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Succession is a Christian psychodrama Logan Roy sacrificed his children on the altar of ambition


May 26, 2023   4 mins

The story of Abraham and Isaac has always been one of the more confounding parts of the Hebrew Bible. Even millennia later, one can scarcely imagine the doom of Isaac’s revelation, as Abraham brought the knife to his throat: “The fire and the wood are here, but where’s the lamb for the burnt offering?” The sudden appearance of a ram and the merciful angel that spared Isaac’s life, may have provided short shrift. One imagines Isaac shattered and dissociative, wracked with questions as they walked back to Beersheba.

Many great thinkers have sought to make sense of Abraham’s deranged vision – Kierkegaard, Kafka, Derrida — and the sort of God that could have sanctioned it. For Kierkegaard, the absurdity of a father trying to kill his own son can only be grasped in its own terms. By some flavour of supreme logic, in the terrible clarity of God’s command, Kierkegaard surmised, Abraham must have expected a deliverance: if not the return of his son, at least a “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. By trusting in the absurd, his faith was commended.

Succession reveals a different element of the parable. As we approach its season finale, its Shakespearean themes of corruption, trauma and power are clear. Yet until its penultimate episode, “Church and State”, its Christian themes were left more subtle.

The funeral of Logan, the Roy’s patriarch, is held in the ornately painted and cavernous halls of a church in New York. The hypocrisy of the ultra-rich and far-Right sat in pews is not lost on his second eldest son Kendall, bipolar and drug-addicted and proud of his “ambition”, who whispers of “money changers in the temple” while plotting before the service. Younger brother, Roman, intends his eulogy as a Mark Antony-esque pitch for the crown. But after his prior claims that he had “pre-grieved”, Roman quickly breaks down. The boy — for he is a boy at heart — can scarcely believe his father has really died: death would surely only be another obstacle for his Titan Father to surmount. “Is he… is he… is he in there?” Roman pleads on the altar steps. “Well, can we get him out?”

Yet there is no hope of resurrection in Logan’s tragic arc. By the time of his death, he had consciously and unconsciously sacrificed all of his children on the altar of personal ambition. Paranoid and depressed, his absurd trust in “things unseen” — the empty promise of Satanic power — would never travel beyond the emptiness before his eyes. “You’re my pal, my best pal,” he told his bodyguard, before consoling himself with the empty Gospel of Adam Smith. “People are economic units. I’m a hundred feet tall. These people are pygmies.”

For the Christian, the coming to earth of God’s son completes the template forged by Abraham and Isaac. Having first set creation free, God knows the inability of humans to overcome the patterns of their lives. So God sends his son to bear man’s sin himself, plunging down to Hell, before the resurrection reveals the limitless power of goodness: an absurd event none of the disciples seemed quite to understand.

Logan, meanwhile, perishes in a perfect and absurd parody of heaven: in the toilet of a private jet. How did our invincible Caesar Logan die? Not through a theatrical stabbing by close friends — but for having not put on his compression socks.

Sin is always built on lies, the Christian understands. That’s what Satan is: “a liar and the father of lies.” The Roys indulge in a similar lie, believing their success to be the fruit of ceaseless business acumen. Their wealth really comes, however, from a happenstance of particular social and economic arrangements, and the fortune of technological advances. Their “business first” approach is a lie, too: the show continually reveals that decisions are not made through an unblinkered process of calculation, but self-regard, pettiness and a lust for control.

The most explicitly Christian moment, however, comes with Kendall’s funeral speech: a tour de force case for the appeal of Evil and the Nietzschean will to power. “He was comfortable with this world. And he knew it. He knew it and he liked it,” Kendall says, shaking but articulate, still afraid of his father. “The will to be, and to be seen, and to do. And now people might want to tend and prune the memory of him to denigrate that force. That magnificent, awful force of him, but my God, I hope it’s in me.”

“Evil” has disappeared from much of contemporary vocabulary. It is typically ascribed to “forces” of history, institutions and the unfolding of individual lives. But the Christian believes “evil” to be an entirely real and different kind of force: what David Bentley Hart called “an ontological wasting disease”, whose lies avoid annihilation by sucking on the tendrils of open hearts and truth.

