Partial Faiths: Postsecular Fiction in the Age of Pynchon and Morrison

By John A. McClure | Go to book overview

2
Worldly Vocations

Don DeLillo

We wanted the touch of the real in the way
that in an earlier period people wanted the touch of
the transcendent.

—Stephen Greenblatt,
Practicing New Historicism

“When the Old God leaves the world,” a character asks in Don DeLillo’s Mao II, “what happens to all the unexpended faith?” (7). One strand of secularization theory assumes that religious emotions, impulses, and modes of thought simply disappear when God does and that what follows is a rational order free of the religious. Another strand of thought (the two are intertwined in the groundbreaking work of Max Weber) implies that these emotions, impulses, and modes survive to shape and betray the cultures of reason, condemning secular thought to recapitulate the idolatries of religious thought and secular cultures to fight their own religious wars. Don DeLillo speaks the language of survival. The old gods thrive, mostly in virulent forms, at the margins of the global capitalist system he so brilliantly maps, in foreign and domestic zones of misery populated variously by Islamic militants, ecstatic Hindu pilgrims, Moonies, and Pente

-63-

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