Are modern Christians the legacy of the hippies?

Peter SloterdijkThe big questions of faith

The title is pretty bombastic: "After God". That sounds like post-religious epoch diagnosis, like daring, the existentials of modern life courageously taking into account thinking in the tradition of Nietzsche and perhaps Michel Onfray.

The content of the band is ultimately not that bombastic. It is a collection of essays and some texts that have already been printed in other Sloterdijk books, which in the broadest sense could be summarized under the heading of "criticism of religion".

Verbose and not very respectful

Which does not mean that one could not find remarkable insights and - of course - some gems of Sloterdijk's art of formulation in this volume. As in earlier works, purposefully written for punch lines, this time the philosopher hardly leaves a good hair with the religions of revelation and especially with the contempt for the world, lust and the body, which he has seen at work in Christianity for 2,000 years.

Jesus of Nazareth depicts Sloterdijk with little respect as an eccentric sectarian who combined a neurotic father complex with a trafficked attitude of being chosen. According to Sloterdijk, a decidedly anti-family thrust was characteristic of the Jesuan agenda.

"We are already living ... as if the New Testament had been replaced by a New Testament" - thinks Peter Sloterdijk. (Image: Imago / Rudolf Gigler, Cover: Suhrkamp)

"Anyone who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me ...", Jesus proclaims in Matthew 10. And in Luke 14 the Nazarene thunders: "If someone comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, wife, Children, brothers, sisters and his life on top of that, he cannot be my disciple. "

According to Sloterdijk, Jesus Christ combined a radically anti-authoritarian ideology with a terrifying personality cult around himself. One must imagine the Savior as a seductive early hippie, according to Sloterdijk. The philosopher who teaches in Karlsruhe does not seem to think too much of Peter, Johannes, Jakobus and the other disciples:

"What Jesus gathered around himself in the short period of his public appearance in order to take them with him into his 'kingdom' were for the most part hastily collected figures who were ready to share the basic apocalyptic mood in the vitalistic wandering sect with their master, moved by a drug-like mixture of despair of the old life and fascination with perspectives never seen. The fever of eschatological excitement could jump over to this unstable entourage.

Thinker of lust for life and joie de vivre

In the Christian tradition, Jesus is glorified as the epitome of peacefulness. Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that. The carpenter's son from Nazareth must have been a person of disturbing aggressiveness, speculates Sloterdijk.

Peter Sloterdijk is a vital philosopher, a thinker of lust for life, joie de vivre and affirmation of life. The 70-year-old is correspondingly critical of the nirvana-nasal doctrines of salvation from the Far East and Western despisers of this world like Martin Luther. For Sloterdijk, the rebellious Augustinian from Wittenberg is nothing less than a "Christian Salafist":

"In Martin Luther's early soul struggles, the two and a half thousand year old realm of the world and life negation echo, which was defended by the bizarre, ever-growing crowd of ascetics, hermits, penitents, self-dissolvers, dolorists, flagellants and other character masks of sacred extremism. To this group belong figures like Gautama Buddha, whose basic word - 'everything is painful' - resounds for more than two millennia. They also include the Greek Silenus with his tragic wisdom, according to which it would have been best for man never to be born, but the second best to die soon. "

Excursion into the philosophy of religion

Whoever despises this world and glorifies non-being, who extols the joys of renunciation and devalues ​​the ecstatic beauties of life, must reckon with Peter Sloterdijk's contradiction. However, it is by no means the case that Sloterdijk does not also value the achievements of Protestant culture, on the contrary:

"Luther is one of those rare figures in cultural evolution who can be said to have been lucky in terms of the history of ideas. One is fortunate in this field if one finds better successors than one deserves. In the case of Martin, one of the undeserved successors is counted among the undeserved successors Luther's, to be satisfied with the shortest list: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Johann Sebastian Bach, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Schweitzer, Gotthard Günther and Martin Luther King - heard here the Luther universe like a world history in first names. "

The dark Lutheran legacy, according to Sloterdijk, has been reshaped by ever new layers of enlightenment, enlightenment and civilization. And so the "Wittenberg Nightingale" began to chirp in a vital way.

In Sloterdijk's writings critical of religion - refreshingly unsystematically - the most diverse topics are touched upon: the amorous "anarcho-vandalism" in Richard Wagner's "Götterdämmerung" as well as the "ecstatic denominations" of Martin Buber. That reads sometimes more, sometimes less inspired. One of the highlights of the volume is an animated text about ancient gnosis, which Sloterdijk gets off surprisingly well - as one of the archetypes of metaphysical dissidence.

At the same time, the Nietzschean Sloterdijk leaves no doubt that, in his opinion, the curtain has irrevocably fallen behind the historically impressive gala show of Christianity. The Christian West is about to pass into the stage of a new, open agnosticism.

"The vast majority of us already live as if the New Testament had been superseded by a New Testament. It is part of the essence of this testament that it keeps itself religiously covered and at best speaks of human rights, of the sciences, of the arts, without forming a church want unless the community is willing to learn. "

Always ready to learn: Peter Sloterdijk's excursion into the philosophy of religion ends in a Faustian way again. Those who strive constantly, beckons in the end - maybe - redemption.

Peter Sloterdijk: "According to God"
Suhrkamp Verlag, 364 pages, 28 euros.