Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Atheist Manifesto, religions deconstructed

Last Thursday I attended a conference at the Alliance Française de Sydney by French writer and philosopher Michel Onfray. He spoke about one of his latest books, The Atheist Manifesto: the case against Christianity, Judaism and Islam, recently translated into English.

Michel Onfray, a vibrant man in his late forties dressed all in black as suits a French intellectual, is a prolific author of over 40 books who lives in Paris and teaches philosophy at the Free University of Caen, in Normandy. He's such a well known figure in France I wouldn't have missed a chance to listen to him.
Amazon.com presents the book in the following terms: "This tightly argued, hugely controversial work convincingly demonstrates how the world's three major monotheistic religions -Christianity, Judaism, and Islam- have attempted to suppress knowledge, science, pleasure and desire, often condemning nonbelievers to death. If Nietzsche proclaimed the "Death of God," Onfray starts from the premise that not only is God still very much alive, but increasingly controlled by fundamentalists who pose a danger to the human race. Documenting the ravages caused by religious intolerance over the centuries, the author makes a strong case against the three religions for demanding faith, belief, obedience and submission, and for extolling the "next life" at the expense of the here and now. A groundbreaking and explosive questioning the role of the world's dominant religions. "
In his speech, Michel Onfray explained that his work was about deconstructing religions, i.e. finding out how they had been constructed, much in the way you take out each part of a Meccano set to retrace the building process. Involving extensive research in archeology and history, his work aims at replacing beliefs and faith by facts and knowledge.
Can I say I enjoyed the evening tremendously? Much of what he said appeared to me to be plain common sense backed up by serious methodology. More about this tomorrow.
Note: Michel Onfray also spoke at the Sydney's Writers Festival : read more about it here.

Jeudi dernier je suis allée à l'Alliance Française de Sydney écouter le bouillant et célèbre philosophe et écrivain français Michel Onfray. La quarantaine inspirée, habillé tout de noir comme il sied à un intellectuel français, cet auteur prolifique (plus de quarante livres à son actif) venait parler de son Traité d'Athéologie, récemment traduit en anglais. Je n'allais pas rater ça !
Son site présente le livre en ces termes :" Les trois monothéismes, animés par une même pulsion de mort généalogique, partagent une série de mépris identiques : haine de la raison et de l'intelligence ; haine de la liberté ; haine de tous les livres au nom d'un seul ; haine de la vie ; haine de la sexualité, des femmes et du plaisir ; haine du féminin ; haine des corps, des désirs, des pulsions. En lieu et place de tout cela, judaïsme, christianisme et islam défendent : la foi et la croyance, l'obéissance et la soumission, le goût de la mort et la passion de l'au-delà, l'ange asexué et la chasteté, la virginité et la fidélité monogamique, l'épouse et la mère, l'âme et l'esprit. Autant dire la vie crucifiée et le néant célébré... "
Notre époque, ajoute Michel Onfray, voit le retour de Dieu dans tout ce qu'il a de plus dangereux, d'où l'urgence selon lui d'un athéisme argumenté, construit, solide et militant.
Dans sa courte conférence il nous a expliqué que l'objet de son travail avait été la déconstruction des trois grandes religions monothéistes, judaîsme, christianisme et islam, en remplaçant systématiquement foi et croyances par une démarche scientifique étayée par de sérieuses recherches en archéologie et en histoire.
Puis-je dire que j'ai beaucoup apprécié la soirée ? Beaucoup de ce qu'il a dit ne m'a semblé relever que du simple bon sens doublé d'un solide étayage scientifique. Je continue sur ce sujet demain...

30 comments:

Nathalie said...

Ah, and the photo was taken in a wrecked shipyard in Glebe.

Ah, et la photo a été prise dans un chantier naval désaffecté du quartier de Glebe.

Pat said...

Very interesting post.




My PAD and
Guelph Daily Photo

Sally said...

I read an article about him recently in, I think, Good Weekend Sounds like a really interesting man.

Next year it would be nice to get some leave and go to some evnts at the Writers Festival. Did you go to anything?

Sally said...

