Saturday, December 15, 2007

Excessive Religion, Part 6: The Death of God and Fidelity

Part 5

Recap of Part 5: In faith, the promise of the future works upon the present.

What does one do with the death of God, then? God is dead, and as Lacan would said, the Other is barred. Yet, as Jean-Luc Marion shows, any insistence on the non-existence of God must offer a conceptual and therefore limited definition of the God it wishes to dismiss. Such a limited view of God can only ever be an idol, and so any atheism is only worth as much as its concept of God. A true, rigorous atheism, then, does not like in rejecting the existence of a being called God, whatever ontic or ontological characteristics one wishes to ascribe to this God. The existence and ontological status of God is not the primary issue; the issue is God’s status as the Autre, the Other that fulfills desire. Atheism is nothing other than the rejection of such a status. In other words, atheism is the rejection of faith in God. It is the rejection of God as sublime object and of the fantasies that establish the supposed relationship to God. The atheist simply does not have faith in God, “God” or the crossed God.

If faith corresponds to fantasy, than atheism corresponds to the traversal of fantasy and the refusal of God as the signifier of object a. Rejecting God as the object of desire allows the opportunity for a new relationship to one’s desire; to own one’s desire as if it were not a part of the other. Instead of encountering my desire and unconscious as an other, I can claim it and take responsibility for it. Where it was, there I will come into being.

The imperatives of faith are well known; the subject must act in the name of the desire of the other. The atheist faces a no less stringent imperative. In the final chapter of The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, Lacan outlines a conception of ethics revolving around the concept of not giving ground on one’s desire. A direction relationship to desire - in which one says “I” where the other’s desire used to be - is one that sets the subject in a place of radical responsibility. Desire, because it must be fulfilled, cannot but demand action. The difference between faith and atheist desire is that an atheist act’s in the name of their own desire, while the faithful subject acts for God’s desire. The atheist holds a fidelity to their own desire, hence another term for the atheist is the subject of fidelity. The subject of fidelity necessarily acts towards a point that lies in the future; endlessly deferred, perhaps, but the action is necessary none the less.

Both the subjects of faith and fidelity are active in pursuit of a goal that is continuously deferred into the future. Both are active within an economy of libidinal flows in contradistinction to those without faith or fidelity. It is possible to live without either faith or fidelity, without any pursued desire at all. Lacan would term such a figure the obsessional neurotic, the person that is only ever capable of questioning and hedging. The obsessional neurotic is only capable of questioning; this cripples action and makes a movement to a future goal impossible.

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