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God in Pain [Paperback]

Slavoj Zizek , Boris Gunjevic

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Book Description

24 May 2012
A brilliant dissection and reconstruction of the three major faith-based systems of belief in the world today - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - by one of the world's most articulate philosophers, Slavoj Zizek, in conversation with fellow Slovenian philosopher and priest Boris Gunjevic. God in Pain shows how each faith understands humanity and divinity - and how the differences between the faiths may be far stranger than they may at first seem.

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative and poetic 16 Aug 2012
By Duncan Reyburn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have found this book to be so rich in new insights and ideas, and so expansive in its dialogue, that my review can only be inadequate. Sorry about that. I'm not planning to summarize the book, because each chapter, written alternately by Zizek and Gunjevic, deserves a review of its own. Nevertheless, I will make at least some attempt to offer some brief impressions of this book.

For those interested dialogue that builds on the dialogical trajectory set by Zizek and Milbank, this is a wonderful contribution. As always, Zizek is highly provocative and entertaining, and while some of the ideas captured in this book have been expressed in different form in some of his other work, it seems to me that his theology is more nuanced now and even (dare I say it) more orthodox that it has been before (Although in saying this, I hasten to add that Zizek still relishes his jovial heresies). His arguments also feel more structured than I experienced them to be (for instance) in 'In defense of lost causes'. In particular, I find his constant re-materialization of Christianity particularly astute in an age where some expressions of Christianity tend to have Gnostic leanings. Granted, Zizek does tend towards a Marxist, Godless materialism, and yet he also seems acutely aware of the importance of a sustained ethical presence that is captured in the revolutionary call of the Christian scriptures (Yes, this does recall some of his thinking in his book 'The fragile absolute').

As usual, Zizek plays the philosophical clown: he frequently turns ideas on their heads -- for example, cynicism is not the result of disbelief, but precisely the result of belief, Christianity does not sustain the sacred but abolishes it, and Jesus is God identifying with his own excrement (a Lutheran notion, apparently) -- and (as some would find problematic) he also decontextualizes some of the philosophers and theologians that he quotes to produce interesting insights of his own. But, to be honest, I don't read Zizek to get the facts straight or even to agree with him; rather I read him to challenge some of my own thinking. And, in his contributions, he does not disappoint. I can say that if you want to get a sense of a more glued-together, coherent picture of Zizek's theological vision, this is a great place to land.

Then, I have to add that Gunjevic's contributions to this book are truly wonderful. He is less provocative than Zizek (although, arguably, just as insightful). In fact, I find that he offers a beautifully balanced counterpoint to Zizek's clowning around. He delves into the archives of Christian literature (to take Dante, St Augustine, and Chesterton as three examples) and also consults more contemporary scholars like Agamben, Althusser, Badiou, David Bentley Hart and John Milbank, to produce a fascinating array of ideas on the intersection of theology with contemporary philosophy and politics. I haven't read anything else by Gunjevic, but I found this to be a welcome introduction to his profound way of seeing.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thought Provoking Read 8 Mar 2013
By The Peripatetic Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book, a collaborative effort of two contemporary thinkers, a philosopher and a radical theologian, and is a thought-provoking, incisive look at politics and religion. It is a daring, unflinching look at long-held beliefs. In the course of their dialogue, they think outside the box, and deconstruct long held beliefs, and consider them in an entirely new light.

This book is an expansion of a public debate between Slavoj Zizek, a philosopher par excellence, and Boris Gunjevic, a radical theologian. While the two thinkers have much in common, there are glaring differences. Zizek has been called "the most dangerous philosopher" living today. This reviewer sees him more as the Gonzo philosopher, because sometimes he interjects his own experiences in his discussions such that he becomes the subject. He is also the rock-and-roll philosopher, because his writing style is confrontational, energetic, inventive, and provocative.

