Slavoj Zizek • Only a Suffering God Can Save Us • Section 2: Kierkegaard

section 1: Hegel

It was without any doubt Kierkegaard who pushed to extreme this divine parallax tension, best encapsulated in his notion of the "teleological suspension of the ethical." In "The Ancient Tragical Motif as Reflected in the Modern," a chapter of the Volume I of Either/Or, [1] Kierkegaard proposed his fantasy of what a modern Antigone would have been. The conflict is now entirely internalized: there is no longer a need for Creon. While Antigone admires and loves her father Oedipus, the public hero and savior of Thebes, she knows the truth about him (murder of the father, incestuous marriage). Her deadlock is that she is prevented from sharing this accursed knowledge (like Abraham who also could not communicate to others the divine injunction to sacrifice his son): she cannot complain, share her pain and sorrow with others. In contrast to Sophocles’s Antigone who acts (buries her brother and thus actively assumes her fate), she is unable to act, condemned forever to impassive suffering. This unbearable burden of her secret, of her destructive agalma, finally drives her to death in which only she can find peace otherwise provided by symbolizing/sharing one’s pain and sorrow. And Kierkegaard’s point is that this situation is no longer properly tragic (again, in a similar way that Abraham is also not a tragic figure). - Furthermore, insofar as Kierkegaard’s Antigone is a paradigmatically modernist one, one should go on with his mental experiment and imagine a postmodern Antigone with, of course, a Stalinist twist to her image: in contrast to the modernist one, she should find herself in a position in which, to quote Kierkegaard himself, the ethical itself would be the temptation. One version would undoubtedly be for Antigone to publicly renounce, denounce and accuse her father (or, in a different version, her brother Polynices) of his terrible sins OUT OF HER UNCONDITIONAL LOVE FOR HIM. The Kierkegaardian catch is that such a PUBLIC act would render Antigone even more ISOLATED, absolutely alone: no one – with the exception of Oedipus himself, if he were still alive – would understand that her act of betrayal is the supreme act of love… Antigone would thus be entirely deprived of her sublime beauty – all that would signal the fact that she is not a pure and simple traitor to her father, but that she did it out of love for him, would be some barely perceptible repulsive tic, like the hysteric twitch of lips of Claudel’s Sygne de Coufontaine. This tic on Sygne de Coufontaine’s face no longer belongs to the face: it is a grimace whose insistence disintegrates the unity of a face.

It is precisely on account of the parallax nature of Kierkegaard’s thought that, apropos his "triad" of the Aesthetic, Ethical, and Religious, one should bear in mind how the choice, the "either-or," is always between the two. The true problem is not the choice between aesthetical and ethical level (pleasure versus duty), but between ethical and its religious suspension: it is easy to do one's duty against one's pleasures or egotistic interests; it is much more difficult to obey the unconditional ethico-religious call against one's very ethical substance. (This is the dilemma faced by Signe de Coufontaine in Claudel's The Hostage, this is the extreme paradox of Christianity as THE religion of modernity: how – as with Julia in Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited - to remain faithful to one's unconditional Duty, one should indulge in what may appear aesthetic regression, opportunistic betrayal.) In Either/Or, Kierkegaard gives no clear priority to the Ethical, he merely confronts the two choices, that of the Aesthetic and of the Ethical, in a purely parallax way, emphasizing the "jump" that separates them, the lack of any mediation between them. The Religious is by no means the mediating "synthesis" of the two, but, on the opposite, the radical assertion of the parallax gap ("paradox," the lack of common measure, the insurmountable abyss between the Finite and the Infinite). That is to say, what makes the Aesthetic or Ethical problematic are not their respective positive characteristic, but their very formal nature: the fact that, in both cases, the subject wants to live a consistent mode of existence and thus disavows the radical antagonism of human situation. This is why Julia’s choice at the end of Brideshead Revisited is properly religious, although it is, in its immediate appearance, a choice of the Aesthetic (passing love affairs) against the Ethical (marriage): what matters is that she confronted and assumed fully the paradox of human existence. What this means is that her act involves a "leap of faith": there is no guarantee that her retreat to passing love affairs is not just that – a retreat from the Ethical to the Aesthetic (in the same way there is no guarantee that Abraham’s decision to kill Isaac is not his private madness). We are never safely within the Religious, doubt forever remains, the same act can be seen as religious or as aesthetic, in a parallax split which cannot ever be abolished, since the "minimal difference" which transubstantiates (what appears to be) an aesthetic act religious cannot ever be specified, located in a determinate property.

