Incredible, programmatic, interdisciplinary analysis of our diminished lives under capitalism and religion, and the emancipatory possibilities under democratic socialism.Possibly the best book I ve ever read integrating our spiritual lives with our political commitments into a coherent humanist call to action I will be interviewing the author this week for my podcast Stay tuned at www.lifeaftergod.org. 1.5 stars Have lots of thoughts and hope to write up a deeper review later For now, if you know nothing about religion and appreciate straw man arguments, and know nothing about capitalism, and think both nature and capitalism are constructs to be overthrown in the name of true Marxism, this book will be very appealing Finally We ll get true Marxism.There are, of course, insights in here that are interesting Any critique of dominant systems of thought usually has a few pieces that are thought provoking Those in fact are most interesting when they target the weaknesses in other Leftist thought, particularly around wealth redistribution But I am not closer to being a democratic socialist, and in fact further away from it This is thin thinking for a revolution and can be and already has been dismantled effortlessly by other scholars Once again, I will quote David Bentley Hart and lament that the New Atheists have again failed to do their homework, repeating tired tropes that dramatically misrepresent religion, death and the idea of God The Old Atheists knew their Torah Bible, and as such developed critiques that posed serious challenges In this book, we get in a single sentence that efforts to prove God s existence or the truth of religion in general are simply antiquated so we needn t spend any effort Throw out the enduring work of Aquinas, Leibniz, and many others because, well, it s kind of silly right The Stoics can be dismissed as apathetic Oh boy I ve literally had it all backwards Don t wrestle with these ideas, just throw them in the bin Viktor Frankel s Man s Search for Meaning Flush it down To be clear you don t have to be religious at all to simply do your homework on where ideas come from, on how the systems that have provided the most maximal theories of human flourishing to date have clear historical foundations built over time Before attempting to dismantle everything, it s best to do your literature review and figure out how we got to where we are Credit to the author for cracking open a Bible, but the attempted re write of Abraham s sacrifice doesn t seem quite right to me His note that we re going to die and that life is finite doesn t seem new or interesting to me either, but comprises much of the entire thesis for the book Ultimately, we have centuries or millennia regarding religion of data about the human condition as it relates to how most people thrive and survive Not 100%, but clear majorities If you want to chance all that in the name of building a new system requiring fundamental changes that have little data to back them up one might say a faith based approach to fundamentally re orienting society based on theories themselves violent the times we have tried them instead of experience then this book provides hazy principles to do so For me, simultaneously throwing out religion, the American Constitution and Declaration of Independence, ideas of God or Divine Providence, capitalism, constraints found in nature, Western morality ethics, and much in the name of ameliorating the effects of climate change and solving inequality while improving social justice why can t it just be justice amounts to a leap into the void, and likely the beginning of tyranny I am particularly suspect of arguments based around urgency for this new world to appear, given that an overwhelming literature points to life today for most people, not all being as good as humans have ever had it.I would imagine the first order of business in this new era would be to up the dosage of anti depressants for all citizens so we can try and enjoy this pointless existence dedicated to feeling good and being friendly But I can t help but ask why This is an engaging, intellectually rich, focused book, making the argument that human, lived time is central to human identity and the social world The positive arguments about the finitude of human life and inevitability and importance of loss, suffering and boredom about the practical making of projects and practical identities through not only individual commitments and efforts but social norms and institutions and about the necessity of a radical critique of capitalist value and social transformation were excellent The explications of texts and important thinkers, including Augustine, Knausgaard, Kierkegaard, Hegel, Marx, Adorno, MLK, were valuable His distinction between social democracy, a political economy of redistributive public policy within capitalism, and democratic socialism, a replacement of capitalist political economy by structures and processes that value self determined life time, is theoretically valuable However, the reduction of religion and religious faith to a belief in eternal life is problematic The text fails to convey how diverse religious practices are, how many religious believers live in the world, why religious practice and secular faith are not exclusive of but may reinforce each other, and how some progressive Christians interpret the Bible as a story of human freedom The author changes somewhat his presentation of religion in his ending discussion of Martin Luther King and the U.S civil rights movement Here he acknowledges that religion is not simply belief in eternity but also practices in the book generally when it comes to religion, he singles out one key belief but when he talks about secular commitment and practical identity he talks about practices and even institutions However, he sticks to his position that when religious believers are advocating political and economic projects and drawing upon the deep relationships and solidarities within communities of believers they are not practicing religion but secular faith. This is, perhaps, the most intelligently formed and poetically written argument for secular thought since Bertrand Russell In this dual critique of religious and economic fundamentalism, H gglund engages with the most complicated issues and previous works with great authority