The Faith of the Faithless: Critchley and Cornel West converse

This last week I order Simon Critchley’s most recent book ‘The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology.’ In expectation of it’s arrival I watched this video of Critchley (an Atheist continental philosopher) in conversation with Cornel West (a Christian philosopher) exchanging some thoughts over the book.

It is a book that (as far as I follow it) is participating and engaging in the theological turn in philosophy – attempting to take up the good in theology and religion, with the aim of drawing out the content of such profound and historic words and phrases like faith and belief etc. so that they impact contemporary political conversation – which has succeeded in making the aforementioned words appear almost totally distasteful, insubstantial and as such inconsequential due to being informed by various conflicted religious positions whose positions are rooted in a metaphysical (theistic) violence.

Critchley, elaborating on his book, and West in the exchange, appeal for the rediscovery of belief, faith, perhaps even religion, among today’s ‘faithless’ because of the utterly profound material and existential questions and dilemmas religion and theology have historically harboured and excavated. In rediscovering and re-appropriating the content of these traditions and their vocabulary Critchley contends, that while far from agreeing with every detail (be it factual, moral etc.),
the power of socio-ideological critique and ethical action
can be renewed in this re-appropriation in today’s political
dialogue. The aim is to develop a way between a secularism
that refuses theological and religious awareness and a
theism that is grounded in conflict.

All in all it is a fun, informative and provocative conversation that drops a few beautiful quotes such as,

The religious tradition with which I am most familiar, broadly Judeo-Christian, is a powerful way of articulating questions of the ultimate meaning and value of human life; in ways irreducible to naturalism, in ways irreducible to natural science…

Furthermore when it comes to the political question, the political question of what might motivate a subject to act in concert with others, rationality alone is insufficient… In order that a legitimate political association might become possible, possible that is, in order that citizens might not pledge themselves to some conception of the good, reason has to be allied to questions of faith and belief that are able to touch the extensional matrix of human subjectivity… It is a question of how we speak of religion as a force that can bind human beings together in association, without God.

Love is an act of spiritual daring that attempts to eviscerate and excoriate the old self in order that something new might come into being. Love dares the self to leave itself behind, to enter into poverty and engage with its own annihilation, to hugh and hack away at the self, to make a space that is large enough for love to enter.

To philosophize is to learn how to die. That’s how to live.

The question “how to live?” has become the question “how to love?” Love is not just as strong as death, it is stronger.