Jacques Derrida On ‘Atheism’ and ‘Belief’


John Caputo: In Circumfession, you say that you “rightly pass for an atheist” (“je passé à just titre pour une athée”) Instead of just saying that you are an atheist, you know. Why don’t you just say, “I am an atheist” instead of “I rightly pass…” Is it because you have some doubts between the distinction between atheism and belief in God? Or some doubts about whether you are an atheist? I mean, suppose someone said, interpreted that to mean, “I am to all appearances an atheist, but appearances can be deceiving. So don’t be too sure, perhaps I am not”…?

Jacques Derrida: I, I’m not, simply the one who says “I.” On the other hand, I think that we may have some doubts about the distinction between atheism and belief in God. If the belief in God is not a cultural adaptation, if it doesn’t go through a number of atheistic steps –- that is, not only the critique of idolatry, of all sorts of images in prayers (especially in prayers) but also in the critique of onto-theology, the re-appropriation of God in metaphysics, which as Heidegger says, doesn’t know anything like prayer or sacrifice, the ontotheology –- so if one doesn’t go as far as atheism one doesn’t believe in God. So the true believers know that they run the risk, have to the run the risk, of being radical atheists – even [Emmanuel] Levinas says somewhere that in a certain way he’s an atheist because he doesn’t understand God as an existing Being. God is not an absolute Being – so if you go through what we know as negative theology, apophatic theological criticism, and so on, and deconstruction – if we don’t go as far as possible in this direction of atheism, then this belief in God is naïve and totally inauthentic.

Now, in order to be authentic – this is a word I almost never use – but in order to be authentic, belief in God must be exposed to the absolute doubt. And I know that the great mystics are experiencing this. They are experiencing the death of God, or the disappearance of God, or the non-existence of God, or God as being called as non-existent: “I pray to Someone who does not exist in the strict metaphysical meaning of ‘existence’ that is ‘to be present as an essence or substance’ or ousia.” When we think of epekeina tes ousia [Good beyond Being] according to Plato’s, even Heidegger’s, terms, “being beyond Being” the Good, in Plato’s terms being beyond Being, epekeina tes ousia. If I believe in what is beyond Being, then I believe as an atheist, in a certain way. Believing implies some atheism, however paradoxical it may say. I’m sure that the true believers know this better than others, that they experience atheism all the time – and this is part of their belief. In this epoche, this suspension of belief – suspension of the position, the existence of God – it is in this epoche that faith appears. The only possibility is faith in this epoche.

So when I say “I rightly pass as an atheist” I know that because of everything that I’ve done so far, say in terms of deconstruction and so on and so forth, I’ve given a number of signs of my being a non-believer in God in a certain way, an atheist. And nevertheless, although I confirm that it is right to say “I’m an atheist”, I can’t say myself “I am an atheist” as a position, see “I am” or “I know what I am”: “I am this, and nothing else and I’m identifying myself as an atheist.” I would never say… this would sound obscene: “I am.” I wouldn’t say “I am an atheist” or I wouldn’t say “I am a believer” either. These statements, I find them absolutely ridiculous: “I am a believer, I know that I am a believer.” Who knows that? Who can affirm and confirm, “I am a believer.” And who can say “I am an atheist?” I just write such sentences, that is the only thing I can say…

God’s gonna cut down the taserfiends

Go watch this video of a UCLA student being repeatedly tasered because he forgot his student ID while using the campus library. It’s so fucking disgusting. Good thing this doesn’t happen at Cedarville… OH WAIT why is it that I’ve already heard two stories this year of students being assaulted by Cedarville police or CUCS? Just wait until they get tasers. Violating curfew will have never been so painful. You know a recent Cedars unwittingly included a sarcastic comment of mine: “Cedarville is the safest place I’ve ever lived.” Which actually may be true, but simply because it’s the tiniest place I’ve ever lived. The fact is that the CUPD and CUCS combine to create the most oppressive police force I’ve ever encountered. I attribute it, quite simply, to small-town boredom. Anyways, search Google News if you want more details on the UCLA tasering. While we’re on the subject, here’s the LAPD brutality video if you haven’t seen it already. It’s popularity on YouTube actually led the FBI to initiate an investigation.

I hadn’t originally intended to make an all-video post but too late now: the angriest kittah vid on Google. I love this cat so much, I really want to meet him. He reminds of Trix’s cat who is a lot of fun to provoke.

