Paul Gosselin is an independent researcher specializing in
ideologies, belief systems and religions. He holds a Masters in
Social Anthropology and is the author of Hors
du ghetto (on culture and the arts), has done years of investigation
into postmodernism and is also the Webmaster of Samizdat. He has
lived in Nova Scotia, California, Vancouver Island and currently
resides in Quebec.
Flight From the Absolute
Cynical Observations on the Postmodern West.
If one were to go back 100 or 200 years in the West, the Judeo-Christian
worldview dominated, or at least had great influence over, many
social institutions such as education, law, health care, science,
the arts and culture. But times have certainly changed. Over the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries, secularization in the West
has marginalized traditional religions. But has the West has actually
become "secular", going beyond religion? Some might
think so, but if one looks beyond the facade, one may find that
the search for meaning has not ceased to haunt postmodern man
and, even if the cultural context has changed, ultimate questions
remain as relevant in the twenty-first century as they were in
Antiquity or the Middle Ages. Science has not eliminated religion,
but in actual fact, now participates, willingly or unwillingly,
to provide answers in the search for meaning.
The postmodern world is rapidly advancing, but going where? Could
it be that our obsession with technology and the latest gadgets
is fed by a subliminal hope that perhaps we can find some form
of “salvation” in a technological utopia? In a world
where truth is no longer tolerated, the only thing that still
seems true is the maddening awareness that we haven’t found
what we were looking for... Deconstruction and meta-narrative
analysis have become our postmodern elites’ preferred playthings,
but if we use these tools, targeting postmodern discourse itself,
perhaps such an initiative may be worth the effort. This book
therefore offers a cold analysis and hard-hitting deconstruction
of the dominant orthodoxy of our generation, exposing its core
Modern or postmodern elites view man as little more than an object,
devoid of any special status, existing in time and space, in a
world where, in many ways, nothing, in itself, has any meaning
or significance. It is important to realize that cultural creativity
itself is always expressed in a particular framework. And in the
West, this is provided in a very large extent by the materialist
worldview derived from the theory of evolution. Now if evolutionism
is true, as Jacques Monod, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould
or Carl Sagan claim, then man is no more than one natural phenomenon
among many others. He has no essential or permanent meaning except
that which he forges for himself in fleeting moments. At most,
man is a handful of rather pompous molecules. Modern man’s
self-awareness must find it’s way in a disenchanted world,
a world devoid of meaning, where human organisms fight for survival
and where the deities are indifferent.
Writing in the 1970s, American sociologist Thomas Luckmann's
considered it a basic fact that all societies have an ideologico-religious
belief system, a worldview. And when this is denied, Luckmann
asserted one should then look for an invisible religion. Furthermore,
Luckmann claimed that the development of personal and social identity
always has a religious dimension. Religion then is inevitable.
If an ideologico-religious system then provides the basic foundation
for civilizations, what then this raises further questions : What
is the postmodern West’s religion? What are its institutions,
rituals, origins myths, its apostles, its devotees or its initiation
rites? This book will attempt to examine these awkward, and somewhat
taboo, questions and look at the heart of our generation. What
shall we find there? The author relies on advances in the field
of anthropology and sociology of religion, advances that typically
social scientists have not applied to the West in a consistent
The basic premise of Flight From the Absolute volume 1
is that all societies and civilisations are based on a world-view
or religion. This leads inevitably to the issue of religion in
the postmodern West where the elites commonly assume they can
"do without religion”. Gosselin tackles the matter
using a definition of religion developed in the Social Sciences
(i.e. a belief system, providing meaning) as opposed to outdated
definitions commonly used in media and the courts which equate
religion with belief in the supernatural. That said, the old definition
of religion still has its uses as it conveniently allows Western
elites own belief system to escape notice (and criticism).
If one changes the working definition of religion, then this
dramatically changes the way one looks at the issue of religion
in the West. Here are a few issues examined in Flight volume
Does secularisation really involve the "disappearance"
or "elimination" of religion or might it involve religion
in a new, more implicit form?
Are Western elites in denial about religion, preferring to
ignore evidence contradicting their secular self-image?
If we face a new form of religion, what then are its presuppositions/dogmas?
Which groups/institutions promote this religion?
How does it recruit new adherents? Why is it an invisible
What is the media's ideological role in the postmodern West?
What are some of the ethical implications of this belief
In the course of this study we will come across characters as
diverse as Albert Camus, Friedrich Nietzsche, Galileo, Jacques
Derrida, U2, Charles Darwin, David Porush, Denis Diderot, Kurt
Vonnegut, Katherine Hayles, Blaise Pascal, Alan Sokal, Stephen
Jay Gould, Dostoevsky, the marquis de Sade, Michel Foucault, Jean-Paul
Sartre, Noam Chomsky, T.S. Eliot, Philip K. Dick and many others.
1 / Worldviews Religion, Reincarnated
The Invisible Church
Getting a Hearing
2 / Vivisecting the Patient Total Science
The Decline of the Materialist Empire
New Religious Elites
3 / The Phantom Creed What Use is a Cosmology?
Instruments of Power
Media Behavioural Patterns
The Structure of Scientific Monopolies
4 / Rites of Passage How the Game is Played
Medical Protocols and Fatal Distinctions
Relativity and Relativism
Freedom and the Conversion Process
Groping for an Anchor
5 / Cannibals The Disposable Soul
The Ghost in the Machine
The Ultimate Test
Managing the Human Herd
Homo Sapiens and Its Ecological Niches
Index Technical Considerations