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After Religion Fizzles, We’re Stuck With Nietzsche

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Posted on May 9, 2010
AP / Olivier Laban-Mattei

By Chris Hedges

It is hard to muster much sympathy over the implosion of the Catholic Church, traditional Protestant denominations or Jewish synagogues. These institutions were passive as the Christian right, which peddles magical thinking and a Jesus-as-warrior philosophy, hijacked the language and iconography of traditional Christianity. They have busied themselves with the boutique activism of the culture wars. They have failed to unequivocally denounce unfettered capitalism, globalization and pre-emptive war. The obsession with personal piety and “How-is-it-with-me?” spirituality that permeates most congregations is narcissism. And while the Protestant church and reformed Judaism have not replicated the perfidiousness of the Catholic bishops, who protect child-molesting priests, they have little to say in an age when we desperately need moral guidance.

I grew up in the church and graduated from a seminary. It is an institution whose cruelty, inflicted on my father, who was a Presbyterian minister, I know intimately. I do not attend church. The cloying, feel-your-pain language of the average clergy member makes me run for the door. The debates in most churches—whether revolving around homosexuality or biblical interpretation—are a waste of energy. I have no desire to belong to any organization, religious or otherwise, which discriminates, nor will I spend my time trying to convince someone that the raw anti-Semitism in the Gospel of John might not be the word of God. It makes no difference to me if Jesus existed or not. There is no historical evidence that he did. Fairy tales about heaven and hell, angels, miracles, saints, divine intervention and God’s beneficent plan for us are repeatedly mocked in the brutality and indiscriminate killing in war zones, where I witnessed children murdered for sport and psychopathic gangsters elevated to demigods. The Bible works only as metaphor.

The institutional church, when it does speak, mutters pious non-statements that mean nothing. “Given the complexity of factors involved, many of which understandably remain confidential, it is altogether appropriate for members of our armed forces to presume the integrity of our leadership and its judgments, and therefore to carry out their military duties in good conscience,” Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, head of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, wrote about the Iraq war. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, on the eve of the invasion, told believers that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was a menace, and that reasonable people could disagree about the necessity of using force to overthrow him. It assured those who supported the war that God would not object. B’nai B’rith supported a congressional resolution to authorize the 2003 attack on Iraq. The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, which represents Reform Judaism, agreed it would back unilateral action, as long as Congress approved and the president sought support from other nations. The National Council of Churches, which represents 36 different faith groups, in a typical bromide, urged President George W. Bush to “do all possible” to avoid war with Iraq and to stop “demonizing adversaries or enemies” with good-versus-evil rhetoric, but, like the other liberal religious institutions, did not condemn the war. 

A Gallup poll in 2006 found that “the more frequently an American attends church, the less likely he or she is to say the war was a mistake.” Given that Jesus was a pacifist, and given that all of us who graduated from seminary rigorously studied Just War doctrine, which was flagrantly violated by the invasion of Iraq, this is a rather startling statistic.

But I cannot rejoice in the collapse of these institutions. We are not going to be saved by faith in reason, science and technology, which the dead zone of oil forming in the Gulf of Mexico and our production of costly and redundant weapons systems illustrate. Frederick Nietzsche’s Übermensch, or “Superman”—our secular religion—is as fantasy-driven as religious magical thinking.

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There remain, in spite of the leaders of these institutions, religiously motivated people toiling in the inner city and the slums of the developing world. They remain true to the core religious and moral values ignored by these institutions. The essential teachings of the monotheistic traditions are now lost in the muck of church dogma, hollow creeds and the banal bureaucracy of institutional religion. These teachings helped create the concept of the individual. The belief that we can exist as distinct beings from the tribe, or the crowd, and that we are called on as individuals to make moral decisions that can defy the clamor of the nation is one of the gifts of religious thought. This call for individual responsibility is coupled with the constant injunctions in Islam, Judaism and Christianity for compassion, especially for the weak, the impoverished, the sick and the outcast.

We are rapidly losing the capacity for the moral life. We reject the anxiety of individual responsibility that laid the foundations for the open society. We are enjoined, after all, to love our neighbor, not our tribe. This empowerment of individual conscience was the starting point of the great ethical systems of all civilizations. Those who championed this radical individualism, from Confucius to Socrates to Jesus, fostered not obedience and conformity, but dissent and self-criticism. They initiated the separation of individual responsibility from the demands of the state. They taught that culture and society were not the sole prerogative of the powerful, that freedom and indeed the religious and moral life required us to often oppose and challenge those in authority, even at great personal cost. Immanuel Kant built his ethics upon this radical individualism. And Kant’s injunction to “always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as mere means” runs in a direct line from the Socratic ideal and the Christian Gospels.


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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, May 10, 2010 at 11:45 am Link to this comment

All right Night Gauant you win, I will play nice with Nietzsche, pretend;.. “you are now in the Nietzsche zone”;.... (Twilight zone music please)!

Actually I was afraid some posters would go over the top with their fetish for Nietzscheism! My fears have been substantiated. 

Why do I feel, if I created a Nietzsche cartoon I would probably receive threating phone calls from the time lady?

You say Nietzsche, Hedges says Nietzsche, I say Gesundheit!

Okay, last one;..... Night Guaint, assume I did not know Nietzsche was in love with his sister, like this would be really important to know?

Think, I got it out of my system for now, Night Guaint, my head really hurts and I will quite for the time being, seems I have been assigned home work, creating some analysis on things!

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By "G"utless "W"itless Hitler, May 10, 2010 at 11:33 am Link to this comment

Religion is a crutch for moral cripples, a couch for intellectual sloths, a blankie for the fearful, and a cattle prod for the ambitious.

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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, May 10, 2010 at 11:31 am Link to this comment

I doubt it. However Obama is showing us again his true colors and they aren’t Liberal nor Progressive but of the ilk of GWB & company.

What is happening with the Catholic Church will not turn off people to religion, just Catholicism. Hedges’ is reading his own personal feelings into this. He shouldn’t.

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By ofersince72, May 10, 2010 at 11:26 am Link to this comment

I find it immpressive that Obama just nominated

Goldman-Sachs to the Supreme Court,  Nietzsche might

have liked that !!!

