chapter
Introduction: profanation versus sacralization
Pages 11

A resentful will to power which is ready to sacrifice this world in order to achieve a final victory in an imaginary other world: this is, according to D. H. Lawrence’s Apocalypse, the real message of Christianity as a ‘popular religion’. But Lawrence insists that this popular religion must be distinguished from what he calls ‘thoughtful religion’ (Ibid. 9). For there are ‘two kinds of Christianity’: the one focused on love, on the command ‘Love one another!’, the other focused on power and glorification (Ibid. 11). It is easy to recognize Nietzsche’s signature in this juxtaposition of Christ as an exceptional, mystic, amorous personality and Christianity as organized religion as an instantiation of will to power grounded in herd mentality and the belief in immortality, in (the last) judgment: ‘there has been only one Christian, and he died on the Cross’ (Nietzsche 1969: 151). Significantly, what the Christian ‘herd’ wants is power. But not only pacts

with existing powers; indeed, Christianity invented a new image of power, the ultimate power, power of God, which can judge all other powers (see Deleuze 1998: 39). Thus it invested its desire on a ‘postponed’, other-worldly triumph (Lawrence 1931: 32). The idea of postponement is substantial in two respects. First, it signifies a break ‘with the elegant immanence of Christ, for whom eternity … could only be experienced in life (“to feel oneself in heaven”)’ (Deleuze 1998: 41-42). Second, and equally importantly, the management of the postponed victory, of the long march to salvation, remarks the birth of governmentality, of account-keeping and ‘reckoning up sins throughout the ages’ (Lawrence 1931: 57). The real significance of the Apocalypse, its modernity, lies in its setting up of an apparatus of power and glorification, its ‘demented installation of an ultimate judiciary and moral power’ (Deleuze 1998: 45-46). This apparatus is the cornerstone of Christianity which is opposed to Christ, who systematically renounced the desire for power and thus ‘betrayed’ the love of power in his disciples. ‘So it betrayed back again: with

a kiss’ (Lawrence 1931: 18). In a sense, therefore, Judas is the ultimate figure of Christianity; in truth ‘it is Christianity that becomes the Anti-Christ’ (Deleuze 1998: 38). Hereby we have the major interrelated themes of this book: sovereignty

(politics), governmentality (economy), glory (the spectacle), and betrayal (revision). But unlike Lawrence, who thinks with Nietzsche and operates in terms of two opposed senses of religion, focusing on the uncanny disparity between them, my intention here is to turn to Spinoza. It is commonly held that Spinoza operates with three understandings of religion: religion as ‘superstition’ (which is similar to Lawrence’s ‘popular religion’); religion as the ‘universal faith’ based on love of God and love of neighbor (which is, again, reminiscent of Lawrence’s ‘thoughtful religion’); and the ‘true religion’ grounded in the ‘intellectual love of God’. In addition, I argue that Spinoza’s thought opens up the space for a fourth understanding of religion, which can accommodate instrumental reason. With Benjamin (1996) I will call this fourth understanding of religion ‘capitalism as religion’. What is important for me in this differentiation is how, and through which trajectories, these four conceptions of religion relate to and distance themselves from each other. The book is a series of forays into the problem of religion in modernity.

What has enticed me to this theme is the intriguing lack of critique and bluntness with which the ‘return of religion’ is taken for granted today. I deal with this ‘return’ at the intersection point of religion, politics, and economy, focusing on the field of formation, intervention, and intelligibility which emerges as these seemingly autonomous spheres encounter, problematize, define, and invent one another. I also seek to problematize the return of religion through another return, by revitalizing the critique of religion. In this sense the book aims at articulating an affirmative perspective that can re-evaluate the value of values that present themselves in the intersection of political theology, religion, and capitalism today. This necessitates a genealogical re-reading of political theology and eco-

nomic theology as well as their secular forms, politics and economy. To be sure, the paradigmatic theorist in this context is Carl Schmitt who has claimed that ‘all significant concepts’ of modern political theory are merely ‘secularized theological concepts’ (1985: 36). Modern politics consists in re-instating the essentials of theology in a modern context, translating ‘devil’ into ‘enemy’ for instance, ‘miracle’ into ‘decision’, and so on. Even modern revolts and revolutions, in this prism, bear the mark of theology; ‘Prometheus arises in the shadow of Christ’ (Taubes 2009: 89). This book can be read as a critique of this theological reductionism. Political

theology has always been a political theory of power. The history of religion demonstrates the way in which a political theory of power and government has emerged in the guise of theology. Only, power was disguised in the claim that it comes from God (see Dillon 2011 and 2012). In this sense one could claim that, contra Schmitt, all concepts of theology are political. If, in this prism, modern political theory has any significance, it is its attempt to profane

the religio-theological mindset. As evidenced again and again, this mindset is deeply rooted in our culture and still defines the human condition today. Its strength is what proves, from the standpoint of this book, why profanation is a significant category. Classical sociology grounded religion in ‘sacred’ things, ‘things set apart

and surrounded by prohibitions’ (Durkheim 2001: 46). In its originary sense ‘sacred’ meant removing things from the domain of free use and commerce so that they could not be sold or bought nor held as private property, that is, to ‘consecrate’ them for specific use in the religious domain; ‘profane’ in turn indicates returning that which is sacred to free use, making it common again (Agamben 2007: 73). It is thus separation (of the sacred and the profane) that is the paradigm of religion, and not, as the term ‘religio’ suggests, their relating together. ‘Religio’ is what seeks to keep the profane and the sacred distinct; profanation is what ignores and thus neutralizes this separation by ‘playing’ with the sacred, putting it into new, ‘inappropriate’ uses, and thus freeing humanity from the domain of the sacred, without necessarily abolishing it (Ibid. 76). Free play, after all, is an expression of the useless, of God’s antiutilitarian ‘childlikeness’ (Nietzsche 1967: 410). In this sense, as free play, profanation is the core of the critique of religion, the ‘first premise of all criticism’ (Marx 1957: 41). God is created in the image of man. Religion posits that the reverse is

the case. And the more this reversal is ascertained the more it seems that we are indebted, that we owe everything, to God (see Feuerbach 1989). Any affirmative critique of religion, therefore, must be able to deal with this alienating reversal and show that what is considered ‘sacred’ by religion – friendship, love, human togetherness … – is in its origin ‘profane’, part of life. Insofar as its immanent source is external to religion, insofar as religion is an apparatus of capture, sacralization is not an inevitable process; the profanation of the immanent nucleus of religion is always possible. What is at stake here is the nonidentity of religion and faith. Not all faith is religion and not all religion is faithful. Herein lies the significance of Spinoza for the book. Spinoza was the phi-

losopher who engaged with profanation most consistently and most radically. The crucial Spinozist question is therefore whether thinking and action are oriented toward transcendence or immanence, toward a vertical plane, where all ‘organization … comes from above’ (Deleuze 1988: 128) or whether ‘[w]e head for the horizon, on the plane of immanence’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1994: 41). ‘Whenever there is transcendence, vertical Being, imperial State in the sky or on earth, there is religion’ (Ibid. 43). The vertical plane of transcendence is a theological plane for there is always a hidden steering at work, a creator God, an evolution in the supposed depths of nature, or a society’s organization of power (Deleuze 1988: 128). But if we, on the other hand, ‘head for the horizon’, there will be nothing beyond, and everything will be a common plane of immanence. Not every gift comes down to us from above.