The Roys can see how the evil of power destroys their family and themselves, yet they cannot help it. It “comes over them”: a possession that still finds resonance in old understandings of demons. While a trauma-based understanding of Succession has a certain merit, one doubts how our Roy children could ever be “saved” by enough psychotherapy while being so close to power. It is not the innocent child who is the true undeserving victim of evil, but the creature, who, once corrupted, neglects to admit their creaturehood.

Logan failed to be redeemed, and we can expect a similar failure for our Roy children. Hopes were raised when they found one other as siblings at the start of the final series, as well as with several of Kendall’s rock bottoms. But true “sacrificial love” — the highest form — was always eclipsed by “mutual love”. Evolution, the post-religious seat of how ethics are said to have emerged, may encourage “altruism”, but only in a reciprocal sense. “You know, Hugo, life isn’t nice”, Kendall tells his sickly PR gofer, Hugo. “It’s contingent. People who say they love you also fuck you…You’ll be my dog. But the scraps from the table will be millions.”

Even if the Roys retain power, the family cannot last. It will exhaust itself, as evil and lies always do. And while Kendall is right to endorse “bloody, complicated life”, the answer is not a Nietzschean embrace of such a world. One answer is what Reinhold Niebuhr called “Christian Realism”: the cliche of being “in the world, but not of it”. It is to accept the realities of power, and that things do matter — which Roman could scarcely believe after helping a fascist become President from his skyscraping New York office. But it also holds the “foolish” hope that the story will complete.

As Kierkegaard suggested, perhaps we each have a choice, an “Either/Or”: we either trust in the Loganesque absurdity of self-worship, that the human can solve the human problem, or we don’t. The choice is ours.


Ed Prideaux is a freelance journalist and MSc Psychology student.

EdPrideaux

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J Bryant
JB
J Bryant
10 months ago

This is a clever article and the author’s interpretation of Succession might be correct, but I can’t quite bring myself to view it through the lens of Christian allegory. Themes such as the power of evil to distort and destroy are not uniquely Christian and I don’t see strong symbols or motifs that suggest the scriptwriters were writing from a Christian perspective.
I always viewed Logan Roy as the embodiment of anger. In one episode in season 2 or 3, he’s shown emerging from a swimming pool, old welts visible on his back. The implication is he was beaten by the uncle who raised him. Roy is the product of those beatings. An angry beast raging through the world and trying to dominate everything he touches.
The tagline for this article is “Logan Roy sacrificed his children on the altar of ambition.” But, for me, sacrifice implies a deliberate choice. The possibility of choosing his children over ambition is probably not even a choice Roy is aware of.
I enjoyed Succession but could never quite pigeonhole it. It’s funny, dark and satirical, but it’s blistering, unsettling satire. I lack the psychological terminology to exactly describe how I instinctively feel about this show, but in plain language I’d say it’s a show where all the darkness in people is made manifest. I never imagined, for example, a more degrading spectacle than the “Boar on the Floor” game they played on Season 2. The script writer must have got something uncomfortable out of his system when he came up with that idea.
A minor point: the author wrote, “his [Logan Roy’s] eldest son Kendall…” I believer Connor was Roy’s eldest son. Kendall was second oldest.

J Bryant
JB
J Bryant
10 months ago

This is a clever article and the author’s interpretation of Succession might be correct, but I can’t quite bring myself to view it through the lens of Christian allegory. Themes such as the power of evil to distort and destroy are not uniquely Christian and I don’t see strong symbols or motifs that suggest the scriptwriters were writing from a Christian perspective.
I always viewed Logan Roy as the embodiment of anger. In one episode in season 2 or 3, he’s shown emerging from a swimming pool, old welts visible on his back. The implication is he was beaten by the uncle who raised him. Roy is the product of those beatings. An angry beast raging through the world and trying to dominate everything he touches.
The tagline for this article is “Logan Roy sacrificed his children on the altar of ambition.” But, for me, sacrifice implies a deliberate choice. The possibility of choosing his children over ambition is probably not even a choice Roy is aware of.
I enjoyed Succession but could never quite pigeonhole it. It’s funny, dark and satirical, but it’s blistering, unsettling satire. I lack the psychological terminology to exactly describe how I instinctively feel about this show, but in plain language I’d say it’s a show where all the darkness in people is made manifest. I never imagined, for example, a more degrading spectacle than the “Boar on the Floor” game they played on Season 2. The script writer must have got something uncomfortable out of his system when he came up with that idea.
A minor point: the author wrote, “his [Logan Roy’s] eldest son Kendall…” I believer Connor was Roy’s eldest son. Kendall was second oldest.

