Religion versus ideology

In a recent op-ed piece on Massachusetts Live, Joseph Levine writes:

States that violate rights can be legitimately targeted by boycotts and sanctions, while ethnic/religious identities cannot. That was the principle underlying the BDS movement against apartheid South Africa, is the basis for the sanctions on Russia (whatever one thinks of the specific political situation there), and underlies the legitimacy of the BDS movement to defend Palestinians against the actions of the Israeli state.

One simple question comes to mind: If we cannot target/boycott religion entities, then why is it generally considered alright to do so to ideological entities?

Among the questions new immigrants were asked, upon their arrival at Ellis Island were “are you a polygamist?” and “are you an anarchist?” I  heard about an Arab who, upon his arrival in the U.S., was asked if he’s a polygamist. His answer was, “yes, I’m Muslim.” He was allowed in – which makes me wonder why they asked him in the first place. It could be that being Muslim is considered a valid excuse for being a polygamist, and, if not for that, he would have been denied entry.

Communism is an ideology that would have gotten you in a lot of trouble in America during the McCarthy Era. These days, it’s just another word for “Democrat.”

So it’s pretty clear that, historically, one’s ideology is not protected in America. But one’s religious freedom is enshrined in the Constitution.

Dictionary.com defines “ideology” as:

Ideology

1.

the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group.

2.

such a body of doctrine, myth, etc., with reference to some political and social plan, as that of fascism, along with the devices for putting it into operation

“Religion” is defined as:

Religion

1.

a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

2.

a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects:

the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.

A religion doesn’t have to include a deity, nor must it involve rituals. In fact, definition #2 is not much different from the first definition of “ideology.”

The Church of Scientology has this to say:

Scientology certainly meets all three criteria generally used by religious scholars around the world to determine religiosity: (1) a belief in some Ultimate Reality, such as the Supreme or eternal truth that transcends the here and now of the secular world; (2) religious practices directed toward understanding, attaining or communing with this Ultimate Reality; and (3) a community of believers who join together in pursuing this Ultimate Reality.

If we accept this definition, then we should ask why this set of beliefs (and no others) should have special legal status in the United States. We should wonder why Pastafarians are a legally protected religion.

When the Constitution was written, religion played a much more prominent role in human affairs than it does today, at least in the Western world. Over time, ideology has eclipsed religion as the prime power behind human interactions and customs. Ideologies tend to adapt to scientific advances more readily than do religions. With the advances of Science, religion has been scaled back, and ideologies have taken its place. For many people, their ideology is their religion.

But there is no Constitutional amendment to reflect this; we still don’t have a legally recognized freedom to practice our ideologies unhindered and unmolested. While ideologies vary in the degree to which they’re bound to logic, it can be argued that, overall, they’re more rational than religion.

Personally, I think the real reason that religion has protected status, while ideologies do not, is that religion tends to be closely linked to ethnicity and nationality. Historically speaking, religion is tied to geography, as are race and language. Hence, to discriminate against a specific religion was tantamount to discriminating against an ethnic group.

But in an age of Scientology and Flying Spaghetti Monsters, perhaps it’s time to challenge old notions, and to recognize new realities.

If believing in a big man in the sky affords one special privileges, then why should a lesser status be the lot of an ideology based upon reflection and reason? This question is especially relevant to atheists.

One of my brothers is a vocal atheist, yet he goes out of his way to show how much he respects the religions beliefs of Muslims, and even Christians. To put it bluntly, neither of those two faiths make much sense – at least not to the casual observer. They involve a belief in miracles, Heaven and Hell, the suspension of the laws of Nature based on the whims of a supernatural being – and a rejection of solid scientific discoveries. I’m pretty sure my atheist brother understands how irrational these religions are.

Surely, they’re less rational than the beliefs held by the Alt-Right, even those held by neo-Nazi wannabe Alt-Rights.

It really shouldn’t matter how we define a set of beliefs or practices. The only reason it does matter is that governments have chosen to sanctify certain sets of beliefs as (protected) religion, while ignoring, or actively condemning other sets of beliefs as (non-protected) “hate” or “pseudoscience.”

