At some point, Alcoholics Anonymous meet Pascal: "Fake it until you make it.."

Niels Bohr, who gave the right answer to Einstein's "God doesn't play dice" ("Don't tell God what to do!"), also provided the perfect example of how such a fetishist disavowal of belief works in ideology: seeing a horse-shoe on his door, the surprised visitor said that he doesn't believe in the superstition that it brings luck, to what Bohr snapped back: "I also do not believe in it; I have it there because I was told that it works also if one does not believe in it!" What this paradox renders clear is the way a belief is a reflexive attitude: it is never a case of simply believing - one has to believe in belief itself. Which is why Kierkegaard was right to claim that we do not really believe (in Christ), we just believe to believe - and Bohr just confronts us with the logical negative of this reflexivity (one can also NOT believe one's beliefs...).


At some point, Alcoholics Anonymous meet Pascal: "Fake it until you make it.." However, this causality of the habit is more complex than it may appear: far from offering an explanation of how beliefs emerge, it itself calls for an explanation. The first thing to specify is that Pascal's "Kneel down and you will believe!" has to be understood as involving a kind of self-referential causality: "Kneel down and you will believe that you knelt down because you believed!" The second thing is that, in the "normal" cynical functioning of ideology, belief is displaced onto another, onto a "subject supposed to believe," so that the true logic is: "Kneel down and you will thereby MAKE SOMEONE ELSE BELIEVE!" One has to take this literally and even risk a kind of inversion of Pascal's formula: "You believe too much, too directly? You find your belief too oppressing in its raw immediacy? Then kneel down, act as if you believe, and YOU WILL GET RID OF YOUR BELIEF - you will no longer have to believe yourself, your belief will already ex-sist objectified in your act of praying!" That is to say, what if one kneels down and prays not so much to regain one's own belief but, on the opposite, to GET RID of one's belief, of its over-proximity, to acquire a breathing space of a minimal distance towards it? To believe - to believe "directly," without the externalizing mediation of a ritual - is a heavy, oppressing, traumatic burden, which, through exerting a ritual, one has a chance of transferring it onto an Other...

Slavoj Zizek, • WITH OR WITHOUT PASSION •, What's Wrong with Fundamentalism? - Part I





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