T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago

An often overlooked element of Christianity that’s ignored by the mainstream Existentialist community is Joy.

Christians see life as a Gift. Everything isn’t misery and dread. The realism is in the balancing act. Even the most dreadful events can lead to Joy and the most Joyous events can lead to dread.

Another underappreciated element is Humility. No matter what a person achieves individually, he/she is not “better” than the non-achiever. An individual may be rich, smart or attractive but if in his Vanity he forgets his own Humanity than he is lost.

There is a recognition that within everyone lies the ability to do good and evil. This doesn’t prevent the Christian from harshly judging others or even condemnation. But in his own flawed nature, it should allow him to see the redeemable nature of even the most detestable. Of course, that redemption does not mean Earthly Pardon. But it means the Oppressive Tax Collector retains the same potential for rebirth as the downtrodden and that being downtrodden is not the result of God’s condemnation. One’s earthly position in the Spoils System is not relevant to God. Neither the Rich or the Poor are denied Humanity.

Whatever earthly judgment rains down on an individual has no bearing on his/her relationship with God.

Last edited 10 months ago by T Bone
Sue Whorton
SW
Sue Whorton
10 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

There are quite strong messaging about being careful in rushing to judgement. Motes and beams, for example.

Sue Whorton
Sue Whorton
10 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

There are quite strong messaging about being careful in rushing to judgement. Motes and beams, for example.

T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago

An often overlooked element of Christianity that’s ignored by the mainstream Existentialist community is Joy.

Christians see life as a Gift. Everything isn’t misery and dread. The realism is in the balancing act. Even the most dreadful events can lead to Joy and the most Joyous events can lead to dread.

Another underappreciated element is Humility. No matter what a person achieves individually, he/she is not “better” than the non-achiever. An individual may be rich, smart or attractive but if in his Vanity he forgets his own Humanity than he is lost.

There is a recognition that within everyone lies the ability to do good and evil. This doesn’t prevent the Christian from harshly judging others or even condemnation. But in his own flawed nature, it should allow him to see the redeemable nature of even the most detestable. Of course, that redemption does not mean Earthly Pardon. But it means the Oppressive Tax Collector retains the same potential for rebirth as the downtrodden and that being downtrodden is not the result of God’s condemnation. One’s earthly position in the Spoils System is not relevant to God. Neither the Rich or the Poor are denied Humanity.

Whatever earthly judgment rains down on an individual has no bearing on his/her relationship with God.

Last edited 10 months ago by T Bone
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 months ago

Surprised you didn’t mention this extremely apposite quote from Logan, which strengthens your argument:

“The Incas, in times of terrible crisis, would sacrifice their child to the sun. I said to her they were a bunch of f*****g savages. Her thing was, what could you possibly kill that you love so much that it would make the sun rise again?”

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 months ago

Surprised you didn’t mention this extremely apposite quote from Logan, which strengthens your argument:

“The Incas, in times of terrible crisis, would sacrifice their child to the sun. I said to her they were a bunch of f*****g savages. Her thing was, what could you possibly kill that you love so much that it would make the sun rise again?”

leonard o'reilly
leonard o'reilly
10 months ago

Pa Logan’s nearly last bark at his young ‘uns was: “You are not serious people!” He was right. They are cartoon characters mouthing their writer’s contempt for them. And Succession is not a serious show. Great production values, though. Makes people think something important and profound is going on. But there isn’t really, just strawmen in designer clothes that their creator hates for living a life he lavishly and lovingly depicts.

leonard o'reilly
leonard o'reilly
10 months ago

Pa Logan’s nearly last bark at his young ‘uns was: “You are not serious people!” He was right. They are cartoon characters mouthing their writer’s contempt for them. And Succession is not a serious show. Great production values, though. Makes people think something important and profound is going on. But there isn’t really, just strawmen in designer clothes that their creator hates for living a life he lavishly and lovingly depicts.

Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
10 months ago

Great article, thanks. The new book by David Lloyd Dusenbury complements it, as an extended reflection on sacrificial love, a power that is not coercive, and being in the world though not of it.
https://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/i-judge-no-one/

Last edited 10 months ago by Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
10 months ago

Great article, thanks. The new book by David Lloyd Dusenbury complements it, as an extended reflection on sacrificial love, a power that is not coercive, and being in the world though not of it.
https://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/i-judge-no-one/

Last edited 10 months ago by Mark Vernon
Jon Hawksley
JH
Jon Hawksley
10 months ago

The script is very entertaining but you can read to much in to a script or book. Tomorrow will we find out that the President elect requires compliant Tom to be the CEO of Waystar so that he has control of ATN? Ending the succession.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
10 months ago

The script is very entertaining but you can read to much in to a script or book. Tomorrow will we find out that the President elect requires compliant Tom to be the CEO of Waystar so that he has control of ATN? Ending the succession.

Simon Neale
SN
Simon Neale
10 months ago

Oh, it’s a TV drama….

philip kern
philip kern
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

l wouldn’t have minded if the article had clarified a few things at the outset. Not all of us are into pop culture (or whatever we’re calling tellie dramas these days).

Geoff Wilkes
Geoff Wilkes
10 months ago
Reply to  philip kern

The writer was too busy parading his knowledge of philosophy (and incidentally his ignorance – notwithstanding his Christian standpoint – of the meaning of the phrase “short shrift”).

Geoff Wilkes
GW
Geoff Wilkes
10 months ago
Reply to  philip kern

The writer was too busy parading his knowledge of philosophy (and incidentally his ignorance – notwithstanding his Christian standpoint – of the meaning of the phrase “short shrift”).

philip kern
PK
philip kern
10 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

l wouldn’t have minded if the article had clarified a few things at the outset. Not all of us are into pop culture (or whatever we’re calling tellie dramas these days).

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
10 months ago

Oh, it’s a TV drama….

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
10 months ago

??????

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
10 months ago

??????

William Miller
William Miller
10 months ago

You lost me….

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
10 months ago

Dude… “Spoiler Alert”!

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
10 months ago

Dude… “Spoiler Alert”!

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

No matter how many articles are written which try to bring forth those aspects of religion which present themselves as virtuous – with “sin” in opposition – as something we should aspire to, the vacuity of such arguments lie (as it were) in their inability to see beyond the self-limiting straightjacket of the Abrahamic faiths.
Modern-day allegories presented as a rewarming of Old Testament myths are fine, and no doubt there’s some value to be gained in terms of already established insights into our humanity; that doesn’t prevent them from simply dipping into the same old paradigms that tell us far less than we need to know about ourselves. The concepts of “evil” and “sin” simply aren’t useful enough, except to describe something which we don’t yet fully understand within ourselves. I would argue that at least part of the reason we as yet fail to understand ourselves more fully is precisely because of such labelling, which obscures rather than elucidates – deliberately so.
Of course, perhaps the vast majority of people are deeply afraid to look too far into themselves and their motivations. I hope more are able to do so as time goes on.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

You argue, Steve, that “the vacuity of such arguments lie (as it were) in their inability to see beyond the self-limiting straightjacket of the Abrahamic faiths.” But I think of religion (or culture) as a matrix, not only or necessarily a “straightjacket.” Besides, I could describe your own anti-religious point of view as a “straightjacket.” Do you really believe that secularism leaves you free of interpretive bias?
And why do you assume Christian complacency or smugness, that Prideaux allows Christianity to divert him from more useful ways of examining the series? He might have, it’s true, but you’ve suggested no better interpretation or even any other one at all.
I haven’t watched Succession and have no particular urge to watch it. So I don’t know quite how effectively or ineffectively Prideaux interprets it in relation to Christian paradigms. But I’m willing to be more generous than you are in appraising his attempt to do so. Okay, I say that partly to legitimate my own professional attempts to interpret cultural productions of this kind in relation to Christian (and other religious) paradigms. But there’s more to this comment than that.
You argue that “Modern-day allegories presented as a rewarming of Old Testament myths are fine, and no doubt there’s some value to be gained in terms of already established insights into our humanity; that doesn’t prevent them from simply dipping into the same old paradigms that tell us far less than we need to know about ourselves.” So warmed-over biblical myths are good enough for the religious simpletons but too unsophisticated and boring for deep and disciplined thinkers such as yourself?
You argue that “The concepts of “evil” and “sin” simply aren’t useful enough, except to describe something which we don’t yet fully understand within ourselves.” So which concepts would be more useful? Psychological ones such as “repression” (which have allowed therapeutic industries to cause destruction on a colossal scale)? Ideological ones such as “oppression” (which have allowed totalitarian movements to do the same thing on an even grander scale)? So far, at any rate, I’m not convinced that any of these trendy notions can replace that of “evil.” If so, however, you’d have to make a careful argument for your case. Meanwhile, I suggest that modernity itself is an elaborate attempt to hide from the dark side of human nature. It’s at least possible, after all, that Isaiah and Jesus knew as much about that as Freud and Marx, or Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Phil–let alone wokers such as Robin diAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi.
As for the paradigm of Abraham and Isaac, that has both Christian and Jewish roots–and they don’t coincide. For Christians, Isaac was a “pre-figuration” (prototype) of Jesus, the point being that Just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son in order to demonstrate obedience, so the Father was willing to sacrifice his Son in order to save the world from sin. For Jews, that interpretation contradicts the story in Genesis, the whole point of which is to show that God did not want Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (and therefore did not condone the common practice of human sacrifice).
By the way, I don’t know that the creators of Succession were conscious of any biblical analogy or had even heard of any. Their goal was to make money, period. That doesn’t matter except to biographers or historians of popular culture. What does matter, at least to me, is the extent to which some of them intuited the symbolic structure of that biblical analogy (presumably in its Christian version), no matter how remote by now, and therefore the moral or philosophical connotations that it might still evoke. Prideaux might or might not have read too much into the evidence at his disposal, sure, but I think that he deserves more than a sneer for trying to understand why yet another story about power relations in a dysfunctional family has become so popular among so many people.

Last edited 10 months ago by Paul Nathanson
T Bone
TB
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Great Post, sir. I’ve noticed sneering dismissal is a common theme amongst secular progressives. The retorts can only be described as Gnostic. There is no reasoning with people that believe they possess Gnosis or absolute knowledge. You can present every fact or alternative explanation under the Sun and it will make no difference. They can’t can’t even ponder it. Gnosis is far stronger than Faith since Faith leaves room for doubt.

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

I’m not a progressive.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
10 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Tom Holland or Carl Truman would attribute the refusal to believe as a determination not to have an authority beyond oneself. David Baddiel, although an atheist, would say we all need something beyond ourself.

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

I’m not a progressive.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
10 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Tom Holland or Carl Truman would attribute the refusal to believe as a determination not to have an authority beyond oneself. David Baddiel, although an atheist, would say we all need something beyond ourself.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

That’s a great response Paul. There’s no sneer involved in my comment, but i’ll let that pass since there’s more substantial points to be discussed.
The main point is that i don’t assume anything, and certainly not Christian complacency or smugness. I’m not actually referring to Christianity as such, but rather to the tendency in traditional religions to attract those who wish to have an explanation of why we’re here provided so they can get on with their lives without having to examine themselves. That’s perfectly understandable, and why religions have been successful over the past couple of millennia or so.
It can’t be denied however, that those explanations no longer provide a feasible way of existing with the onset of the technological revolutions we’re living through. I honestly have no faith, as such. That’s not secularism, it’s a commitment to examining the physical, psychological and spiritual aspect of finding oneself alive, human, and (as i feel it) duty bound to explore every single avenue open to us to connect the past to our future. The purpose? Our continued survival and if possible, the impetus to thrive. It’s essentially positive.
It must be clear by now that i view religion as a hindrance; it provides succour and balm to many but in doing so provides the means by which people can be manipulated. This is what i mean by a straightjacket. If i’m in a straightjacket at all, it’s one of refusing to be manipulated, and seeking out all the ways in which humans try to manipulate each other.
I take cognisance of all that you say, and you say it with fairly unprecedented clarity, which i appreciate.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

A man once told me a story. He was on his way home when he walked past a street preacher exhorting loudly to all and sundry that ‘Jesus Saves’. His clothes were dirty, his beard long, and his hair messy. There was even that half-crazed look on his face that one often equates with religious fanatics. A few homeless stragglers were sat nearby half-listening to the preacher’s words. The man asked the preacher how on earth did he think he would bring anyone to Jesus ranting like that at the top of his lungs. The preacher stopped his yelling and with dead calm looked the man straight in the eyes. ‘It is not to you that I preach.”