In a perfect world, governments would extend their protection of religion to include all ideologies, as long as those ideologies don’t preach violence against others, and don’t infringe upon the rights of others. In this regard, many ideologies are superior to major religions.

In such a world, the measure of an ideology/religion would be its contributions to community, personal growth and well being.

I’ll conclude with a quote from the official site of Pastafarianism:

But nonbelievers are overreaching when they dismiss the phenomenon of religion as wrong and useless because it so often lacks a basis in evidence. The fact that millions of people get something positive out of a religion – even if it is based in superstition – *does* mean something. But that’s not to say it’s True, only that it has Value. For many people, religion is about being part of a community and being part of something bigger and more important than themselves. These transcendent experiences are something we want to emulate.

 

 

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About jewamongyou

I am a paleolibertarian Jew who is also a race-realist. My opinions are often out of the mainstream and often considered "odd" but are they incorrect? Feel free to set me right if you believe so!
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11 Responses to Religion versus ideology

  1. God bless your indelible soul.

  2. Admin says:

    “When the Constitution was written, religion played a much more prominent role in human affairs than it does today”

    I suspect this is accurate but imprecise. The whole arrangement of religion among the activities of men may have changed drastically during the 20th century. The way religion is framed now might have been completely different from how it was framed or thought of 250 years ago.

    “the real reason that religion has protected status, while ideologies do not, is that religion tends to be closely linked to ethnicity and nationality”

    I thought it’s because the Founders had bad experiences with political rulers tinkering with the Church.

    “Surely, they’re less rational than the beliefs held by the Alt-Right, even those held by neo-Nazi wannabe Alt-Rights.”

    You defined ideology and religion. Maybe you should define “rational” too.

    BTW, what exactly are the beliefs held by the Alt Right? They’ve never been monolithic, and since Trump entered the presidential race in 2015 they haven’t been very consistent or important either. Seems like nowadays the Alt Right is more there to antagonize other groups and cheer in political battles than to advocate for a particular set of beliefs or values of its own.

    “In a perfect world, governments would extend their protection of religion to include all ideologies, as long as those ideologies don’t preach violence against others”

    Judaism preaches violence against others–just read Leviticus. I don’t want the government to rescind protection of Judaism, so I think “preaching violence” is by itself a poor metric. By the same token, I don’t want the government to extend protection to some BS some guy just made up.

    • jewamongyou says:

      I’ll start with your last points.

      Modern Judaism is not defined by what it says in the Torah, or even Scripture; it’s the byproduct of centuries of history since then. If violence against others were an actual part of modern Judaism, then we’d have a problem with violent Orthodox Jews running around – but we don’t. The peoples that the Torah teaches us to kill are all gone. There are no more Amalekites or Philistines. We no longer have a Sanhedrin either, or “semikha” so modern rabbis have no authority to hand down a death sentence.

      What are the beliefs held by the Alt-Right? I’ve answered that here. Of course, there’s no monolithic “Alt-Right,” but since the corporate media, and all the forces of the Left have been denouncing the Alt-Right without qualification, we should accept a moderate definition, which is what I do in that post. Neo-Nazis calling themselves “Alt-Right” does not make the Alt-Right a Neo-Nazi group.

      The founding settlers did suffer religious persecution in England, and that was a major reason for their migration. But in more recent times, this has obviously not been the case. I’m looking for a more contemporary explanation that would explain, not why the Pilgrims settled here, but why our courts, and the populace, give so much deference to religion.

      I agree with you on your first point, though I don’t think it hurts my case.

      Define “rational?” I’ll let you go ahead and do that first.

      • Admin says:

        Orthodox Judaism is largely influenced by medieval Christianity and I wouldn’t point to it as being especially Toraic. Rabbinical or Talmudic Judaism in general has that problem (unlike Karaism). But that doesn’t change the fact that without the Torah you don’t have Judaism because you don’t have a Jewish people with the Abrahamic, Noaic, and Mosaic Covenants. It’s not like Christianity whose New Testament is all hearsay or even like the US which has besides its constitution a consistently controlled plot of land. The Torah is the source of Judaism, not just a text Jews can look to for guidance when they feel like it.

