Religion, intellectuals, transcendence, Auschwitz

I’m atheist.

In the benign secular society I inhabit now this outlook is no impediment, as Jesus and Mo summarise nicely:


As well as being atheist, I’m also progressive. In the malign circumstances which overtook Jean Amery, my kind of outlook left a void which leached away ones life force.

“He survived—somehow. Unlike his fellow Auschwitz inmate Viktor E. Frankl, Améry refused to derive theory from his survival. Many years later he agreed that the “religiously or politically committed” (Orthodox Jews, orthodox Marxists) had a better chance of surviving, or at least of dying with more dignity. They were able to look beyond the basic reality of Auschwitz. For them the horrors were weakened by being reinterpreted as a renewal of creation when evil was released into the world or as natural political martyrdom. They had, in other words, a mode of transcendence that was anchored to a reality that the Nazis could not reach, because it existed in faith. “[W]hoever is, in the broadest sense, a believing person, whether his belief be metaphysical or bound to concrete reality, transcends himself,” Améry says. “He is not the captive of his individuality; rather he is part of a spiritual continuity that is interrupted nowhere, not even in Auschwitz.” But Améry was an unbeliever from first to last. He had nothing but himself to fall back upon. He was an intellectual, but confronted by a reality that could not be interpreted as anything other than horror, he found that intellect had lost its fundamental quality of transcendence. There was no other reality to which a mere intellectual could appeal. The claim of Auschwitz was total.”

You can’t choose faith – faith chooses you. But you can work on society.


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