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By John Landon, May 10, 2010 at 11:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Why inflict Nietzsche on post-Christianity??

http://darwiniana.com/2010/05/10/after-religion-fizzles-you’re-stuck-with-kant/

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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, May 10, 2010 at 11:07 am Link to this comment

PrematureFactulation - You’re absolutely on-point regarding both Nietzsche’s stature as a thinker and your suggestion that his critics spend more time reading his works. I was fortunate to have spent some time in college studying Nietzsche whose laser-crisp analysis of history and human nature are more insightful than ever.

Of course, most Americans are all-too-willing to listen to the likes of Sarah Palin rather than face reality.

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By samosamo, May 10, 2010 at 11:06 am Link to this comment

****************

My favorite from the most astute and wise people I have ever
read:

““Their wise ones said ‘we might have their religion’ but when
we ?tried to understand it we found that there were too many
kinds ?of religions among white men for us to understand, and
that ?scarcely any two white men agreed which was the right one
to ?learn. This bothered us a good deal until we saw that the
white ?man did not take his religion any more seriously than he
did his? laws, and that he kept both of them just behind him, like?
helpers, to use when they might do him good in his dealings
with ?strangers. These are not our ways. We kept the laws we
made ?and lived our religion. We have never been able to
understand ?the white man, who fools nobody but himself.”“?
Plenty Coups
?Absaroke Crow Indian

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By Géza Éder, May 10, 2010 at 11:05 am Link to this comment

ITW:  It’s true for science too in a lot of cases, as CH mentioned of course, and lots and lots of other stuff, like free markets, that people believe in absolutely.  Of course fundamentalism is growing in these areas too, and of course it all comes from the “I’m so much smarter than you that I don’t even need to understand what you’re saying” mentality.  It’s idiotic, absolutely idiotic to single out Abrahamic religions, seeing how much damage blind belief in science and technology and capitalism has brought.

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amunaor's avatar

By amunaor, May 10, 2010 at 10:57 am Link to this comment

RE: martin weiss, May 10 at 2:21 pm>>
Here’s another interesting quote about the subject from Einstein:

In my opinion, an autocratic system of coercion soon degenerates; force attracts men of low morality…
***

The forces in the universe are neither good nor evil. But, misappropriated into the hands of those who perceive those forces as weapons of power, then do they manifest as evil.

That same, invisible, internal Flame; projected externally and presented to the senses as Fire, is also just as unconscionable. Within the hands of reckless emotions, driven by demented egos, the flame can become an inferno.

Peace, Best Wishes and Hope

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By Night-Gaunt, May 10, 2010 at 10:56 am Link to this comment

He wasn’t “in love” with her when she married a proto-Nazi in 1886, he loathed her and her husband Vorster ever after. As they were the type of persons he found most appalling and antithetical to the point he was making about the possible evolution of the “ubermenschen.” (One example he thought was such person was Geothe.)

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By noinks, May 10, 2010 at 10:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris is right in many respects. The churches in the US have certainly lost
credibility in not standing against fundamentalism and the corporate state and
its crimes.

But there are problems in all this. How do church leaders really argue against
fundamentalism when it is the truest expression of their basic religions? These
are people that follow the bible, koran, etc., to the letter and take it all as
literal truth. Aren’t they, in some sense, truer to their religions than more
liberal religious folk? And there are plenty of awful fundamentalists doing very
generous, good things, just like the more mainstream churches do.

I really liked Hedges’ article though, because I really feel that the religious
leaders need to be held accountable for not railing from the pulpit against all
the greed, crime, and moral emptiness of our corporate culture. Where did the
courage go? They left that up to secular liberals, who are discredited today as
well, partly by right-wing propaganda and partly by not addressing the same
things the church avoided.

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By L2k4FC, May 10, 2010 at 10:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mankind’s refusal to release History and Tradition account for much of the pathetic state of human affairs in the world and is ultimately preventing all that could be good and right.  God is very real and misunderstood. Religion is not God, but the vehicle that man [some of man] uses to try and see/commune with God.  Now some men have twisted religion to their own end and are corrupting the ones who are seeking the best they can. 

  Try as hard as you can to See.  If you can See, please share.

“If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of Light”.

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Peter Knopfler's avatar

By Peter Knopfler, May 10, 2010 at 10:36 am Link to this comment

Thanks Chris another article to scratch my academic head and off the top of my head:  Separation of church and State, Nietzsche was influenced by Ludwig Feuerbach and Schleiemacher. The two influenced Marx and Sigmund. Sigmunds grandfathers, yes both were Hasidic Rabbis. And most of their philosophy sided with Spinoza, and many other MASON influences. Separation of Church and state, this concept suffers in America where God becomes the reason and the excuse. There is your problem Nietzsche, a undiagnosed bi-polar in love with his sister, yet very educated and current for his time. Thanks Chris.

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dissentispatriotic's avatar

By dissentispatriotic, May 10, 2010 at 10:33 am Link to this comment

RE: PrematureFactulation, May 10 at 2:26 pm

Damn skippy. Very, very well said.

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dissentispatriotic's avatar

By dissentispatriotic, May 10, 2010 at 10:30 am Link to this comment

RE: martin weiss, May 10 at 2:21 pm

Nice little bit of Albert Einstein there.

“Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the
loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism—
how passionately I hate them”.

Albert Einstein

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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, May 10, 2010 at 10:27 am Link to this comment

Lee Fella don’t you see that your disparaging comments add nothing to the narrative? Wrong thing to do. How about making some analysis on things? Something positive in this milieux will do. Something that won’t “make your brain hurt.”

Less combat, more chit-chat.

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By PrematureFactulation, May 10, 2010 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

New Rule. When people generalize about the work of a person such as Nietzsche,
they have to have actually studied his works… carefully. Chris Hedges has
obviously done that, and his essay captures Nietzsche’s meaning beautifully. As
for some of the people commenting on what Chris Hedges said about Nietzsche…
not so much. Anyone who thinks Nietzsche’s writings are “quaint” has either not
studied Nietzsche or has not understood him. Nietzsche was a towering genius,
and many of his penetrating insights into the human condition are as fresh today
as when he wrote them. If you have read Nietzsche, and you got nothing out of it, is that Nietzsche’s fault… or yours?

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amunaor's avatar

By amunaor, May 10, 2010 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

It is the phenomenal world of the senses; seat of the ego, which act as blinders, keeping the veil in place.

GNOTHI SEAUTON – In here is Wisdom and Understanding!

Peace, Best Wishes and Hope

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Virginia777's avatar

By Virginia777, May 10, 2010 at 10:23 am Link to this comment

MarthaA: “Religion should fizzle, but individual relationships with God will never fizzle.”

