A few recent articles have made the point that political positions can function as religion: a totalizing story of sin and sacrifice which gives some sort of meaning to existence. First, there Ta Nehisi Coates with a theory of original sin:
What does the philosopher teach? His philosophy can be summed up in a passing phrase from “Between the World and Me”: “I… felt that the galaxy was playing with loaded dice.”
It’s a passing phrase, but a concept that suffuses his work. At a cosmic level, existence itself is slanted against the flourishing of black people. Chance is not really chance. We already know how history will unfold before it happens: black people will suffer because of white people. That’s what being black means. That’s what being white means.
It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained — and through which all speech must be filtered. Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., “check your privilege,” and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay. The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required.
The story continues with the obligatory swipe at the Puritans, which demonstrates that most people know nothing more about Puritans that what they can kind of remember from The Scarlet Letter and what they heard about The Crucible — neither of which has anything to do with the Puritans in reality.
Alan Jacobs asks if Wokeness is a Myth:
The term “woke,” for those who have managed to escape it, means being aware of racial, gender, and economic injustice. It is employed today either in mockery of the woke or in ironic reappropriation by the woke, and it is probably irrecoverable for serious use. But “woke” derives from “waking up” to how things are — and that ought to suggest that to commend wokeness is to invite people to participate in a mythical experience.
Go deeper into the cult, and the disciplines get more rigorous. Now white women must admit their role in oppressing women of color. This requires some of the groveling that white males must endure. But it offers the same benefit: a sense of forgiveness, and spiritual progress. Likewise black males must atone to women of color. All straights must bow down to gays. Even gays must make amends for their insensitivity to “trans” people. I am not sure to whom “trans” people of color must apologize. But give intellectuals time, and they’ll find someone. Or invent them.
With little work, I could find many more examples and certainly make a broader argument that all sides of political argument easily slide in a religious dimension — or that the arguments are informed by a story of fall, sin, punishment, sacrifice.
This is important to realize: just because a human being rejects some long-standing religious explanation does not mean that human beings change. The basic elements of fall-sin-punishment-sacrifice-possibly some escape/redemption are inherent in how we understand the world.
As a Christian, I would contend they are necessary for us our thinking. Paul argued for a hardwired, if you will explanation:
Romans 1:18–25 (ESV)
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.