October 12, 2004


Thank Uttunul that I'd just read John Gray's Straw Dogs and Al Qaeda and What it Means to be Modern, or else the first episode of Jonathan Miller's A Brief History of Disbelief might have sent me into one of my patented k-poplexies.

Miller has always struck me as an insufferably smug Oxbridge jack-of-all-trades (ah, direct a play before dinner, then a spot of neurology, I think), reminding me of Scott Fitzgerald's elegant put down, 'there's none so limited as a well-rounded man'. And so it proved last night, as Miller interviewed some no-mark philosopher (the word 'belief' covers a wide range of things that we take to be the case, apparently; jeez, you can see why universities pay for these academic philosophers can't you, where would we be without them?) and paraded, once again, the professionally bigoted anti-Darwinian teleologist Richard Dawkins (Sadie Plant's dissing of whom remains super-sharp: Dawkins happily says that all life is about gene-replication, but equally happily seems to exempt himself and the punting on the river, cucumber sandwich commonsense Trad Academic world from the implications of this).

By contrast with the rabidly prosletisyng Dawkins ('burn, believer!') Miller tried to appear reasonable and well-balanced, not at all a fanatical atheist. But the sight of him in some NY wine bar with likemind stupid American smugonaut educated idiots, mocking religious believers like the public schoolboy he always will be, sniggering behind the back of the housemaster, was sickening.

Miller and his chums seemed to be under the illusion that the only available version of God is the theistic deity rejected by Spinoza three centuries ago.

Note, please, that all of the card-carrying disbelievers were white. Which is no surprise, since as Gray argues, the perception that religious belief is on the decline and that there will be an inevitable 'progress' to secumenical humanism is a conviction confined to the European White Master Class. And as Gray assiduously demonstrates, it is a conviction that has its origins in the bizarre and unscientific cult of Positivism, itself a degraded form of Christianity.

As Miller admitted, atheism is essentially negative - defined by what it rejects, not what it upholds. Why, then, should we become disbelievers? Offering up the tired conflation of religion with megaviolence is hardly a positive reason for disbelief, since most of the greatest massacres and genocides of the twentieth century were undertaken in the name of the secumenical humanism that Miller advocates. No: the real reccommendation for atheism must be the lives that the likes of 'cultured Europeans' like Miller lead. Theatre... Radio 4... marital infidelity.... neurotic interiority passed off as the human condition....the basic bourgeois credo that it is impermissible for anything to be greater than MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.......

No thanks.

Posted by mark at October 12, 2004 10:41 AM | TrackBack

YES YES YES- Miller is just ludicrous- goodbye and good riddance- when is he going to fuck off- the only thing i would argue though is that atheism is not essentially negative. To not believe in God is defined within a word because of the stupid fondation laid down by a theistic society- you are forced to define yourself in relation to something that you don't believe in. However, i find this utterly ludicrous- both worlds true and apparent are founded on a lie but why should i then have to define myself in relation to this lie. If there has never been a god, i am not rejecting anything. Its a bit like having to prove myself innocent of nicking my mates car that he never had. Potentiality, immanance- whats coming now- my atheism is technicolour glory.
In fact, yeah, atheism can go fuck itself too- i dont want to be defined within miller's shitty world- give me big bad beautiful zero.

And, really lookig forward to seeing the sapphire and steel vids i've just bought- mark- this blog of yours is totally fantastic- consider me a convert.

Posted by: jonny muwgump at October 12, 2004 01:16 PM

At least Gray learned from his mistakes, unlike most economists, who are brazen --- as he says economists didn't even have the concept of stagflation before it happened, still less were they able to predict it.

What's the objection to 'getting racial'? I don't see the agenda here.

Yes, Marx was a teleologist. That's something he inherited from Hegel --- needless to say, I don't accept everything Marx says, and the belief that history had an inevitable direction and endpoint is certainly one of many things about Marx I would reject. But it's Marx's scientism, not his failure to be scientific, that I would reject.