However, this very parallax split is itself caught into a parallax: it can be viewed as condemning us to permanent anxiety, but also as something inherently comical. This is why Kierkegaard insisted on a comical character of Christianity: is there anything more comical than Incarnation, this ridiculous overlapping of the Highest and the Lowest, the coincidence of God, creator of the universe, and a miserable man? [2] Recall the elementary comical scene from a film: after the trumpets announce the entry of the King into the royal hall, the surprised public sees a miserable crippled clown who enters staggering… this is the logic of Incarnation. The only proper Christian comment on Christ’s death is thus: La commedia è finita... And, again, the point is that the gap that separates God from man in Christ is purely that of parallax: Christ is not a person with two substances, immortal and mortal. Perhaps, this would also be one way to distinguish between pagan Gnosticism and Christianity: the problem with Gnosticism is that it is all too serious in developing its narrative of ascent towards Wisdom, that it misses the humorous side of religious experience – Gnostics are Christians who miss the joke of Christianity... (And, incidentally, this is why Mel Gibson’s Passion is ultimately an anti-Christian film: it totally lacks this comic aspect.)

As is often the case, Kierkegaard is here unexpectedly close to his official big opponent, Hegel, for whom the passage from tragedy to comedy concerns overcoming the limits of representation: while, in a tragedy, the individual actor represents the universal character he plays, in a comedy, he immediately IS this character. The gap of representation is thus closed, exactly as in the case of Christ who, in contrast to previous pagan divinities, does not "represent" some universal power or principle (as in Hinduism in which Krishna, Vishnu, Shiva, etc., all "stand for" certain spiritual principles or powers – love, hatred, reason): as this miserable human, Christ directly IS god. Christ is not also human, apart from being a god; he is a man precisely insofar as he is god, i.e., the ecce homo IS the highest mark of his divinity. There is thus an objective irony in Pontius Pilatus’ Ecce homo!, when he presents Christ to the enraged mob: its meaning is not "Look at this miserable tortured creature? Do you not see in it a simple vulnerable man? Have you not any compassion for it?", but, rather, "Here is God himself!"

However, in a comedy, the actor does not coincide with the person he plays in the way that he plays himself on the stage, that he just "is what he really is" there. It is rather that, in a properly Hegelian way, the gap which separates the actor from his stage persona in a tragedy is transposed into the stage persona itself: a comic character is never fully identified with his role, he always retains the ability to observe himself from outside, "making fun of himself." (Recall the immortal Lucy from I Love Lucy whose trademark gesture, when something surprised her, was to bent slightly her neck and cast a direct fixed gaze of surprise into the camera – this was not Lucille Ball, the actress, mockingly addressing the public, but an attitude of self-estrangement that was part of "Lucy" (as a screen persona) herself.) This is how the Hegelian "reconciliation" works: not as an immediate synthesis or reconciliation of the opposites, but as the redoubling of the gap or antagonism - the two opposed moments are "reconciled" when the gap that separates them is posited as inherent to one of the terms. In Christianity, the gap that separates god from man is not effectively "sublated" directly in the figure of Christ as god-man, but only in the most tense moment of crucifixion when Christ himself despairs ("Father, why have you forsaken me?"): in this moment, the gap that separates god from man is transposed into god himself, as the gap that separates Christ from God-Father; the properly dialectical trick is here that the very feature which appeared to separate me from God turns out to unite me with God.

