On Soren Kierkegaard’s ‘Fear and Trembling’ (11/30/06)

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, let me refresh your memory. A long time ago, God told Abraham to sacrifice his oldest son Isaac. Abraham then took his son with him to the mountain, raised his axe-thingy, and was just about to kill him when God said “stop” and gave him a ram to sacrifice instead.

In his book, ‘Fear and Trembling’, Kierkegaard praises Abraham for basing his actions ‘on strength of the absurd.’ All his senses of logic and rational thinking tell him not to; he performs the act based on faith and faith alone. He performs the act ‘on strength of the absurd.’ The absurd being, obviously, an act that his logic and intuition tell him not to. He then goes on to praise others who are capable of similar acts.

Let’s take a look at more recent events in which people base their actions ‘on strength of the absurd.’ The Heaven’s Gate cult had a mass suicide because they believed they’d ride a spaceship on the back of a comet. In Waco, Texas, in 1993, many died out of belief that David Koresh was the messiah; not to mention the fact that he was given many wives, some of whom were as young as 14. David Berkowitz (Son of Sam) murdered several blonde women because a dog told him to do it. 913 people died in Jonestown, Guyana, after Jim Jones ordered a mass suicide. Almost all of the 913 people willingly drank kool-aid laced with cyanide, knowing it would kill them. The attacks of September 11th were undertaken due to a belief that they would go to heaven if they martyred themselves by killing hundreds of infidels.

All those mentioned in the above paragraph took action ‘on strength of the absurd.’ They suspended their logic and rational thought and perform the act on faith and faith alone. When every single rational thought in their head tells them not to, they proceed. Out of ‘strength of the absurd.’

Therefore, if we are to praise Abraham for his action in (almost) killing his son Isaac, we must also praise those in the above paragraph for similar actions. And seeing as the idea of praising such people is pretty much asinine, we must also dismiss Kierkegaard’s idea of ‘absurdism’ as just that: absurd.