Simone Weil’s “Tormented Flirtation” with Catholicism and Her Shameful Silence about the Holocaust

June 17 2020

Born in 1909, Simone Weil developed a reputation as one of France’s most influential philosophers only after her untimely death at the age of thirty-four. Her older brother André, by contrast, lived to the age of ninety-two and received many accolades for his contributions to theoretical mathematics. While the two were raised in a thoroughly secular Jewish Parisian home, both had a markedly mystical bent in their thinking: André was fascinated by Hindu thought and particularly by the Bhagavad Gita, and spoke often of the beauty of mathematics; Simone’s twin philosophical occupations were radical politics and questions of faith rooted in what one reader termed her “tormented flirtation with Catholicism.”

Reviewing an unorthodox, semi-fictional biography of the two siblings, David Guaspari comments on Simone’s theology:

To some, [Weil’s religious thought] is a challenging mysticism—to others, mystification. There is no doubt that Simone honestly attempted to live [by her religious ideals], and her writings attempt to elaborate it in ways often surprising or paradoxical. For example, Gravity and Grace, mined from her notebooks, says: “Religion in so far as it is a source of consolation is a hindrance to true faith; and in this sense atheism is a purification. I have to be an atheist with that part of myself that is not made for God.” This passage is often quoted on atheism discussion forums. Also from that book: “There are people for whom everything is salutary which brings God nearer to them. For me it is everything which keeps him at a distance.” Yet Weil is also quoted in the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Prayer is nothing other than attention in its purest form.”

As for her relationship with her fellow Jews, Guaspari writes that it is what is “most problematic” about her life work—despite the fact that she escaped from Paris moments before the arrival of the Nazis, and was involved in the French resistance:

Leave aside her fierce hostility to the Old Testament, which counted among her heresies; this crusader for justice was virtually silent about the Holocaust. And when Vichy’s anti-Semitic laws touched her directly, by blocking her appointment to a teaching position in Marseille, her response was not to denounce them but to play the clubhouse lawyer with a lengthy explanation of why she shouldn’t be classified as a Jew.

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Read more at New Atlantis

More about: Catholicism, French Jewry, Holocaust, Mathematics, Philosophy, Vichy France

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam