Social justice as a substitute for religion

Critics of the new social justice movement—the movement that’s variously called “anti-oppression,” “political correctness” or “woke-ness,” among other things—say it is like a religion.

It has dogmas and blasphemies.  You can be fired for saying the “n-word.”  It enacts a drama of sin and repentance.  It gives believers the sense of righteousness, sense of community and sense of meaning that earlier generations might have got from religion.

This argument is often made mockingly, but below are links to two article that make it in all seriousness.

Of course the fact that something is religion-like doesn’t mean that it’s bad.  Almost all people need something to provide community and meaning, and they’re lost if they don’t get it somewhere.


Gay Rites Are Civil Rites by Scott Alexander for Slate Star Codex.

Postmodern Religion and the Faith of Social Justice by James A. Lindsay and Mike Nayna for Aero Magazine.

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One Response to “Social justice as a substitute for religion”

  1. David Markham Says:

    Dear Phil:

    Thank you for raising this topic. I haven’t read your linked articles yet but I hope to do so this weekend.

    When spiritual people work on social justice issues as an application of their spiritual values and principles, It social justice work becomes a spiritual practice. When people work on social justice issues in and of themselves it becomes social work or politics neither of which are engaged in for spiritual reasons

    This dichotomy between political action and spiritual practice is very muddled in most people’s minds and we could all benefit if we could clarify if. The great clarifier might be the purpose of the participation. Is it done for secular reasons or spiritual reasons primarily? Of course, it could be both.

    Would this be a good topic for our Sunday morning drop in session?

    Thanks again for bringing the issue up.


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