Saturday, June 3, 2017

Religions, Cults, and the Alt-Right

The word religion gets thrown around a lot on this blog, usually in reference to the Progs. It's worth elaborating on the the meaning of the word, and of related terms like cult. These definitions are meant to codify the terms as they're used on this blog. It's not meant to be a clarification of what Wikipedia or Mr. Webster have to say on the subject.

A religion is a social entity whose members make logically improbable statements to signal their allegiance. Religion requires belief, and the belief must be, to some degree, anti-scientific or irrational. 

Spirituality is the belief that there is more to existence than pure materialism. It is somewhat anti-scientific as it requires the belief that science can't give us all the answers. (As Vox Day notes, science doesn't have an opinion on rape.) However this does not imply that spirituality is inherently religious, because spirituality may occur without religious social signaling. Also religions are not necessarily spiritual. In the USSR communism and atheism were the state religions.

A cult is a religion that demands purity. Mainstream Christianity and Islam are not cults. Christianity teaches that everyone is a sinner, thus no one is pure. Islam doesn't generally require proof of devotion: displays of submission are adequate. However, organizations like the Taliban, which strictly punish any minor perceived deviations from behavioral norms, are cults. Progressivism is a cult as they even punish subconscious transgressions (microagressions) of their belief system.

The subjective part of all this is the notion of logical improbability. No one in a cult believes they are in a cult. While their psychologies drive them to make logically improbable statements to gain inclusion, it seems to be done at a subconscious level. At the cognitive level they are able to convince themselves that they truly do hold the belief. Because of this it can be very difficult for even a rational person to determine that their beliefs don't amount to religion. 

Of special notice is Scientism, the religion of science; a group whose religion largely revolves around the mistaken belief that they are not religious. They've rejected religion in the colloquial sense (mainstream spirituality-based organized religion) but not in the sense defined here. These people are especially dangerous because they believe they are immune to assuming logically improbable belief systems. In a recent facebook conversation regarding Parexit -- where I was the only participant who supports exiting from the Paris Accords -- one commenter suggested that I "consider peer-review". Such a statement is not a logical argument but an expression of religious belief. If only I'd embrace the truth of the holy infallible peer-review I'd see the error of my ways and seek salvation! I responded that I spent two years in grad school and was quite familiar with the shortcomings of the peer-review process. I was told I was being too cynical. (Again with not an argument.) I responded that now three times climate research has been outed as fake, including NOAA scientists who received political pressure to come to some favored conclusions in time for the same Paris Accords that the US just left. I received no further responses.

Surely she wasn't familiar with the NOAA research scandal. On a purely logical level we'd hope that she would take note of that new information and update her worldview accordingly. But there's very little chance of that, because she has not adopted a logical stance but a religious one. The whole encounter was neutralized by labeling me as overly cynical, which was a way of calling me a heretic. It doesn't matter what arguments a heretic makes, because heretics are by their very nature wicked and wrong.

It's not just the left that experiences cult-like behavior. The alt-right sees plenty of examples of demands for purity. Many want to reject alt-light personalities like Milo because he doesn't personally conform to a more traditional lifestyle. For those of us who want to see the alt-right succeed we should work to identify and contain cult-like behavior wherever it arises. For that matter we should root out religious proclivities as well. That means calling out logically improbable beliefs wherever we encounter them, even if it means punching right.

[I'm not entirely certain on the last part. Maybe what we really need is a religion. Islam is a religion and it's taking over the world.]

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