and erudition The dual critique of religion and economic dogmas is one that most will be familiar with since Marx H gglund works through the tangled webs spun by the likes of Kierkegaard and Augustine to show the fatuity with they discuss mortality and finitude In a stunning achievement unto itself, he makes Hegel s philosophy somewhat discernible and also levies great critique on superficial readings of Marx, especially from the likes of Adorno.He concludes with the side of MLK Jr that we have decided to forget, for the sake of convenience, the being the economic radical whose racial and social change were but a first step towards a much needed complete societal overhaul This is a work with which you will want to take your time as the author has certainly taken great care to form this dual critique in the most urgent yet thorough fashion This is just a staggering work of intellectual honesty and certainly will not be the last work of his I read. More repetitive than even The High Cost of Free Parking And although Parking repeats the same probably correct logic over and over, this book keeps circling back to and you can only feel loss, love or commitment because the person s life is finite and it s like Wait, what That statement that doesn t make sense is not explained in the first 200 pages, but is repeated over and over Abraham and Isaac are mentioned what must have been 500 times, with very little variation There is no attempt to expand the thought experiments to explore just a bit beyond the same tired scenario For example, immortality did not stand in the way of all sorts of drama between the Greek Gods Or what if God had asked Abraham to never see or speak to Isaac again, letting them both live on separately in eternity Would this not be loss I gave up right around the time the book started talking about life and maintenance, maybe that direction would have been promising. I want to apologize in advance to everyone who actually knows me all I m gonna wanna talk about for the next several months years is This Life by Martin Hagglund This is the kind of big effing mindblower that I luck into every once in a while A game changer for my personal and political identity A book that I hope that I m gonna try to make sure has as wide a readership as possible Cuz, hoo wee This one makes Capital in the 21st Century look like the Boxcar Children Hagglund even devotes a sub chapter to a pretty devastating, but also calm and polite, critique of Piketty Zing What is it about Man, everything, man It s both the most convincing and absurdly moving defense of secular identity I ve probably ever read, as well as the most convincing and absurdly moving argument for democratic socialism I ve definitely ever read It is, in short, about our commitments Hagglund asks us to embrace our fragility, our vulnerability, our mortality to commit to our transience, to embrace secular faith over religion He claims that most of us already do this, whether we acknowledge it or not to engage in any project, to attach any meaning to any person or thing, is to implicitly affirm that you have a limited amount of time in this world Hagglund finds the concept of eternity not just incomprehensible, but undesirable the things that make life INTERESTING, that make it precious, are the things that we have to risk, the things that can be taken away In three dense but well paced chapters, Hagglund defines this notion of secular faith, employing the words of both great religious thinkers Zing and great unreligious ones the mini essay on Karl Ove Knausgaard is worth the price of admission, if yer a fan of My Struggle.But that s just the beginning, yo In the second half of the book, on Spiritual Freedom, Hagglund claims that an idea of limited time is fundamentally connected to the questions of what we ought to do, as well as if we ought to do what we ought to do the double ought He insists that the best forms of economy are the forms that maximize our spiritual freedom the ones that allow us to take ownership of our decision making In this way, he thinks capitalism is totally flawed to the core, and that it must be overturned and replaced with some sort of democratic socialism It s the issue of value that matters most to Hagglund, here In a capitalist system, the thing that s finally valued is profit No amount of welfare programs will change this fact the point of human life, in a capitalist system, is to create surplus value by way of wage labor In this kind of system, our free time is therefore never truly free just an excuse for activities that allow us to replenish ourselves before we get back to the real, profit making tasks of our life What Hagglund proposes is not a single system to replace capitalism, but a truly democratic decision making process, one where we can assess what actually matters to us what really has value Along the way, he totally resuscitates Karl Marx from totalitarian death read This Life, and suddenly all the criticisms of Marx himself look kind of like criticisms of other things, things that democratic socialism is explicitly opposed to.This second part of the book is even jam packed with ideas that the already pretty heavy first half, but then again, it has to be Hagglund is facing down millennia of received wisdom about what is natural, about what is functional, about what is supposedly the best way for humankind I don t know if I got all of it, but that I got the thrust of it is a testament to both the writer s clarity and vigor He s making a serious, moral argument here this isn t a ha ha New Atheist style rant and I do hope people approach him with moral seriousness I didn t have to be convinced that there is no God this is something I ve believed for at least fifteen years but to read Hagglund s account of secular faith, and how it must lead us to making real changes in this world, for the end of each other s lives, and not some hope of eternity, has profoundly altered my understanding of my place on Earth It s telling that the last philosopher Hagglund talks about in detail is not an avowed atheist, but one of the most legendary Christian leaders of all time Martin Luther King, Jr, who in his writings and work finally demonstrated a commitment to this life, a commitment that necessarily involved a new vision for human flourishing.So get ready, America Imma