Terror and Civilization: Christianity, Politics, and the Western Psyche

Terror and Civilization: Christianity, Politics, and the Western Psyche

Shadia B. Drury

Language: English

Pages: 228


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"Terror and Civilization is nothing less than a tour de force. Critically examining Christianity's oldest and deepest ideological roots, regardless of our own religious convictions or convictions about religion Drury compels us to reflect on our beliefs for the subtle ways they unwittingly implicate us in the violence we thought we had opposed. Required reading for religious and anti-religious thinkers, moralists and anti-moralists, for truth seekers and critics of truth, for idealists and realists of all persuasions. A fine scholarly work, yet written with a clarity that makes it accessible to audiences outside the academic community."--Morton Schoolman, SUNY Albany

About the Author
Shadia B. Drury is a Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at the University of Calgary in Canada.

Immensely thought-provoking
By Thomas Atwater on January 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Drury argues that the relation between terror and civilization has been seriously misconstrued in the history of the West. She maintains that terror is neither the opposite of civilization nor the secret of its success. Rather, the worst atrocities have their source in civilization itself - the pursuit of a sublime ideal that is believed to be so majestic, magnificent, and grand that it is worthy of every sacrifice, hardship, and abomination. Christianity and Islam are examples of such exalted ideals. Drury focuses on Christianity to examine how religious beliefs inspire pernicious and malevolent conduct.
In Part I Drury gives a critical account of the religion of Jesus. She argues that from its earliest and supposedly most idealistic beginnings, Christianity betrays a bleak austerity behind the apparently genial personality of Jesus. She focuses on faith, salvation, sin, death, and damnation. She explains why the religion of Jesus is zealous, immoderate, and unwise, and thus why Jesus cannot be totally absolved of the savage history of the Church.
In Part II Drury argues against Christianity in politics. She maintains that Christianity cannot be vested with political power without courting disaster. The political success of Christianity invites the worst tyranny - tyranny which seeks dominion not only over the actions of the body, but over the thoughts, dreams, and longings of the mind.
Part III is a critical examination of the moral teaching of Jesus, the "ethic of love." In contrast to Nietzsche, Drury argues that the morality of Jesus is rich in tragic gloom. Moreover, far from coming into conflict with what Drury in Part I calls Christianity's "metaphysics of terror," the morality of Jesus is intimately connected with it.
In Part IV Drury argues that the ethic of love has unwittingly fostered a conception of conscience as an inner state of siege. She maintains that both psychoanalysis and postmodernism are the heirs of Christianity: both are trapped within the its horizon. Indeed, she argues, Freud has provided Christianity with scientific justification! Likewise, it is alleged that Foucault is not free of the yoke of Christianity. He assumes that there is a deep conflict between human nature and civilization, and that the latter depends for its success on psychic terror. But, Drury contends, this understanding of civilization and terror has the effects of deprecating morality, inviting a Promethean revolt, and romanticizing evil.
In Part V Drury pulls her argument about civilization and terror together. She maintains that ideals and their zealous pursuit are at the heart of both the sweetness of civilization and its terror. Christianity and Islam are both examples. What makes the conflict between Islam and the West so deadly is not the radical difference between the antagonists but their similarity: Both live in the shadow of Biblical religion, which accounts for the radical and polarizing nature of the conflict. Transcending the Biblical horizon is, Drury concludes, the first step in the quest for genuine political life, which aims at peace and order in a climate of freedom, and is marked by moderation and an acknowledgment of the plurality of ideals.
The book includes extensive endnotes and a richly annotated bibliography.
This is an immensely thought-provoking work, especially, for me, the vigorous and informed critique of Christianity in Part I. The book is well-argued throughout and readily encourages sustained reading. It is a necessary antidote to the imprudent, ignorant, and sanctimonious rhetoric surrounding the Bush administration's "war on terror," but Drury's arguments ought to give many critics of Bush pause as well.
My only strong complaint about the book is its outrageous price. One hopes the publisher will issue a reasonably priced paperback edition soon, so that this timely and important work will get the wide circulation which it so clearly merits.


















Show sample text content

Download sample