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New Left Review 33, May-June 2005

John Paul II as actor-pope, and doctrine as screenplay—thoughts on the media’s sacralization of one of its favourite sons. Does resurgent religiosity in the age of fibre-optics demonstrate a need for communion far older than God?



The global media coverage of the death of Pope John Paul ii evoked for some commentators the prophecy, attributed to Malraux, that ‘the 21st century will be religious or it will not be’. Yet which of the thirty centuries that have left a written record has not been religious? The enlightened 18th, perhaps; but only superficially. Like many atheists, Malraux himself was profoundly religious. He knew that science cannot create bonds between people; that the relationships between human consciousnesses are imaginary—or they are not. The resurgence of sacramental passions in the late 20th century should surprise only those who espoused the naive 19th century credo, that the progress of science and technology would drive away superstition and beliefs; that religion was a mere left-over, an irrational residue which the future would erase.

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Régis Debray, ‘A Pope for All Channels’, NLR 33: £3

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