Can hope remain meaningful even in the seeming “absence” of God?
Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch says Yes. Bloch defines hope as “an urge to happiness, freedom, dis-alienation, the golden age, the land of milk and honey, a perpetual ‘elsewhere,’ the ‘new heavens and new earth,’ and, above all, the “homeland.”
As hope is rooted in “desire,” philosophers aplenty have wantonly scoured among the crowd of desires for the “primary one,” the one that keeps history going and is powerful to overturn the structures of society,. Freud pegged such on the basis of sexual desire; Adler invokes will power; Jung pinpoints the vaguer need of intoxication; and others appeal to the need for self-preservation.
But, for Bloch, the driving force or elementary energy of hope is hunger, both for the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Hunger is the source of constant improvement, a revolutionary force that makes necessary the ceaseless search for new structures to satisfy it.
Unlike Freud, who stressed nocturnal dreams, Bloch underscored the role of “day dreams” as progenitor of “utopias” or desired future which may be either abstract or concrete. And two factors come into play in constructing a day dream: (a) the subjective factor, which is the human capacity for dreaming; and (b) the objective factor, that is, discernment of the possibilities latent in the real. If these two factors are separated, one ends in subjectivism (operation of imagination without connection to reality), and the other in objectivism (rejection of the imagination and the expectation that change will come about through the simple evolution of reality).
But, whilst, let’s go back to our statement of the problem: Is hope possible, meaningful, and/or reasonable even minus the element of God? As pointed out earlier, Ernst Bloch thinks so.
Firstly, Bloch completely rejects the anti-utopian position, which sees reality as containing no possibilities for the future and, therefore, regards it as destined for annihilation.
Secondly, Bloch goes beyond Marx’s “concrete utopia” and criticizes it as “without illusions but having no concrete horizons” either.
And most importantly, while criticizing Christianity’s “abstract utopia” as being detached from reality, Bloch recognizes or gives import to the immanence or reasonableness of “Christian hope,” as concretized by Christ’s incarnation and ideals for the “liberation of the poor, oppressed and deprived.”
But this “hope,” one of “militant optimism,” according to Bloch, should be stripped of a hypostatized God, which smacks of a “mythological holdover.”
Hope is optimism, but not with the complacent optimism that we find in those who expect capitalism to collapse simply from the pressure of its internal contradictions. That kind of optimism is due to a lack of any horizon. Bloch calls it the “new opium of the people.” Nor is hope’s optimism the hot-headed kind found in “enthusiasts”; their optimism is due to ignorance. Bloch’s “militant optimism” is neither passive expectation nor venturesome activism. It pursues a concrete ideal that is not the mere product of desire but emerges from reality through an analysis of reality’s repressed elements.
Now, in the light of our present dispensation, of our obviously heightened political divisiveness in time of the national elections and coupled with the yet lingering pandemic scourge, can hope yet remain a viable reality apart from transcendental expediency?
Verily, to my mind, hope comes even during the strangest of hours. Apart from the fervour of clasped hands and bended knees, the faint muttering of the Holy Rosary, or the contrite chest-beating of penitents, hope is always available with the first glimpse of sunlight in the morning, or the view of the setting sun, the splattering of rain on the roof— and more meaningfully in the kindness of strangers, or in the smiles of people we encounter every day.
Yes, hope is meaningful and feasible even in the seeming absence of God. It is the kind of hope that is not based on a transcendent or detached reality; it is not based on an abstract future, but one which is concretely based on the immanence of the present, of the here and now.