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Title: Religie als theoclasme
Subtitle: Over het monotheïsme als religiekritiek en hoe de Shoah dat illustreert
Author(s): DE KESEL, Marc
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Theologie
Volume: 50    Issue: 3   Date: 2010   
Pages: 322-341
DOI: 10.2143/TVT.50.3.3203444

Abstract :
On today’s geopolitical scene, religion has become an important driving power behind the revolutionary movements of our time. Is this to say that religion as such is revolutionary? This conclusion is drawn too quickly, since religion is just as much one of society’s most important conservative powers. But religion does have an inherent potentiality to revolution. This might not be the case for all religions, but it certainly is the case for the ones involved in today’s geopolitical praxis, i.e. the monotheistic religions. One of the basic reasons for this is that monotheistic religion is primarily to be defined, not as faith or belief, but as criticism of faith, as critique of belief. This is at least the thesis defended in this essay. Unlike non-monotheistic religions, monotheism is explicitly based in the truth of its One and Only God. ‘Not who or what you think God is, is God, for only God is God’: thus the central device constituting the core mission of monotheism. This device is coupled by a second one: to be right in relation to the One and Only God, one must do right to the rightless, to the ‘widow and the orphan’. In this critical stance with regard to man’s ‘natural’ religious inclinations lies the revolutionary potentiality of monotheism. It is shown already in its origin. For instance, in the Josian Reform (2 Kings 23), or the continuous fight against idols which is so characteristic for early Israel. It makes monotheism as such a ‘religion-critical religion’. That its core is a (critical) question rather than an answer, is shown even in the Shoah. Even the rabbis in Auschwitz who (as Wiesel relates) in an organized trial summoned God, after having sentenced Him to death, made themselves up for the evening prayer. Which is to say that, in monotheism, the question always survives its answer. God is the main point of reference in a religious culture of questioning religion. Here lies the revolutionary potentiality of monotheism. To understand the dark side of it however, as it is often shown in fundamentalist revolutionary actions, one must take into account the messianic aspect of monotheism. The risk is that, here, ‘religion’ sneaks into religion-critical monotheism, for it allows one to speak in the name of a fulfilled messianism, i.e. to speak in the name of God and to take a position which is itself beyond any criticism. In order not to fall into that trap, monotheistic religions today have to reconsider and reaffirm again their religion-critical kernel.

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