Religion

The Sins and Virtues of New Religions

Occultists, social justice warriors, and techno-utopians may not look like the Christians of yore, but they're more religious than they realize.

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Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless Worldby Tara Isabella Burton, PublicAffairs, 320 pages, $28

Over the last 15 years, two growing groups of people have been drifting away from traditional organized religion. One is the "Nones," the 25 or so percent of American adults who consider themselves religiously unaffiliated. The other—which overlaps with the first—is the "Remixed," Tara Isabella Burton's term for people who blend traditional faiths with "personal, intuitional spirituality."

Burton, a journalist with a doctorate in theology, discusses both cohorts in Strange Rites, a book about Americans who reject traditional religious dogmas and labels. These people are often churchless and sometimes godless. But that doesn't mean they've rejected religion. Many of them simply worship different things.

What counts as religion is crucial. Are erstwhile presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson's Oprah-endorsed self-help books religious texts? What about the life-hacking, mushroom-coffee-guzzling, four-houreverything works of productivity guru Tim Ferriss?

For Burton's purposes, religion consists of meaning, purpose, community, and ritual. By meaning, she means some way of demarcating the line between good and evil, coupled with a sense of what life is fundamentally about. By purpose, she means your own role within that meaning. By community, she means the people you rely on. And by ritual, she means how you and your group mark the passage of time together, with acts of mourning, celebration, coming of age, penitence, and commitment to the faith.

Within that framework, Burton finds religion among SoulCycle obsessives, social justice warriors, far-right atavists, kink and polyamory communities, and Silicon Valley techno-utopians. As with the faith traditions of yore, they all have something that provides them with meaning, purpose, community, and ritual.

This rise in choice is good for personal autonomy, but these new religions tend to be thin on community building. Burton's thoughtful analysis bolsters the sense that these young, syncretic religions might be less durable than traditional communities of faith.

One of the chief differences between today's remixed faiths and conventional institutionalized religions is the premium the former place on personal experience, which is often considered irrefutable.

Wellness culture, from SoulCycle to meditation apps to the Goop empire, relies on this exalted interiority. "It's a theology, fundamentally, of division: the authentic, intuitional self—both body and soul—and the artificial, malevolent forces of societyrules, and expectations," Burton writes. "Our sins, if they exist at all, lie in insufficient self-attention or self-care." Techno-utopians, meanwhile, are interested in how biohacking can maximize and make up for the limitations of the natural self. Occultists sometimes marry components of wellness culture with explicitly political messaging: Burton describes occult literature on how "to cast a spell to ensure resilience after a long day of protesting" and why curses can be "the only avenue for justice available to the downtrodden."

The social justice community has a different take on the politics of personal experience, one built more on self-effacement than on self-exaltation. Its members, Burton argues, hold "two seemingly contradictory ideas about the self. The first is that, insofar as we are marginalized, society has warped our fundamental goodness. We have some form of a desirable, natural state that an unjust society has taken from us." But that exists alongside a belief that the "inherent self does not actually exist…our entire identities are so inextricably linked to our social place that we have no selves outside them."

An absence of established dogma, hierarchy, and tradition can be freeing. Burton details the origins of kink culture in the late-1970s Golden Age of Leather, when many gays were still closeted. "Prior to this subculture's shattering encounter with HIV," the historian Guy Baldwin once wrote, "a gay man in search of his kinky identity and fulfillment would eventually cross a threshold into leather space (leather bars, gay motorcycle events, special parties) for the first time….To think of it as merely sexual is to miss the scope of it entirely."

Burton describes the old order as "concentric circles of communal obligation" in which a married couple was the core, aided by its extended family and helped along by a neighborhood and church. Now the rules have changed. Weddings and funerals, freed from traditional formats, have little preordained structure. "You're on your own. You have to figure it out, explain it to people, rent the space, find people, figure out how to write up your own program," the sociologist Phil Zuckerman tells Burton.

When a New York social worker's queer husband died, Burton writes, she "declined to attend the memorial service hosted by her husband's family in his hometown," because they were "born-again Christians, uncomfortable with both her husband's sexuality and his interest in the occult." Instead, Burton elaborated in Vox, "a Jewish friend recited the Mourners' Kaddish. The group told stories—some reverential, some 'bawdy'—that reflected all aspects of Jon's personality. They played an orchestral rendition of the theme song to Legend of Zelda, Jon's favorite video game."

Burton sees consent as the "foundational basis" for kink communities, and she extrapolates that this speaks to a deeper worldview: "We are totally free beings, beholden to nobody but ourselves. Exerting that freedom, furthermore, is at the core of what it means to pursue the good. Our choices, in this model, both define and liberate us." This dual emphasis on consent and choice can be important for groups that were not previously able to explore the contours of their freedom in the light of day.

But having fewer cohesive principles comes at a cost. A focus on personal experience doesn't always work against building community—shared experience can be a powerful social glue—but it often does. In none of these belief systems is there an explicit call to always love your neighbor as you love yourself, or to care for the poor and downtrodden regardless of their sins and failings, or to work to conquer your own vanity and self-indulgence. The social justice community comes closest, but it does not extend its gospel of dignity to those who engage in problematic behavior.

The bespoke communities of the Remixed and the Nones often have little room for children, the elderly, or people with severe disabilities. Sometimes this exclusivity is accidental, other times intentional: Many in the kink and poly communities disapprove of monogamy, while some members of the occult, social justice, and wellness cultures find little help navigating the hardships of parenthood, if only because they're severely outnumbered by the childless.