For Hegel, what happens in comedy is that, in it, the Universal directly appears, it appears "as such," in direct contrast to the mere "abstract" universal which is the "mute" universality of the passive link (common feature) between particular moments. In other words, in a comedy, universality directly ACTS – how? Comedy does not rely on the undermining of our dignity with reminders of the ridiculous contingencies of our terrestrial existence; comedy is, on the contrary, the full assertion of universality, the immediate coincidence of universality with the character’s/actor’s singularity. That is to say, what effectively happens when, in a comedy, all universal features of dignity are mocked and subverted? The negative force that undermines them is that of the individual, of the hero with his attitude of disrespect towards all elevated universal values, and this negativity itself is the only true remaining universal force. And does the same not hold for Christ? All stable-substantial universal features are undermined, relativized, by his scandalous acts, so that the only remaining universality is the one embodied in Him, in his very singularity. The universals undermined by Christ are "abstract" substantial universals (presented in the guise of the Jewish Law), while the "concrete" universality is the very negativity of undermining abstract universals.

According to an anecdote from the May ’68 period, there was a graffiti on a Paris wall: "God is dead. Nietzsche" Next day, another graffiti appeared below it: "Nietzsche is dead. God" What is wrong with this joke? Why is it so obviously reactionary? It is not only that the reversed statement relies on a moralistic platitude with no inherent truth; its failure is deeper, it concerns the form of reversal itself: what makes the joke a bad joke is the pure symmetry of the reversal – the underlying claim of the first graffiti ("God is dead. Signed by (obviously living) Nietzsche") is turned around into a statement which implies "Nietzsche is dead, while I am still alive. God". Crucial for the proper comical effect is not difference where we expect sameness, but, rather, sameness where we expect difference, which is why, as Alenka Zupancic [3] pointed out, the properly comic version of the above joke would have been something like: "God is dead. And, as a matter of fact, I also do not feel too well…" – is this not a comic version of Christ’s complaint on the cross? Christ will die on the cross not to get rid of his mortal envelope and rejoin the divine; he will die because he is god. No wonder, then, that, in the last years of his intellectual activity, Nietzsche used to sign his texts and letters also as "Christ": the proper comical supplement to Nietzsche’s "God is dead" would have been to make Nietzsche himself add to it: "And, as a matter of fact, I also do not feel too well..."

From here, we can also elaborate a critique of the philosophy of finitude which predominates today. The idea is that, against the big metaphysical constructs, one should humbly accept our finitude as our ultimate horizon: there is no absolute Truth, all we can do is accept the contingency of our existence, the unsurpassable character of our being-thrown into a situation, the basic lack of any absolute point of reference, the playfulness of our predicament... However, the first thing that strikes the eye is here the utmost seriousness of this philosophy of finitude, its all-pervasive pathos which runs against the expected playfulness: the ultimate tone of the philosophy of finitude is that of ultra-serious heroic confrontation of one’s destiny – no wonder that the philosopher of finitude par excellence, Heidegger, is also the philosopher who utterly lacks any sense of humor. Significantly, the ONLY joke – or, if not joke then, at least, moment of irony – in Heidegger occurs in his rather bad taste quip about Lacan as "that psychiatrist who is himself in the need of a psychiatrist"(in a letter to Medard Boss). (There is, unfortunately, also a Lacanian version of the philosophy of finitude: when, in a tragic tone, one is informed that one has to renounce the impossible striving for full jouissance and accept "symbolic castration," the ultimate constraint of our existence: as soon as we enter symbolic order, all jouissance has to pass through the mortification of the symbolic medium, every attainable object is already a displacement of the impossible-real object of desire which is constitutively lost...) Arguably, Kierkeggard relied so much on humor precisely because he insisted on the relationship to the Absolute and rejected the limitation to finitude.

