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Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  640 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
For the decade that followed the end of the cold war, the world was lulled into a sense that a consumerist, globalized, peaceful future beckoned. The beginning of the twenty-first century has rudely disposed of such ideas--most obviously through 9/11and its aftermath. But just as damaging has been the rise in the West of a belief that a single model of political behavior w ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 16th 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,463)
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Jim Coughenour
Jan 01, 2008 Jim Coughenour rated it it was amazing
Picking up where he left off in his genuinely iconoclastic book Straw Dogs, John Gray turns his attention to the ineluctably human penchant for utopia and apocalyptic fantasy. His style here is less abrasive but no less bracing. A British commentator recently wrote of Gray, "He is so out of the box it is easy to forget there was ever any box" - which fairly describes the intellectual jolt he'll deliver to readers dulled by boxy thinking.

The previous reviewer has done a decent job of describing t
Rob Cook
Feb 08, 2014 Rob Cook rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The paradox of this kind of brilliantly game-changing book is that most of the people who really need to read it won't, and those that do will dismiss it because it criticises them. What Black Mass essentially amounts to is a call for realism in politics (not the same thing as realpolitik at all), an acceptance and toleration of difference, and a plea for the civilised cause of modus vivendi. To get to that, though, you have to have your brain exploded by the most clear-eyed, devastating and dow ...more
Jan 23, 2010 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A singularly unsettling offering from John Gray, upsetter of apple-carts and disturber of conventional wisdom par excellence. In Black Mass he continues his assault upon Progressivism, this time concentrating on the pernicious effect of Western European monotheism - having infected philosophy and, subsequently, Enlightenment thought and science - on modern political and societal institutions, soaking the latter in eschatological and utopian myths and illusions and being ultimately responsible fo ...more
David Rush
May 04, 2015 David Rush rated it really liked it
Good book. It offers a cool way to understand how the modern world has apparently been taken over by irrational but thoroughly convinced fanatics, be they jihadists, christian fundamentalists or simple tea-party nut-jobs.

He starts off with a review of Millenarian-ism. And thinks that the idea of utopia came from religion but is now taken up by the modern conservative movement and many radical religious people. Meaning there is a wonderful and almost perfect world that is an achievable goal, but
Jun 11, 2013 Abailart rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I just have to read Gray to get centred. This is largely an interpretation of the fairy stories inhabiting many of the key players in the disastrous and wicked decision to invade Iraq. As ever, the whole is interpenetrated with a hatchet job on neo-enlightenment myths ofprogress.
Dimitrije Vojnov
Dec 24, 2014 Dimitrije Vojnov rated it it was amazing
Pročitao sam BLACK MASS Johna Graya, knjigu u kojoj ovaj politikolog razjašnjava pitanja uticaja religije u savremenoj politici, prepoznaje njene konstruktivne i destruktivne uticaje, i slično mnogim drugim teoretičarima otvara pitanje sekularizma, i njegove povezanosti sa religijom odnosno neizbežne sprege religije i sekularizma. Međutim, ono što je ključni doprinos koji Gray donosi jeste iznošenje teze da su veliki utopijski projekti, od komunizma i nacizma do neoliberalizma zapravo bili bazir ...more
H Wesselius
May 21, 2013 H Wesselius rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant so brilliant I read it twice. He describes the Enlightenment and its offspring's visions of progress as merely the secularization of the Christian eschatology, positioning the New Jerusalem on earth. Like all utopian movements its adherents are so faith driven they become compelled to impose it by force. Thus, he compares the Reign of Terror and the Purges to the Crusades and the Inquisition. Of interest is the tracing of secular utopianism from the left to the right in the form of neo ...more
May 21, 2015 Dave rated it it was ok
John Gray's a pretty interesting character. Most writers I can fit into a category within the first 10 pages. With this guy I'm still not really sure how I feel about him. He definitely said a lot of things I hated but there are good things here as well. He points out that communism and capitalism, contrary to popular belief, are not polar opposites, that history isn't teleological, that humanity isn't better off trying to converge on one universal system of perfect governance and that many of t ...more
The leitmotif of Black Mass is the historical relationship between progressive or revolutionary thinking and religious apocalypticism. Gray argues that the very notion of revolution, conceived as the turning over of society into a new era and a metaphysical "rebirth" of humanity, is the consequence of a legacy of religious apocalyptic expectation. Christianity and Islam, the two great occidental religions, infused the religious quest for meaning into the fabric of history itself, producing a con ...more
Jan 04, 2009 Tom rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
One can easily think of ways in which organized religion has resulted in gross atrocities, but usually we attribute these to misrepresentations of the underlying belief system(s). This book goes further in laying the pointing to the basic premise of those religions that include the belief in a utopia or heaven. This basic belief causes even more chaos when taken up by secular systems (nazism, communism).
Jon Beech
May 09, 2010 Jon Beech rated it liked it
Bracing stuff on why utopian narratives are all basically hollowed out religious texts with despotic tendencies, but along the way he sort of meanders off around the Iraqi Invasion and gets a bit boring
Susan Steed
Jan 20, 2016 Susan Steed rated it it was amazing
For quite a long time I've really struggled to attend events organised by organisations/movements that I used to believe in on the Left or in Green Movements. This book articulates and develops some of the feelings I have had - that many political movements - although claiming to be secular have adopted the language and narratives of religion. Adopting a mission which is not only naively utopian but also simplistic and in conflict with the reality of what is happening in the world.