NO. Religion should not fizzle! That is the detrimental arrogance of the Self that is at the crux of what Chris Hedges rails against in his book “I Don’t Believe in Atheists”.

Religion is a powerful guide, a guide towards doing the RIGHT thing.

It is a motivator, to fight the good fight - these very words are in the Bible - thats where they come from!!

(do you hear this Chris Hedges?)

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, May 10, 2010 at 10:22 am Link to this comment

Thanks Hedges, now it looks like we are going to get a zillion opinions on Nietzsche, instead of the bible or worse on both!

I ll need to get my Nietzsche beads out of moth balls!

What a way to go….. I see it now, on my tomb stone….. “Leefeller RIP”...” He was Nietzsched to death”!

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martin weiss's avatar

By martin weiss, May 10, 2010 at 10:21 am Link to this comment

The meaning of the word, ‘religion’, is to gather together.
As commenter Balkas says, humanity survives by social means. This is the basis of religious institutions that have gone astray. The central concept of religion still holds true. There is an invisible bond between us, Nature, and the Universe. As St. Exupery says in “The Little Prince”, “...what is most important is invisible to the eye…”
This social bond has made us evolve autonomic physical responses to compassion and caring. We carry our ethics in our DNA. No church necessary.
Authoritarian precepts have brought us the concepts of illegitimacy, sin, obscenity, and heresy.
Spinoza was accused of heresy for declaring the existence of an infinite universe proved God exists.
But what endures in humanity is the fundamentally unarguable principle of ethics and compassion. There are tribes that have outlived empires simply by living with Nature, not destroying it. These people have persisted for two hundred thousand years living simply without science or industry, raising crops and families.
Industrial civilization, the Catholic Church and those political parties predicated on exploitation, along with other authoritarian institutions like vested wealth, may be collapsing, but that slender reed of human viability will endure. We are an ethical species partly because we can recognize mistakes and correct them. We learn right from seeing wrongs.
Here’s another interesting quote about the subject from Einstein:

In my opinion, an autocratic system of coercion soon degenerates; force attracts men of low morality… The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the political state, but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling.

“This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of herd life, the military system, which I abhor… This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism—how passionately I hate them!

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery—even if mixed with fear—that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man… I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence—as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.”

Albert Einstein (signature)

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By Time Ghost, May 10, 2010 at 10:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I love Chris Hedges, & I agree with almost everything he sets down here.  This
is indeed the time of the Last Man.

What interests me is whether or not there is something missing from his
analysis of Christianity and the other civilized religions.  Hedges says they are
the foundations of modern ethics, and the concept of the individual as the
prime moral actor, as distinct from the tribe.  Perhaps there is a sense in which
this radical individualism is itself a problem.  Perhaps human beings are meant
(genetically and spiritually) to be nested within a community (both human and
natural), and do not function properly when unmoored from this connection. 
Perhaps both monotheistic religions and our present consumer society are
‘toxic mimics’ of real communities, in which a web of reciprocities and
relationships form the foundations of social, spiritual and ethical life.

One defining characteristic shared by all the major civilized religions, and only
intensified by secular capitalist society, is a radical separation from the natural
world and from the power of the feminine.  I would suggest that it is in this
rupture that we find civilized man’s enprogrammed downfall.  It is no accident
that the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, in Genesis, is book-ended by the
Armageddon of Revelation.

What Nietzche, Hedges, and indeed, Jesus missed is what is most important to
us now - the recognition of the primacy of the natural world.  Ethics,
spirituality, moral law, justice - have no foundation without an intact natural
community.  If we don’t believe in fairy tales about heaven and hell and a
personal god, then we must accept that it is our life here on earth that matters
most.  And what matters most to our life on earth is - the EARTH!

My opinion is that a radical Animism, for lack of a better descriptor, is a
potential ‘third way’ beyond the dead worlds of religion and secularism.  It is
not a world view based on superstition as is commonly supposed - rather an
existential recognition that everything is alive, and that the way to interact with
the living is through relationship and reciprocity - not ‘dominion’.  These
relationships then form the basis of a new (but indeed very old) concept of
individuality and community.

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By Inherit The Wind, May 10, 2010 at 10:02 am Link to this comment

I’m highly amused that all who either speak in defense of religion, or what religion should be, all talk in terms of individuality, of the flowering of the each of us as unique.

Yet EVERY major religion and sect of same always imposes and demands a rigid and rigorous conformity to whatever the leadership says is “The Way”.  Whether it’s Bob Bennett being tossed by tea-baggers, Scientologists “shunning” bad members, Taliban beating women if they show an inch of ankle, even if they are falling, or Jews throwing rocks and spitting on people for not walking on Saturdays.
It’s even true of the non-God religion, Marxism.

But the alternative is not only Atheism, the denial of God.  There is Agnosticism: Skepticism as your fundamental mental shield against faith of any kind.

I always love when some Christian fundamentalist tries to explain why HIS religion isn’t a religion but all the others are!  God and Jesus are his absolutes and every OTHER religion is trying to explain them.

I am reminded of Chris Rock in “Dogma” saying it’s not belief that matters, it’s ideas!

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dissentispatriotic's avatar

By dissentispatriotic, May 10, 2010 at 10:00 am Link to this comment

Western religion died long ago the moment that Constantine and the council
of Nicaea(325 A.D.) revised and institutionalized it. In order to be palatable to the imperialist Romans it had to be misrepresented because
Jesus taught against materialism and hedonism(indulgence of self). Even the
name Jesus is fictional. The actual man’s name, to whom the label Jesus was
given, was Yeshua of Nazareth(I’m sure a lot of Christians have heard that
name before i.e. Yeshua Jahovah). The Hebrew name Yeshua actually
translates to Joshua, not Jesus. Just go to your local Synagogue and look
at the book of “Joshua” if you don’t believe me. 

The modern proof of this is the bullet-proof glass surrounding the Pope.
Now there’s faith in action. Wouldn’t God protect the righteous? And even
if He didn’t why, if one believed in a beautiful afterlife full of reward,
would he be afraid of death? Some have responded to that argument by saying
that if he was assassinated it could start a holy war. And to that I always
answer; What ever happened to turning the other cheek(from the teachings of
Joshua/Jesus)? Another example would be the opulence of the church. Why
would the followers of a man who lived with no possessions build priceless
cathedrals laden with gold, idols and graven images? I have addressed only
the Catholic perspective, but I find protestant denominations are no less
mis-representative(i.e. mega-churches).

