This essay will try to summarize some of the interesting ideas found in the essay Postmodern Religion and Faith of Social Justice, by James A. Lindsay and Mike Mayna, and share some of my thoughts about it.
What’s so interesting about that essay —besides being as long as a short book— is its characterization of the Social Justice phenomenon (what some call Social Justice Warriors) as a religious phenomenon. The authors admit that they used a more broad definition of what a religion is to make their analysis. I will quote the comment I left there, so that it serves me to start this blog post:
Amazing essay. I think I concur with most of the religious characteristics mentioned therein, but I’m still not sure that Social Justice is a “religion” per se. Some of the problems are already mentioned in the essay, namely the impotence of Social Justice to organize uniformly due to the postmodern tenet of destroying or deconstructing metanarratives.
For me the Social Justice phenomenon is an ideological and dogmatic problem, but I don’t see it fitting a more slim definition of “religion”. Religion, by my estimations, has more “flesh” (i.e., the myths and rites practiced and/or used are more robust, and it gives more food for thought, like when you read or watch a good fiction that follows the structure of a monomyth –rewatch it 300 times and you find 300 new stuff to ponder). But ideology is different, it tries to grasp religious modes of practice and myth-making and instead they create a too-narrow a view of reality. That’s what I see with the Social Justice phenomenon, you strip it away of the faith-based stuff and it turns out to be a very hollow point-of-view.
Nevertheless, the essay really puts forward an objectivist-funcionalist view of religious characteristics (which I find refreshing to be honest), I think this exercise alone gives it a lot of merit. Well done.
Reason and open dialogue is still a good solution to most of the stuff happening nowadays in academia. I don’t think that Social Justice will take a hold on society, they may act raucously most of the time, but I don’t think people will find it useful to follow such a hollow ideology.
Once again, well done, an amazing essay indeed.Comment section post by Manuel Alejandro Crespo Rodríguez’s in James A. Lindsay and Mike Mayna, “Postmodern Religion and the Faith of Social Justice”, in Areo, December 18, 2018.
So my comment pretty much summarizes my views on the topic. The authors admit that Social Justice acts enough as a religion to treat it as a religion, but that the solutions to it isn’t merely to bring back religion. They also admit the secular manner in which it manifests itself, marking a secular mode to it instead of a religious mode. Nevertheless, for the authors, a religion is an “ideologically motivated” moral community that has unfalsifiable truths that serves to satisfy the “religious impulse” that lies within us.
Then they establish, through the essay, what are the religious characteristics that Social Justices posses and their effects they try to make psychosocially both to themselves and society (some which are practice within this postmodern religion exclusively, with little equivalent to other religions):
- Teleologically they strive to make an utopia.
- They do what people call “virtue signaling”.
- Ideological conventionalism to their tribe, doing, for example, call outs.
- They try to institutionalize their beliefs by trying to bend the university’s approval, for university is the power house of knowledge.
- The scholarly cannon is what the authors call in the essay “grievance studies”.
- Unfalsifiable beliefs are based on socially constructed truths (truth being determined by power). This renders objectivity obsolete. This postmodern epistemological justification differs from premodern and modern epistemological justifications. This makes way to what the authors call applied postmodernism, which tries to implement the language game into reality.
- There is no fall from grace in postmodern mythologies, but rather the “sin of hubris” of trying “to know objective truth.”
- If premodern religion posits that unbelief in God comes from your subconscious “want to sin”, postmodern religion will render your dominant identity as biased in the favor of the dominant power in society.
- If divinity in premodernism is following the rites and prayers, and in modernity is being authentically cool (i.e., following Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic societies —W.E.I.R.D.), then in postmodernity it is the rejection of coolness. You can see this in the hipster subculture of university’s postmodern ethos of teaching to “check one’s privilege.”
- “There are only two effective paths toward redemption in the Social Justice soteriology: one, a commitment to an impossibly complicated set of behaviors that fall under the overlapping but distinct rubrics of allyship and solidarity, and, two, identifying, adopting, and attempting to legitimize one’s own status among intersectionally “oppressed” identities.“
- The so-called grievance studies are the “gender nuns” and “grand wizards” of postmodern religion, the whip’s wielders of the postmodern orthodoxy —i.e., the diversity board.
By opposition, one of the non-religious characteristic (or, at least, not traditionally conventional in religion) is the postmodern deconstructionism they posses. most of the characteristics mentioned before is a postmodern twist of premodern religion. Applied postmodernism, in their obstinacy to make their tenets a reality, have to sacrifice most of the more extreme tenets of social constructionism, which in turn makes the postmodern religion possible. I think the authors, in the essay, tried to show that their ideology has some kind of organization, and that makes it possible for them to create and reproduce their ideological orthodoxy and myth.
The authors end trying to show solutions to the Social Justice problem:
In a broad philosophical sense, there are three core concepts to secularism. The first is a general reticence toward institutionalizing the ideology of any moral tribe in any public space. The second is protecting moral ideology and recognizing it as a matter of private conscience, which leads to the third, which has already been mentioned: an attitude of anti-conventionalism.From James A. Lindsay and Mike Mayna, “Postmodern Religion and the Faith of Social Justice”, in Areo, December 18, 2018.
As I quoted before, I don’t believe Social Justice will take hold of society as a whole, for the ideals of the Enlightenment are still strong. I think that to keep Social Justice tenets at bay it is sufficient to have open dialogue. The day that open dialogue is extinguished, then we have a serious problem.