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Nice story, but it wasn’t something that “a man once” told you – it’s of your own making. Why not just be honest?

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Nice story, but it wasn’t something that “a man once” told you – it’s of your own making. Why not just be honest?

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Well, Steve, at least you avoid the cliche of religion as a “crutch,” preferring merely “hindrance.” But choice of words notwithstanding, the meaning for you is clear: religion is for mental or physical cripples, something that evolved or whole and healthy people can ignore.
Actually, all religions do begin with a frank acknowledgment the world is not now what it once was in the primeval past, will be again in the remote future, or both. Meanwhile, something has gone wrong. (In purely moral terms, the wicked clearly do prosper and the innocent clearly do suffer.) People are obviously not ultimately self-sufficient. On the contrary, all people are fundamentally flawed and therefore in need. No wonder, then, that Ayn Rand had nothing but contempt for religions that encourage compassion (which, for her, was not a virtue but a vice). The protagonists of her novels are heroes precisely because they take individualism and autonomy to ruthless extremes. They’re Nietzschean supermen, almost abstractions, not the somewhat ambiguous figures of world mythology (including biblical mythology), much less real people.
You say that religion “provides succour and balm to many but in doing so provides the means by which people can be manipulated.” First, every culture manipulates people in some ways. That’s the task of culture: passing ideas down from one generation to the next and thus avoiding the need for people to keep reinventing the wheel.
Second, religion characteristically acknowledges that human existence in this world involves not only joy but also suffering. It offers balm, to be sure, but hardly overlooks the inevitable wounds of daily life. Jesus, for example, told his disciples that following him would mean finding ultimate salvation in the Kingdom of God but also taking up crosses of their own under Roman rule. And the Buddha gave similar advice to his followers. Neither advocated anything as trivial as “escapism.”
Nonetheless, Steve, I admire your “commitment to examining the physical, psychological and spiritual aspect of finding oneself alive, human, and (as i feel it) duty bound to explore every single avenue open to us to connect the past to our future.” But why, then, do you exclude the countless religious seekers as possible sources of guidance or at least of intellectual and spiritual fellowship on a common quest? Your stated goal is by no means incompatible, after all, with the classic religious quest. And that (like scholarship) begins, for seekers, with questions, not answers.
P.S. My earlier comment contained a typo in the paragraph (and line) that begins with “As for the paradigm …” I’ve corrected it.

Last edited 10 months ago by Paul Nathanson
T Bone
TB
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Were you not the guy that thought it completely plausible that Humans possess phantom tinges of vestigial wolftails? Sounds like Darwinian Reincarnation Theory to me.

You find the idea of a Creator God “implausible” because of “technology” while using a technology that wouldn’t be possible without the equations of Einstein’s inspiration…a Devout Christian named James Clerk Maxwell.

“Refusing to be manipulated.” How many voluntary booster shots did you take and what’s your feelings on eliminating fossil fuels as an energy source by 2030?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

A man once told me a story. He was on his way home when he walked past a street preacher exhorting loudly to all and sundry that ‘Jesus Saves’. His clothes were dirty, his beard long, and his hair messy. There was even that half-crazed look on his face that one often equates with religious fanatics. A few homeless stragglers were sat nearby half-listening to the preacher’s words. The man asked the preacher how on earth did he think he would bring anyone to Jesus ranting like that at the top of his lungs. The preacher stopped his yelling and with dead calm looked the man straight in the eyes. ‘It is not to you that I preach.”