Even more stark examples that “the church” never represented the teachings
of their founder would be the crusades, Spanish inquisition, etc. Did
Jesus/Joshua ever teach violent conversion? I don’t remember that part.
Western Monarchies simply saw the power that his teachings had and new they
could be used to further subjugate the people.

I am not saying this to promote or deny the teachings of Joshua(Jesus),
just to call into question the motivation of western “religion”.

In response to the idea that western religion has never done anything good,
I would have to argue that they have. The humanitarian teachings of
Joshua/Jesus have not been lost altogether. Does this outweigh the wars and
gross misrepresentations? Not in my opinion. I’m just sharing the facts as
I understand them.

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amunaor's avatar

By amunaor, May 10, 2010 at 9:57 am Link to this comment

Chris,

Gnosticism does not require ‘organized religion’; a structure designed to ensnare, rather than liberate!

Gnothi Seauton

Perhaps you anguish too much over the notion that after organized religions fizzles, that might be you personally; left out in the cold, stuck with Nietzsche!

Think of it as a liberation, and remember, Nietzsche was only thinking out loud, not telling ‘you’ what to think or do.

Peace, Best Wishes and Hope

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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, May 10, 2010 at 9:55 am Link to this comment

Yes Nietzsche feared that the “Last Men” would be the dominate type of personality. Not the “Overmen” who would be free thinking and creative and not of the herd mentality. Which is why he despised both Socialism and Democracy because they would invariably stamp down and out the individual, creative person, into a dull gray sameness. Neither gov’t nor religion did anything but work to relentlessly mold the colorful individual into an army of same faced legion of dullards crushing all others who wouldn’t conform to whatever rigid strictures were imposed. Both in mind, body and in whatever they produced. Even if it wasn’t following the dictates of consumer Capitalism.

The worse thing he fore saw as a logical happening should all drop following a god would be the threat of nihilism. A bane he worked hard to forestall.

However take heart, religion won’t be “fizzling” for some time. It is biologically rooted in most of us. [I am one of the rare exceptions—-see evolution for the reason.]

Thebeerdoctor, how tiresome, Atheism another religion? What is your proof? Their god(s) certainly not people. In fact there is no worship at all. Their churches? Libraries but no prayers are given. Their prayers? None that I am aware. So you are wrong but not unexpected since that is the only way you can see the world. They don’t have to know Nietzsche to act in ways he saw happening even as far back as the 1880’s, which is the point. Perhaps less beer and more careful reading will help you to understand the difference.

Yes Nietzsche considered most of the so called morality of his time to be less that what they advertised. Whether from the church of from the ruling bodies of countries—the nobles who he found monstrous and not to be followed. He wasn’t against people working together for their mutual aid. For the nobles they worked only for themselves and rarely joined forces.  What he identified as “Master Morality” whereas he liked how the slaves worked to aid each other for all themselves which he ID as “Slave Morality.” Of course he didn’t want to be a slave just the way they thought should replace the present “Master Morality” that is still in existence and more powerful and far reaching than in his time. He wanted a new kind of Morality. One that better served people truly and not simply postured as such to hide common infamies.

By skulz fontaine, May 10 at 12:13 pm #

“But but, what about “God, guns, and Empire?””

That is for what comes after the fall of the Republic of the USA. But not yet today. Not out in the open just yet.

However a belief in some kind of deity and the religions that form around them are not dead. Not in the least! So I think Chris Hedges may have filtered his personal views through all of humanity from what he sees happening to the religious structure, the Catholic church, he was brought up in. So in that sense his premise is wrong and definitely premature.

Just remember that it is the human factor that is most important in any organization. If they are psychopaths then no matter how much they are taught love one another, they will still twist it for their own immoral purposes. We must take it out of their hands in order to return sympathy and empathy to the world.

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By bongocongo, May 10, 2010 at 9:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I love how everyone is an apologist for the Catholic Church.  “It’s really not that
bad.  It has the same child abuse incidence as other institutions.  The church,
like other human endeavors, is tarnished by a few.” 

When you are claiming to be “the way,” there is no room for slippage.  The
whole point of the church is that it is supposed to be better than all other
institutions.  It should always be on the side of right, no excuses.  When it can’t
fulfill that role, it becomes useless.

The church had an amazing opportunity to stand up and do what was right on
numerous occasions.  It could have been a source of good in the world.  Young
people, like me, are lost in this sea of craziness we call the modern age.  We are
groping in the dark for any kind of human kindness that makes sense.  The
Catholic church could have been that light, instead it went the way of man.

And by the way, Hedges is not saying that turning from the church will lead to
Nietzsche worship.  He was pointing out that Nietzsche was predicting what
becomes of us when we become spiritually and intellectually stagnant.

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By hen/egg, May 10, 2010 at 9:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“There are more things in heaven & earth, than
are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

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By Herk, May 10, 2010 at 9:36 am Link to this comment

Nietzsche, like most philosophers, had many ground-breaking ideas. Today, he’s a bit dated and even, dare I say it, quaint.

It seems that I’m often being painted with a broad brush. In answer, I don’t think of myself as a superman, just a man. I reject superstition and myth as nothing but products of imagination and wish there were more like me. But I also reject ideologies and it’s not just the ‘sentimental tenets’ of religions that I reject, but their claims to morality and the value of their social structures as well.

I do want to see what’s done in my name, and in most cases I want it to stop! I’d rather live in poverty than be a part of hegemony, and I always prefer truth to sugar-coated pap.

Perhaps atheism is growing up, too, in ways that Nietzsche never conceived.

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G.Anderson's avatar

By G.Anderson, May 10, 2010 at 8:44 am Link to this comment

Even if Religion is in decline, that doesn’t mean it will disapear, that people will stop going to church.

Or that Islam will turn away from Jihad.

Nor does it mean that people will turn to Nietzche, it’s more likely they only memorize favorite quotes and engage in endless pissing contests over exactly what he said.

Instead what’s likely is that more will turn to ugly ideologies, that have a relgious like quality, and in doing so believe that their neurotic stumblings are absoulutely reasonable.

Man is a chaos. However reason does not provide order, only disguise.

And if religion does disapear, what will you then do, to make your anger apear so reasonable.

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, May 10, 2010 at 8:35 am Link to this comment

Not Nietzsche?

