Friday, March 9, 2012

Liberating scriptures from religion


I'm arguing that holy texts are often works of alienation: we invent gods, then give them the primordial power of invention.

Better to see them as literary characters, and enjoy them accordingly:
Jean-Paul Sartre, in Being and Nothingness, noted that art seems divine because we see ourselves in the things we make. But unlike us, they are whole, complete beings – they do not become, they just are. Art is a fantasy of existential finality, which applies to things but not consciousness. In this, argues Sartre, art makes us seem like gods: unmoved movers, to use Aristotle's formulation, who are self-sufficient like objects, but self-conscious like subjects. 
This is an illusion, of course – consciousness is still free, and therefore imperfect, unfinished. But Sartre's point is an interesting one. Creation is one way to briefly avoid the instability and incompleteness of the human condition – and, by creating, artists are themselves god-like. Yet they often fetishise their own innovation, making it into a magical being, rather than a uniquely human achievement. God is a lump of lost human invention.

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