On credulity

26 08 2010

I just watched a film on Slavoj Zizek, who I will no doubt comment on in the future. (The above has nothing to do with the film, but was an interesting clip from another source.) One point that Zizek made was that we live in a much more credulous age than our ancestors (just as we live in a more restrictive age). He made the point by saying that a deconstructionist will never say that “this is a glass of water”, but rather something like, “if we are to accept the dominant discourse wherein we can assert that words can indicate the presence of objects, and if we are to trust our sensory perception, etc. etc., then one could assert that this is a glass of water”. For me such an illustration sort of alludes to various issues of assent that I have been speaking of recently. Zizek also draws a line between culture and religion. When religion is not taken seriously, it is known as culture. It exists in the social space, but without much “moral impact” (like existence of Santa Claus for adults). When people begin to take it seriously, it becomes religion as modern people know it.

When the friars first encountered Mexican neophytes at the beginning of the conquest in the sixteenth century, the indigenous people were taught the Credo, the Pater Noster, and the Ave Maria, and that was pretty much it. Within at least a generation or so, one of them would be able to say that he believed in every aspect of the creed, but would he believe in the same way as a modern person? Modern religiosity across the board has always meant “interiorization”. It is not enough to “follow the rules” or to do something “out of obedience”. Like the hypothetical child in the second video, you have to want to believe in the absolute sense, and will every article of your creed. It has to consume and define you.

This sort of goes with my comment on Stockholm syndrome religiosity: if I am not being treated like shit in terms of my most profound beliefs, the experience must somehow be inauthentic. Everyone wants to be a Kierkegaard with their own Abrahamic leap of faith.