Guide Religion, Education and Post-Modernity

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Moral tribes are frequently, but not always, interested in gaining institutional power. Indeed, an apparent lack of this will to societal power and to the establishment of structures through which it can be obtained might be the most blatant distinction between religions and cults. This is because cults are often maintained in service to an individual and, perhaps, his or her peculiar beliefs whose ambitions are, for whatever internal reasons, to gain personal power over a devoted group.

They may evangelize and attempt to gain members—and may even want to fundamentally remake society in their images—but they only rarely attempt to institutionalize. Social Justice is no exception to the trend of seeking to institutionalize its belief structure, but it has done so in a particularly parasitic way. Social Justice seeks societal institutionalization at the broadest scales, but it started out by bending our universities to its agenda.

Because universities are the houses of higher education in our society, thus the pinnacle institutions for creating, legitimizing, and passing on knowledge , this has been a frightfully worrying takeover. Religions in secular sociopolitical environments are forced to treat their beliefs as beliefs. Social Justice has arranged things such that it can treat its beliefs as knowledge. The result is that this slow creep into academic institutions makes Social Justice much harder to challenge or dismiss from the outside than religious precepts at least in the modernized world over the last couple hundred years—certainly this difficulty exists in every non-secular society, from the pre-Enlightenment Catholics to the devout Hindu and Islamic worlds today, all of which also claim or claimed to be the true arbiters and producers of genuine knowledge.

This enables Social Justice as an ideology to seep out of the university with undue legitimacy, both through citations of its research and application by its graduates. Unwelcome and worrying as it may be, this is to be expected. Social Justice is an application of postmodern philosophy, we must remember. That means that Social Justice is a moral tribe whose central fascination is power and how it can shape society. By seeking to conquer educational institutions first, Social Justice has effected a social and cultural coup that religious hardliners have only been able to dream about for most of the past century.

Still, Social Justice only represents a disorganized religion, to the extent it represents one at all. This is because, much as with Protestant Christianity, there is no central authority that can hold sway over competing—perhaps warring—denominations.

There are excellent reasons to accept that revealed wisdom is little more than the elevated opinions and prejudices of certain human beings whose claims to special knowledge are permitted to bypass the usual mechanisms of epistemological rigor. It consists of ideas that, though they may be true or tap into truths or not , have been laundered by some ideologically skewed process into being treated as knowledge whether they deserve that status or not.

Scriptures exist as ideological reference materials to inform, defend, and define the faith tradition that respects them. They typically contain innumerable propositions and pronouncements, among whatever else, that are treated as truths within the moral tribes that defer to those sources. There is no claim to knowledge possible when epistemological rigor has been bypassed because knowledge has not just to be true but also to be justified.

Special revelation and morally motivated idea laundering are not accepted avenues to justification, and for good reason. The reason is that people are far more often wrong than right, and right answers about reality are only obtainable provisionally and by the elimination of, as the religious might put it, so much chaff from so little wheat. The scholarly canon in grievance studies —and any neighboring academic sectors that have been corrupted by grievance studies—is the same. Grievance studies scholarship is the Bible and the Hadith of Social Justice.

Because scholarship of this kind is judged primarily ideologically, it constitutes a kind of revealed wisdom.

Religion, Education, and Post-Modernity

Because this canon is treated as a body of knowledge , however, nothing within it has to be explicitly taken on faith by its adherents and activists, and this is a major problem. There is a bright, clear line between faith-based beliefs and knowledge, and that is epistemological justification. Faith, it has been written, is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. Religious adherents often tend to apply faith in this sense as both the first and the last line of justification for their typically unfalsifiable religious beliefs.

Certainly, articles of faith may represent true beliefs about the state of the world, since they are held through the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen—and they may be treated as such within the sect and deferred to as something similar by those outside of it—but they are not knowledge. These are the premodern, the modern, and the postmodern. The best way to characterize these are in terms of their stance on the perhaps somewhat naive approach to knowledge production and social organization that we often label as Enlightenment thought.

