healing than anything we might find through membership to some special club” (Divine Magician). You are no different in offering another gospel but of course your gospel, in my opinion, is much more horrific, honest and beautiful at the same time.

        And on your last point, of course your presence in churches allow people to feel ‘edgy’ while remaining in the very system and worshipping the Big Other you have originally sought to “burn up”. You get paid, you leave the lectures and for the most part the seminaries and churches run as status quo, with maybe a couple of more raw worship songs and hip doubt-filled liturgical events once a month. That is what is considered a “first-order change” in cybernetics. A second-order change would be much drastic. But I am sure if you knew how to enact lasting second-order change in these church structures you would. I would say first-order change is better than nothing.

        Peter, your work is excellent and is appreciated. I am also sure I have written anything you have not wrestled through or are currently wrestling with yourself.

        Cheerio mate!!

  6. Charley Earp says:

    Greetings to everyone on this thread. I’ve enjoyed and recoiled from the conversation a few times. Since it is easier to complain than to compliment, I will indulge my negative drive and express my “absolute” astonishment at Jake’s comments about Rollins’ relationship to the Church. He refers to “the dying structure of what constitutes as Christianity today.” How utterly laughable! The real violent upheaval of the gospel truth is that Jake is dying! (We all are!)

    The Church will outlast every single one of us here. I am no Roman Catholic, but even if Vatican City were nuked today, the Mother Church would reconstitute itself from the ashes. Nearly 2000 years of institutional continuity is an acheivement every Trotskyite sectarian wishes to emulate!

    Religion is not dying, not even slightly ill. Islam is growing, Christianity is growing, Buddhism is growing. Atheism is sort of growing, but much slower than Islam. As a physicalist myself (I don’t consider matter a scientific concept!}, I know there is no invisible intelligence guiding the cosmos. God isn’t dead, it never existed! That said, religion is robust and likely eternal!

    Why, then, do so many atheists imagine that religion is dying? It is little more than infantile rage at a parent who never satisfies every narcisstic want. You want a perfect deity who makes the world into utopia, but if you can’t have that, then kill God off as fast as possible. Since there is no God, you compensate with a fantasy of killing religion with rational disproofs of its central concept. Science does not end faith in God, only communism actualized could do that, though I suspect even in that Eschaton we will still see Jesus (and Paul!) as proto-Communists who really were atheists after all!

    Dear Peter, continue to make your fabulous wealth (ha!) from churchgoers eager to throw a few shillings at a fancy lecturer. I say this without sarcasm. I am planning to get my M.Div myself and become a Communist chaplain to the oppressed.

    • My reason for thinking that religion is fading is pretty simple. Religious institutions seem to have less and less power today. We certainly no longer rely on religious edicts to organize our daily practices and even those who are devout have a new and different God, a new master, who really always comes first.

  7. Charley Earp says:

    It really depends on who you mean by “we,” doesn’t it? Every Sunday morning, millions attend church, even by very rigorous estimates that reject self-reporting. As a former Pentecostal who attended church three times a week during childhood, I certainly gave nearly 3 decades of my life to trying to fulfill the Christian gospel, as I understood it.

    As for your “New Master” which I take to capitalist “Value,” of course, our daily lives under wage slavery are not given to God, but to Mammon. Capitalism only compesates our labor enough to reproduce it, but not to render it truly free or creative. And thus it goes with religion under capitalism, we consume the sermons like every other entertainment. We receive modernized sacraments that we don’t really believe feed us Christ’s body and blood, except maybe the Roman Catholics still do. Of course, it works even if you don’t believe in it!

    In my twenties when I was failing to hold a job or finish college, I desperately needed Jesus to comfort me in my agonized failures as a struggling young father. As I underwent a Christian form of psychotherapy in those years, I slowly peeled the onion of my father’s theology and realized that it was harming me more than helpling. Prozac saved my brain and cured my depression, not prayer.

    However, even in my post-Christian condition, I still craved transcendence and transformation. Jesus was more myth than deity, but I could not lose my faith in love. Love your neighbor, love the poor, love yourself, and love your enemies. Those injunctions led me to communism, to empathic identification with the oppressed.

    Religion remains and will remain in a transformed sense, just as it has undergone massive shifts across the ages, despite the apparent institutional continuity. The religion depicted in the canonical texts is not the Christianity depicted in the post-Apostolic Fathers, which is different than that consolidated in the Ecumenical Councils. The Great Schism between Rome and Constantinople shifted the meaning of “one holy catholic church” yet again. And, the Protestant Reformation undertook its quasi-modernizing tasks, meanwhile Rome engineered a Counter-Reformation which kept Spain, France, and a few other nations under the Papacy for over 2 more centuries. In the USA, primitivist Christianity blossomed into Baptist, Methodist, Restorationist, and Pentecostal new forms. Each shift taking much from each of the previous iterations and fastening on new innovations.

    Religion remains the interior collective of humanity’s aspirations, even as our exterior collective has shifted from feudalism to capitalism to weak social democracy and back again. We want to be perfect, to be loving, to be righteous, to have a steady guiding light ahead of us in uncertain darkness.

    My imagined future for religion is one that reconciles atheism with theism into a sort of pantheism, “all being is divine” and Satanic.

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