Speaking with host Dennis Prager at the 2019 PragerU summit last week, popular intellectual Jordan Peterson explained why he doesn’t like being asked if he believes in God and won’t publicly identify as a Christian.
Prager sparked the comments by noting that “one of the most important things” Peterson repeatedly says is that he “lives as if there were a God.”
“People ask me if I believe in God … people kept asking me that question, which I really don’t like,” Peterson responded. “I don’t like that question, so I sat and thought about it for a good while and I tried to figure out why. And I thought, well … who would have the audacity to claim that they believed in God? If they examined the way they lived, who would dare say that?”
“To believe, to believe in a Christian sense, to actually — this is why [Friedrich] Nietzsche said there was only ever one Christian and that was Christ — to have the audacity to claim that, means that you live it out fully. And that’s an unbearable task in some sense,” he continued.
Peterson then referenced a recent event with Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, and noted that he “said something very brilliant” about God.
“He talked about Christ’s moment of crises on the cross, when he cried out to God that he had been forsaken,” Peterson explained. “And what Žižek said, was that what that meant was that the conditions of human existence are so tragic that even God himself in human form lost faith for a moment in the goodness of being.”
“I thought that was a remarkable observation, because, well, if even God himself were to lose faith under such conditions, what would you expect from normal human beings confronted with what we’re confronted by?” said Peterson.
The speaker then expounded on what it really means to “believe.”
“To be able to accept the structure of existence, the suffering that goes along with it, and the disappointment and the betrayal, and to nonetheless act properly, to aim at the good with all your heart, to dispense with the malevolence and your desire for destruction and revenge, and all of that, and to face things courageously and the tell the truth, to speak the truth and to act it out: that’s what it means to believe,” he said. “That’s what it means. It doesn’t mean to state it. It means to act it out. And unless you act it out, you should be very careful about claiming it.”
“And so I’ve never been comfortable saying anything other than, I try to act as if God exists, because God only knows what you’d be if you truly believed,” he noted. “That’s the central idea in Christianity, that if you were capable of believing it would be a transfiguring event, a truly transfiguring event. And I know people experience that to one degree or another, but we have no idea what the limit of that is, and we have no idea what the possibility is within each person if they lived a life that was maximally courageous and maximally truthful. … God only knows what you’d be if you believed.”
“So while I try to act like I believe, I never claim that I manage it,” concluded Peterson.
WATCH (relevant comments begin at the 9:50-mark):
H/t Christian O’Brien