put this book in yer hands This is a book about atheism, but it would be wrong to group it with books by Dawkins, Harris, or Hitchens Where popular books on atheism largely focus on ridiculing the irrationality and lack of empirical evidence supporting religious belief, or casting it in the causal role of various atrocities, H gglund has a constructive project in mind As he writes late in the book, echoing Marx If we merely criticized religious beliefs as illusions without being committed to overcoming the forms of social injustice that motivate these illusions the critique of region would be empty and patronizing The task is rather to transform our social conditions in such a way that people no longer need to have recourse to the opium of religion and can affirmatively recognize the irreplaceable value of their own lives His argument follows in two parts The first part seeks to invert a the common assertion by the religious that without some higher order or transcendence, there is no basis for a moral or meaningful life H gglund argues that the opposite is true eternity renders our temporary mortal lives inconsequential in comparison Only in realizing that our lives are impermanent, that wasted time can never be recovered, and that death is a permanent end, does what we do have real stakes Committing oneself to undertakings and to people bounded by this risk and impermanence is what he defines as secular faith.The second part, argues that the implication of this outlook is that our goal should be the expansion of spiritual freedom the freedom to ask ourselves not just what we ought to to do with our time, but if we ought to do what we supposedly ought to do From this perspective, the collective wealth of a society is the degree to which people have the time and ability to do so This concept of wealth and value is incompatible with capitalism My brain being math addled, I would say that capitalism optimizes the wrong objective function Contrary to Keynes predictions, capitalism will never produce a 15 hour work week, and social democratic redistributive policies will always be limited by arguments that they diminish the wealth they seek to redistribute Only under some form of democratic socialism, where true social wealth is strived towards, H gglund argues, will we get free Along the way, we get some deep readings of Kierkegaard, Knausgaard, Hegel, Marx, Martin Luther, and Martin Luther King Jr., among many others The book doesn t assume a deep philosophical background, but neither is it a breezy polemic typical of atheist lit It demands something of the reader, but it is profound and very moving in parts. A profound, original, and accessible book that offers a new secular vision of how we can lead our lives Ranging from fundamental existential questions to the most pressing social issues of our time, This Life shows why our commitment to freedom and democracy should lead us beyond both religion and capitalism.In this groundbreaking book, the philosopher Martin H gglund challenges our received notions of faith and freedom The faith we need to cultivate, he argues, is not a religious faith in eternity but a secular faith devoted to our finite life together He shows that all spiritual questions of freedom are inseparable from economic and material conditions What ultimately matters is how we treat one another in this life, and what we do with our time together.H gglund develops new existential and political principles while transforming our understanding of spiritual life His critique of religion takes us to the heart of what it means to mourn our loved ones, be committed, and care about a sustainable world His critique of capitalism demonstrates that we fail to sustain our democratic values because our lives depend on wage labor In clear and pathbreaking terms, H gglund explains why capitalism is inimical to our freedom, and why we should instead pursue a novel form of democratic socialism.In developing his vision of an emancipated secular life, H gglund engages with great philosophers from Aristotle to Hegel and Marx, literary writers from Dante to Proust and Knausgaard, political economists from Mill to Keynes and Hayek, and religious thinkers from Augustine to Kierkegaard andMartin Luther King, JrThis Life gives us new access to our past for the sake of a different future. Did Kierkegaard s Fear and Trembling blow your mind and shift your thinking about faith Does Hegel both inspire and confound you Do you have a tentative grasp of democratic socialism Can you just not put your finger on it If you appreciate the work of Sam Harris, but prefer something a little penetrating and scholarly, read this book This is an essential and masterful critique of religion and capitalism that sets forth and argument of how we can lead better and enriched lives of spiritual freedom, while staying firmly rooted in an understanding of our own mortality. A real disappointment I have been a fan of Hagglund s since his early articles and Radical Atheism was a very important book in my young life so I was incredibly excited for this book to arrive If this book was framed simply as a positive vision of a life affirming, secular metaphysics it could have been a real achievement That s what makes this so frustrating the seeds of a great book are all here, but they ve been smothered by several hundred unnecessary pages of Hegel and Hayek As an attempt to expand Hagglund s work to beyond the idea of religion and address the experience of living this life to a popular audience, this doorstop of a tome is a painful failure.The book constantly gets dragged into arguments against religion that make no reference to the actual lived experience of being religious Even as an agnostic who was raised an atheist and has never been religious, the counterarguments seemed obvious and unaddressed The number of people who actual experience religion has solely or primarily a quest for positive infinity is exceptionally slim There is a reason that every popular conception of the Christian heaven includes individuals angels, demons, our ancestors in white robes looking down, experiencing the cutting of time much like we do Since the whole book is spent sparring with Kierkegaard and company, it ends up having very little to say about the living this life for most of the billions on this earth.