The Religious Stage

I was gradually failing high school in the ’90s and in an effort to make up credits I took some college classes in the summer.  My Philosophy 81 course (lol) was kinda influential on me, had me calling myself an agnostic instead of an atheist for like, twenty-five years?

Anyway, that class surveyed the landscape of Western philosophy without getting into a lot of depth on any of it.  As part of that, we looked at the recurring themes in the field.  There was the search for “substance,” the way to live a “good” life, logicking one’s way to god, and more.

More than one philosopher had ideas that a human life moves through set stages, like we’re all on our own Hero’s JourneyKierkegaard got a closer look, and the last of his stages was The Religious Stage.  I don’t remember particulars, but the idea was something like, when you’ve done all the big things in life and all that’s left is to look upon death, you will inevitably come back to god.

I had my sixteenth birthday in that class, was obnoxiously confident about my own philosophical materialism, and didn’t cotton to being told I would someday fogey into submission to the Invisible Tyrant.  What would you do?

At least the professor didn’t act like all these dead white guys had the truth on lock, unlike my Philo 101 teacher at the art school, who – fucking absurdly – found Descartes’ ontological argument completely irrefutable.  I rattled off three counter arguments in three minutes and he had the placid, glazed, uncomprehending expression of a true fucking zombie.

But no, I’m closer to fifty than forty.  Jeezis here I come…


  1. Bruce says

    In other words, Kierkegaard was proposing the argument from senility: if you don’t remember what you were thinking, somehow that proves all Gods are equally true. Let’s light a candle for Osiris, I guess, as the church wins again. Somehow, Kierkegaard is not impressing me.

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