It is well known, since the beginning of time,  Nietzsche has been the number one book to carry around campus to impress the girls.  On Truth Dig, I have seen Nietzsche waved about like the main subject of a panty raid, atleast more times than I can count on my 12 toes! Now we see Hedges doing it!...... Yes ad nausea.  Where is my barf bag?

What is really funny I was waiting for a punch line after reading the first part of Hedges article, instead I get the “Last Man Standing” with Bruce Willis!...... Do I seem to be mocking?

Well at least this time I didn’t criticize or mock Hedges on his overly ambitious use of the word ....“we” again!

Hedges sounds sort of like one of those agnostics who love to sit on the fence and whine about fantasy and fiction while attempting to think about reality?

Anyway after my standard mocking, I must say I am impressed by Hedges attempted use of reason, this article will surely be fun to follow for some time, already have found some interesting posts. My individual objectivity loves to feast on interesting, but today I must attend on important business, and decide for the future, what capitalistic product from China I must have in my possession when someday I find a job!

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By Alan MacDonald, May 10, 2010 at 8:31 am Link to this comment

Christopher Hedges is the singularly most prepared contemporary mind to deal with and unify the issues and ‘strong forces’ of; religion, and scientific humanism allied to confront the devilish opposing force of Empire.

I greatly hope that Chris (and some other expert thinkers who exhibit the “good will of men”) will take up the gauntlet of fully developing an anti-empire unified theory (and practice) of exposing, confronting, and overcoming this looming Global Empire—- which I have tried ineffectively to address in a draft essay on Op-Ed News and Common Dreams.

Chris, I sincerely hope that your efforts and those of Kevin Zeese, Ralph Nader (and the other founders of a new global ‘anti-Empire’ People’s Movement), along with an alliance of scientific humanists in many fields will be successful (and quick) in forming a bulwark against the fast evolving and deceitful Global Empire.

Sincerely,
Alan MacDonald
Sanford, Maine

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By Anarcissie, May 10, 2010 at 8:23 am Link to this comment

I’m sorry, but I don’t think Fred wants any followers.

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By David Ehrenstein, May 10, 2010 at 8:20 am Link to this comment

Athiesm is not a religion. It is a disbelief in relision. And it doresn’t result in an embrace of either Nietzsche or Christopher Hitchens.

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By diman, May 10, 2010 at 8:18 am Link to this comment

“Given the complexity of factors involved, many of which understandably remain confidential, it is altogether appropriate for members of our armed forces to presume the integrity of our leadership and its judgments, and therefore to carry out their military duties in good conscience,” Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, head of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, wrote about the Iraq war

A perfect example of a sheep mentality that Christianity cultivates in its members, don’t think, for you are a mere tool in the hands of an unseen God and people whose judgement you should unequivocally trust. I’d say, given the complexity of the matter and especially those factors deemed secret by the government or simply being lied about, think and question everything they say.

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By David Ehrenstein, May 10, 2010 at 8:17 am Link to this comment

Religion is nothing more than the heavily fetishized worship of Death.

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By skulz fontaine, May 10, 2010 at 8:13 am Link to this comment

But but, what about “God, guns, and Empire?”

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By jimmylosanto, May 10, 2010 at 8:04 am Link to this comment

I am a hardcore Atheist/Anti-Theist, yet this is one of the best articles I have ever read.

I would like to hear Hitchen’s or Pat Condell’s rebuttal.  I’m not sure I am schooled enough in the historical growth of Individualism in Ancient Times to counter Hedges’ assessments.  Very interesting.

Ultimately though, Hedges speaks more about the need for morality than ‘religion’.  I am in agreement with him on this.  It is his contention that Monotheism somehow is responsible for the blossoming of said morality that I am having a difficult time swallowing.

Either way, I find myself sympathetic to his ideas.

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By Anne, May 10, 2010 at 7:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Recently I told a friend of mine how admiring is that she with her three children attends a mass every Sunday.

My religious beliefs were never strong enough to develop that habit and I was always in an awe of people who have spiritual strength and discipline to do that. It was like all these people know something that I don’t.

“Well” -my friend replied- “there is always something new to pray for. The last week was a new van, this week is a new refrigerator, you know a kind with the self-regulated shelves…”.

She was very comfortable and pleased with herself saying those words, she didn’t have a slight idea that something may be wrong with her answer.

To me, this is what Chris is talking about.

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By MarthaA, May 10, 2010 at 7:45 am Link to this comment

Religion should fizzle, but individual relationships with God will never fizzle.

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By DaveZx3, May 10, 2010 at 7:43 am Link to this comment

By Virginia777, May 10 at 11:32 am #

“Just because religion has been abused by corrupt human beings - what hasn’t been? - does not degenerate the essence of it”

A point I have been trying to make for years, and years.  It is great to see someone else making this point.  Thanks.

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By Don Low, May 10, 2010 at 7:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The decline of civilization. But what is civilization? The dictionary states: “a relatively high level of cultural and technological development; specifically : the stage of cultural development at which writing and the keeping of written records is attained.” Is that civilization? No. Civilization is and always has been, the relationship between the haves and the have-nots. That’s all and all it ever will be. In its early stages, this relationship was achieved through coercion. People enslaved for the duration of their lives to carry out the bidding of the master: usually some kind of monument to the master’s immortality. Just look at the pyramids. But there was a problem with this relationship: eventually the have-nots would get fed up and turn against the master. Kingdoms and empires were brought down this way. It was terribly inefficient. And so, over the millenia, the system realized that maybe it was better not to brutalize the people into doing the master’s bidding, but to con them instead. Thus, taking its cue from organized, monotheistic religion, the corporate American dream was born. The dream of wealth, mansions, cars and expensive vacations. There was no longer some bad guy making us do things against our will. Suddenly it was “I’m OK, and you’re OK.” Individualism, democracy and meritocracy put us all on the same team. No more heroes fighting the system, just sports and movie icons making the big bucks. Oh, but some will say, “but we’ve never had it so good.” We, as in we, the have-nots. And it’s true, the crumbs have been falling more abundantly from the master’s table. And Lord knows we want to keep it that way. So we turn a blind eye when the system starts bailing out the rich, the institutions that cannot fail and the bankrupt economies. To do so we print money borrowed from a tomorrow that many of us fear to know.

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By Virginia777, May 10, 2010 at 7:32 am Link to this comment

Wow, and I always thought Chris Hedges based his work on his religious faith, thats what he said he did! He directly attributed his Christianity to what gave him the moral fiber to do what he did, and go through what he had to, in Bosnia.

