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Hallow be thy name

To say that one believes in God is to be stupid and wrong by the definition of these words in modern secular culture. And yet I believe that I believe, so how? The word “God” does not mean what modern people mean when they deploy it. The word is ambiguous to the extreme, for good reason. In the Our Father, also known as the Lord’s Prayer, Christians pray to God: “hallowed be thy name…” Hallow — which means to sanctify — is in the passive voice and future tense. The word or name God is supposed to recede from profane access. To say one believes in God is not to advance any mundane empirical claim whatsoever, it is to hallow the name — to push it further and further “off limits” from exactly the mundane political jostling in which modern people intend to ensnare you by asking about it. There is no need for Catholics to affirm the empirical reality of a discrete creator-agent — a guy in the clouds — or any particular image or empirical conception that someone might wish to pin on the name God, so long as one believes in God. Neither am I endorsing pantheism, which also says too much, but in the opposite direction. What the word “God” means is not for me to explain, let alone argue about — to believe is only to believe that it makes sense, somehow, despite one’s admitted incomprehension. Anyone who requires additional affirmations regarding the existence of God, affirmations that are positively inconsistent with scientific rationality, is a heretic who calls for lying.

Religion, guilt, and creativity

One feature of religion a lot of secular people do not understand is that, although religion can make one feel guilty at times, it also prevents one from feeling guilty about trivial matters. Secular people think that by avoiding religion they avoid feeling guilt, but often they end up overwhelmed by guilt, because they attribute to all their mundane earthly projects an inflated moral significance.

One of the best examples is creative or intellectual work. Or career advancement. If I publish a blog post that everyone hates, or if I fail to get a promotion, or one of my silly hypotheses turns out to be wildly wrong, I really don't care because none of these things matter too much for better or worse. I believe they constitute a meaningful and honorable calling, and my dedication to this calling I believe to be Good in the long-run, in a way that matters. But failure on any particular project causes me no shame, because it reflects no sin. Shortcomings on such earthly diversions simply never take a moral tone for me, because they are orthogonal to morality as I know it with the help of my religious tradition. For a good Christian, creative and intellectual work is beyond Good and Evil. But for people who don't believe in sin, for people who think they can simply free themselves from guilt by ignoring it, then a failed writing project or a career setback can feel like a moral failure. It can, and often does, produce feelings of shame, for instance.

If one of my personal intellectual efforts fails, I would never think to bring this to the confessional! Which means I would never experience compunction or shame about it. For the arrogant, modern, secular type who thinks himself too good for the confessional, some little practical shortcoming that hurts nobody can affect their body like a real sin would affect mine. Not only does secular guilt accumulate more heavily (given the frequency of practical shortcomings), but the secular person suffers from guilt far longer than the Catholic, for the secular person admits no mechanism of absolution. This is one of the least understood reasons why modern secular minds are sometimes unable to create, despite deep yearnings to create. And why — when they do create — it is often superficial, instrumental, and ephemeral. They conflate their earthly, mental creations with an eternal, ethical plane they neurotically deny and desire. Finding their finite abilities not up to the task, they decide never to begin, or sell themselves short.

Hate Speech, Feminism, and Paganism with Nina Power and DC Miller

Nina Power is a philosopher and writer, and DC Miller is a writer best known for his opposition to the Shutdown LD50 campaign. This talk has become quite a scandal. In response to this talk, someone wrote a ridiculous Open Letter Concerning Nina Power, and Nina just today published a response. You can watch the original conversation here, on my Youtube channel.

Other Life is a pretty punk-rock-DIY affair, run by one person — and I'm not an audio engineer. As this podcast becomes more popular, I'm aware that I really should up the production quality. If you strongly agree, become a patron; influxes of support incentivize me to invest in production quality. Big thanks to all the current patrons, for helping all this to exist.

Download this episode.

