Faith and Knowledge

Two sources of 'religion' within the limit of Pure Reason

Jacques Derrida

Like others before, the new 'wars of religion' unleash themselves over the human earth (which is not the world) and struggle even today to control the sky with fingers and eyes: digital systems and virtually immediate panoptical visualization, air space, telecommunications satellites, information highways, concentration of capitalistic-mediatic power - in three words, digital culture, jet and TV without which there could be no religious manifestation today, for example no voyage or discourse of the Pope, no widespread fascination of Jewish, Christian or Moslem cults, be they 'fundamentalist' or not. Given this, the cyberspatialized or cyberspaced wars of religion have no stakes other than this determination of the 'world', of 'history', of the 'day' and of the 'present'.

The stakes certainly can remain implicit, insufficiently thematized, poorly articulated. By repressing them, on the other hand, many others can also be dissimulated or displaced. Which is to say, as is always the case with the topics of repression, inscribed in other places or other systems; this never occurs without symptoms and fantasies, without specters (phantasmata) to be investigated. In both cases and according to both logics, we ought to take into account every declared stake in its greatest radicality as well as asking ourselves what the depths of such radicality might virtually encrypt, down to its very roots. The declared stakes already appear to be without limit: what is the 'world', the 'day', the 'present' (hence, all of history, the earth, the humanity of man, the rights of man, the rights of man and of woman, the political and cultural organization of society, the difference between man, god and animal, the phenomenality of the day, the value or 'indemnity' of life, the right to life, the treatment of death, etc.)? What is the present, which is to say: What is history? time? being? being in its purity (that is, unscathed, safe, sacred, holy, heilig)? What of holiness or of sacredness? Are they the same thing? What of the divinity of God? How many meanings can one give to theion? Is this a good way to pose the question?

There is insufficient space to multiply in this regard the images or the indications, one could say the icons of our time: the organization, conception (generative forces, structures and capital) as well as the audiovisual representation of cultic or socio-religious phenomena. In a digitalized 'cyberspace', prosthesis upon prosthesis, a heavenly glance, monstrous, bestial or divine, something like an eye of CNN watches permanently: over Jerusalem and its three monotheisms, over the multiplicity, the unprecedented speed and scope of the moves of a Pope versed in televisual rhetoric (of which the last encyclical, Evangelium vitae, against abortion and euthanasia, for the sacredness or holiness of a life that is safe and sound - unscathed, heilig, holy - for its reproduction in conjugal love - sole immunity admitted, with priestly celibacy, against the virus of human immuno-deficiency (HIV) -, is immediately transmitted, massively 'marketed' and available on CD-ROM; everything down to the signs of presence in the mystery of the Eucharist is 'cederomised'; over airborn pilgrimages to Mecca; over so many miracles transmitted live (most frequently, healings, which is to say, returns to the unscathed, heilig, holy, indemnifications) followed by commercials, before thousands in an American television studio; over the international and televisual diplomacy of the Dalai Lama, etc. So remarkably adapted to the scale and the evolutions of global demography, so well adjusted to the technoscientific, economic and mediatic powers of our time, the power of all these phenomena to bear witness finds itself formidably intensified, at the same time as it is collected in a digitalized space by supersonic airplanes or by audiovisual antenna. The ether of religion will always have been hospitable to a certain spectral virtuality. Today, like the sublimity of the starry heavens at the bottom of our hearts, the 'cyberspaced' religion also entails the accelerated and hypercapitalized relaunching of founding specters. On CD-ROM, heavenly trajectories of satellites, Jet, TV, Email or Internet networks. Actually or virtually universalizable, ultra-internationalizable, incarnated by new 'corporations' that are increasingly independent of the powers of states (democratic or not, it makes little difference at bottom, all of that has to be reconsidered, like the 'globalatinity' of international law in its current state, which is to say, on the threshold of a process of accelerated and unpredictable transformation).


Jacques Derrida: "Foi et savoir - Les deux sources de la 'religion' aux limites de la simple raison".
La religion, sous la direction de J. Derrida et Gianni Vattimo, Paris: Seuil, 1996, p. 35-36

This hydra © Peter Krapp 1994-1997

[ Foreign Body | Jacques Derrida ]