chapter
Instead of conclusion: from four religions to four truth procedures
Pages 10

To end with, let us relate two different styles of profanation, Spinoza’s and Badiou’s. Notwithstanding the significant differences between the two philosophers, their shared desire for profanation testifies to an interesting convergence which is illustrative for our discussion. Here I want to deal with this convergence in divergence as a case of disjunctive synthesis through a comparison of the different understandings of religion in Spinoza and Badiou’s truth procedures. We have in previous chapters discussed four different understandings of reli-

gion. First, there is religion as ‘superstition’, which reduces faith to a sign perceived as the property of a single prophet or people. The second form of religion is the ‘universal faith’, still based on imagination but not reducible to superstition. It is open to all, universalist in orientation. Third, with the move from imagination to reason, we arrived at Spinoza’s ‘true religion’, which is still common to all but, in contrast to both superstition and universal faith, corresponds to the second and third kinds of knowledge. We have added to Spinoza’s original scheme a fourth form of religion, capitalism as religion, which signifies the perversion of reason into instrumental reason, and which constitutes a paradoxical form of religion by turning profanation (capitalism) itself into religion. The following diagram illustrates the relationship between the four religions

and their political implications. As a hermeneutical ‘fiction’, the diagram enables the interpretation of the

dynamics and the relations suggested by the four understandings of religion without being captured within their own schemas. Its intention is not to ‘position’ as such but to discuss the different constellations of religion, focusing on the intensities and tendencies the different perceptions of religions produce. Regarding the use of diagrams to illustrate relations and to structure thought, I draw on Mullarkey (2006: 176), viewing the diagram ‘metaphilosophically and immanently, as thinking for itself, relating seemingly disparate philosophies through its intrinsic ability to outline thought’. The diagram is cross-formed and based on two orthogonal axes: a vertical

continuum between imagination and reason and a horizontal continuum between property and commons. The inspiration here is rooted in one of Engels’ claims regarding religion: ‘only lack of illusions in the head of workers

could correspond to their lack of property’ (Engels 1957: 270). Notwithstanding the impossibility of getting rid of illusion, contra Engels’ hope, the relationship between illusion and property is fruitful. Thus, following this insight in a Spinozist framework, the diagram aims at constructing a social theoretical perspective on religion by illustrating a dynamic field of forces. It assumes an a priori understanding of religion as separation and mediation between two poles: property (appropriation/sacralization) and the commons (re-appropriation/profanation). The same logic applies to the second axis, that of imagination and reason, where the relationship between them is that of a continuum, or, to use Spinoza’s expression, ‘perfection’. In other words, the relationship between the two poles is not given in advance but must be thought of in processual terms. Hence the differentiation between ‘superstition’, ‘universal faith’, and ‘true religion’ on the one hand, and between reason and instrumental reason on the other: faith is not identical to religion as superstition just as reason is not reducible to instrumental reason. At the same time, the intellectual love of God is related but not identical or reducible to love of God. This double differentiation also shows that it is naïve to oppose reason and religion as, for instance, is the case with the contemporary ‘atheist’ critique of religion launched in several best-selling books such as The God Delusion (Dawkins 2006) and God Is Not Great (Hitchens 2007).