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The Age of Religion is Upon Us
Much digital ink has been spent in recent years on chronicling the attempts to fill the God-shaped void at the core of modern Western society. The idea that wokeness is a religion, for example, is widely accepted in heterodox circles, while atheist millennials are increasingly looking for answers in very odd places.
One of the primary functions of religions through the ages has been to provide explanations of things we were unable to understand using the scientific and cultural tools available at the time. As science and technology advanced, so the questions our Gods needed to answer became more sophisticated. This process continued unabated for millennia but it seems that we have made so much technological progress we are now moving backwards towards superstition and primitivism.
The rapid dissolution of our consensus reality – facts we all agreed on even if our interpretation of them was different – is ushering in a new Dark Age in which our ignorance is a product of the abundance of information, not a lack of it. Having the entirety of ‘human knowledge’ at your fingertips is only enlightening if you know which ‘knowledge’ you can trust and if you have an existing thought-out worldview which this new information can be checked against.
Decades of blatant lying by the mainstream media, the use of fact checkers as political tools to shut down particular points of view, growing outright censorship of “bad ideas”, social ostracism of wrong-thinkers and other recent developments have shattered our illusion of a shared reality. We now ‘curate’ our realities instead by choosing beliefs that best match our feelings about what is happening instead of the (often complicated) facts in front of us.
Together with the urge to believe things that reinforce our feelings, the lack of an existing knowledge base (“why learn about the world when I can just Google what I need when I need it?”) hampers our ability to think critically. Critical thinking cannot happen in a vacuum – it requires a set of facts to be established first so that new ideas can be compared against them. If all we have are feelings, testing new information against them only serves to reinforce our delusions.
This lack of grounding and emotion-driven thinking is why our commentary space shifts seamlessly from topic to topic: Instagram models, musicians, comedians like myself, as well as political commentators, journalists and activists pivot with ease from Brexit to Trump to COVID to the war in Ukraine. Few seem to notice that they tend to move with the same crowd throughout this process, and fewer still seem to question why “asking questions” has become the new groupthink.
Why does being pro-Brexit or anti-Trump determine your attitude to COVID? Why do your views of lockdowns and mask mandates now reliably predict your view of a conflict in Eastern Europe? I do not claim to know the exact answers to these questions, which is precisely why I think they are worth asking.
What I do know, however, is that the religious angle is likely to hold at least some of the answers. As with the religion of ‘Social Justice’, which sought to introduce into our modern world some of the worst excesses of human history like racial segregation, public shaming, witch hunts and sacred ‘truths’ that could not be questioned on pain of exile, so too the new cult of ‘QuEsTiOn EvErYtHiNG’ is rapidly coming into existence.
Like other cults, it offers followers simple answers to complex questions, an addictive series of ‘revelations’ and, crucially, a feeling of righteousness that comes from constant reinforcement by fellow cult members.
And so, asking questions to make sure we really are doing the right thing has been replaced with opposing any and every claim made by the Lying Establishment™. This is how people who were unable to find Ukraine on a map only 3 weeks ago now confidently share their strongly-held views about how the conflict came about or what we should do to resolve it.
This sort of adolescent defiance against any and all authority is entirely understandable given recent history. Having lied us into a murderous series of wars the Establishment doubled down by attempting to reframe popular revolts against their monopolistic hold on power, which took the form of Brexit and Trump, as being the product of foreign interference, a supernatural external force which required no evidence and had to be believed on faith alone by Good People everywhere. Failure to comply with this narrative made you a Bad Person.
The further erosion of trust in Establishment narratives that took place during COVID, which I detailed in a viral thread, served only to reinforce the feeling that something very strange was happening and, perhaps, only a very strange explanation would do.
The result is that, like the wokesters before them, portions of both left- and right-wing populists are succumbing to the religious instinct embedded in all of us. Like Social Justice activists, who believe that all events can and should be seen through the prism of all-powerful systemic “isms”, they now believe that world events are the result of a coordinated attempt by nefarious powerful individuals to <insert explanation here>.
This comforting worldview is, sadly, not a novel way of thinking. The attempt to explain events which are inexplicable at the current level of knowledge has always been a sure-fire path to superstition. The return to “Water drops are falling from above – the Sky God is displeased” is unexpected but not unfamiliar.
We are rapidly entering a new religious age and whether the meek inherit the Earth is a worryingly open question.