A brilliant,
Jan 02, 2015 Laurel rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern, history
Gray offers an insightful perspective on liberalism and human rights, a line of thinking I was curious about after reading Zizek's essay Against Human Rights. Many of the liberal values taken for granted today have obscured roots, which Gray addresses in some depth. A good read for anyone looking for a broader knowledge of current affairs. Gray challenges some of the fundamental aspects of globalisation in ways that many authors on the subject ignore in favour of a purely economic analysis. Prov ...more
Alex Zakharov
Mar 31, 2013 Alex Zakharov rated it it was amazing
In ' Straw Dogs' Gray takes on and utterly demolishes human nature, in ' Black Mass' he does the same for modern and post modern human institutions. The main thesis criticises western secular regimes of the last 200 years as utopian projects rooted in enlightenment-inspired eschatological ideologies. From Jacobins to Lenin, Mao, Hitler, to Blair and Bush the West has been unsuccessfully trying to rely on reason to bring about a final paradise, each time ending in disaster. All these projects are ...more
Ioan Prydderch
The fact that as a man who considers himself very much of the Left finds himself nodding along in agreement with a conservative philosopher underlines the ideological relationship between socialisms and conservatisms. The crux of the argument that the Enlightenment, rather than a liberation of humanity from religion has merely re-worked itself into modern political utopian ideologies, namely those of liberalism and, by extension, socialism is a compelling one.

The historicisation of the developm
Al Bità
Apr 12, 2011 Al Bità rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another bracing foray by the maverick John Gray; this time essentially to critically examine the international politics of the last few decades or so. No one escapes his acerbic writing, and as he writes it, none of them should!

Gray's main thesis is that the horrors and stupidities perpetrated by the powers that be are all tinged with the grievous error of Apocalytic Religions which posit some kind of Utopia which they believe is achievable on earth through the implementation of military force i
Chris Lynch
John Gray has written a powerful critique here of those who would seek to apply their prescriptive political formulas to the whole world, demanding that human nature re-shape itself to fit their narrow ideals.

Gray's thesis is that the globalist utopian political movements of the past century - first totalitarian communism, then unfettered capitalism, are rooted in western Christian eschatological thinking and an expectation that, after some great apocalyptic struggle or upheaval, the world will
James Perkins
Oct 22, 2012 James Perkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gray explores the history of religion in politics across recorded human history and how each has been a tool of the other in various attempts to produce a utopian society, free of the trappings of the human condition. Of course, this is just delusion, and he demonstrates clearly that such efforts always result in social disaster. He spends quite a lot of time exploring American involvement in the Middle East, particularly the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, since this is a prime example of e ...more
Clark Hays
Mar 12, 2013 Clark Hays rated it really liked it
Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia, John Gray, is not for everyone. Here’s a short list of people who probably shouldn’t read this book:

* Supporters of the Iraq war — you’ll be distressed to see all of the justifications ripped to shreds and various lies and contortions of “logic” laid bare.
* Opponents of the Iraq war – you will be distressed all over again.
* Religious fundamentalists – if you think religion (any of them) has the answers to the world’s problems, you will be
Jul 07, 2013 Josepha rated it liked it
Even though this book is considerably less silly than Straw Dogs it is still full of empty criticism and half-truths. I get the point that there may be many different viewpoints in a society yet that doesn't mean that a capitalist system with a democratic system is anymore satisfactory than a communist system. This particular argument of pluriformity is only used by Gray against communism yet in democratic countries any real change on the economic side is barely - if at all -possible.
Another dub
Simon Wood