At their best, traditional faiths bring those groups in. A Christianity Today headline from 2018 reads, "My Son's Down Syndrome Showed Me the Real Imago Dei." The Book of Numbers (and accompanying midrash) make clear the importance of honoring elders within the Jewish community. Some of the goodness of these traditions stems from the fact that the Bible communicates a profound message about human worth. That might be part of why it's been such a durable document, attracting adherents over centuries.

The Nones and the Remixed may be more common than they used to be, but they are not new. Strange Rites covers plenty of precursors, from the Oneida Community's mid–19th century free-love experiment to the Social Gospel movement of the Progressive Era and its influence on midcentury Protestantism, which "did not stress dogma or, in many cases, even metaphysical truth, but rather a utopian vision of what a truly ecumenical, social-justice-focused Christian world would look like." Early American colonists supplemented their formal faiths with fortune telling and astrology; one could call them remixed too.

When Strange Rites falters, it's because Burton tackles too much. She attempts to conduct a full autopsy of groups ranging from far-right "incels" to biohackers in just 250 pages, laying out the relevant history as well. Inevitably, some points are left underdeveloped. She raises the issue of some of these subcultures' lack of socioeconomic and ethnic diversity, for example, but hardly digs into the implications.

But it's a rich book, one that gave me insight not just into my society but into myself. I used to be an atheist, today am a Christian, and am certain the evangelical church that I currently attend won't be my final spiritual landing spot. An Eastern Orthodox depiction of Jesus hangs in my home, I've been deepening my understanding of scripture by learning about the Jewish Sabbath, and I don't think weed or psychedelics should be verboten for believers. In other words, I'm remixed. But that syncretic faith has been a gateway drug to something more like traditional religion, drawing me to a place of sturdier Christian belief and more durable community. And I don't think I'm the only one who can say that.

NEXT: Brickbat: Stop Cutting the Cheese

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  2. Eight people in Indonesia refused to wear face masks. They were ordered to dig graves for COVID-19 victims as punishment.

    Socialists love tyranny like this, which is why they are covering in the MSM. Its a Lefty threat to dissenters.

    1. As in there’s a shortage of gravediggers and there are/were bodies waiting to have graves dug for them? Otherwise, I see no reason not to dig just two graves and tell the judge “Your move.”

  3. The Washington Post Has Your Guide To Repentance For The Ex-Trumper

    Gibbs — director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government — acknowledges it may be tempting to castigate former Trump supporters, demanding “penance and flagellation, expiation in exile, bread-and-water rations, a vow of abstinence from Fox News.” But this would be “shallow” and “short-sighted.”

    Rather, such persons should be “gently affirm[ed]” and welcomed “back to the fold without rebuke.” This should be a “celebration of the prodigal returned, because anyone can be wrong, even profoundly and flamboyantly wrong, and there is no way forward without finding a way to leave what’s past behind.”

    1. They seem to overestimate the number of these former Trumpers.
      Somehow, they just can’t find any

    2. After writing that, Gibbs, of course, cheered the firebombing of local businesses to help stamp out fascism.

  4. Joe Biden Lies All The Time, But The Media Just Plays Along

    Lefties have to BELIEVE Biden will win because the reality that Trump will be reelected is too much to bare.

    1. C’mon, man!

      The first question in his press conference the other day (about the now fairly well confessed hoax about the military) was “What do you think this says about Trump’s soul?”

      And nobody laughed. Nobody called the reporter out. Everyone nodded and reported seriously on Biden’s answer.

      “Plays along”? Get real. They are not going along with anything. They are on the team.

      1. “Plays along”? Get real. They are not going along with anything. They are on the team.

        I mean, in a not-really-technical sense, your teammates do play along with you.

  5. No, Other Policies Don’t Morally Outweigh The Democrat Party’s Support For Murder

    If you believe that there is “Good and Evil”, Socialists are representatives for the Anti-Christ.

    If Christ represents certain things, Democrats represent the opposite.

    Democrats are pro:
    Slavery
    Death of fetuses
    Destroying of traditional family values
    Theft
    ….

    1. If we can abort as many morons as possible it’s all worth it!

      Eat shit and die right!
      I’m smarter than you
      Signed a goddamn godless leftie1789

      Stupid fucking inbred piece of shit

      1. Morons=mormons
        Same thing ya right wing pos

      2. ^This poor guy.

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  7. Sooooo…..

    Commenting at reason is ….. a …. religion?

    1. Does that mean I can write off my comments on my taxes?

      1. The Reason Foundation is a 501(c). So yes.

  8. I don’t know if you believe there’s a God, but there is a devil and it’s the Oxford comma, invoked unsparingly in this article.

    Also, atheists are the most fundamentalist in their religious faith that I’ve ever come across. THERE I SAID IT.

    1. If you think atheists are the most fundamentalist, you’ve never met a worshiper of Marx. Those zealots are the most adamant about their religion being The One True Faith and insistent that you join their church. They’re even worse than the Muslims, at least the Muslims will allow you the dignity of a quick death if you refuse to join their cult. The Marxists will drag your death out interminably.

      1. Dude posts at Reason, and you think he hasn’t met Marxists?

        C’mon man!