The modern paradigm generally accepts the Enlightenment worldview and is characterized by liberalism, rationality, science, skepticism, and individualism. Both the premodern and postmodern paradigms are, now that the Enlightenment has occurred, actively anti-Enlightenment , one with blatantly religious motivations and the other arguably so. Enlightenment thought rejects as a human vanity and almost sure source of error the idea that any knowledge is special. Religions evolved to serve human needs almost entirely in premodern epochs, and as such typically put their faith in agential deities and the various assurances their traditions offer—most often about well-being, life, and death.

The premodern anti-Enlightenment project works, as it has for centuries arguably since Kant started it , to defend these religious articles of faith from the corrosive effects modern skepticism has upon them. Success in that project, relentless though it has been, has been limited. The Enlightenment happened, and with it blossomed Modernity.

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God slowly died. According to Rauch, the foundation of Modernity, as Helen Pluckrose and I would have it , suffers a complaint from spirituality, a complaint from virtue, and a complaint from community. Rather than attempting to go backwards and linking arms with premodernists and their religions, however, the postmodernists recognized and accepted the hardest truth of the Enlightenment: God really is dead.

With it, they seem to have adopted the bleak nihilism the premodernists consistently warned would come of such a conclusion, should it be embraced. Postmodern faith is therefore not like premodern faith, but it is still faith. Applied postmodernism begins in postmodernism, which as a social philosophy bears the following axioms, treated as articles of faith, as succinctly and charitably summarized by Connor Wood :.

In short, those who hold the power can and do structure language—referred to as discourses, which are ways of speaking about things—so that their truths, which are subjective, are mistakenly treated as the truth , which is objective. Postmodernism thus carries forward an article of faith in the form of relativism as well: it professes to believe that there is no reason to privilege any one set of culturally mediated truths over any other, and so the truths of any cultural group may be as valid read: true as those of any other.

The turn produced two new articles of faith that set the stage for Social Justice and its heavy reliance upon identity politics. For Crenshaw, group identity and oppression based upon identity must be real, and postmodern analysis remained the way to tackle those realities. Thus, Social Justice accepts as articles of faith that group-based identity is real, meaningful, and a site of oppression or dominance , and the way to understand this problem is through the postmodern doctrines of social construction largely through language of power.

Creationism is, if we might so sully the term, a philosophy designed to remove humanity from nature. As in every religion, these objects of faith for Social Justice are not isolated beliefs. Perhaps the most blatant and inelegant sign of mythological thought is a belief in something like creationism. In premodern moral tribes, typically creationism is written explicitly in the usual mythological language.

The gods created the world and everything, most especially human beings. The first of these issues is a cosmology— a kind of origin story for the universe and everything in it. God made the world in seven days, or perhaps it was crafted by Odin from the carcass of his great-grandfather, whom he murdered.

Postmodernism has no interest in such things and is content that the world exists and that the various human attempts to explain it are all equally quaint. This is because postmodern mythology is social mythology that, rather than seeking to place Man within the world, seeks to remove society entirely from nature.

Therein, it has a cosmology—a phenomenological attribution schema for that portion of the world which it cares about: society and culture, and particularly power within these. The postmodern cosmology is therefore constructivist and assumes our social constructions define cultures in which exist pervasive conflicts of inequality, dominance, and oppression, with white, male, straight, Western, European, colonialist, able-bodied, and so on possessing inordinate quantities of dominance over all else.

Humans tend to be a solipsistic and narcissistic lot, however, and the creation of the world is of little mythological importance as compared to the special creation of human beings within the world. In brief, creationist mythologies serve the ultimately vain but seemingly comforting purpose of elevating human beings to a status that is separate from all other biological organisms. In Social Justice, this denialism first removes society from nature by assuming constructivist origins and then further removes human beings from nature through the vaguely noble and originally Enlightenment idea of blank slatism.

Where, for some of the religious, we are children of God, fashioned in His divine image, for Social Justice, we are children of society, fashioned by its social constructions and the power dynamics they maintain. This view is meant to be a palliative that justifies the postmodern critical constructivist means by which Social Justice seeks to justify itself through both the usual tools of sophistry and insisted-upon ethical imperative. Its explicit purpose, despite being certainly false in the absolute, is to prevent any potential innate differences on average in psychology or any other mental ability from being put to nefarious ends by any kind of supremacist.

