Thursday, June 30, 2016

Today's Post-Christian Political Religion Adopts Christian Forms

We live in a post-Christian society. As a result, our worship of Jupiter, god of politics, takes on previously Christian forms. Jacques Ellul tells us how in The New Demons (trans. C. Edward Hopkin, 1975).
1. God. In our contemporary worship of Jupiter, the part of the god, or of his incarnation, is established by an official “cult of personality” (170) or creation of the Great Personality. The establishment of such a cult is unavoidable. On one side, there’s the public’s desire for salvation with “all hopes concentrated on one, fervently adored man” (171). On the other, there’s the leader’s commitment to provide that salvation. The result: a cult of personality that deifies a dictator. Holding all power, he “is the supreme person, corresponding to the personal God of Christianity” (171).

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Signs that Religion Is Alive and Well in Our Post-Christian Society

Today Olympianity is the world’s most popular religion. As societies, cultures, and personalities, we devote ourselves to the six gods of Olympus: (1) Jupiter, god of politics; (2) Mars, god of war; (3) Vulcan, god of technology; (4) Venus, god of sex; (5) Pluto, god of money; and (6) Bacchus, god of consumption. As with other religions, these gods are related to us as individuals, to our societies and cultures, and to our past, present, and future, through the Grand Narrative of myth. But the Olympian gods actually encourage us to pursue the widest variety of religious practices knowing that all religious practices lead back to them. Here are a few, popular even among Christians, noted by Jacques Ellul in The New Demons (trans. C. Edward Hopkin, 1975) and still true today:

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Grand Narrative: The Importance of Myth Today

Today we think in terms of myths as much as we always have. Jacques Ellul, through The New Demons (trans. C. Edward Hopkin, 1975), will guide us in our discernment of this.
An Olympian civilization spans the globe. This civilization is based on Olympianity: the religion of power. The sacred foundation of this religion and civilization are three pairs of gods, each pair including one god of order and another of disorder. Using their Roman names, these three pairs of gods are Jupiter (god of politics) and Mars (god of war), Vulcan (god of technology) and Venus (god of sex), and Pluto (god of money) and Bacchus (god of consumption). Societies, cultures, and personalities around the globe devote themselves to these gods. (Sadly, Christians and churches around the globe do so also.)
Shared devotion to these gods is only possible through an Olympian worldview disseminated through the corporate media and affirmed by each person everywhere. The corporate media and its primary narrators are the authoritative speakers and interpreters of this Olympian worldview.
Every religion has its own distinct worldview. As a religion, Olympianity—just like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—has a worldview that is mythical in nature.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Today's Third Sacred Pair: Money and Consumption

In speaking of today’s sacred in The New Demons (trans. C. Edward Hopkin, 1975), Jacques Ellul states that our “modern sacred is ordered entirely around two [70] axes, each involving two poles, one pole being respect and order, the other transgression” (70-71). He said the first axis paired technology and sex while the second paired the national state and revolution (although I prefer politics and war).
He then makes a rather strong statement. “Those are the four factors (I say exclusive of any other) of our modern society” (71). I think it is important, though, to add a third axis of order and disorder: money and consumption. Using their Roman names, I would say that today, as in the past, we devote ourselves, as societies, cultures, and personalities, to Pluto, god of money, and Bacchus, god of consumption. I say this using the very criteria for identifying the sacred, in terms of function and form, developed and used by Jacques himself in establishing his two sacred axes.

Today's Second Sacred Pair: Nation-State and Revolution or Politics and War?

