I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-31)

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We just got back from vacation visiting family in Minnesota. We saw lots of corn and soybeans, admired the strange beauty of wind turbines, did lots of hiking and a little running and biking, swam and fished in the Mississippi, ate at a county fair, and played very much Dominion.

A society which doesn’t burn witches is the exception. In order to invent science, in my view, you have to stop burning witches first. You don’t stop burning witches because you have invented science. No. It’s for religious reasons you stop burning witches. (Conversations with René Girard, 22)

We live in a world today, especially in the humanities, where the very notion of truth has become the enemy. The idea is you must have plurality. So, today, the interest of plurality takes precedence over the search for truth. You have to say ahead of time that you don’t believe in truth. In most of the circles in which I move, decency is equated with a skepticism verging on nihilism. Engineers know there are solutions that work and solutions that don’t work. Well, in the humanities, we are also looking feverishly for solutions but we are not supposed to find any. In intellectual life today, there is a sort of paralysis, because people are so afraid of not being nice enough to each other—you know, offending the opinion of the next fellow, that they’ve given up the search for truth very often. Or they regard it as evil in itself, which I think is wrong. Do you see what I mean? It’s going too far the other way. They are so afraid of dogmatism that they prefer to reject all possible beliefs. The number one imperative is the avoidance of conflict. We can only succeed through sterility. (Conversations with René Girard, 22–23)

A religion of the innocent victim, a religion that goes against the immemorial tradition of sacrifice in human culture, will produce a lot of hypocrisy, a lot of false compassion, a lot of resentment, as Nietzsche says, as soon as it is imperfectly embraced. Given the imperfection of real human beings, it is more or less certain that Christianity will be imperfectly embraced.

The terrible error of Nietzsche was to see these faults in our world not merely as the illegitimate child but as the father and creator of the biblical religions. You cannot have a parody of the victim’s truth before the genuine article has first appeared into he world. This truth appears nowhere in mythology, it appears only in the gospels and “prophetic” text of the Bible.

Nietzsche correctly saw that the Christian world had weakened and interiorized revenge rather than given it up entirely, as recommended by the gospels. The medicine he proposed was worse than the disease. It was to go back to real revenge, which is a little bit like bluing yourself up because you have a mosquito biting you, or something like that. I think that resentment, hypocrisy, negative feelings in our society can be very dangerous, but they are nothing compared with the potential of destruction with real revenge. And now we can see it. (Conversations with René Girard, 26)

[Interviewer] the Bible is ignored, and as you said before, it has become another form of sacrifice.

Yes, that’s right, the expulsion of the text. It’s especially true in universities. Or, the text is sometimes regarded in a very fetishistic way. . . .

Totalitarian societies are regressive in their very effort to get rid of the sacred through violent means. They tend to damage seriously the independent judicial institutions. They need scapegoats much more than we do. The trials in which the victim is forced to confess publicly are extremely significant. Their purpose is to restore the unity of the community through a unanimous condemnation of the victim, which is the very essence of “scapegoating.” (Conversations with René Girard, 29)

Deconstruction is the ultimate democratization of romantic singularity. Let us all cling to difference and be “ourselves.” It might even provide us with the fifteen minutes of fame that Andy Warhol has promised to each one of us. A world in which difference as difference is the ultimate intellectual fetish must be a world in which imitation and the pressure for conformity are irresistible. (Conversations with René Girard, 52)

Mimetic rivalry hides behind ideas, of course, and many people confuse it with a war of ideas, but it is really something else. But even if people still believe in the ideas currently fashionable, they are not existentially attached to them in the manner that they were in the past. Our ideas are less and less lovable and, as a result, they are no longer loved. . . .

I do not agree that ideas and beliefs are the real cause of violence. Religious beliefs, especially. It is fashionable, nowadays, to say that religion is extremely violent and the real cause of most wars. Both Hitler and Stalin were hostile to religion and they killed more people than all past religious wars combined. When Yugoslavia started to fall apart, there were dark hints once again that the true culprit was religion. Since then, I have not seen one single piece of evidence that religion has anything to do with the various abominations that are going on there. If we had more genuine religion, we would have less violence. This is what most ordinary people still believe, and, as a rule, when the ordinary people and the intellectuals do not agree, it is safer to go with ordinary people. (Conversations with René Girard, 56)

Written by Scott Moonen

August 1, 2021 at 7:47 am

Posted in Miscellany, Quotations

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