      2. Marx? The white racist guy?

      3. Wow, they sound almost as bad as vegans

        1. You’ve seen Tony and Jeff’s posts, I’m sure.

    2. never really understood the weird unhinged outrage about punctuation

      1. ARE THESE JUST WORDS YOU’VE LISTED RANDOMLY IN THE COMMENT BOX?

      2. word the reader can just figure out the timing himself everyone reads different anyway

        1. Who is “word the reader”?

    3. Fist of Etiquette loves eating, his wife and his mother.

      Fist of Etiquette loves eating, his wife, and his mother.

      You sure you’re locked in on that Oxford Comma stance?

      1. Heretics and blasphemers who DARE to doubt the Oxford Comma stance will be SURE to join heretic Shubs and Zulls in getting what they deserve!

        http://www.deviantart.com/ghostbusterspag/art/Vinz-Clortho-s-Speech-285968677

        Gozer the Traveller! He will come in one of the pre-chosen forms. During the rectification of the Vuldronaii, the Traveller came as a large and moving Torb! Then, during the third reconciliation of the last of the Meketrex Supplicants they chose a new form for him–that of a Giant Sloar! Many Shubs and Zulls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Sloar that day, I can tell you.

        1. FULL BLOWN MANIC PSYCHOSIS

          And I’m not Tim.

          1. Not-Tim, we are (doubtlessly, though I may presume, too much, to speak for others) ***ALL*** so very infinitely saddened, to hear of your FULL BLOWN MANIC PSYCHOSIS.

            Now if I may crib from the utterly brainless “humor” of WAAAY too many posters here… SOOOO original! …

            “Take your meds”!!!

      2. I love my parents, the pope and Mother Theresa.

        1. I’ll withhold my judgements on your pedigree until I know which Pope you’re talking about… Pope John Paul II or Pope Francis.

          1. Gregory IX

            1. I hear he was an inquisitive sort….

    4. MLA, APA, and Chicago/Turabian style guides all mandate the use of the Oxford comma.

      That the AP forbids it is madness.

    5. Also, atheists are the most fundamentalist in their religious faith that I’ve ever come across.

      Much like “pacifists” are among the most hostile people you’ll ever meet.

      1. You must know different pacifists than I do.

    6. I love my parents, the pope and Mother Theresa.

    7. I adopted the Oxford comma despite its devilishness.

    8. I don’t think atheists have a religious faith, they have a philosophical view. You are correct that for some this view is overriding. They object to almost anything religious. Prayer at public meetings, religious saying on money, etc. To be fair, many atheist have no problem with religion only with the intrusion of religion in the public square. I don’t care if you object to other religions, races, or different sexual orientation privately but don’t bring that into the public square saying you will not provide them products or services. I also don’t think that that religions should get to dictate on health and dietary matter. I am sorry maybe you don’t want to cover birth control, but other faiths may not want to cover blood or organs transfusions, or vaccinations. Again you may privately oppose abortion but you can not deny it to another who does not share your faith. Many atheists are have a libertarian view of philosophy. You are free to have your philosophical/religious view as long as you don’t impinge on mine.

      1. “You are free to have your philosophical/religious view as long as you don’t impinge on mine.”

        That is what I think/feel about pretty much everything. Which includes non elected government bureaucracies. And judges who behave like legislators with a lifetime appointment.

      2. So you are okay with me believing what I want, just as long as I do it where it doesn’t offend you? Then I have to hide my religion? Sounds totally Libertarian to me. Also, what you described as a philosophy is exactly what the books author would call a religion. And there is a reason most world religions courses are taught by philosophy professors.

        1. No you may express you beliefs where you like but when your actions impinge on others. If you wish to sit in a park and pray I am ok with that. If you object to a band playing rock and roll in the park because it is Godless I object to that.
          There are some who would use the word “religion” very broadly. Some say Atheism is a religious, or the love of money is a religion. Logic is a philosophy but I would not call it a religion. For me religion is usually associated with a deity. What would be your definition?

          1. So objecting and protesting against something you don’t like is an impingement? Voicing someone’s displeasure is not allowed? You can’t defend your position from a Libertarian standpoint. Praying quietly in the park is okay, by myself. What if I want to pray loudly with a bunch of my co-religionist where you can hear us? Or hand you a pamphlet as to why the Great A’tuin is the real god?
            Oh and just FYI a religion doesn’t require a deity and there are a number of religions through out history that didn’t have deities. A religion is a belief system and moral principles, often requiring faith in something or idea that isn’t provable. We can neither prove nor disprove the existence of supernatural brings, e.g. both Atheism and Theism require faith. The former requires faith that God doesn’t exist, the latter that God exists. From a purely scientific standpoint, neither is defensible because both are untestable hypothesis. A true agnostic would be the most logical and scientifically valid form of religion. And most western philosophy (and a number of eastern philosophies) had their roots in religion.

            1. And most western philosophy (and a number of eastern philosophies) had their roots in religion.

              One of my favorite ironies is that William of Ockham, whom we think of as being one of the forefathers of the scientific method and a great innovator of logic, was a biblical fundamentalist who was specifically opposed to non-literal readings of the Bible. One of his main philosophical rivals, Thomas Bradwardine, was a bishop (and Archbishop of Canterbury for the last week or so of his life) defending theological orthodoxy against the “New Pelagians” (Ockham & friends), but was the foremost physicist of his time and made significant contributions to the development of analytic geometry – i.e. he arguably more than any other medieval figure laid the groundwork for Newtonian physics, but the history of science remembers him as a religious reactionary.

