cover image The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology

The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology

Simon Critchley. Verso (Norton, dist.), $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-84467-737-5

In this thoughtful, illuminating exploration into the complex relationship between religion and politics, New School for Social Research philosophy professor Critchley (Infinitely Demanding) uses this topic to link several essays, beginning with Rousseau’s writings on government and the “social contract,” and the almost magical process by which, in a democracy, the majority of citizens believe their elected officials represent their wishes. He then analyzes the ways in which heretical mystical groups of the Middle Ages, such as the Movement of the Free Spirit, represent radical socialist and anarchist elements within mainstream Christianity, and follows with explorations of Heidegger’s thoughts on the apostle Paul and his writings, revealing that one of Christianity’s first thinkers held ideas that could be considered mystical and anarchist. Critchley concludes with an argument against fellow philosopher Slavoj Zizek, who contends that the best course of action against political oppression or tyranny is what he calls “divine violence”: simply stepping back and waiting for the situation to crumble on its own. Critchley makes the case that people must actively engage against government abuses of power to force change, even resorting to violent action if necessary. Erudite and measured, this book demonstrates the ways religion can alter the political status quo. (Feb.)