Now he is lashing out at religion, bluntly stating he refuses to attend any congregation, saying the Bible “works only as metaphor”. What the heck Chris? how does this differentiate you from the New Atheists you railed against so eloquently?

Religion is NOT fizzling, Chris Hedges!! Religion, and its fundamental moral truths, can and will continue so long as there are human beings on the planet. Just because religion has been abused by corrupt human beings - what hasn’t been? - does not degenerate the essence of it, the moral truths that are shared by all major religions, and this has been a fact for centuries.

Faith, this is what Chris Hedges has lost.

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By michael, May 10, 2010 at 7:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The belief that we can exist as distinct beings from the tribe, or the crowd, and that we are called on as individuals to make moral decisions that can defy the clamor of the nation is one of the gifts of religious thought.

This is where Hitchens I mean Hedges goes from anti-religion polemic to outright falsehood.

By this logic, no atheist can believe that we are individuals who make moral decisions.

Why is Hedges hanging on to the god delusion?

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By km0591, May 10, 2010 at 7:15 am Link to this comment

It is the nature of every human system, whether it is a religion, a government, of a human life to corrupt, to break down, and to end.  That is the natural trajectory of things, and it takes extraordinary mindfullness and moral effort not just to recognize this process, but to respond to it in a courageous and morally cohesive manner. 

Degenerate and hopeless periods like the present are ubiquitous throughout human history, but that is not what is amazing.  What is truly amazing is that in spite of all the corruption, darkness, and evil that has blighted our history as well as how we so often succumb to it all with our complacency, cynicism, passivity, and active collaboration, there has always stubbornly remained an element of decency, of goodness, of compassion somewhere in the human spirit that somehow endures when everything else has collapsed. 

That is the greatest of human miracles and continues to give me some hope.

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By Nathan, May 10, 2010 at 7:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Stuck with Nietzsche? Wouldn’t have it any other way


“There’s not enough love in the world to be giving it over to imaginary things”

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By Shift, May 10, 2010 at 6:54 am Link to this comment

“The time is coming when man will give birth to no more stars,”

Modern man births hells instead.  A powerful correction lies just ahead and we are seeing the beginning power of 2012 prophecy manifest in our lives daily.  Wake up if you can.

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By juanster, May 10, 2010 at 6:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Living as I do with Indians in Blackfeet Country, I had a thought the other day about the missionaries that frequented this place a hundred and more years ago. What I realized was the missionaries brought with them “god in a box.”

Now, Indians lived in and among the Created and the Creator. There was no place the spiritual world would not be encountered and so every waking moment, and dreaming as well, was a spiritual matter, and a very personal one.

Missionaries essentially said they had a god, but he only lives in the boxes they built with steeples and crosses, etc. Everywhere else, there is no god.

Indians knew this was a bunch of hooey, but with alcohol, starvation and disease, it took a while for them to prevail. Today, the only white religions left on the Reservation are those that have incorporated Indian spirituality in a very real and meaningful way. The Catholic priests who are here are very, very wonderful and light filled beings. They have to be.

God ain’t in no box.

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By balkas, May 10, 2010 at 6:25 am Link to this comment

I think, judging by the fact that we survived, that it was clannish or tribal togetherness, that enabled humans to survive and spread over the planet.
In such an order,individuals are also orderly and behave as guided by elders. So, this not an either-or situation: group and individual responsibilties intertwined!
In any case, individual responsibilities cannot be separated from group care-morality-behaviors.

We wld had to have a much gregarious, caring, egalitarian clan or tribe of people to have peace-justice-security among our ancestors.

Over centuries or even millennia, sorcerers, visionaries, mentalists, magicians gradually transformed [un]wittingly] a fair society into one that cared for all members less and less; valuing some more than others.

And then arose a sinister org, led by gangsters; called religion, which institutionalized and enacted into law division of people into, broadly, serfs and patricians.

And today, all ‘religions’ [read please cults or ganglike orgs] stand for just that: inequality of people, injustice, warfare.

Hedges omits [because of space-time?] the fact that the first rule [serfdom] was established by clergy. Until just a few centuries ago, only a patrician cld be priest.

Yes, i agree, clergy are some of the worst people amongst us.Many pious people are good people! tnx

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By ofersince72, May 10, 2010 at 6:04 am Link to this comment

Are we ever going to need some religion now !!!!

We have a Democrat Progressive Caucas that endorses
a Blue Dog Democrat (Jane Harmon) and a president
that is moving the S C O T U S to the right.

And a big giant oil spill that some reliable scientists
say could be spewing 1,000,000 gallons a day.

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By elisalouisa, May 10, 2010 at 6:00 am Link to this comment

Great title, much material for dissent and discussion conveyed in the usual inimitable Chris Hedges manner.

C. Curtis.Dillon: Your post is right on as most of your weekly posts are. One sentence especially bears repeating:

“Being moral takes hard work and a willingness to be abused and ridiculed.”

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By Bolton, May 10, 2010 at 5:57 am Link to this comment

Chris, you are a rare breed, you and i see the world in much the same light.I always though i was alone in truely understanding the decline of civilization, but you see reality, you are not stuck in the matrix, and i applaud your effort to get wake people up. the only religion that has existed since WWII is the worship of money,greed, and power/fame at a cost of suffering that is hidden or ignored by the power structure and the corporate controlled media.Integrety seems lost, commitment is viable only as long as it is convenient, and principles are a matter of timing and change according to its benefit. Life and happiness have nothing to do with money and materialism, yet try and tell that to the masses and they will not believe you. Most are just brainwashed and programmed into the Matrix and only when the plug is pulled will people have a chance of being deprogrammed. Keep up the mission and excellent work.

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By Aaron Ortiz, May 10, 2010 at 5:46 am Link to this comment

typo: irregardless -> regardless.

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By Aaron Ortiz, May 10, 2010 at 5:45 am Link to this comment

I’m afraid the author’s claim that in the failure of the established church, only
atheism remains. What is really occurring is the flourishing of religions that
claim to return to the fundamentals of the Islamic and Christian faiths. Look at
the statistics!

I for one abandoned the established church, and turned to an evangelical
church. My scientific mind draws some exceptions in the Bible, but for the most
part find a refreshing oasis in the church I turned to. It is only 30 years old, and
by far not as rigid as those who are thousands or hundreds of years old.