So what is it that this emphasis on finitude as the ultimate horizon of our existence misses? How can we assert it in a materialist way, without any resort to spiritual transcendence? The answer is, precisely, objet petit a as the "undead" ("non-castrated") remainder which persists in its obscene immortality. No wonder the Wagnerian heroes want so desperately to die: they want to get rid of this obscene immortal supplement which stands for libido as an organ, for drive at its most radical, i.e., death drive. In other words, the properly Freudian paradox is that what explodes the constraints of our finitude is death drive itself. So when Badiou, in his disparaging dismissal of the philosophy of finitude, talks about the "positive infinity," and, in a Platonic way, celebrates the infinity of the generic productivity opened up by the fidelity to an Event, what he fails to take into account from the Freudian standpoint is the obscene insistence of the death drive as the true material(ist) support of the "positive infinity."

Of course, according to the standard view of the philosophy of finitude, the Greek tragedy, tragic experience of life, signals the acceptance of gap, failure, defeat, non-closure, as the ultimate horizon of human existence, while the Christian comedy relies on the certainty that a transcendent God guarantees the happy final outcome, the "sublation" of the gap, the reversal of failure into final triumph. The excess of the divine rage as the obverse of the Christian love allows us to perceive what this standard view misses; the Christian comedy of love can only occur against the background of the radical loss of human dignity, of a degradation which, precisely, undermines the tragic experience: to experience a situation as "tragic" is only possible when a victim retains a minimum of dignity. This is why it is not only wrong, but also ethically obscene, to designate a Musulmann in the concentration camp or a victim of a Stalinist show trial as tragic – their predicament is all too terrible to deserve this designation. "Comical" also stands for a domain which emerges when the horror of a situation outgrows the confines of the tragic. And it is at this point that the properly Christian love enters: it is not the love for man as a tragic hero, but the love for the miserable abject to a man or woman is reduced after being exposed to the outburst of the arbitrary divine rage.

This comical dimension is what is missing today, in the fashionable Oriental spirituality - our present predicament finds its perfect expression in Sandcastles. Buddhism and Global Finance, a documentary by Alexander Oey (2005), a wonderfully-ambiguous work which combines commentaries from economist Arnoud Boot, sociologist Saskia Sassen, and the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Dzongzar Khyentse Rinpoche. Sassen and Boot discuss the gigantic scope, power, as well as social and economic effects of global finance: capital markets, now valued at an estimated $83 trillion, exist within a system based purely on self-interest, in which herd behavior, often based on rumors, can inflate or destroy the value of companies - or whole economies - in a matter of hours. Khyentse Rinpoche counters them with ruminations about the nature of human perception, illusion, and enlightenment; his philosophico-ethical statement "Release your attachment to something that is not there in reality, but is a perception," is supposed to throw a new light on the mad dance of billion-dollars-speculations. Echoing the Buddhist notion that there is no Self, only a stream of continuous perceptions, Sassen comments about global capital: "It's not that there are $83 trillion. It is essentially a continuous set of movements. It disappears and it reappears..."

The problem here is, of course, how are we to read this parallel between the Buddhist ontology and the structure of virtual capitalism’s universe? The film tends towards the humanist reading: seen through a Buddhist lens, the exuberance of global financial wealth is illusory, divorced from the objective reality - the very real human suffering created by deals made on trading floors and in boardrooms invisible to most of us. If, however, one accepts the premise that the value of material wealth, and one's experience of reality, is subjective, and that desire plays a decisive role in both daily life and neo-liberal economics, is it not possible to draw from it the exact opposite conclusion? Is it not that our traditional life world was based on the naïve-realist substantialist notions of external reality composed of fixed objects, while the unheard-of dynamics of "virtual capitalism" confronts us with the illusory nature of reality? What better proof of the non-substantial character of reality than a gigantic fortune which can dissolve into nothing in a couple of hours, due to a sudden false rumor? Consequently, why complain that financial speculations with futures are "divorced from the objective reality," when the basic premise of the Buddhist ontology IS that there is no "objective reality"? The only "critical" lesson to be drawn from the Buddhist perspective about today’s virtual capitalism is thus that one should be aware that we are dealing with a mere theatre of shadows, with non-substantial virtual entities, and, consequently, that we should not fully engage ourselves in the capitalist game, that we should play the game with an inner distance. Virtual capitalism could thus act as a first step towards liberation: it confronts us with the fact that the cause of our suffering and enslavement is not objective reality itself (there is no such thing), but our Desire, our craving for material things, our excessive attachment to them; all one has to do, after one gets rid of the false notion of substantialist reality, is thus to renounce one’s desire itself, to adopt the attitude of inner peace and distance... no wonder such Buddhism can function as the perfect ideological supplement of today’s virtual capitalism: it allows us to participate in it with an inner distance, with our fingers crossed as it were.

