There is a lot I might say in response to this post. Considerations of time and the risk of going off in many directions and losing any kind of coherent conversation means I am for now just going to address your opening remarks. We'll see how things look when I next have a moment to return to this.


the only remaining question is advancing the realization in time, through politics, of those determinations, on the way to what Kojève defines as the “universal homogeneous state” embodying the “rights of man.” In that sense there would be no essential philosophical argument (or conversion) still to be sought

-well, leaving aside that few people are converted by philosophical arguments in any rigorous sense - as opposed to the revelatory power of events and the signs that attend them - even if we have reached a point in history where the liberal state as protector of human rights has now no serious competitors among those enamored of philosophical thinking, we are still forevermore stuck with the need of protecting this liberal regime from the many and great resentments it itself produces (to the extent it gives us freedom it gives us many pesky differences unjustified by any sacred order). These resentments tend to erode the freedom by which human rights are at once recognized and lived. It is curious that you would make this argument in an age when claims of "hate speech" are widely made to stifle free expression, when claims to group rights and privileges erode individual choice, opportunity, and property rights, when the leading forces in the economy seek rents and protection from emerging competition, when the US has practically bankrupted itself to privilege today's consumers at the expense of the freedom of future generations, when the "rights of man" are claimed by people who want to destroy the freedom of men that we may be returned to some more totalitarian order.

In short, what we still need to do is convert people to the faith, and not just reason, that will lead them, in those somewhat rare moments when we can make a difference, to take a stand in defense of freedom even when all kinds of short-term interests encourage many of us to just worship the empire and its ideology of "progress", hope and change, and just get our share of the dole.

It is just the nature of the beast that everything I say about our present corruption is contestible, that the proof of the need for such a conversion, whereby we chuck one paradigm of orderly conduct and shout "let's roll", is not to be found in a complete philosophy of history, or in any set of (once justifiably established) assumptions about the liberal order, but in our experiences and intuitions about the course of events and of corrosive forces that mitigate against any renewal of faith in the untold possibilities that real freedom might hold but that can never be demonstrated in advance and so are always discounted by those who favor rent seeking and risk control over productivity. (Adam K has taught me much about this though I perhaps formulate things in ways he might object...)

The conversion we need or seek in others is not to one or another metaphysics, but to an understanding of events that will never be experienced in the same way twice, howevermuch we all have come to agree on the basic requirements of a liberal society.
Philosophically, it's fine to bitch about Pamela Geller. But if we find ourselves in a place and time when every (of many) public representations of Islam is coming from Islamists who insist that they are being orthodox Muslims - a not entirely implausible claim - then one has to wonder if the rightful fear that the West's successful habit of keeping formal, discrete "religion" out of "politics" can really avoid a politicized questioning of "Islam" for its lack of certain distinctions, and instead simply sustain a critique of "Islamists" and Islamophobes.


Perhaps at some point you can expand on this question and why you see guilt as fundamental conceptually or practically.

-Let me first say in response to the preceding discussion here in the comments that what likely made Jesus different from many other itinerant Jewish preachers was that when he was executed for disturbing the peace, his followers did not so much foresake him as just another Jew who went too far. No, the emergence of the Christian religion in the sustained memory of the event can be explained by the overwhelming sense of guilt that must have sustained a need for faith in the resurrection. In other words, to offer an account in the vein of Rene Girard, the guilt was the recognition of a shared truth (about the human need for a sacrificial victim, about the victim's identity with our understanding of divinity, about a dawning recognition that pagan gods are but mythologized human victims) that had not previously been well understood among Jesus' followers.

In general, guilt is fundamental to anti-sacrificial religion because it is a sign that we remember why the scene of victimization is objectionable (to God and man). Guilt becomes a feature of one's sense of living in covenant with such a God (or his secular, anthropolgical equivalent), as the impetus to recognition of one's obligations to maintain the shared freedom that allows us to minimize our need for scapegoats/excuses in face of the never-ending corruption of freedom (and the manipulation of guilt) by those who seek a quick and easy sacrificial feast in either a ritual-bound tribe or a big state controlling and redistributing wealth.

You might be interested in the ongoing discussion by Gil Bailie (in various blog posts over the last months) of Phillip Rieff's book, Charisma. Rieff argues:

"In the making of a covenant, guilt is the main mechanism. A covenanted culture cannot exist apart from a sense of guilt, for the most obvious fact of experience is the difficulty it presents in keeping a covenant - more important, the temptations it presents not to keep it."
The covenant was the way in which the charismatic quality was verbalized, the contents of which thus penetrate and organize the common life. The covenant may be considered the particular and deliberate expression of moral order through negation and denial. Breaking the covenant becomes an expression of guilt; the covenant itself is a charismatic recognition of the ambivalences felt among the keepers of the covenant. To honor the maker of the covenant, the god-term, is to prefer him and his representatives precisely in their charismatic quality of the self; to respect the covenant more than the self is an articulation of that renunciation of "instinct," which is not only the essential form of all social organization, but also indicates the essential form of culture."

Another way of saying this is that guilt coresponds to a freedom within and to renew a covenant betwen man and God that distinguishes Judeo-Christian religion from those societies bound by a rigid code of ritualized conduct in which one feels honor and shame to the degree one is in sync with the expectations of ritualized norms in a world in which one cannot argue with God and reinterpret with men the meaning and requirements of His revelation. This is an all too short introduction to another question for Colin & Co.: what do you mean by "Abrahamic" faiths, and why do you think Islam is one? Whatever Islam's use of figures and stories present in the Jewish and Christian Bibles, do we not asume that it is in one's understnading of the divine that religions are essentially defined? and what is it about the Islamic understanding of Allah that makes it rather more and not less like Judaism and/or Christianity? Isn't Allah unknowable and completely Other? If so, that is something quite different from the Jewish or Christian divinity.