          2. Most religions are a philosophy. Logic is not a philosophy BTW, but a process of critical thinking, the official definition is reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity. Now there is a philosophical field called logic, but true logic isn’t a philosophy. Webster also describes logic as a science that deals with the principles and criteria of validity of inference and demonstration.

          3. If you object to a band playing rock and roll in the park because it is Godless I object to that.

            Oh look, it’s 1955 and the squares are still grumping about hip, new-fangled music in Mod4ever’s world.

            In 2020 you’re far more likely to find some bum-clenching atheist whining about some Christian-rock being played in a park, because it’s “religion in the public square”.

      3. I don’t think atheists have a religious faith, they have a philosophical view.

        Depends on how you define “religious,” but to many “faith” in a thing is fundamentally a religious stance, rather than a philosophical. Atheists have faith in the non-existence of a supreme being.

        I would even go so far as to suggest that there is in fact a full belief system regarding how and why the universe came to be and humanity’s place within it that shakes out from that first faith-principle.

        1. This. I have argued this before. Many Atheist believe science supports their belief not faith. However, since you can neither test the existence, or absence of a supreme being, it is not scientifically valid to conclude a God doesn’t exist (or that a God does exists). This is especially hard because you can’t prove a negative.
          They counter with the argument that it isn’t their job to prove God doesn’t exist, that Theists are the ones making the extraordinary argument and therefore they must prove he exists. But that still doesn’t make the atheists belief scientifically valid. First lack of evidence is not evidence of lacking, e.g. just because you can’t prove God exists isn’t proof God doesn’t exist. And yes that is a scientifically valid concept. Just because you can’t prove something doesn’t exist is not proof that it doesn’t exist, just proof you can’t prove it exists. The second reason this argument isn’t scientifically valid, is because it isn’t testable. Any claim that a hypothesis is correct without testing is invalid. And just because you fail to prove your hypothesis doesn’t automatically make your hypothesis correct.
          So the lack of scientifically valid arguments to the non-existence of supreme beings places the non-belief in supreme beings, the confidence they don’t exist, into same category of faith as those who believe. Under this a true agnostic is the most scientifically valid stance. Or even better, someone whose belief is “I don’t know and can’t know”. Any statement other than this requires faith.

          1. And once you have faith, you have religion.

          2. They counter with the argument that it isn’t their job to prove God doesn’t exist, that Theists are the ones making the extraordinary argument and therefore they must prove he exists.

            And in my experience, this tends to be a straw man where the atheist takes a cartoonish version (little old man with a long white beard sitting on a cloud) of the concept of a supreme being and declares a failure to prove the existence of said little old man as a solid disproof of theism. This is exactly what Richard Dawkins does, and I’ve seen him straight up refuse to listen to theologians who try to explain to him that he doesn’t actually understand the basic concept he thinks he’s disproving and talk over them to tell them what they believe and why it’s wrong.

            And I say this as someone who is 100% agnostic – I couldn’t agree more with your “don’t know and can’t know” stance. I’ve long been partial to the theory that our notions of “God” arise from a part of our brain that compensates for the fundamental limitations of our ability to understand things. As Einstein observed, we evolved in a very specific context with fairly specific mental abilities tailored to that. There’s no reason in the world we would have brains capable of understanding how and why reality came into existence, or what makes us come alive and then die. As much as we do understand, we still can’t nail “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower,” so to speak, and probably never will.

      4. “Faith” is a matter of emotional engagement rather than any particular “view”, atheist or otherwise. And, ultimately, it is faith in yourself that you either already know the truth or that you have the capacity to discern the truth. If you read in print some of the more activists atheists (Richard Dawkins comes to mind) the thing that strikes you most about them is their emotional assurance that they know the truth about the world. If that isn’t a leap of faith, I don’t know what would be.

        In fact the more principled and self aware atheists are very alive to the fact that there is no true boundary between both what the world is and whether or not we can actually see and know what the world is.

        They have no particular religious faith but they have a great deal of religious doubt, and, in most things, religious doubt is far more important than religious faith. Certainly, compared to Dawkins & Co “scientific” atheism and to most Christians, their doubt is based on a genuine awareness of what they *might* believe in. This awareness is the major reason why they so frequently know the narrative behind those beliefs better than those who have faith in them. For such faith is often as much faith in the authority who teaches it to them as it is In the beliefs themselves.

  9. I hate when people lump atheism, agnosticm or secularism in with other religions. Some treat it like a religion, but most don’t put any thought or effort into spirituality of any sort. That’s way different than people who are religious. As long as we can all agree the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days needs to be destroyed, and it’s members sent to gas chambers we can get along! Fuck Mormons and love everyone else. It’s ok to kill Mormons they aren’t people.

    1. Ahhhhh, you’re a parody account.

      1. KillAllRednecksANDMormons

        1. what of the Redneck Mormons?!?!

      2. I thought that but he does go to great lengths to defend Portland and progressives, and not in a hyperbolic sense. So I am not convinced. If he is, he is far more committed than OBL and Rabbi.

