Celebrating the universe, the end of religion

Why do religions still exist at the beginning of the 21st century? Because, as well as reflecting class interests, they are a civilizational response to the crisis of human nature. Humanity has been in crisis ever since its historical emergence ‘out of Nature’, as an animal or former animal capable of advanced thought and able of transforming Nature.

An animal that is no longer one, that is what the human being is now. The human race’s emergence from animality is thus contradictory: it has been achieved in practice, but at the same time it is illusory because human beings remain animals. Religions try to provide a general framework for humanity so that we can look at ourselves in the mirror.

This is why Jesus was able to say that ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. Indeed, people with a major intellectual problem, being ‘simpletons’ or ‘retarded’, do not have to juggle between good and evil like human beings in general, or more precisely with situations that are experienced as really ‘positive’ and others that are experienced as particularly ‘negative’.

So they don’t have the anxiety and worry that plague humanity in general, the positive and negative to-ing and fro-ing that turns our lives upside down.

In pre-colonial America, people with intellectual or mental disabilities were celebrated, for the same reason as Jesus did, as beings in contact with the divine, with goodness, with heaven.

Religions are an attempt to preserve appearances, to neutralize the oscillation between ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Religions are an obsession with maintaining a framework for humanity, to escape from the barbarism of the period when humanity lived ‘on the hoof’, with summary institutions established on a small scale.

This is the dialectical paradox: on the one hand, religions say that humanity is bad, but on the other, it is through this non-animal capacity to be bad that humanity can be good. It’s a contradictory message that runs through the whole of religion, as we read in the Koran: “Indeed, We offered the Trust1 to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, and they declined to bear it and feared it; but man [undertook to] bear it. Indeed, he was unjust and ignorant.” Religions are a fiction, because they say that mankind oscillates all the time between good and evil, and yet it is towards them that God would turn. In reality, God is a way of ‘holding on’, of establishing a certain calm.

It is in this sense that it is interesting to look at the dual aspects of what is happening at the beginning of the 21st century. On the one hand, religions are in constant retreat, giving way to everyday capitalist life, which leaves no room for such a spiritual approach. On the other, religions are constantly on the move, multiplying their forms and their attempts to influence the direction of society as much as possible. Hinduism wants hegemony over India, Islam over a whole series of countries, Judaism wants to control Israel, Buddhism wants to shape the countries where it is in the majority, Evangelicalism wants to take the moral lead in the United States, Roman Catholicism wants to be a profound cultural and moral lever, while the Orthodox Church works in tandem with the Russian state.

Religions are dying and, at the same time, aiming to expand in order to anchor themselves in modernity. This is significant, because what is at stake is a complete change in humanity’s vision of the world. The productive forces have developed to such an extent that religions are an anomaly, whose existence corresponds to a humanity of the past. We know too much for religions to have even the slightest credibility. We know too much about the planet’s past in the cosmic context, about the past of animals with the dinosaurs, about the evolution of humanity as a species…

And yet religions still exist. This paradox implies that they must disappear. As we enter the final quarter of the 21st century, a break is about to take place within humanity, with religions being replaced not simply by a ‘social’ reading of things, but by a materialist vision of reality, on a par with the universe. It is Spinoza’s dream that the 21st century will realize, with humanity recognizing Nature as a system and abandoning the vain hypothesis of ‘Man in Nature like an empire within an empire’.

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