The philosopher Peter Sloterdijk analyzes the ‘shock’ suffered by Europe when discovering other religions | Ideas | The USA Print

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Ceremony in honor of the Haitian Voodoo Spirit of Baron Samedi, in Port-au-Prince, in 2021.
Ceremony in honor of the Haitian Voodoo Spirit of Baron Samedi, in Port-au-Prince, in 2021.RICHARD PIERRIN (AFP via Getty Images)

It would be necessary to wait until the end of the Middle Ages for “religion” to grow until it became a storm cloud coming from the Atlantic, which was to darken the mental climate of the continent called “Europe” -until then, the West-, a cloud that began to be outlined after the voyage of Columbus. It grew when, with the ships that returned from everywhere, news arrived from hundreds and thousands of peoples, whose curious ways of behaving with their gods were sometimes interpreted as caricatures of European believing life. The cloud discharged in the form of the Christian wars of religion, in which the certainty of salvation was fought with weapons. After the long 16th century —which lasted from 1517 to 1648— the “political class” that was then emerging managed to put an end to the wars of the religiously codified States with the Peace of Westphalia, which must be interpreted as the first concession to “relativism” which Rome has been lamenting to this day.

Around that time it became recognizable what the change in structure and meaning of the concept of religion. The cloudy “religion” front not only drifted over the war territories of European powers that armed and marched against each other under Catholic and Protestant confessional banners, but also made visible countless types of ancestral beliefs and pacts. locals with otherworldly powers, who from all directions gathered European ethnographers, missionaries, merchants and sailors. It opened to Europeans the knowledge, as alarming as it was subversive, that the land was full of strange cults that, without knowing it, parodied each other. The concept of “religion” as such became latently ironic. In the eyes of the discoverers, the planet Terra was not only the “ascetic star”, populated by human beings of the priestly sick type, of which Nietzsche spoke in his controversial deduction of self-torturing ideals; rather it seemed to be the superstitious star, in which there was no fable that was not believed by someone.

In some places in the Old Kingdom of Egypt, the idea was transmitted that you could see the paradise inside if you stood under an apple tree on Christmas Eve; in early Tibet there seems to have been a belief that the monkeys had become the Tibetans after they got into the habit of eating the grain that fell from the sacred Sumeru mountain. The poor of Haiti believe to this day that Baron Samedi leaves the cemetery on All Saints’ Day and walks through the streets with his followers smoking and giving in to debauchery, singing scathing couplets in an androgynous falsetto voice. Among the Dorze of southern Ethiopia there seems to be a belief that leopards have fast days and generally keep them, though it is nevertheless wise to tread carefully every day. Among the Blackfeet there was a custom that a warrior in a tight spot would cut off a finger from his left hand and offer it to the morning star. The Barasana of the Uaupés River, in the north of the Amazon, believed that the moon was composed of coagulated blood, which came down to earth on some nights to consume the bones of men who had had sexual relations with menstruating women. In the year 1615 the Jesuits separated the right arm of the corpse of Francis Xavier, preserved in a church near Panjim, in Goa, and sent it to Rome, where, as an instrument of God in the baptism of many pagans in Asia, it was kept and exhibited in a glass and gold reliquary in the church of the Gesù. Apparently, this arm almost atrophied to the missionary after having baptized in 1544 in a month ten thousand pearl fishermen from the coast of Goa. In January 2018, some faithful bought a seat for this reliquary on board an Air Canada plane and accompanied him for a whole month from one Canadian Catholic church to another, hoping that the closeness of the arm, powerful in salvation, “ moved” as many people as possible.

Paul Valéry may have been right when he noted that our ancestors mated in the dark with all sorts of riddles and made strange-looking children. He was only wrong that not only our ancestors, but also our contemporaries embrace the enigma to spawn ghosts.

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As for Augustine (354-430), at first he only had in mind what was in the air at the time: he participated, using Adolf von Harnack’s expression, in the “gradual Greekization of Christianity”, although for him , a Roman rhetorician, the Koine Greek of the New Testament was a foreign language throughout his life. It seems that it was clear to him that the Christian message itself needed translations and that, therefore, from his point of view, it could not remain in Grecophony. Augustine did not imagine that, with his theologically conceived and difficult to digest doctrine of predestination, both to salvation and to damnation, he would unleash an avalanche that would bury under him large parts of the psychosphere of ancient and modern Europe. for a millennium and a half: the avalanche of ontological masochism. From this and its mystical extremist derivatives came the proviso that my self-will had to be annihilated if God was really to be all in all. As long as I can say myself, I am supposedly one of the rebellious spirits who, out of pride and prejudice, cooperate in consolidating the world contrary to God.

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