        1. Sorry people in Portland have more education and experience than people in inbred montana(what drives me crazy is all the people calling me liar despite me living in Portland(ya know where the things are actually occuring). Sorry I popped the bubble of your inbred Mormon mother. I’ll try to round her up silently when she is sent to the gas chamber.

        2. Don’t think i haven’t thought of sending you to the gas chamber a you inbred goddamn piece of shit

    2. You should watch Book of Mormon or the South Park episode on the same topic.

      Best analysis ever.

      1. ….dumb…dumb…dumb…

        South Park has evidently made fun of the Kungflu hysteria. I haven’t seen it yet but plan to.

        1. It airs on Sept 30.

        2. The end of that “mormons” episode was a prime example of why South Park is funny and the Daily Show is not.

          South Park spent 30 minutes completely and utterly destroying the Mormon faith. They were ruthless in lampooning everything about it.

          And then comes the coup de gras… at the very end of the show, as Stan decides he’s going to have to stop being friends with the little Mormon boy who taught him about Mormon beliefs, the boy walks up and says “All I ever tried to do was be nice to you and be your friend. If you’re so high and mighty that you can’t look past my religion, then that’s on you. You got a lot of growing up to do buddy. Suck my balls.”

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsmyzC4AkFQ

          You have to be able to see your own foibles, your own flaws, and even the plank in your own eye in order to really be funny. South park spent the whole half hour getting you to be all high and mighty, and then utterly destroys that viewpoint. That’s real social commentary.

          1. So the difference between South Park and The Daily Show is that The Daily Show points at “them” over there and tells the audience that they are superior to “them”. Let’s all laugh at “them” together.

            South Park points directly at their audience and says “let’s laugh at ourselves and what we believe”.

            So they have their 4th grade characters go to a sophomoric movie (in the South Park feature film). The kids sit in a packed theater as the characters on screen sing the wildly inappropriate and offensive “Uncle F#@ker”. The entire audience leaves because it is so offensive. Except the 4th grade kids.

            The unmistakable message to those of us sitting in the audience: If you were a mature adult you would have gotten up and left the theater.

            Now that’s making a social commentary.

            You think any of those smug late night hosts would dare make a joke lampooning their own beliefs like that?

            1. It’s humor with a huge gaping hole in it that’s completely obvious to everyone except those who have zero self-reflection.

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          2. You have to be able to see your own foibles, your own flaws, and even the plank in your own eye

            I am absolutely not shitting you, I have discussed that episode of South Park while teaching a lesson on Sunday in a Mormon church, and for exactly that reason. Most religious people are much more self-aware than they ever get credit for. Critics rarely ever quote anyone but the zealots.

            1. You’re friends with mormons? Enjoy ending up in the gas chamber small mind!

  10. “I used to be an atheist, today am a Christian, and am certain the evangelical church”

    Ah, so you worship a god who murders children. That’s kinda distributing.

    1. Well, of some god had the power to murder your children, but wouldn’t if you worshiped him… it would be kinda stupid not to.

      I mean, unless you have some kids that you’d rather not be encumbered with.

      1. I can’t argue with that.

      2. Religions always have an answer for why God gets to take lives but humans can’t.

        I also throw out that God gave us brains and some of use those brains to challenge the Universe to find answers. If God holds using our brains against us…Fuck that deity!

        1. Didn’t Prince have a religion based on that? I think there was something about “finding god in the orgasm”. Anyway, I think the author has a point. Pretty much everywhere you look, someone is making a substitute religion out of something. Even your “F that deity” comment.

          1. “God” is an evolutionary adaptation, and it can’t be gotten rid of – only disfigured

            1. Yup. Arguably, it’s the spark of consciousness. The act of becoming self-aware requires the belief in a universe outside one’s own control or potentially even comprehension.

            2. I think that’s true, but it can be both a good and bad thing. It has given the world a lot of good things, but also various death cults, human sacrifice and Islam trying to conquer the world.

              1. I would argue that most the bad things you allude to aren’t the fault of religion but of people using religion for their own gain. Which reinforces the author’s thesis in the above article and the referenced book.

    2. He worships Planned Parenthood?

    3. You had damn well better worship a god who kills children. Don’t want him to kill your children.

    4. Ah, so you worship a god who murders children. That’s kinda distributing.

      More associative actually.

    5. “Ah, so you worship a god who murders children. That’s kinda distributing.
      Very distributing, very distributing indeed.

      Also, what are the odds that Strazele, despite his odd interpretation of popular religious texts, is super-keen on abortion?

      “Jesus killed kids somehow, so I’m gonna go with Moloch” – t. Strazele

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  12. “inherent self does not actually exist…our entire identities are so inextricably linked to our social place that we have no selves outside them.”

    “The social justice community comes closest, but it does not extend its gospel of dignity to those who engage in problematic behavior.”

    And this is why they are so dangerous. Despite their recognition of slavery as the original sin, their disdain for the individual undermines the very reason slavery is horrendous in the first place: it’s denial of the right to self-ownership, our most fundamental property right, which they deny.

    It’s a path that presents itself as an alternative to slavery, yet leads straight to it.

    1. Yes it does. But everything about social justice is the same kind of dialectic where the embrace of the ideology leads the individual eventually to what they initially claimed to repudiate. It claims to be against racism, for example, but then requires it’s adherents to reject the individual and embrace the idea that your character and destiny are determined by your race, which is of course the essense of racism and racialist thought.