In The New Demons (trans. C. Edward Hopkin, 1975), Jacques Ellul identifies the two sacred pairs that he believes make up today’s sacred.
The first sacred pair he names is technology and sex. I couldn't agree with him more. It is even more helpful to think of them using their Roman names: Vulcan, god of technology, and Venus, goddess of sex. Roman mythology affirms the tight relationship between technology and sex by understanding Vulcan and Venus to be husband and wife.
Jacques identifies the other sacred pair as the nation-state and revolution. I disagree with him here. I think this second pair is better understood as politics and war. Again, using their Roman names, we devote ourselves to Jupiter, god of politics, and Mars, god of war. Strangely enough, Roman mythology also affirms the tight correlation between sex and war by understanding Venus and Mars to be lovers. Sex and violence: still a profitable combination.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Today's Sacred: Technology and Sex

In a most insightful book, The New Demons (trans. C. Edward Hopkin, 1975), Jacques Ellul first analyzes the functions and forms of the sacred common to all religions including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Sacred functions include providing societies, cultures, and personalities with meaning, structure (of space, time, and action), solidarity, ethics, and justification. The sacred isn’t something that societies or individuals choose. It is something which imposes itself upon all of us as our greatest threat as well as best source of vitality. Sacred forms include ultimate values, rites of commitment, embodiment by people of exceptional virtue, and the organization of the sacred itself in opposing poles of control and chaos.
Having analyzed the general functions and forms of the sacred, Jacques then identifies the first axis of what constitutes the sacred in our world today: technology and sex (71).

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Functions and Forms of the Sacred

In the history of Olympia, three of the most important religions have been Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Yet there has always been what we may consider to be a fourth religion: Olympianity. To test whether we are right in doing so, we will reflect on an analysis of the functions and forms of the sacred by Jacques Ellul in The New Demons (trans. C. Edward Hopkin, 1975).

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

One Method for Discerning Today's Most Popular Yet Least Recognized Religion

Here in the West, we live in a dechristianized society. For the last 50 years, this has been wrongly understood—especially by Christian intellectuals—to mean that we live in a secular society. That incorrect assumption has been further misunderstood to mean that we modern humans now set our own standards as the autonomous, rational, good, and mature creatures we are.
While it is true that only a dwindling number of people in the West continue to affirm their faithfulness to Jesus Christ, the one odd god/man of truth, freedom, love, and vitality, that doesn’t mean the majority of Westerners believe in no god at all. While even a dwindling number of Christians affirm the Bible as their standard for understanding the truth, that doesn’t stop most Westerners from affirming other myths to live by. While increasingly fewer Christians participate in the weekly celebration of their god through word and action, that doesn’t stop them or others from being meaningful participants in the world’s oldest, most popular, yet least recognized religion.

Monday, June 13, 2016

What Living in a Post-Christian Society Means

“A current commonplace, the truth of which is taken for granted, is that the modern world is secular” (Jacques Ellul, The New Demons, translated into English by C. Edward Hopkin in 1975, p.2). This assumption is understood to mean, specifically, “that the modern world no longer believes but wants proof; it obeys reason and rejects beliefs, especially religious beliefs; it has got rid of God the Father and all gods, and if you talk to it of religion, it won’t understand you…The day of religion is over” (18).

Venezuela: What Happens When Economies Collapse

The economy of Venezuela has been in trouble since at least 2013 when, as a result, its currency was devalued. In 2016 its troubles led to economic collapse.
We rightly pause to reflect on the challenges confronting ordinary Venezuelans. We live in societies dominated by the Global Technological System (GTS). Because the GTS is a system, trouble in one part of it, like Venezuela, has harmful effects on other parts. Such trouble also increases the chances that the whole global economy will collapse.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Bill of Rights (1791)

In 1789, the first US Congress approved twelve amendments to the Constitution. By December 1791, the necessary three-quarters of the state legislatures had ratified ten of these and they became the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Together they are known as the Bill of Rights.
Because of their enduring significance, I reprint them here:

The Bill of Rights

Certain Economic Collapse and Looming Nuclear War

The Global Technological System (GTS) is the greatest threat to ever confront a hapless humankind. Today, Jesus Christ is inviting you and me to join him in responding creatively to this threat.
One way we may do this is by developing rigorous realism or an increasingly accurate understanding of reality. Only through his words of truth may we find the wisdom, strength, courage, and good cheer to face an increasingly frightening reality.
Only with Jesus as our foundation may we acknowledge that the destructive consequences of the GTS are surprisingly numerous, massive, and varied. Perhaps the two worst consequences are the impending disaster of economic collapse and the looming catastrophe of nuclear war.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Today's Deadly Technocratic Rivalries