Paul Nathanson
PN
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Well, Steve, at least you avoid the cliche of religion as a “crutch,” preferring merely “hindrance.” But choice of words notwithstanding, the meaning for you is clear: religion is for mental or physical cripples, something that evolved or whole and healthy people can ignore.
Actually, all religions do begin with a frank acknowledgment the world is not now what it once was in the primeval past, will be again in the remote future, or both. Meanwhile, something has gone wrong. (In purely moral terms, the wicked clearly do prosper and the innocent clearly do suffer.) People are obviously not ultimately self-sufficient. On the contrary, all people are fundamentally flawed and therefore in need. No wonder, then, that Ayn Rand had nothing but contempt for religions that encourage compassion (which, for her, was not a virtue but a vice). The protagonists of her novels are heroes precisely because they take individualism and autonomy to ruthless extremes. They’re Nietzschean supermen, almost abstractions, not the somewhat ambiguous figures of world mythology (including biblical mythology), much less real people.
You say that religion “provides succour and balm to many but in doing so provides the means by which people can be manipulated.” First, every culture manipulates people in some ways. That’s the task of culture: passing ideas down from one generation to the next and thus avoiding the need for people to keep reinventing the wheel.
Second, religion characteristically acknowledges that human existence in this world involves not only joy but also suffering. It offers balm, to be sure, but hardly overlooks the inevitable wounds of daily life. Jesus, for example, told his disciples that following him would mean finding ultimate salvation in the Kingdom of God but also taking up crosses of their own under Roman rule. And the Buddha gave similar advice to his followers. Neither advocated anything as trivial as “escapism.”
Nonetheless, Steve, I admire your “commitment to examining the physical, psychological and spiritual aspect of finding oneself alive, human, and (as i feel it) duty bound to explore every single avenue open to us to connect the past to our future.” But why, then, do you exclude the countless religious seekers as possible sources of guidance or at least of intellectual and spiritual fellowship on a common quest? Your stated goal is by no means incompatible, after all, with the classic religious quest. And that (like scholarship) begins, for seekers, with questions, not answers.
P.S. My earlier comment contained a typo in the paragraph (and line) that begins with “As for the paradigm …” I’ve corrected it.

Last edited 10 months ago by Paul Nathanson
T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Were you not the guy that thought it completely plausible that Humans possess phantom tinges of vestigial wolftails? Sounds like Darwinian Reincarnation Theory to me.

You find the idea of a Creator God “implausible” because of “technology” while using a technology that wouldn’t be possible without the equations of Einstein’s inspiration…a Devout Christian named James Clerk Maxwell.

“Refusing to be manipulated.” How many voluntary booster shots did you take and what’s your feelings on eliminating fossil fuels as an energy source by 2030?

T Bone
T Bone
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Great Post, sir. I’ve noticed sneering dismissal is a common theme amongst secular progressives. The retorts can only be described as Gnostic. There is no reasoning with people that believe they possess Gnosis or absolute knowledge. You can present every fact or alternative explanation under the Sun and it will make no difference. They can’t can’t even ponder it. Gnosis is far stronger than Faith since Faith leaves room for doubt.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

That’s a great response Paul. There’s no sneer involved in my comment, but i’ll let that pass since there’s more substantial points to be discussed.
The main point is that i don’t assume anything, and certainly not Christian complacency or smugness. I’m not actually referring to Christianity as such, but rather to the tendency in traditional religions to attract those who wish to have an explanation of why we’re here provided so they can get on with their lives without having to examine themselves. That’s perfectly understandable, and why religions have been successful over the past couple of millennia or so.
It can’t be denied however, that those explanations no longer provide a feasible way of existing with the onset of the technological revolutions we’re living through. I honestly have no faith, as such. That’s not secularism, it’s a commitment to examining the physical, psychological and spiritual aspect of finding oneself alive, human, and (as i feel it) duty bound to explore every single avenue open to us to connect the past to our future. The purpose? Our continued survival and if possible, the impetus to thrive. It’s essentially positive.
It must be clear by now that i view religion as a hindrance; it provides succour and balm to many but in doing so provides the means by which people can be manipulated. This is what i mean by a straightjacket. If i’m in a straightjacket at all, it’s one of refusing to be manipulated, and seeking out all the ways in which humans try to manipulate each other.
I take cognisance of all that you say, and you say it with fairly unprecedented clarity, which i appreciate.

Patrick Buckridge
Patrick Buckridge
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

It’s spelt ‘straitjacket’! (That’s because it refers not to the ‘straightness’ of the garment, but its narrowness (‘strait’ being an old word for ‘narrow’). As in ‘Strait is the gate.’