  13. Social justice is a religion but it is a sick one. Normal religions offer their adherents some kind of salvation. Social justice doesn’t. According to the social justice gospel, your soul is trapped in whatever racial or other arbitrary category the forever shifting dogma chooses forever. There is no possibility of redemption or salvation. No white person, for example, ever transcends their inner racism. Their racism is subconscious and similar to original sin except there is no Jesus who died to pay for that or future Resurrection and union with God on a higher level of existence. Non white people are in the same boat except they are forever noble victims with no way to ever overcome. Indeed, the entire point of the gospel is not redemption or creation of anything higher but the struggle to do that itself. Social justice adherents unlike their Marxists predecessors have no Utopia they wish to create. The whole thing is a giant narcissistic struggle to feel good about themselves by either self hatred if they are white or hatred of whites if they are not. The white social justice warrior gets personal affirmation by admitting how terrible they are for being white and in doing so establishes their moral superiority to other whites who won’t admit their sins. The non white SJW get’s their affirmation by embracing their victim status and accepting the self hatred of whites. Neither type, however, gains any meaning or personal affirmation by actually accomplishing anything or creating anything. The whole thing is about the struggle itself. In fact, the entire ideology exists on the assumption that racism is so pervasive and structural that it will always exist and require the struggle.

    Social justice is a deeply strange ideology that manages to be even more destructive and evil than Soviet Marxism or even radical Islam. Marxism and radical Islam both see themselves as cleansing the world of evil and injustice and eliminating the differences between us. Social justice doesn’t do that. The whole point is to embrace differences and some kind of constant state of hatred and conflict. It is like some kind of made up ethical system and religion you would find in a fantasy or scifi novel. One of those bizarre but interesting ideologies that makes for good fiction but you would think could never really exist. Yet, it does and we are suffering through a great awakening of it.

    1. Good analysis John; if you are right [and you lay forth a compelling argument to support your thesis] then it would seem to be a very dysfunctional religion that is doomed to die out as did the Shakers with their prohibition on sex and reproduction. Only in the case the perpetual self loathing cum loathing of others and endless victim status will just become really tiresome and directionless.

      1. There have been plenty of destructive religions that didn’t die out all that quickly. Incans had rituals involving cutting out the beating heart of human sacrifices. That lasted hundreds of years.

        Don’t operate under the illusion that these ideologies cannot cause massive harm.

        Hitler’s brand of fascism married to some weird Aryan superiority beliefs and resulted in the murder of millions. Stalin murdered even more in pursuit of his state religion (that was notable for being an anti-religion). Mao even more, and he was puritanical in his pursuit of purging all things that were not of the state.

        So sure, they might burn themselves out. But that could be after decades or even centuries of utter desolation.

        Everyone needs to go read last century’s treatises on anti-utopianism. Huxley, Orwell, Vonnegut… these authors were popular for a reason. They were responding to an actual ideology that subjugated nearly half the world’s population at one point.

      2. Social justice is seductive because it is so easy. It doesn’t require anything except believing in the doctrine it’s associated politics. In return it gives people a sense of meaning and more importantly moral superiority. I hope that it dies out and people start to see how destructive it is to the people who adopt it. The reason why it might take a while is that giving people meaning and a sense of moral superiority makes repudiating it very difficult. For a SJW to repudiate social justice is for them to give up a huge part of their self worth and personal value. That is a very hard thing for most people to do.

        1. True; just because I wouldn’t want to associate with it [touch it with a 50′ pole] doesn’t mean there aren’t those for whom it provides an immediate sense of belonging and an illusion of power, especially if they are worthless douche bags who can’t manage to envision a future for themselves given any reasonable opportunity.

  14. “…For Burton’s purposes, religion consists of meaning, purpose, community, and ritual…”

    Greenies, unite.

  15. Interesting article. As an atheist, the community break down in successive generations has been the most concerning. I’ve read articles of big neighborhood gatherings, towns that knew everyone, etc and find that at most I know just my immediate neighbors, the people at my local watering hole, and my actual friends spread across the city . The disconnect is of course the socially enforced regular attendance at church for the entire homogeneous community.

    1. The thing is everyone believes in something. No one is a pure nihilists. People just are not wired that way and it is impossible to keep your sanity facing the abyss every moment. The abyss was too much for even Nietzsche who invented the concept of eternal return as a way of avoiding it.

      So the old canard about how the problem with people not believing in God is not that they will believe in nothing it is that they will believe in anything is really true. So people have walked away from believing in traditional religions but have replaced those beliefs with things like social justice or environmentalism and such. Or they have watered down Christianity with these beliefs to such a degree it becomes a form of the new religion more than the old.

      Long term, I think the danger is not so much these new religions but the inevitable backlash and reawakening that is going to occur. Social Justice really is a ticket neurosis and misery and in some ways makes a fetish out of misery. All of these new theologies, and that is exactly what they are, really don’t offer people any kind of help in living their lives or real answers to life’s deeper questions. That will fact will eventually become undeniable and people will look to something that does offer such answers. Hopefully that will be something like evangelical Christianity or Buddhism, or Sufi Islam. But it might not be. It is just as likely to be some form of radical Islam or fascism.