But irregardless of myself, there is much evidence of the resurgence of religion.
I suggest the author read “God Is Back”, by John Micklethwait, for an interesting
look at the data surrounding the global rebirth of religion in the early 21th
century.

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By teadrinker, May 10, 2010 at 5:43 am Link to this comment

The Golden Rule, http://www.teachingvalues.com/goldenrule.html is taught by all the Great Religions and is the practical application of how we need to behave towards each other.
As nations we have not accomplished the GR yet. As individuals we have been more successful in applying it when we can throw away our conditioning and think for ourselves. The Great Teachers of the World only brought the remedies and prescribed the medicine. By or before Their death, a number of their followers, because of power and greed, distorted its purpose and used that religion as a tool for their designs. Free will is a two-edged sword; it can choose to act in accordance with the GR for example, or it can join forces with those who want to justify killing. That’s always been the choice of individuals. So what are you going to do? How will you act right now?

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By Diana T Brooks, May 10, 2010 at 5:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wow! This is a great discussion. The 3 Abrahamic branches are mafia institutions, with internal secret societies that made a pact hundreds of years ago to rule the world. And although most of the followers are unaware of this -your either apart of the problem or apart of the solution for the rest of us who know the ultimate consequences(more wars, more oppression, more famine, more man made disasters). I am not an atheist, but I have disconnected myself spiritually from organized religion a long time ago. “THE GAME”-I call it. Its what hustlers run on unsuspecting subjects. But there are those who have to finesse the game to reach the masses(disguise themselves), so they won’t be detected. Now these fools looming in on Pakistan , boy! Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal-I hope they remember that. Don’t worry I got my white sheet sitting by the door.(LOL) I am going to wave it high-“Hey don’t blow us up-we only people living in da hood”. Go blow up wall st, the pentagon, the vatican, buckingham palace, the white house after Barack leave but not us.

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By DaveZx3, May 10, 2010 at 5:18 am Link to this comment

This is a great article and brings up so many important issues.  I am not a fan of Hedges, but I really appreciate his effort on this one.

The central issues, which are at least alluded to, are threefold, in my opinion.

1.  God is not religion, and religion is not God.  Religion can best be described as man attempting to ascend to God on his own terms, ie: by being “good” according to man’s own definition of good, and by defining God according to what man believes God should be and do.  Religionists customize God according to their own will.  That is why there are so many different religions,so many different gods, and why they don’t get along with each other.  God does not endorse religions.  They are in fact anti-God and deceptive in nature.

2. Whatever you may believe about Jesus Christ, his teachings are the most important philosophical thought ever recorded.  I am not talking about what men write about Jesus or think about Jesus.  I am talking about the words he is reputed to have spoken personally regarding the state of mankind.  The “secular religion,” as Hedges puts it, has no comparable effort, and it is not hard to see that as the importance of the teaching of Jesus becomes diminished in our society, our society becomes diminished.  If secularism is to be of any value, they need to come up with an equal or better ethical/moral package to inspire men to better behavior.  It is not good enough to erase Jesus Christ’s techings from our institutions, there needs to be something to replace them.  Or they need to be established for the sake of their truth. 

3.  The ethical or moral state of a man is not defined by his religion or words, but by his behavior and action.  If a man says, I believe in God, or I am a Christian, or I am a Cathollic or Muslim or whatever, it means nothing.  Even Satan believes in God.  It is not belief or words that define a man, but behavior.  You cannot judge Jesus Christ by the men who say they believe in him or say they follow him.  If they do not do his teachings, then they are simply liars.  It is of no value to judge a group, such as Christians or Muslims, because within these groups, there are those that adhere to the moral and ethical teachings, and there are those who are liars, and teach murder, war, and thievery.  Men must be judged individually, based on behavior only, not by any group or thing they say they believe in.  Words are becoming increasingly cheap and meaningless in the blogger age, though they do give a hint as to intention.  Until the behavior is manifested, it is best not to judge.  There is too much pre-judging going on by the religious and the secular, the left and the right.

If the Muslim faith states “thou shalt not kill” and a man places a bomb in Times Square, for the purpose of killing people indisriminately, then it should not be reported that he is a Muslim, because he is not doing according to the writing of the Muslim faith.  Even if he states he is a Muslim, it should not be acknowledged, because he would obviously be a liar.  Why would someone do the opposite of what his group stands for?  It does not make sense.  These acts are for the purpose of tearing down and discrediting the groups, and these acts are carried out by people who have their own agendas, and use the groups for carrying them out.

Now if the whole group does not denounce the behavior, but supports the perpetrator, then the whole group consists of liars, having doctrine which states one thing, but behavior which manifests the exact opposite.  How could a group of this nature be taken seriously?  Why would you have doctrine stating one thing, and behavior which is the exact opposite?  It doesn’t make sense unless your agenda is to destroy the doctrine. 

Christians who do not behave according to the doctrine of Christ are not Christians, but anti-Christians with the purpose of destroying the doctrine of Christ.  This is truth.

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By Alphysicist, May 10, 2010 at 4:55 am Link to this comment

I think reality is the reverse of the thesis of this article.  It is not that religious institutions are letting people down necessarily (at least not more than any other time in history before).  In the West religion has been pushed to the sidelines in the last centuries or so, especially Christianity. 

The reality is that people accept the consumer idiocy and the type of things which Nietzsche predicted.  What is embodied in religion (the radical individuality, the insistence on moral and intellectual autonomy) are too difficult for them.  Most people even view these things with suspicion and jealousy which is why it is easy for the media to discredit religious institutions.

And, as a previous poster has pointed out, it is not true that the Catholic Church has not raised its voice against the wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, and the potential one against Iran).  The current Pope and the previous one have both done so.  Benedict has also called for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine problem, likely one of the reasons for the reignited paedophile campaign.  In many encyclicals unfettered capitalism is criticized, overtly or covertly. 

I think another big question is the following: how come in previous times academia was capable of giving us a Kant, Nietzsche, etc. even though those times are supposedly backwards, and were certainly more authoritarian and less democratic than ours?  Those guys really sacrficed their lives for their own moral and intellectual autonomy, and they were actually held in high respect, not only in academic circles, but even by much of the general populace.  Where are the Kants and Nietzsches now? 

Instead we have Dawkins et al….

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By Socrates, May 10, 2010 at 4:54 am Link to this comment

Everything here is too wordy.  God is a fraud and all religions are false.  What more need be said?