Hey, by the way, Nathalie - terrific photo - what is it? Where is it?

Sally said...

Oh, bah humbug - i should read the Comments first. Foot in mouth.

Olivier said...

tient je viens de voir dans tes liens preferes "la boite à images", j'adore ce site et toutes ces etudes sur la photo, les peintures and co.
Pour le theme de ta conference, j'avoue avoir plus peur de la montée en puissance des sectes (avec toutes leurs derivent) que de la presence des trois grandes religions. Il est vrai (parcontre) que le retour (en ce moment et en force) du creationisme (entre autre) fait tres peur.

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Muriel said...

Oui, les religions monthéistes sont plus totalitaires que les religions polythéistes. Elles promettent la rédemption par la privation et l'exclusion au lieu de fêter le vivant et le multiple. Mieux que l'athéisme pur, qui ne convient pas à tout le monde, on pourrait favoriser le synchrétisme qui combine diverses façons de se relier à l'ineffable. Les gens ont besoin de croire au merveilleux, et donner un sens magique à leur vie.

Spica said...

Toujours marrant de voir à quel point les athéistes sont finalement aussi virulent si ce n'est plus que le plupart des croyants. Pour quelqu'un qui dit avoir fait des recherches minutieuses, il n'a pas l'air d'avoir compris grand chose à la Bible.

En tout cas, les termes qu'il utilise ne me donnent certainement pas envie de l'écouter, et encore moins de débattre avec lui...

luc said...

et oui spica!tout le monde ne croît pas aux contes pour enfants.L'athéisme est une position difficile car le néant nous est difficilement concevable.et pourtant une lumière après la mort l'est pour moi encore plus...Mais sait-on jamais!

Anonymous said...

quant à la virulence des athéistes je demande à voir!! Y a-t-il eu beaucoup d'exactions commises en son nom?

Anyway, Nathalie your nice daily blog reminds me Australia,hope to go back overthere in a while.

Peter said...

In line with Onfrey's thoughts or not is one thing. He's really interesting to listen to (in my case only TV).

If Onfray was not known to everybody in France before, he is now after a much quoted debate with our then president candidate, Sarkozy. You can find it here:
http://www.newstatesman.com/200706040046

Irina said...

Religious deconstuction is a tough theme, and Mr.Onfray must be a very brave man to publish such a book.

M.Benaut said...

Nathalie,
Firstly, I want to say that the photo is marvellous and so pertinent to your text.
Secondly, thank you for telling us about this author and his comparative perceptions of these religions.
It has now become essential reading for me.
3. The Alliance Française de Sydney will be a must for me to visit, next time in Sydney (avec William).

Abraham Lincoln said...

Now I got to buy "another" book from Amazon.com.

I have had serious thought about these topics for a long time. I once studied to be a preacher. Believe it or not.

Abraham Lincoln
Remember "The World's Ugliest Cat?" He got a haircut!
Brookville Daily Photo

Abraham Lincoln said...

Forgot. Sorry. Nice photograph. It seems to suit the narrative very well.

richard said...

Common sense, yes. Anyone with common sense can recognize that organised religion is never going to be a way to achive harmony paeace and understanding. We might as well all just wear opposing football shirts - no difference. Has anyone calculated the good that organised religion has brought to the world (I don't mean individual spirituality, that's another thing) as compared to the death destruction and evil that it has engendered?

alice said...

Le prosélytisme -quelque qu'il soit et d'où qu'il vienne- me semble être source de nombreux excès. Si chacun se sentait libre de croire ou de ne pas croire, libre "tout simplement" de penser à sa guise, ce serait peut-être le début d'un apaisement? Mais ce n'est qu'un avis bien sûr, et je ne cherche pas à l'imposer...;-)

d. chedwick bryant said...

The photo is amazing--it reminds me of a painting by Charles sheeler--not that I ever saw a painting of a wrecked shipyard, but the feel of it--
beautiful

Philippe said...

Merci pour ta visite! C'est que ce n'est pas la porte à côté!..