Paul Nathanson
PN
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

You argue, Steve, that “the vacuity of such arguments lie (as it were) in their inability to see beyond the self-limiting straightjacket of the Abrahamic faiths.” But I think of religion (or culture) as a matrix, not only or necessarily a “straightjacket.” Besides, I could describe your own anti-religious point of view as a “straightjacket.” Do you really believe that secularism leaves you free of interpretive bias?
And why do you assume Christian complacency or smugness, that Prideaux allows Christianity to divert him from more useful ways of examining the series? He might have, it’s true, but you’ve suggested no better interpretation or even any other one at all.
I haven’t watched Succession and have no particular urge to watch it. So I don’t know quite how effectively or ineffectively Prideaux interprets it in relation to Christian paradigms. But I’m willing to be more generous than you are in appraising his attempt to do so. Okay, I say that partly to legitimate my own professional attempts to interpret cultural productions of this kind in relation to Christian (and other religious) paradigms. But there’s more to this comment than that.
You argue that “Modern-day allegories presented as a rewarming of Old Testament myths are fine, and no doubt there’s some value to be gained in terms of already established insights into our humanity; that doesn’t prevent them from simply dipping into the same old paradigms that tell us far less than we need to know about ourselves.” So warmed-over biblical myths are good enough for the religious simpletons but too unsophisticated and boring for deep and disciplined thinkers such as yourself?
You argue that “The concepts of “evil” and “sin” simply aren’t useful enough, except to describe something which we don’t yet fully understand within ourselves.” So which concepts would be more useful? Psychological ones such as “repression” (which have allowed therapeutic industries to cause destruction on a colossal scale)? Ideological ones such as “oppression” (which have allowed totalitarian movements to do the same thing on an even grander scale)? So far, at any rate, I’m not convinced that any of these trendy notions can replace that of “evil.” If so, however, you’d have to make a careful argument for your case. Meanwhile, I suggest that modernity itself is an elaborate attempt to hide from the dark side of human nature. It’s at least possible, after all, that Isaiah and Jesus knew as much about that as Freud and Marx, or Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Phil–let alone wokers such as Robin diAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi.
As for the paradigm of Abraham and Isaac, that has both Christian and Jewish roots–and they don’t coincide. For Christians, Isaac was a “pre-figuration” (prototype) of Jesus, the point being that Just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son in order to demonstrate obedience, so the Father was willing to sacrifice his Son in order to save the world from sin. For Jews, that interpretation contradicts the story in Genesis, the whole point of which is to show that God did not want Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (and therefore did not condone the common practice of human sacrifice).
By the way, I don’t know that the creators of Succession were conscious of any biblical analogy or had even heard of any. Their goal was to make money, period. That doesn’t matter except to biographers or historians of popular culture. What does matter, at least to me, is the extent to which some of them intuited the symbolic structure of that biblical analogy (presumably in its Christian version), no matter how remote by now, and therefore the moral or philosophical connotations that it might still evoke. Prideaux might or might not have read too much into the evidence at his disposal, sure, but I think that he deserves more than a sneer for trying to understand why yet another story about power relations in a dysfunctional family has become so popular among so many people.

Last edited 10 months ago by Paul Nathanson
Patrick Buckridge
Patrick Buckridge
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

It’s spelt ‘straitjacket’! (That’s because it refers not to the ‘straightness’ of the garment, but its narrowness (‘strait’ being an old word for ‘narrow’). As in ‘Strait is the gate.’

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

No matter how many articles are written which try to bring forth those aspects of religion which present themselves as virtuous – with “sin” in opposition – as something we should aspire to, the vacuity of such arguments lie (as it were) in their inability to see beyond the self-limiting straightjacket of the Abrahamic faiths.
Modern-day allegories presented as a rewarming of Old Testament myths are fine, and no doubt there’s some value to be gained in terms of already established insights into our humanity; that doesn’t prevent them from simply dipping into the same old paradigms that tell us far less than we need to know about ourselves. The concepts of “evil” and “sin” simply aren’t useful enough, except to describe something which we don’t yet fully understand within ourselves. I would argue that at least part of the reason we as yet fail to understand ourselves more fully is precisely because of such labelling, which obscures rather than elucidates – deliberately so.
Of course, perhaps the vast majority of people are deeply afraid to look too far into themselves and their motivations. I hope more are able to do so as time goes on.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray