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This Incredible Need to Believe

This Incredible Need to Believe

Julia Kristeva
Translated by Beverley Bie Brahic
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  • Book Info
    This Incredible Need to Believe
    Book Description:

    "Unlike Freud, I do not claim that religion is just an illusion and a source of neurosis. The time has come to recognize, without being afraid of 'frightening' either the faithful or the agnostics, that the history of Christianity prepared the world for humanism."

    So writes Julia Kristeva in this provocative work, which skillfully upends our entrenched ideas about religion, belief, and the thought and work of a renowned psychoanalyst and critic. With dialogue and essay, Kristeva analyzes our "incredible need to believe"--the inexorable push toward faith that, for Kristeva, lies at the heart of the psyche and the history of society. Examining the lives, theories, and convictions of Saint Teresa of Avila, Sigmund Freud, Donald Winnicott, Hannah Arendt, and other individuals, she investigates the intersection between the desire for God and the shadowy zone in which belief resides.

    Kristeva suggests that human beings are formed by their need to believe, beginning with our first attempts at speech and following through to our adolescent search for identity and meaning. Kristeva then applies her insight to contemporary religious clashes and the plight of immigrant populations, especially those of Islamic origin. Even if we no longer have faith in God, Kristeva argues, we must believe in human destiny and creative possibility. Reclaiming Christianity's openness to self-questioning and the search for knowledge, Kristeva urges a "new kind of politics," one that restores the integrity of the human community.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51995-3
    Subjects: Religion, Philosophy, Psychology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xviii)
    Julia Kristeva
    (pp. 1-76)

    What a great deal you ask of me! Vast undertaking, to try and come to terms with a need to believe that I call prereligious and which brings us up against neither more nor less than the history of humanity: the speaking being is a believing being. We must take the history of religions into account and take some side trips into anthropology and psychoanalysis . . . a tall order! Furthermore, you invite me to embark on this adventure before this Italian audience, which embodies two thousand years of history, without accounting for what came before that, under the...

    (pp. 77-86)

    Very surprised, initially, to be so honored. And right away the question: why? Who is this invitation addressed to? To the woman, the teacher, the literary theorist, the psychoanalyst, the writer, the president of the National Council for the Handicapped? Very impressed, and above all intimidated, to encounter this new audience. What indeed can Catholics expect from me in the fabulous space of Notre Dame de Paris? Neither a lecture nor a specialist colloquium, still less a psychoanalytic session. Be present to their suffering as they experience it from the starting point of their faith. From their sense of suffering,...

    (pp. 87-98)

    Thank you, dear Anne-Marie Pelletier. I thank you all, moreover, for the honor you do me in offering me the opportunity to speak within the prestigious framework of these Lenten Lectures.¹

    We could not open the discussion, here and now, around the terrible and familiar theme of “suffering,” without mentioning Job and Rachel; we owe it to ourselves to evoke the horror of the Shoah. And so you have done, Madam, with your sense of religious and political history, in which I thought I noticed the “repentance” of Jean Paul II that so marked me. Therefore I shan’t come back...

    (pp. 99-102)

    In life as in death, Jean Paul II was not a reformist. He was content to reveal, to a dumbfounded, global world, the genius of Catholicism. This is extraordinary, in these times of nihilistic distress and its maniacal underside, fundamentalism.¹

    Paradoxically, this man of faith was not universally heeded when he proclaimed his faith in the “rights of man.” Pronounced in French, with his Polish accent and a delectable dash of slyness, the expression today makes extraordinary sense, initiating the everlasting exit of religion check by jowl with the ongoing emergence of humanism.

    Since God is unconscious, and the clash...

    (pp. 103-106)

    Catholicism has managed to fashion and put the finishing touches on its mastery of show business over the centuries, but it is with Jean Paul II, in point of fact, that it has begun to reap the benefits of this in such a way as to offer itself up as Grand Master over and above any other faith. We realized that this pope was not just a very great Church dignitary: indeed it is Catholicism’s difference from other religions that Karol Wojtyla displayed to a dumbstruck planet, and momentarily reconciled, on the day of his funeral.¹

    First of all, this...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 107-108)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 109-116)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 117-118)