He is a brilliant thinker and is the source of many insights, but he does not always present these insights in a linear fashion. He will digress, and while returning to the discussion at hand, he sometimes takes a long time doing so. In his essays contained in this book he is more linear, more disciplined, stays on topic, and while there are digressions, he always return to the subject of his essay, tying his digression to the main topic. These essays display some of his best work.

Gunjevic is equally incisive and writes with a crystal clear reason. Boris Gunjevic is a radical theologian and writes with the precision of Aquinas and at the same time is in possession of the same level of provocation possessed by Zizek. Both Zizek and Gunjevic have the uncanny ability to think outside the box, and they compliment each other. Together they make a formidable intellectual match. The topics in this book pertain to the place of God, religion, Christianity, and the sacred in society, and its relation to politics in a post-modern world. While Zizek complains in his introduction, tongue in cheek, that after a while their dialogue resembled more a monologue, the individual contributions establish an inner cohesiveness offering a cogent analysis of the topics which comprise this book of essays. Consider:

Zizek: Atheism is not the denial of the existence of God, but having doubts as to whether God is conscious. If there is no God, everything is not permitted, as is so often said; rather, everything is prohibited. While atheism maybe the condition of this post-modern world, this very condition permits both the numerous instances of ethnic cleansings, and, the wide-spread sex abuse scandals in the church. In prohibiting everything, Christianity is at war with the sacred. Thus does religion make a good man turn bad.

Gunjevic: While religion may have this propensity, the ardor, discipline, renunciation, and sacrifice of the ascetic life and the understanding of St. Augustine displays the true revolutionary spirit necessary to combat empire and capitalism.

Zizek: This revolutionary fervor is inherent in the religion of Islam.

Gunjevic: This is because Allah is essentially unknowable and an unfathomable abstraction which only Muslims, and not Western non-Muslims, can fully understand. Just ask John Walker Lindh, the American al-Quaeda currently spending life in jail for fighting with the insurgents.

Zizek: John Lennon famously chimed "God is a concept by which we measure our pain." It is
really the other way around; it is GOD who is in pain. This pain originates from God's self-alienation which is present with the incarnation of Christ and corresponds with man's alienation from God. This tension is reflected in organized religion, which divides the whole between the unknowable infinite and earthly existence, which results in the divorce of reason and faith. Zizek implies that this division is the cause of political inaction.

Gunjevic: Gunjevic counters with a discussion and an interpretation of Radical Theology, a roots revival of the early form of Christianity as reflected in Augustine, Maximus, and Aquinas, and grounded in divine illumination, which is the most basic form of political protest.

Zizek: Zizek counters with a discussion of differences and implications in Judaism and Christianity, underscoring how the respective viewpoints of each influence their interpretations of history and the role of religion.

Gunjevic: Replies with a treatment of the interpretation of the Gospel of Mark, which is viewed as a radical political tract commenting on conditions in contemporary Palestine.

These are only the highlights of the discussion in this book. This gives a glimpse of the lively discussion between these two thinkers. This discussion is thought-provoking, and spirited. It is a wonder to behold these two intellects discussing the subjects in the book in such a cogent manner.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars timely and timeless 25 Dec 2012
By g.p.g. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
this book is fun and interesting; a postmodern theological investigation. Many know Zizek and he is his usual: unpredictable, interesting, and thought provoking. And Gunjevic, who up until buying this book I have never read, is fascinating and fun. I received such great insight both timely and timeless, especially, during Gunjevics chapter titled: Babylonian Virtues - Minority Report. The chapters bounce back and forth from Boris Gunkevic to Slavoj Zizek. Full of current Theological and Political or Social parallels. It's not even so much that they are talking about Current Theological issues, or stances, or state, as much as from this book, they become the current state, or view. A lot of the issues in here really catch me by suprise. I usually read a bunch of different books at the same time and sometimes this one sits in a stack for a number of days or weeks but when I get back into it I spend a lot of time enjoying these chapters. I recommend the book to anyone who has gotten this far. If you are reading this review, I guarentee you will enjoy the book.
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