"(...)Girard begins from an observation no impartial reader of the Hebrew Bible or the Koran can fail to make, which is that religion may offer peace, but has its roots in violence. The God presented in these writings is often angry, given to fits of destruction and seldom deserving of the epithets bestowed upon him in the Koran—al-rahmân al-rahîm, "the compassionate, the merciful." (...) Thinkers like Dawkins and Hitchens conclude that religion is the cause of this violence (...), and that the crimes committed in the name of religion can be seen as the definitive disproof of it. Not so, argues Girard. Religion is not the cause of violence but the solution to it. The violence comes from another source, and there is no society without it since it comes from the very attempt of human beings to live together. The same can be said of the religious obsession with sexuality: religion is not its cause, but an attempt to resolve it.
Girard's theory is best understood as a kind of inversion of an idea of Nietzsche's.
In his later writings, Nietzsche expounded a kind of creation myth, by way of accounting for the structure of modern society. On the Genealogy of Morals (1887) envisages a primeval human society, reduced to near universal slavery by the "beasts of prey"—the strong, self-affirming, healthy egoists who impose their desires on others by the force of their nature.
The master race maintains its position by punishing all deviation on the part of the slaves—just as we punish a disobedient horse. The slave, too timid and demoralised to rebel, receives this punishment as a retribution. Because he cannot exact revenge, the slave expends his resentment on himself, coming to think of his condition as in some way deserved. Thus is born the sense of guilt and the idea of sin.
The resentment of the slave explains, for Nietzsche, the entire theological and moral vision of Christianity. Christianity owes its power to the resentment upon which it feeds: resentment which, because it cannot express itself in violence, remains turned against itself.
Thus arises the ethic of compassion, the mortification of the flesh and the life-denying routines of the "slave morality." Christianity is a form of self-directed violence, which conceals a deep resentment against every form of human mastery.
That "genealogy" of Christian morals was effectively exploded by Max Scheler in his book Ressentiment (1912). Scheler argues that the Christian ethic of agape and forgiveness is not an expression of resentment but rather the only way to overcome it. (...)"
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