RELIGION: COMPOSITE OR MODE?

Even if we grant that REL is a mode (I argue that it is rather a complex crossing) it is much more plausible to characterise it by attention than by love. Once you begin to de-historicise and to de-mythologise religious truth you must go all the way, and there is no reason to stop at some sort of baseline Christian common denominator. People with religious practices don’t all just worship, they also meditate, do yoga, celebrate pagan festivals etc. In terms of formal practice I myself meditate and do yoga. But most of all I read, and think, and write with all my being. My “religion” is there, and “love” is an inadequate description. Further, I find Latour’s description of love as constituting one as a unified person utterly false as far as my own experience goes. Like Deleuze, I find that love is much more an experience of multiplicity than of unity. I argued that we must read AIME religiously here: https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/empiricism-vs-hermeneutics-1-reading-bruno-latour-religiously.

1) Religion is not belief: as anthropology this is just false and will not be accepted by any but a minority in a diplomatic assemblage. I happen to accept it, but for my type of religion, not as an acceptable general description. But this is nothing new, it goes back to Alan Watts (pop version) and even earlier to Wittgenstein (highbrow version). Non-autonoy of the ego addressed and traversed by outside beings is MET, no need for REL. I have already commented on how Latour gives a distorted description of MET aimed at distinguishing it from REL.

2) Religion is not love, this is just one possible component. As to the Christian conflation of love and religion, this goes back to well before the book. In PETITE PHILOSOPHIE DE L’ENONCIATION, the conceptual prequel to AIME, Latour says (my translation): “I have chosen to call this régime of enunciation “religion” but I could have called it “love”, which would amount to the same thing – the first term is more collective, the second is more individual, but the historical religions that we know the best precisely defined themselves as religions of love”. Note: this is an argument from laziness or ignorance, not from research on our current religious situation. For me attention is more general descriptor than love. Many people practice yoga, meditation, relaxation, martial arts, formal or informal psychotherapy – these are practices of attention to the present and the close. Latour has no empirical research to back up his claims.

Love is not an experience of unity but of multiplicity. Love as unity is once again Latour’s phantasm. I recently celebrated with my wife our 30th wedding anniversary. From the very beginning of our relationship my experience of love was of both of us being multiple, becoming more aware of that multiplicity and caring about it more. Latour’s description does not correspond to my experience. I do not think that Latour can just presuppose the essential co-belonging of religion and love.

3) Latour’s project is not fundamentally empirical, he does not give primacy to experience. It is a priori and philosophical. He uses his own experience and analysis of religion as a boundary condition for the inventory of modes.

4) Religion is more generally characterised by careful attention rather than by love. The idea that my reading and writing are, or can be, religious experience is an idea that one can easily derive from yoga, but not from the “religion of love”.

In conclusion, religion is not a mode but a variable complex crossing, often involving DC, REF, and MET and sometimes, but not always and not essentially, love. I do not think we should make love a mode. I would argue that love belongs in MET, and that this is the meaning of Badiou’s grouping together of love and psychoanalysis in a single distinct truth-procedure. Each component of religion cited above (DC, REF, MET) is involved to various degrees, and in combination with other modes depending on the local situations.

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