Posted by: mark k-p at October 12, 2004 08:15 PM

Fair play re, Marx, but the prob with getting 'racial' in this context is that it's undialectical: the 'European White Master Class' comprised both Tories -- hardly exemplifiying a belief in secular progress -- and Liberal-Radical-Whig 'progressives' who believed both in secular/humanist progress -- and in nonintervention overseas, the abolition of slavery, etc. And white European countries are hardly alone in their imperialism.

Posted by: at October 13, 2004 10:06 AM

Perhaps you could elaborate, in a future post, on what you mean by "gnosticism"? That is, I take it that gnosticism, in your view, is the way or path to a "version of God" that is different from the "theistic deity" . . . . Also, as for "neurotic interiority passed off as the human condition," certainly it is the case, as Foucault argued, that the Discourse of interiority begins with the confession of sin and then turns, in the modern era, to societal preoccupation with sexual identity, etc, with reams of books, science, art, commerce devoted to the matter, but merely because this Discourse did not appear until, say, Augustine, and then take a radical turn with the advent of the novel (Austen, Dostoevsky, then Freud, presaged by Shakespeare and Rousseau), does not mean that "neurotic interiority" does not in fact constitute the human condition. The Greek thinkers may have thought sex a trifling concern, and likely did not think in terms of transgression, sin, or pleasure intensified by feelings of guilt and shame. For the Greek thinkers, sexual desire seems to have been of interest only as a metaphor for philosophic desire, a gateway to the pleasures of dialectical reasoning and the life of the mind. However, what we know of the Greeks, for the most part, is what comes down to us from the surviving works of Greek thinkers and poets. It is not impossible that most conversations in the agora revolved around sex and money . . . . Moreover, even if the Greeks thinkers viewed sex and the other appetites as a trifling concern, and so paid it little attention in their philosophic writings, Xian writers and then the Moderns were fascinated by the subject. Why did the subject exert such power over them/us? Is it because Xian and Modern culture are democratic in spirit, catering to what lowly fools find fascinating and/or are duped into believing important? Or, in the alternative, is it because sex and the self are truly fascinating, such that even if the concept of the self, or the concept of sin, are historical in nature, the concepts, once unraveled, retain their hold over us and, in so doing, define the human condition. Certainly we enjoy thinking and talking about our sins, transgressions, and neuroses. And despite evidence that people of other times and cultures did not dwell upon these issues, there is little evidence that we, our successors, and all who come into contact with these concepts will not remain under their spell. And if the spell retains its hold, then the spell can be said to suit human nature . . . .

Posted by: dominic at October 14, 2004 04:03 AM

errr, just read the post below, entitled "staying alive," in which you the trace the outlines of an anti-Creationist conception of God . . . . your words on the subject are compelling, so hopefully you'll write more in this vein

Posted by: dominic at October 14, 2004 05:17 AM

Lots here, but just briefly...

obviously 'getting racial' is undialectical... that's why it should be insisted upon ... dialectics is the master class discourse par excellence ... will elaborate on this and gnosticism (with assistance from dark prince of gnostic cold rationalism ray brassier) soon...

Posted by: mark k-p at October 14, 2004 11:33 AM

no sex please, we're post-monotheistic monkeys no longer getting high on transgression

Posted by: infinite thought at October 14, 2004 12:57 PM

okay, saying that a belief in progress is simply the ideology of the white master race is just plain wrong because much of said master race did not believe in progress.

Posted by: Henry Miller at October 14, 2004 01:59 PM

'Progress' in the terms of liberal ideology towards some secular good is entirely different from the 'progress' of primogeniture. It's muddying the issue to say otherwise, and the idea that the white master class had a single monolithic ideology of progress is bunk, for the obvious reason that the biggest believers in secularist progress, eg John Stuart Mill, the biggest idealogues of liberalism, were also very much against slavery and empire. While some liberals were imperialists -- Chamberlain, for example, the Tories -- Salisbury, for example -- were not. Roger Scruton is the epitomyof non-progressive wmc-ness today.

Posted by: Henry Miller at October 15, 2004 05:21 PM