For Jaybird, the main reference of “post-theist” seems to be to the individual non-/believer’s state of belief. Jaybird was a believer in God, but now is not: “There’s just something about throwing the mantle off, rather than never having worn it.” That “something” suggests the familiar liberationist affect or frisson, excitement of the newborn modern at or as the death throes of all divines, though we may also see ourselves as too late in the historical day to experience that excitement except as a matter of nostalgia, imitatively. De-divinization may have lost its luster, perhaps never more than the twisted reflection of a phantom, the bare ideational existence of a non-existent. Post-theism, or its possibility, whether or not experienced as an apparently inner state of belief, must also reflect an historical, common, or social-cultural condition or tendency of belief, the sense that, whatever else we know or believe, we also know that there was a god perhaps indistinguishable from or never more than the belief or belief in the belief, so never completely un-believed either, or there was God for us, once for all of us, but that He/She/It has been brought down or that we have brought Him/Her/It down, have assassinated or superseded It, somewhat as in the Nietzschean completion of the possibility anticipated by Luther and Hegel1, and, according to a few mystics, gnostics, heretics, and materialists, the Christian myth always and essentially. Post-theistic belief as other than perfect un-belief could also acknowledge that there still is or may be, or that we must necessarily conceive of or allow for the possibility of, a “being like no other being,” the God of monotheism, known only “by attributes” or metaphorically, always inherently other than its un-Godly reductions, implying that any statements about it, if not merely purportedly about this it like no other its, or un-it, would be by the same token statements like no other statements, nonsensical, misleading, or virtually blasphemous statements if not simply impossible and never-to-be-stated statements, un-statements, or if ever stated never determinably about “it” at all, or of an aboutness like no other aboutness (so of an un-aboutness). So, for the post-theist of this type, all “theisms” including atheism must have always been likewise nonsensical, or false belief, actually un-belief, and the post-theism of the post-theist refers to emergent awareness of the truth of the un-truth or distortive incompleteness of all isms, especially clearly theisms, universally and inherently. Post-theism would be the obsolescence of traditional theisms in the age of the rise of the Nones, although I will continue to treat “the state of belief after theism” as a form under the more general heading of anismism, since any assertion of “ism” that does not immediately undermine itself remains ismistic, like any simple un-ism or an-ism or nihilism. The never-stepped step further, or always already preceded step, is silence on the question, nevermore-stepped because silence on the question like no others is a silence like no other silences, un-silence, perhaps suggesting an infinitude of noise: The quietism of the anismist often appears to signify agreement with or allegiance to whichever offered or counter-offered and theoretically present ism, as in “Whatever you wish me to be, I am that.” For the anismist, silence other than a professed and positive silence on the particular question is the greater noise, since, under a silence on the questions like no other questions without silence on all questions, the still-asked questions are converted into the augmented manifold return of the infinitely answerable repressed question or un-question.


  1. Luther referred to the cries of the parishioner, “Your God is dead”; Hegel in his description of Unhappy Consciousness refers to “the grief which expresses itself in the hard saying that God is dead,” Phenomenology of Spirit, ¶ 752. []

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8 comments on “Post-Theism

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  1. You really don’t understand what belief is, and how it motivates, behind all the flurry of words you don’t have a clue.

    • Ives da man.

      Did you ever read Mann’s DR FAUSTUS? The piece of music and literature about it in my mind as I was editing this post was the critique of Beethoven’s last piano sonata, No. 32, Op. 111. In short, as the character Kretschmar explains it (quotes and details here), the theme of the first movement is a triumphal “God is Great!” sounded in three notes, while the theme of the spectrally mournful but psychedelically transportive, often intricately at the edge of merely technical second movement is “God was great in us!” sounded in five. The meaning of the absence of the usual third movement is subject to THE debate, though I take it as one of the great idealist gestures of the modern, pre-figuring the all-containing absences of post-modernism and deconstruction, etc.

      • I haven’t.

        There’s something about the whole German thing that I’ve never gotten. So even Beeethoven leaves me intellectually impressed but, in the end, pretty much untouched.

        In college my friend Myron was always encouraging me to read Mann, but the more he extolled Mann the less I wanted to read him.

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TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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