Why is theology emerging again as a point of reference for radical politics? It is emerging not in order to supply a divine “big other”, guaranteeing the final success of our endeavours, but, on the contrary, as a token of our radical freedom, with no big other to rely on. Fyodor Dostoevsky was aware of how God gives us freedom and responsibility — he is not a benevolent master steering us to safety, but one who reminds us that we are wholly unto ourselves.

The God that we get here is rather like the God from the old Bolshevik joke about a communist propagandist who, after his death, finds himself in hell, where he quickly convinces the guards to let him leave and go to heaven. When the devil notices his absence, he pays a visit to God, demanding that He return to hell what belongs to Satan. However, as soon as he addresses God as “my Lord”, God interrupts him: “First, I am not ‘Lord’, but a comrade. Second, are you crazy, talking to fictions? I don’t exist! And third, be short — otherwise, I’ll miss my party cell meeting!”

This is the kind of God an authentic left needs: a God who wholly “became man” — a comrade among us, crucified together with two social outcasts — and who not only “doesn’t exist” but also himself knows this, accepting his erasure, entirely passing over into the love that binds members of the Holy Ghost (the party, the emancipatory collective). Catholicism is often designated as a compromise between “pure” Christianity and paganism — but what, then, is Christianity at the level of its notion? Protestantism? One should take a further step here: the only Christianity at the level of its notion, which draws all the consequences from its basic event — the death of God — is atheism. The Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durutti said: “The only church that illuminates is a burning church.” He was right, though not in the anti-clerical sense his remark was intended to have. Religion only arrives at its truth through its self-cancellation.

[Extract. Appeared in New Statesman, on April 1st, 2010. (full text).]


Slavoj Žižek

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, and a senior researcher at the Institute for Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London. He has also been a visiting professor at more than 10 universities around the world. Žižek is the author of many books; his latest are Against the Double Blackmail and Disparities.

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