Thursday, February 09, 2012

Jean-Paul Sartre vs the Pod People

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

'Mormanism' is a cult which believes Joseph Smith is a prophet! But believing Joseph Smith a prohet is no 'kookier' than any number of unquestioned shibbboleths and ideology that define the GOP just as many articles of 'faith' and/or superstitions define most if not all the world's religions. And the world's kooky cults!

By any definition, Christianity is, likewise, a cult just as it was considered to be by 'free Romans' during the long Roman Empire. Rome, especially during the post-Republican period was full of cults to include, prominently, various flavors of Mithraism. The Christians were just one of possibly hundreds of kooky cults of various persuasions, convictions and delusions.

Today it is not only Mitt Romney who is a cultist!

The GOP has seemingly deified Ronald Reagan! The GOP rank and file still worship Reagan's economic legacy, though it is, in fact, a sorry tail of inequities, slow growth, the 'export' of American industries, and recession/depression. In practice, the GOP clearly loathes any education which insists upon rigorous, skeptical science, objective inquiry, logic and/or empirical observation. All of those things threaten both cults --Christianity as well as the cult of Republicans.

Not all groups that could in one way or another be defined sociologically as cults are necessarily destructive. For instance, not every group requires its members to cut off normal contact with friends and family.

To be fair, cults are not always evil, kooky or destructive! But I am hard-pressed to name an entirely benevolent 'cult' offhand. In fact, I defend a persons right to be a 'cult-member' for so long as he/she does not harm others, commit or try to justify crimes in the name of the name of the cult, or, in any other way, deny the right of others to believe as they choose. I am tempted to write that most cults, however, are intolerant of dissent and, if not intolerant, may 'persuade' but in ugly, overly aggressive manners.

That said, I am of the opinion that cultism of any sort is 'anti-freedom'. A cult seems to me to be the ulitmate Faustian bargain in which an individual surrenders or concedes his/her individualty (soul?) to the larger social group. Just as a member of any 'armed force' or military surrenders his/her autonomy, a cult-member may no longer act autonomously.

“Existence Precedes Essence”: How May One be Free Today?

It was Jean-Paul Sartre's slogan—“existence precedes essence”—which defined 'existentialism'. With this phrase, Sartre made the point that it may be impossible to define or describe precisely what it means to be 'human'. It was, rather, a matter that is defined in the act of living itself. The human being may be alone in this respect, the inanimate world being the result of universal 'laws of physics' or 'evolution' in which 'essential properties' seem to be fixed from without, by forces exterior to the individual. Hence, Satre's famous declaration: "A man is nothing else but what he makes of himself".


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