At the centre of John Gray's book "Black Mass" is the not unreasonable assertion that grandiose plans to turn the world upside down and reach Utopia overnight have entailed a great deal of human misery and very little Utopia. There is nothing particularly novel in this assertion, though it is a little more palatable from the pen of John Gray, than say Isaiah Berlin (see "The Crooked Timber of Humanity") who liked to promote his own particular -i
Mar 15, 2011 Gail rated it it was amazing
I can't praise Gray highly enough.

'Modern politics is a chapter in the history of religion', the book begins. And from there Gray shows how modern political movements are by-products of (eschatological and apocalyptic) Christian thought. Liberal secular faith in progress by piecemeal reform (with occasional violence and torture) is merely a belief in salvation by another name.

"If anything defines 'the West' it is the pursuit of salvation in history. It is historical teleology - the belief tha
Esther Greenwood
Dec 05, 2012 Esther Greenwood rated it really liked it
I really didn't think I was going to be able to make it through this book. For the first half, it all seemed extra repetitive and wordy. I think for the first one hundred pages I was just saying to myself "yep, yep, I get it" while I read the same sentence or idea just reformatted. I mean it was interesting material, yes. But it just wasn't holding my attention well enough. So I put it aside for awhile. Read some other books. Then it came time for me to return this book to the library very soon, ...more
Feb 03, 2016 Mahak rated it liked it
Shelves: couldnt-finish
Three stars because I was so impressed. So impressed that I couldn't understand it, every other page I had to constantly look up the references. If you know about a lot of politics and current affairs, this is your book. For a neophyte in the field such as I, sadly not so much even though I tried my best to comprehend!
Ernst G.
Dec 20, 2015 Ernst G. rated it it was amazing
Slechts weinig schrijvers/filosofen weten zo helder te argumenteren en duidelijk te maken dat ons - al dan niet bewuste - denken gebaseerd is op de valse hoop op een verbetering van de menselijke aard en het bereiken al dan niet in het hier en nu van een staat van vergeving en vrede. Godsdienst en het apocalyptische denken dat daar bij hoort kent vele vormen, met name ook seculaire, zoals marxisme, naIsme en neo-com denken in de vs. Een boek dat iedereen die denkt dat hij wel weet hoe het zit in ...more
Michael O'Donnell
Sep 10, 2013 Michael O'Donnell rated it really liked it
Political Science and Philosophy. A hard read but a good read. It changed the way I view what is happening in Iraq and Syria and Iran and the USA and Israel and Afghanistan and in Australia.

I am neither a philosopher nor a political scientist. Words like teleology and Positivism lost me because I did not have the background. It did not matter.

The idea that the religious Christian West "is / is not" the root of all evil. And yet religion is good.

The idea that acceptance of difference of religi
Michael Horsman
Apr 19, 2009 Michael Horsman rated it really liked it
Recently read. Basic premise is that the most destructive versions of our civilization have come from a pursuit of utopian ideal, that is a promise of human nature remade. Millenarian apocalyptic religions(such as Christianity) are the basis for this recurring violence. He takes issue with a tradition that takes as given that history is fable of human "progress," that history moves "forward." The examples he provides are numerous. The argument is not simple but is logical in my opinion and a bit ...more
Greg Linster
Mar 30, 2012 Greg Linster rated it really liked it
Voltaire once wrote: “All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.” In his book, Black Mass, the British political philosopher John Gray, argues that this unchecked Panglossian sentiment is what leads to utopian thinking by both the devoutly pious and progressive secularists alike. Essentially, Gray asserts that Voltaire is the quintessential example of an Enlightenment thinker and his ideas have contributed to modern progressivist style thinking that leads to the newest rendition of ...more
Hugo Filipe
Apr 04, 2015 Hugo Filipe rated it liked it
Excellent first chapters about the foundations of politics laying on religion. But when it gets to analyze modern regimes, it just gets redundant.
Faine Greenwood
Dec 15, 2014 Faine Greenwood rated it really liked it
Very disturbing, mostly because it's rather convincing. I keep privately referring to it as I read the news.
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