Already for decades, a classic joke is circulating among Lacanians to exemplify the key role of the Other’s knowledge: a man who believes himself to be a grain of seed is taken to the mental institution where the doctors do their best to finally convince him that he is not a grain but a man; however, when he is cured (convinced that he is not a grain of seed but a man) and allowed to leave the hospital, he immediately comes back very trembling of scare - there is a chicken outside the door and that he is afraid that it would eat him. "Dear fellow," says his doctor, "you know very well that you are not a grain of seed but a man". "Of course I know that," replies the patient, "but does the chicken know it?" Therein resides the true stake of psychoanalytic treatment: it is not enough to convince the patient about the unconscious truth of his symptoms, the Unconscious itself must be brought to assume this truth. It is here that Hannibal Lecter himself, this proto-Lacanian, was wrong: not the silence of the lambs, the ignorance of chickens is the subject’s true traumatic core... Does exactly the same not hold for the Marxian commodity fetishism? Here is the very beginning of the famous subdivision 4 of the Chapter 1 of Capital, on "The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret":

A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties. [4]
These lines should surprise us, since they turn around the standard procedure of demystifying a theological myth, of reducing it to its terrestrial base: Marx does not claim, in the usual way of Enlightenment critique, that the critical analysis should demonstrate how what appears a mysterious theological entity emerged out of the "ordinary" real-life process; he claims, on the contrary, that the task of the critical analysis is to unearth the "metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties" in what appears at first sight just an ordinary object. In other words, when a critical Marxist encounters a bourgeois subject immersed in commodity fetishism, the Marxist's reproach to him is not "The commodity may seem to you to be a magical object endowed with special powers, but it really is just a reified expression of relations between people." The actual Marxist's reproach is, rather, "You may think that the commodity appears to you as a simple embodiment of social relations (that, for example, money is just a kind of voucher entitling you to a part of the social product), but this is not how things really seem to you - in your social reality, by means of your participation in social exchange, you bear witness to the uncanny fact that a commodity really appears to you as a magical object endowed with special powers." In other words, we can imagine a bourgeois subject visiting a course of Marxism where he is taught about commodity fetishism; however, after the finished course, he comes back to his teacher, complaining that he is still the victim of commodity fetishism. The teacher tells him "But you know now how things stand, that commodities are only expressions of social relations, that there is nothing magic about them!", to what the pupil replies: "Of course I know all that, but the commodities I am dealing with seem not to know it!" This situation is literally evoked by Marx in his famous fiction of commodities that start to speak to each other:
If commodities could speak, they would say this: our use-value may interest men, but it does not belong to us as objects. What does belong to us as objects, however, is our value. Our own intercourse as commodities proves it. We relate to each other merely as exchange-values. [5]
So, again, the true task is not to convince the subject, but the chicken-commodities: not to change the way we speak about commodities, but to change the way commodities speak among themselves… Alenka Zupancic goes here to the end and imagines a brilliant example that refers to God himself:
In the enlightened society of, say, revolutionary terror, a man is put in prison because he believes in God. With different measures, but above by means of an enlightened explanation, he is brought to the knowledge that God does not exist. When dismissed, the man comes running back, and explains how scared he is of being punished by God. Of course he knows that God does not exist, but does God also know that? [6]
And, of course, this, exactly, is what happened (only) in Christianity, when, dying at the Cross, Christ utters his "Father, father, why did you forsake me?" – here, for a brief moment, God Himself does not believe in himself – or, as G.K. Chesterton put it in emphatic terms:
When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist. [7]
It is in this precise sense that today's era is perhaps less atheist than any prior one: we are all ready to indulge in utter scepticism, cynical distance, exploitation of others "without any illusions," violations of all ethical constraints, extreme sexual practices, etc.etc. – protected by the silent awareness that the big Other is ignorant about it: "the subject is ready to do quite a lot, change radically, if only she can remain unchanged in the Other (in the symbolic as the external world in which, to put it in Hegel’s terms, the subject’s consciousness of himself is embodied, materialized as something that sill does not now itself as consciousness). In this case, the belief in the Other (in the modern form of believing that the Other does not know) is precisely what helps to maintain the same state of things, regardless of all subjective mutations and permutations. The subject’s universe would really change only at the moment when she were to arrive at the knowledge that the Other knows (that it doesn’t exist)." [8]