Acceleration, Adorno, Jordan Peterson, Religion


Reposted with permission from the Parallax Views podcast by JG Michael. For many other talks like this one, find Parallax Views at @ViewsParallax and patreon.com/parallaxviews. Big thanks to JG for his interest in my ideas, and for extracting these atypically coherent thoughts from me. JG's excellent questions helped me make connections I've never made in public before, which reminds me how these new media are still so poorly understood. For intellectuals, podcasts are first and foremost production technologies rather than distribution channels or influence mechanisms (as they are to business people and social climbers).

From Michael's notes: "...How Justin got into academia... accelerationism... Justin giving his definition of accelerationism and its take on modernity... the different branches of accelerationism - r/acc (right accelerationism), l/acc (left accelerationism), and u/acc (unconditional accelerationism)... criticisms of these lines of thought... main players within the accelerationist milieu such as Nick Land and Edmund Berger... Nick Land's dark accelerationist vision... the way in which religion can act as a social technology against these horrors... the Frankfurt School philosopher/sociologist Theodor W. Adorno, his critique of instrumental reason, and the influence Adorno's writing has had on Justin's thought... this leads Justin into making an unexpected comparison between Adorno and... Jordan B. Peterson... Justin's research into the political ideologies of Jordan Peterson's fanbase... Justin's research into political ideology and fragmentation... the central accelerationist concepts of "Exit" and "patchwork" in depth... why religion has become so important to Justin and specifically his renewed interest in Catholicism. How Justin's radical politics are connected to his own religious beliefs... Catholicism's often overlooked history of breeding radically emancipatory thinkers..."

Big thanks to all my patrons, who help me keep the podcast going.

When not to go with the flow

The task of identifying the line between good and evil is like infinitesimal calculus. Mere intuitions are insufficient, which is why "going with the flow" so easily ends in evil. Many marriages fail this way, as sincerely innocent intentions to "make friends" or enjoy "a rich private life” all of a sudden become adulterous affairs or irrecoverable distances. To keep innocence from turning to guilt requires strict and formal tools, just as one cannot eyeball the derivative of a curve, but when it comes to good and evil the objects of analysis are typically difficult to measure. This is the genius of socially conservative Christian norms around sex and marriage, which are often seen as stupidly strict prohibitions, e.g. never having alone time with a member of the opposite sex. Secular cosmopolitans today laugh at this norm, but are the scoffers and mockers really doing so well? In the context of this particular example, marriage, one error on the side of adultery does more damage than several errors on the side of foregone other-sex friendship experiences. As a result, some educated cosmopolitans run around with many "friendships" and failed marriages, scoffing at the paranoia of Christian family values, although the latter include some superior, evolved formalities to deal with overly complex identification problems we are incapable of solving intuitively "in the moment." Whenever a fatal point on a map is hard to detect, it makes sense to prohibit any entrance into the smallest definable region around the undetectable point. Unconditional prohibition may be the most sophisticated rule in contexts where many hidden chutes toward the netherworld are known to exist, even if a sizable range of perfectly innocent and desirable experiences must be forgone.

Algorithms and prayers

The mild-mannered socialist humanist says it's evil to use algorithms to exploit humans for profit, but the articulation of this objection is an algorithm to exploit humans for profit. Self-awareness of this algorithm may vary, but cultivated ignorance of one's own optimizing functions does not make them any less algorithmic or exploitative. The opposite of algorithmic exploitation is not moralistic objection, but probably prayer, which is only — despite popular impressions — attention, evacuated of instrumental intentions. One point of worshipping God is that, by investing one's desire into an abstraction of perfection, against which all existing things pale in comparison, one may live toward the good and still live as intensely as possible. Secular "good people" often makes themselves good by eviscerating their desire, de-intensifying their vitality to ensure their mundane algorithmic optimizing never goes too far. But a life of weak sin is not the same as a good life. Prayer, the practice of de-instrumentalizing attention, does not feign superiority to the sinful, exploitative tendencies of man (like socialist humanism). Prayer is code. Prayers have never hidden their nature as exploitative algorithms — "say these words and it will be Good" — but they exploit our drive to exploit, routing it into a pure and abstract circle, around a pure and abstract center. Secular solutions to the problem of evil typically involve lying about human behavior, whereas a holy life is the application of one's wicked intelligence to the production of the good and the true.

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