The Global Technological System (GTS) is a worldwide system combining all available technologies into one integrated whole. It controls virtually all human beings, societies, cultures, and ecosystems on the planet and regards them as nothing more than means to its own ends or as resources to be exploited.
That is why the GTS is parasitic. Worse, it has now grown so large that it is the most life-threatening challenge ever faced by humankind.
It is also increasingly unstable. This instability will soon lead to some kind of systemic collapse which will be catastrophic.
This GTS is all about power. It is the best-ever embodiment of humankind’s lust for power. True to its own nature, it concentrates increasingly more power in the hands of increasingly fewer people.
These fewer people are today’s global rulers. They are technological aristocrats or technocrats. They are people who know how to use the GTS to exploit everyone and all else.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Global Technological System: A Realistic Summary

The Global Technological System (GTS) is the most life-threatening challenge ever faced by humankind. It is a parasite that has grown so large that it is killing its host; that is, it is sucking the vitality out of human beings, societies, cultures, and ecosystems worldwide. To understand how we might respond creatively to it, and free ourselves from it, we need to develop a rigorously realistic understanding of it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Technology: Conformity and Compensation

In Perspectives on Our Age (1981), Jacques Ellul points out that living in a society increasingly dominated by a Global Technological System (GTS) is painful, to a greater or lesser degree, for all of us humans (48). That’s because the nature of the GTS differs fundamentally from our own. It is cold, rational, and rigid. While we humans may occasionally imitate those ways, we remain mostly passionate, emotional, and spontaneous.
If we are treated more like technological automatons than genuine humans for very long, we grow angry or depressed and seek “compensations” (49). In other words, “we are forced to find something providing satisfactions elsewhere and permitting us to live otherwise” (49).
This need grows increasingly pressing with the growth of the GTS. As the GTS expands, we all increasingly suffer “the suppression of the subject and the suppression of meaning” (49).

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Devotion to Vulcan Brought Changes in Class Structure

Throughout the history of Olympia, societies have always organized their members into four social classes based on the power exercised by each. The top class has always been the ruling class. Its members set the rules for the rest of us. The middle class provides the managers of people, processes, and information needed by the ruling class. The working class consists of those people who actually do the work, especially the physical labor, of society. The bottom of this social scale is occupied by the marginal class: those who don’t fit into any other class or society in general. Historically, we always find four classes: rulers, managers, workers, and outcasts.
While this class structure endures, there are plenty of historical variations within it. Changes over time include the size of each class, the relative power of one class over others, the rate of social mobility between classes, and what it takes to become a ruler.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Devotion to Vulcan and Its Consequences

In 1648, intellectuals—and gradually the rest of Christendom—abandoned Jesus Christ, the only true god/man of truth, freedom, love, and vitality, in favor of returning to the six conventional yet false gods of Olympianity. More specifically, they abandoned Jesus, the only true god/man of freedom, especially for Vulcan, one false god of power through technology.
In Perspectives on Our Age (1981), Jacques Ellul points out that our newfound devotion to Vulcan had broad unforeseen consequences.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Why Today's Technological Phenomenon Started in the 1700s

In Perspectives on Our Age, Jacques Ellul identifies five major reasons why today’s technological phenomenon emerged in the 1700s in Europe. These conditions had never before existed simultaneously. That’s why today’s technological phenomenon did not exist before or elsewhere.
One, a large growth in population (p. 41). This happened because society had become better organized. It resulted in more available workers as well as a faster distribution of people and ideas.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Difference between Yesterday's Technology and Today's

Let us define technology, in a general and preliminary way, as (1) the use of any tool or method as a means of obtaining a goal and (2) the study of such means. From this point of view, we may say that humans have always used technology. Furthermore, many of yesterday’s technologies relate directly to some today.
At the same time, the sheer quantity and scope of today’s technologies far exceed those of yesterday. This quantitative change is so great that Jacques Ellul, in Perspective on Our Age (1981), insists we acknowledge that a qualitative change in technology has resulted. As he puts it, when we as humans “moved from the flint arrowhead to the atomic bomb, there was a qualitative change” (36).