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 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… If there is a Freudian ethical injunction, it is that one should have the courage of one’s own convictions: one should dare to fully assume one’s identifications. And exactly the same goes for marriage: the implicit presupposition (or, rather, injunction) of the standard ideology of marriage is that, precisely, there should be no love in it. The Pascalean formula of marriage is therefore not "You don’t love your partner? Then marry him or her, go through the ritual of shared life, and love will emerge by itself!", but, on the contrary: "Are you too much in love with somebody? Then get married, ritualize your love relationship, in order to cure yourself of the excessive passionate attachment, to replace it with the boring daily custom - and if you cannot resist the passion's temptation, there are extra-marital affairs..."

This brings us to so-called "fundamentalism," the opposite of the "tolerant" attitude of displaced beliefs: here, the "normal" functioning of ideology in which the ideological belief is transposed onto the Other is disturbed by the violent return of the immediate belief – they "really believe it." Or do they? What if the neo-obscurantist faith in all its versions, from conspiracy theories to irrational mysticism, emerges when faith itself, the basic reliance on the big Other, the symbolic order, fails? Is this not the case today?

This brings us to the formula of fundamentalism: what is foreclosed from the symbolic (belief), returns in the real (of a direct knowledge). A fundamentalist does not believe, he KNOWS it directly. To put it in another way, both liberal-sceptical cynicism and fundamentalism thus SHARE a basic underlying feature: the loss of the ability to believe in the proper sense of the term. For both of them, religious statements are quasi-empirical statements of direct knowledge: fundamentalists accept them as such, while skeptical cynics mock them. What is unthinkable for them is the "absurd" act of DECISION which installs every authentic belief, a decision which cannot be grounded in the chain of "reasons," in positive knowledge: the "sincere hypocrisy" of somebody like Anna Frank who, in the face of the terrifying depravity of the Nazis, in a true act of credo qua absurdum asserted her belief in the fundamental goodness of all humans. No wonder than religious fundamentalists are among the most passionate digital hackers, and always prone to combine their religion with the latest results of sciences: for them, religious statements and scientific statements belong to the same modality of positive knowledge. (In this sense, the status of "universal human rights" is also that of a pure belief: they cannot be grounded in our knowledge of human nature, they are an axiom posited by our decision.) One is thus compelled to draw the paradoxical conclusion: in the opposition between traditional secular humanists and religious fundamentalists, it is the humanists who stand for belief, while fundamentalists stand for knowledge – in short, the true danger of fundamentalism does not reside in the fact that it poses a threat to secular scientific knowledge, but in the fact that it poses a threat to authentic belief itself.


[1] Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, Volume I (New York: Anchor Books, 1959), 137-162.

[2] See The Humor of Kierkegaard. An Anthology, edited and introduced by Thomas C. Oden, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2004.

[3] On whose "Concrete Universal’ And What Comedy Can Tell Us About It" (in Lacan: The Silent Partners, ed. by Slavoj Zizek, London: Verso Books 2005) I rely here.

[4] Karl Marx, Capital, Volume One, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1990, p. 163..

[5] Karl Marx, Capital, Volume One, p. 176-7.

[6] Alenka Zupancic, op.cit.

[7] G.K.Chesterton, Orthodoxy, San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1995, p. 145.

[8] Alenka Zupancic, op.cit.


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