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By Inherit The Wind, May 10, 2010 at 3:43 am Link to this comment

The great religions set free the critical powers of humankind. They broke with the older Greek and Roman traditions that gods and Destiny ruled human fate—a belief that, when challenged by Socrates, saw him condemned to death.
********************************************

This is why, with the adoption of Christianity by the Roman Empire, virtually all technical development ceased, and, in fact, was LOST for nearly a thousand years until the Renaissance.  I have a friend, raised in Jesuit schools, who insists that without the Catholic Church, we would have landed on the moon in 969, rather than 1969!

It doesn’t seem to me that Hedges is showing ANY religion other than the Catholic church in serious crisis and decline.  And, he avoids the 900 lb gorilla: Why are the fundies in ALL 3 Abrahamic religions all growing?  The nutty Christian Right just unseated a Conservative bastion, Bob Bennett in Utah.  Torah Orthodox, a minority in Israel, now controls the government. Moderate Moslem leaders are TERRIFIED of radical Islamic movements and terrorists, as are the rest of us.

As usual, Chris Hedges has made invalid assumptions and broad-brushed inferences that he cannot support.

Even when I’m generally sympathetic to his POV (and I am in this case), he makes his arguments so badly and so weakly that I’m totally turned-off and un-impressed.

Some posters think if Hedges says it, it must be true. I, OTOH, think if Hedges says it, that’s the FIRST thing to challenge.

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By David Reese, May 10, 2010 at 3:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A question for Mr. Hedges. 

While I don’t disagree with your condemnation of religious institutions in general, there must be exceptions out there.  I’d be interested to hear exactly where you believe genuine spirituality resides these days.  You can’t deny that there are isolated focal points of genuine spiritual morality and ethics these days.  You yourself are one such example.

I’d be interested in hearing you name specific religious institutions that adhere to genuine morality and ethics.

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By thebeerdoctor, May 10, 2010 at 3:06 am Link to this comment

Organized religion has made a lucrative racket from exploiting the metaphysical mystery of existence, which is the spiritual domain of the individual, by using fear and guilt of the unknown reality called death.
Its always the same old jibe: join our worshiping tribe or face lonely oblivion. Which makes Chris Hedges assertions about the goodness of religious institutions rather strange. How long ago was it, when the Pope went in to actual battle? Does he not recall Cotton Mather? What does the Bible say on the subject of slavery?
The phrase “becoming more conscious” is no longer in vogue. True spiritual realization is always seen as a threat to organized religion, and understandably so, because there would no longer be a need for their interference, in what is essentially, and finally, a private personal matter.
To the contrary of Mr. Hedges assertion, religious institutions have hindered progress. Just take a look at their attitude towards astronomy. Or how often an earthquake is claimed to be “God’s will” rather than the geological outcome of shifting tectonic plates.
Religion indoctrinates people to stop learning. I know a religious family that attends church every week, who support all of America’s wars and who have offspring in the officer class of the military. They have told me: “there will always be wars” and their all American lifestyle comes complete with the “pray for our troops” ribbon magnet, on the side of their 4 by 4 Ford F-150 pickup truck.
There are plenty of these good Christian folks around. People who believe it is their God given right to use as much gasoline as they want, who never connect the dots when it comes to how much of their happy consumerist life is built on a murderous fraud. The same people who think Sarah Palin is brave lugging around her defective child for a photo-op. Laugh at these folks or ridicule them, but nevertheless, they are actual people who really are that gullible.
Hedges says We’re Stuck with Nietzsche. No he is, with all its educated pomposity. Most people in the United States do not even know who Nietzsche was, nor do they care. Going to church is a social ritual, or as my neighbors say: “its just what you do.”
Atheism is just another religion. While religion claims that THEY KNOW something happens after you die, the Atheists claim THEY KNOW nothing happens at all. Which reminds me of what the concert pianist Arthur Rubinstein said, at 90 years of age, when asked if he believed in God,
“yes I do, he said, but I not do believe he is gentleman with a beard.”

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By Mundt, May 10, 2010 at 2:19 am Link to this comment

Yes, Mr. Hedges; and Gov. Sarah Palin makes the same case, but more concisely.

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By jmartensson, May 10, 2010 at 2:10 am Link to this comment

I fully share your concern about post religious
consumer society. However I think you inadvertently
help to bring it about by uncritically accepting the
current media view about the Catholic Church.

In fact the Catholic Church has no more sexual abuse
than comparable institutions and covering up is by
no means confined to the Catholic Church. (See for
example http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
dyn/content/article/2007/10/21/AR2007102100144.html
about similar problems in US schools.)

I think the current media uproar against the Church
is not occasioned by any exceptional turpitude in
the Church but rather by a wish to crush the sole
institution that offers a way of life that goes
counter to the cultural change that you rightly fear
and describe in your articles and books.

Seen in this light, this media campaign is part of
the cultural change we see and are so concerned
about. If the Church is reduced to irrelevance, well
then what stands between us and the abyss?

Note also that contrary to what you imply both popes
John Paul II and Benedict XVI have forcefully
condemned the war in Iraq.

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By C.Curtis.Dillon, May 10, 2010 at 2:10 am Link to this comment

Each of us needs to form a personal code of morality based on the best of human characteristics.  The church has never done this to my knowledge.  It has always been about superiority and channeling God through the priest/Rabi/imam ... take your pick.  I have long felt that church, as we make it, has little to do with God and a lot to do with power and greed.  This pope (and his predecessor) did a great deal to drive me to this conclusion.  They were/are hypocrites.

Now, given this simple proscription, do I think we will follow this path?  Of course not.  It is too easy to follow the crowd, to be bigoted and stupid.  Being moral takes hard work and a willingness to be abused and ridiculed.  Chris knows this from his work and life.  Morality claims the high ground but getting there is not easy.  Simpler to buy a bigger flat screen TV and watch the banal programs we are offered.  Religion could offer a way by using the herd mentality of your typical human but it falls victim, over time, to the same corruption and greed we see everywhere else today.  I’m not sure nor confident humans will find a moral path ... it’s just too hard for most to undertake alone.

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By Commune115, May 10, 2010 at 12:52 am Link to this comment

Great article. Many people simply cheer the death of religious institutions out just sheer hate for religion. Nobody is clean. The main cheerleaders for full atheism in pop culture such as Christopher Hitchens and Bill Maher bash the church’s excesses or abuses, and then go on to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (Hitchens) or the Israeli occupation and Israeli wars on Lebanon and Gaza (Maher).

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