Can somebody please explain the video for Cash’s God’s Gonna Cut You Down — great song, baffling video. “Johnny Cash always identified with the poor and downtrodden”… so obviously we’ll make a video jammed full of millionaires? Is the complete irony totally lost on the video’s participants? The majority of those featured are probably the very same people Cash says God is gonna cut down.

Ok last but not least: Kiwi! I think this is supposed to be vaguely inspirational but to me it’s just so, so sad.

Little Bit of This & That

Some dude named Brady built a home-made flamethrower… you know, just in case he needs to pillage a conquered village later in the week.

Remember The W’s and their song “The Devil Is Bad?” It earned them a RIAA-certified platinum record for being on the Wow ’99 compilation (sadly, I’m guessing 70% of my readers have owned that very disc). Valentine Hellman, the W’s sax player, decided to try and play the platinum record with amusing results. I’ve decided that anybody who’d put their Dove awards above the crapper is alright by me. I’d love to hear more about his days trapped in the CCM underworld.

How much money would it take for you to kill a puppy with your bare hands? Best video I’ve seen in a while.

I grabbed desktop wallpaper from this site that has a few good photos of Philippine beaches. Might see something you like if you’re pinoy.

Lastly, a few funny poker shirts

Sometimes I’m a dork and notice philosophy in pop music that, probably inadvertently, serves as a nice slogan. For example:
The lyric “There is no you, there is only me,” from the chorus of “Only” by Nine Inch Nails pretty well sums of solipsism.

Or contrast these two:
Essentialism: “Be Yourself” by Audioslave
Anti-essentialism and/or existentialism: “Make Yourself” by Incubus

Behind These Blue Eyes

Finally, it’s here: Behind These Blue Eyes – an original short film directed by Jeremy Wikler & Erik Snell, starring Josh Cobb, Mike Coletto, and Lauren McCotter. This video premiered at SGA’s Alpha Film Festival back in January but only now have I been able to get it compressed and then hosted so you little bloggies can enjoy it. And I promise, Holt’s video is coming soon as well.

Download: Behind These Blue Eyes (*.zip, 129.7megs) – includes the soundtrack (by Dave Schultz, mp3 format), script (by Jeremy Wikler, .doc format), and actual film (mpeg4 format, may require Quicktime to play properly).

And now, an interview with the director himself, Mr. Jeremy Wikler:

Who are your influences?

I am a total movie fiend, and I often find myself seeking out a certain film based solely on who the director is. I would say that I am influenced by a lot of directors. Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Christopher Guest, Alfred Hitchcock, Richard Linklater, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, M. Night Shyamalan, Quentin Tarantino, and Peter Weir are probably some of the directors that I respect the most. This particular film seems to carry qualities that could be attributed to watching films like Psycho, Tape, Following, Memento, and The Sixth Sense. The scenes that take place in the apartment seem like something could have happened between Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard in Tape, whereas Josh Cobb’s character is more like Anthony Perkins in Psycho. Josh isn’t crazy, but I draw the comparison because the audience is led to believe something about his character that turns out to be totally untrue. The interweaving of the scenes is most like Following. And the big turnabout at the end is like The Sixth Sense.

Do you prefer the Who or Limp Bizkit song better?

I actually don’t know which I like better. Obviously, the song “Behind Blue Eyes” was the inspiration for my film’s title. Josh Cobb was the one who told me about the song, and I was stunned when I heard the lyrics. They almost seemed like they were written for our film. We were planning on using The Who version for our opening credits because it was lighter, but it was still eerie because it is 70s music. We were then going to use the Limp Bizkit version for the closing credits. Well, we got shut down by “The Man.” I fought a mini-battle with the Deans and the Deans won. I fought the Deans and the Deans (like the song… I fought the law and the law won… never mind [ed – funny, I made this same joke a couple days ago and nobody got it then either]). Anyway, my roommate stepped up to the plate and composed an amazing score in a matter of a few hours. Dave Schultz=musical genius.

Did you write the script with specific people in mind?

No. Not really. After I finished the script, people came to mind very quickly, people who would fit the parts and also were willing to sacrifice any sort of social life in order to spend many nights in dark alleys with me!

What can we expect from you in the future?

I think the most natural follow up to this film would be a romantic comedy or a musical cartoon, but only time will tell.

Who’s your favorite powerpuff girl?

I am a HUGE fan of Buttercup. Blossom’s character isn’t really fleshed out in my opinion. I mean, she’s the leader, but that’s it. I do enjoy Bubbles antics, but Buttercup wins by a long shot. Where would the sass be without Buttercup? Yeah… you’re thinking about it aren’t you?