Sujet brûlant en effet et argumentation solide! M. Onfray interpelle. J'appartiens à une frange intermédiaire je crois, car si je peux le rejoindre quant à certains aspects des religions, je crains qu'un athéïsme convaincu ne devienne à terme tout aussi dogmatique... Moi je cherche...

Au fait: rien trouvé!

Nathalie said...

Many thanks to all for your contributions, I enjoyed your responses tremendously, each for what they are. I realise how frustrating it is to 'discuss' that sort of topic in a few lines without a chance of getting beyond the surface. I could have left the conference out of my blogging life but I'm glad I mentioned it nevertheless. It gave me a chance to know you better. Thanks again for your openness.

Nathalie said...

Merci à tous pour vos contributions. J'ai eu grand plaisir à lire vos réponses, chacune pour ce qu'elle est. Je trouve (certainement comme vous) bien frustrant de "discuter" de ce type de sujet en quelques lignes sans possibilité de gratter plus loin que la surface. J'aurais pu laisser cette conférence à l'écart de ma vie de bloggeuse mais je suis heureuse cependant d'en avoir parlé. Ca m'a donné l'occasion de mieux vous connaitre. Merci pour votre sincérité et votre ouverture d'esprit aussi.

Cergie said...

La rouille, la décadence et l'oiseau, la liberté. Superbe illustration de ton propos

Norman said...

It's amusing how "common sense" is applied to whatever the speaker accepts as "true", while others' beliefs are "prejudices", "fundamentalism",or any other pejorative label which sets the speaker above those unfortunates who lack his "insight". Nowadays it takes little courage to denigrate religion; but the approaches of those do it, often remind me very much of the then overwhemingly dominant believers of 60 odd years ago who contemptuously dismissed my lack of faith as showing that "obviously" I lacked their "common sense".

There may well be common sense in the world --- but it's never been very common. I'd suggest the self-confidence of secular and spiritual fundamentalism shares the same roots. Both build their stands on foundations devoid of much careful analysis of human nature. Their resultant castles in the air [whether in this life or the 'next'] are then able to feel far more comforting than would otherwise be the case.

But what would a simple working class lad like me know about modern thinkers who don't need to analyse any more, because they've discovered "deconstruction"? They must thank God for how they've helped build language --- or is it build careers?

richard said...

@norman - perhaps you are taking the phrase "common sense" a little to heart. In these contexts it doesn't necesarily represent the speakers own prejudices as you suggest, but rather how he or she perceives a general trend among their peers. This in itself can be a prejudice if one's peers are a closed group, but I hope that many people who use the phrase do so after assimilating views from a wider church as I do. Of course to do this we must take the first step and understand others views objectively. My experience has been that organised religion does not encourage this sort of inclusiveness.

julia said...

An interesting scholar, there was talk on the radio about him that took my attention.
Discussion in the comments beyond the superficial - its "heavenly" bring it on

Nathalie said...

Dear Norman, what would the world be without you. I was hoping that you'd comment here, I am not disappointed. Your remark about common sense is quite appropriate - you score a point. However I'm afraid you are being very judgemental of someone you haven't read the books of or listened to (or have you?. I didn't expect you to be enthusiastic though, I don't think I've ever seen you enthusiastic about anything - I wish!

Ming_the_Merciless said...

He sounds like a smart intellect and the books looks interesting.

Thanks for the information.

Philippe said...

A lire pour mieux cerner M. Onfray:

http://www.regards.fr/article/?id=2444

Norman said...

I must confess, Nathalie, that at 72 I'm probably not quite as enthusiastic, in general, as I once may have been. I still have it in me to become quite enthusiastic about ideas; but in ANY of the situations in which you've seen me, would it have been appropriate to throw myself into the 'discussions' enthusiastically?

I must thank Richard for pointing out that religion doesn't encourage an open minded approach. What a revelation! But in this, religion is not alone. It's merely one of many vehicles for satisfying a human propensity which may [in evolutionary terms] have passed its 'best used by date', but is still there driving our species into the acceptance of a comforting but bizarre range of belief systems. Some religious, some secular.

Still, as I said before, I'm just a simple working class lad [who's lost his enthusiasm?] so what would I know.