        Anyway, Leviticus says to kill adulterers and homosexuals, among others. Both of those types of people are definitely still around. Unlike with sacrificial rams and pigeons, I don’t think the lack of authority of modern rabbis is the halting issue there. My point is that some consideration ought to be given not just to what the religion says but to what its adherents do. (I’m all for Jews rebuilding the Temple and going back to practicing the Toraic laws as they’re meant to be–but I don’t think that ought to be done within the US.)

        In your post on the Alt Right you started by admitting you’re not really sure how it’s defined, then you listed a grab-bag of beliefs you’ve seen covered, and you addressed the presence of neo-Nazis. I don’t have a big problem with that overview–it’s honest and, in my experience, reasonably accurate–but I also don’t think it presents a strikable target for the label “rational”. And like I said, I think the notion of the Alt Right as an ideological movement or region that can be rational or not was obsoletized by Trump 2016.

        You said the beliefs of the Alt Right were more rational than those of Christians. I think you should define rational in order to unpack that claim, since at first blush at least it seems like an extraordinary one.

  3. jewamongyou says:

    Re: Admin,

    “My point is that some consideration ought to be given not just to what the religion says but to what its adherents do.” Yes, I agree with that.

    “I don’t have a big problem with that overview–it’s honest and, in my experience, reasonably accurate–but I also don’t think it presents a strikable target for the label “rational”.”

    I’ve spent the bulk of my time on this blog explaining how our beliefs are rational. Some of my posts, such as the one trying to define the Alt-Right, fit more into the category of my own perceptions and experiences rather than rationality – and I’ve admitted as much. But if you read the works of Alt-Right pioneers, such as Jared Taylor, Steve Sailer and numerous other older blogs, you’ll see that they do, indeed, focus on the things I list in that post.

    But back to “rational.” it’s obvious that one of the defining pillars of the Alt-Right is race-realism, and I explain here how that’s rational. As for Christianity, how is it rational to believe in a virgin birth, resurrection, making wine out of blood or eternal heaven and hell?

    • Admin says:

      I read Alt Right sites (iSteve, VDare, Taki’s, other random blogs, etc.) for 5 years and considered myself part of that movement (such as it is) during that time. Don’t get me wrong, I think there are a good number of generally rational people in the Alt Right and it’s not hard to find generally rational things being said. (The Derb is an outstandingly rational specimen, I think.) But for one, there are also a lot of irrational Alt Rightists saying irrational things. And for two, despite the rational Alt Rightists saying some rational things, the Alt Right floats on an emotional stew of bitter identitarianism, frequently reduced to a kind of of mirror-image Social Justice Warriordom.

      Race realism is a good example: a guy like John Derbyshire can write in long-form about race in a way that is rational, but 99.99% of the time when you see random Alt Rightists proclaiming to be advocating race realism it’s just malicious ignorance. Even the Derb falls back on it from time to time. (And of course almost none of them are truly up to speed on the actual science of race anyway. Without Googling, can you even give the name of a scientific journal where you’d go find an article that would support some aspect of race realism?) BTW this is leaving aside a major point of race realism, which is that people prefer to be around members of their own race for evolutionary rather than rational reasons.

      With Christianity (and Judaism too), I think it’s kind of the opposite: the pure, foundational texts are full of irrationality, but lots of rationality is brought by those who subscribe to it. For instance, what are we to make of God telling us that we should be disgusted by pork and shellfish? There’s no rationale given. Instead, every person who considers how or whether he will observe Kashrut goes about a rational process, even if that process is some kind of Pascal’s Wager.

      But anyway, all I was asking was for you to unpack that statement and you did, so thanks.

  4. oogenhand says:

    What about Christian Identity and British Israelism?

  5. jewamongyou says:

    Re: oogenhand,

    Of course. If by, “racist” you mean race-realist, then that’s like saying “you can be maintain a great diet and a be smoker at the same time.” Or “you can care a lot about your health and believe in voodoo at the same time.”

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