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  1. Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia
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Their 'faith that the world can be transformed by human will is a denial of their own mortality'. Black Mass attempts to provide political flesh to such pessimism about the human condition. But what of the reality of human life? From the overthrow of absolute monarchy to the abolition of slavery, from the banning of torture to the establishment of universal suffrage, history is precisely a narrative of humans transforming the world through their will.

Such historical change requires not just a belief that the world can be transformed by human action but also a vision of what a better world may look like. Gray attempts to wriggle out of this problem by suggesting that the abolition of slavery, say, was not a Utopian project because it was not inherently unrealisable.

Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia

But inherently unrealisable was exactly how critics of abolition - the John Grays of the 18th century - saw it. In any case it is difficult to see why the abolition of slavery should have been any more realisable than, say, the bringing of democracy to Iraq. In place of Utopianism, Gray suggests, we need realism.

A realism that accepts that life consists not of soluble problems but of unresolvable conflicts and that humans are mere animals with no more ability to shape our future than whales or gorillas have. There is little that politics can achieve, Gray seems to suggest, because 'human disorders cannot be remedied, only treated day by day'. This is not so much realism as cynicism - the very kind of cynicism that drives many to embrace the kinds of religious faith that so worry Gray.

Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia

It is also the kind of cynicism that opens the way to the most regressive of beliefs. The blind acceptance of Utopian ideas can certainly be corrupting. But so, too, can be the blind rejection of Utopianism. What could be more corrupting that accepting as inevitable problems that we might be able to tackle were we to attempt the impossible? Love puzzles?

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Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia – Zaytuna College Bookstore

The idea that history is linear, society can be transformed and that revolution will effect that transformation is the Christian legacy to modern politics. And it is, according to Gray, a wholly unwelcome one. At least Christians expected someone else i. Modern politicians, from the Jacobins to the Communists, and less gruesomely, from liberal humanists to neo-cons, have tried to reshape history itself, with often catastrophic results.

Much of Black Mass is dedicated to a savage critique of the Iraq war, which Gray sees as the latest, bloody attempt to reshape the world along utopian lines. His catalogue of stupidity, ignorance, credulousness, duplicity and corruption will be depressingly familiar, but the way in which he places the story in its intellectual family tree redeems it from being yet another anti-war polemic.

Gray is, evidently, extremely erudite and there is much to be enjoyed in his intellectual pyrotechnics. But the theology, which forms the basis of his thesis and heads up the book, is not always convincing. There is considerably more connecting the Old Testament and the New than he recognises.

The fact that Gray cites A. The overall impression, however, of Black Mass, and of his recent work as a whole, is of an intellectual gunslinger, shooting every creed that dares to move. The Political Theory of John Gray , eds.

John Horton and Glen Newey is published by Routledge Theos hosts philosopher and writer James K. View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis About this title During the last century global politics was shaped by utopian projects.

Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia

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