      Whenever I talk to an SJW, especially one under 30, it is so obvious how easily they are to manipulate and how ready they are to follow a no shit false profit strong man. Social justice has robbed them of the knowledge and reasoning skills to understand why the world works as it does and ultimately what happens to them in life. At some point, they are going to be left very disillusioned with social justice. Either it is going to turn on them and make them the designated other or they will finally see all of the bad things it produces. I worry they won’t have the ability to understand why that happened and learn from it. And will be primed to fall pray to the first guy who comes along and offers them an easy answer and explanation.

      1. The ‘believe in’ construction you use hides relevant distinctions that matter a lot. There’s a difference between ‘belief supported by evidence’ and ‘faith’. I’d say religion requires faith, and not just any faith (as you may have faith in what your parents tell you as a child, or in the truth of a story your friend relates, but that isn’t religious faith). Let’s call the religious kind of faith ‘divine faith’.

        True atheism (ie, lack of religious conviction – not some strange bespoke religion) means lack of divine faith. It’s possible to find meaning, purpose, community, and even ritual without divine faith. Indeed, even nihilists have meaning, purpose, ritual, and quite easily community. And this is where the author has a problem – because her definition has no requirement for divine faith. (Nor would such a requirement hurt her general argument particularly, since the groups she seems to point to do have such faith). Her definition makes religion so broad that its impossible to exist outside of it, and that makes it meaningless as a concept.

        1. The ‘believe in’ construction you use hides relevant distinctions that matter a lot. There’s a difference between ‘belief supported by evidence’ and ‘faith’. I’d say religion requires faith, and not just any faith (as you may have faith in what your parents tell you as a child, or in the truth of a story your friend relates, but that isn’t religious faith). Let’s call the religious kind of faith ‘divine faith’.

          That is just laughable. Your entire life is an act of faith and the result of a set of a assumptions. Think about all of the assumptions in your paragraph there. First, is the assumption that it is possible to know objective truth. Second, that your reasoning and perceptions are correct such that it is possible for you to reason towards that truth. There is no evidence or way to prove any of that is actually true. Because the only way you have to do so is to use your perceptions and reasoning skills, the validity of which is the entire question. If were possible to do that, philosophy would have ended with DesCartes. Sadly, it isn’t.

          There is no such thing as a true atheist. All atheists believe in God. The difference between an atheist and a theist is that an atheist kicks God out of the universe and then invites him back in sans the properties about him the atheist doesn’t like and renames him “Reason” or “Truth” or “Natural rights” or something. Atheism is just one giant exercise in self deception.

          1. This is not true John.

            I’m Agnostic. I don’t see any evidence of a God and don’t care. I don’t pray. I don’t need a God to make me a person who cares about my family and other who want a peaceful life.

            If an atheist believes in a God then they are not an Atheist. It’s easy to defend true Atheism because I get attacked for being an Agnostic. Same bullshit type attacks from people who cannot believe that the Founders were some form of Agnostics and that people cannot possibly be happy without God or Jesus.

            You are confusing the Lefty people who are all mixed up with state power, Mother Gaia, Socialism, and a lack of decent education.

            I and I mean ME choose to be good to others and accept my fate of death someday. I have lived a good life and had fun. When I die and there is nothing, I am fine with that.

            The notion that Heaven exists and you get to reunite with family and such is utter bullshit people tell themselves to make up for their shitty life choices.

            Why would I have to be forced to spend eternity with family members that I dont like because they want me there?

            1. The only reason I say that I am an Agnostic is because I cannot prove that there is no God. Otherwise, I would be an Atheist.

              There is a .0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001% chance some bearded dude created everything or watches over us or whatever….

              1. “some bearded dude created everything or watches over us or whatever….”

                That was my exact vision of God, when I was about four.

          2. I don’t see how atheism is any more (or less) of a self deception than religious belief.
            Yes, we all need faith that our perceptions are roughly aligned with some external reality to function in the world. You are quite right that we have no direct access to any kind of objective reality.
            Your perceptions therefore differ from others and it is a huge assumption on your part that God is in the universe of atheists to be kicked out. You could equally well say that theists kick reason out of their universe and then invite it back in through faith in a deity that helps make the universe somewhat comprehensible.
            I grew up going to church. I have positive memories of it and have no axe to grind with religion. I simply never saw it as the right way to describe or explain the world. I never saw God in the universe. I have no idea how one gets to absolute truth and I’ve always been pretty OK with that and the fact that my morals and ethics rest on axiomatic assumptions. I don’t know if that’s the best way to be, I’m not going to try to convince people with religious faith to see things that way, but that’s what it is for me.

            1. I came on Your daughter’s tits

          3. Dear john stick your stinking cunt dog up your ass!
            Signed an athietst who fucked your god in the ass and came on YOUR FACE(cuz your god doesn’t exist you inbred goddamn fucking inbred piece of trash)

            1. Inbred piece of godamn fucking garbage trash

              1. Air too proud to cum on your daughter’s bag, please don’t leave me please don’t go. Ain’t to PROUD TO CUM ALL OVER YOUR GOD THAR DOESNT EXIST FACE!!!

      2. One nitpick:

        “Nietzsche who invented the concept of eternal return”

        I think Nietzsche borrowed that from the Stoics.

        http://www.carmentablog.com/2014/06/12/eternal-recurrence-nietzsche-and-the-stoics/

  16. Man is a religious animal. Everyone, whether they are conscious of it or not, ritualizes their lives and seeks authority and community around something they consider Ultimate, something that orders our values and puts everything else into perspective. There’s good religion and bad religion, true religion and false religion, but the religious impulse is integral to human nature. Trying to suppress it will only redirect it.

    1. As someone pointed out above, divinity is the key part of religion.

      Socialists ACT religious in their worship of government power but under a closer inspection, all the key points people find normally find in religion are missing from Socialism and Communism.

      1. Define “divinity”. Buddhism is a religion, but it isn’t inherently theistic. Many “spiritual” people believe in a “higher power” yet claim to be non-religious.

  17. “For Burton’s purposes, religion consists of meaning, purpose, community, and ritual.”

    This is far too broad for me. It would include baseball and the stock exchange as religions – essentially anything that people do together.

    Here’s my take, more concise and gets to the heart of the matter: Religion is a set of beliefs and practices aimed at establishing or facilitating our interaction with the supernatural, the world beyond. The upshot is that donning leather chaps and having anal sex with like minded men is not a religion. Neither is protesting police brutality.

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  19. our interaction with the supernatural, the world beyond

    You use these words but I don’t think you know what they mean and/or are using them to handwave away the fact that you haven’t actually said anything or done any work.

    The world beyond what? The one we can see? Well, then, decisions made by a human collective, whether that’s to wear chaps or how brutally to police are, by definition, supernatural and beyond immediate observation.

    1. “The world beyond what? ”

      The world beyond the material world. The world that includes heaven, angels, gods, hungry ghosts, spirits and so on. The supernatural world, in other words.

      “You use these words but I don’t think you know what they mean”

      I disagree. I think I do know what they mean. I disagree that decisions made by people are by definition supernatural. The dictionary defines supernatural as something beyond scientific explanation and natural laws. People’s decisions about what to eat, what to love etc are as natural as people eating and loving. I’m not sure what you are driving at.

  20. >>The social justice community has a different take on the politics of personal experience, one built more on self-effacement than on self-exaltation.

    self-effacement requires humility and a sense of humor. these freaks are off-the-rails tyrants.

    1. I would call it self-flagellation, like the monks who wore hair shirts in the Middle Ages. They want you to be aware of their sacrifice, yet SJWism, like most other modern quasi cults, revolves around owning certain stuff (bikes, water bottles), and putting signs on their lawns in order to make a statement. Yet, few will actually make any sacrifice of themselves to further social justice. The SJWs are mostly white and wealthy and the ain’t giving up the wealthy part.

      1. self-flagellation is better description yes

  21. Choose reason. Every time.

    Choose reason. Especially over sacred ignorance, dogmatic intolerance, and belief that fairy tales are true.

    Choose reason. Most especially if you are older than 12 or so. By then, childhood indoctrination fades as an excuse for gullibility, backwardness, bigotry, and ignorance. By adulthood — even ostensible adulthood — it is no excuse, not even in the most desolate, slack-jawed, can’t-keep-up backwater.

    Choose reason. And education, tolerance, modernity, inclusiveness, science, progress, and freedom. Avoid superstition, ignorance, backwardness, insularity, bigotry, authoritarianism, and pining for good old days that never existed — not 50 years ago, not 2,000 years ago.

    Choose reason. Every time. Be an adult.

    Or, at least, try.

    Otherwise, you could wind up as a superstitious, stale-thinking, right-wing culture war casualty, dancing around in unconvincing libertarian drag while working as a staff editor at Reason.

    1. “…Choose reason. Every time. Be an adult…”

      You should try that, lefty shit.

    2. Fuck off bung hole.

    3. No one is as rational as they like to think.

    4. Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning . . .

  22. I often wonder how many people really believe in God? I have no doubt President Carter believes in God, just as I am sure that President Reagan and President Obama do not. I think a great number of people accept religion for the community and culture it provides not for some idea of an after life. Most people live for the day and expect nothing after this life.

  23. You sound like a fundamentalist. You “have no doubt” and “am sure” about other people’s faith.

  24. Any discipline which rejects “organized religion” and is practicing a “purer” form of the discipline is a cult. Or so I think.

  25. “The cult of the omnipotent state has millions of followers in the united States. Americans of today view their government in the same way as Christians view their God; they worship and adore the state and they render their lives and fortunes to it. Statists believe that their lives — their very being — are a privilege that the state has given to them. They believe that everything they do is — and should be — dependent on the consent of the government.” ~ Jacob Hornberger

  26. Religion has two parts, belief and behaviour.

    When one’s behaviour doesn’t align with their belief they are irrational.

    People’s conflicting behaviour, not belief, causes conflict.

    Propaganda and brainwashing rely upon manipulating people’s beliefs to in turn manipulate mass behaviour.

    We are seeing social media giants through censorship manipulate beliefs.

  27. When a New York social worker’s queer husband died, Burton writes, she “declined to attend the memorial service hosted by her husband’s family in his hometown,” because they were “born-again Christians, uncomfortable with both her husband’s sexuality and his interest in the occult.” Am I missing something, HER QUEER HUSBAND? OK this might be some tranny thing, but these days you never know, a straight guy can marry a woman and say that he is queer in some way. That is a problem, libertarianism needs a bed rock of self responsibility, private moral responsibility and organic community to survive, 100 New Age fucktard crystal shops aren’t gonna provide that, quit deluding yourself and like “Reason” ignoring libertarianism’s beginnings in the Christian culture, history and philosophy, we all know “Reason” is too cool to ever admit that.

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