Supremacists are, in this case, absolutely evil people who hold power and privilege by virtue of their identities or seek their rewards in sycophantic betrayal of them and hope to exclude other identity groups from obtaining the same. The most overt and, from a rational perspective, unlikely application of this belief is that gender or sex is a social construct , predicated upon the dubious assumptions that there are absolutely no average cognitive or psychological differences existing between the genders or sexes and that gender or sex equality intrinsically depends upon no such differences being acknowledged as the product of anything other than Unjust social constructions in immediate need of disruption.

That is, the argument is not as adherents to Social Justice would have us believe it is: blank slatism versus gender essentialism. Most people rightly assume that whatever gender identity is, it has something to do with the realities of their biology and something to do with the way their local culture has taught them to express it. Blank slatists do little of this, if they do any at all. Bookmark this totalizing thinking for a moment because it will come back as we discuss myth more deeply.

It is believed upon the conviction of things not seen. That is what instrumental reason always does to myth. This shows up as a common feature of religious thinking. Collins describes society as being subject to rather, characterized by a Matrix of Domination in which power and privilege operate to dominate, oppress, marginalize, and silence relatively oppressed identities.

Collins, like Crenshaw, embraced the article of Social Justice faith that identity and oppression based upon identity are realities and that applied postmodern analyses of power and privilege are the operative means of understanding them. Religions sometimes view the world in terms of a Fall from Utopia, and these features are often expressed within their overarching mythologies.

In premodern religions, these myths usually feature some form of Enemy who, in his arrogance, initiates a fall into corruption and, in his envy, takes up the role of Deceiver of Man, so as to corrupt fallible humans—often with false wisdom or true, but forbidden, knowledge. In the Bible, for instance, the myth is that Satan, the Enemy and the Deceiver, offered Man the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge so that Man might Fall into the awareness of his own interests, which is named Sin.

In postmodern mythologies, wherein there are posited no such beings, that Enemy is taken to be, or at least begins in, the sin of hubris, specifically in believing we could dare to claim to know objective truth. In postmodernism, Man, through his own arrogant belief that he can know how to order the world, becomes his own Deceiver, his own Enemy, his own Death, and so the response is cynicism repackaged as skepticism with regards to the projects of Modernity, particularly the claimed rationalism, which it views as the self-justifying products of white, Western, powerful men.

Applied postmodernists like those we find in Social Justice take this a step further, though they build directly upon the postmodern mythology to do so. The application that led postmodernism into its applied turn recognizes as axiomatic that identity and oppression are real, and that the best way to understand them is through cynical postmodern analysis. The Enemy in theoretical circles is power and privilege, which are ubiquitous and terminally corrupting. In Social Justice, Hate is the maleficent manifestation of power and privilege as it manifests within the Matrix of Domination, acting through discourses upon the realities of oppression and identity.

Because power and privilege are everywhere and relational, and because they are deemed to intrinsically operate to justify and perpetuate themselves, Hate is everywhere and eternal. Humankind is therefore Fallen because the dominance of dominant groups is an eternal corruption, and our sinful nature—privilege—expresses itself in bigotries that are, ultimately, the very attempt of our privileges to maintain and justify themselves. This belief is theologically identical to the Calvinist notion of Total Depravity, which insists that humans are so corrupted not just by original sin but by the inexorable desire to sin , that we cannot even choose righteousness God no matter how we want Him.

As with so much, this doctrine applies both extrapersonally societally and intrapersonally individually. This applies societally, where we must constantly make the effort against Hate to reduce all forms of bigotry as read through an applied postmodern analysis. It also applies to the person, who is expected to continually look inward to discover her or his own fallen nature—her unconscious, implicit, and incidental biases—and to attempt to make them and their oppressions visible.

John G. Stackhouse Jr.

The guarantee of failure of such an intentionally interminable project concentrates faith and reinforces affective ties to the mythological core operating beneath it. That is to say, myth can only be justified by ceasing to be myth. Anti-Enlightenment thinkers who wish to cling to their mythologies are put under tremendous pressure to legitimize them in the technological sense, and they do so through the evolution of what we might call pocket epistemologies. Ultimately, to put it a bit formally, these efforts make various unwarranted metaphysical claims specifically, ontological ones such as that God exists or that our total potential understanding of reality is ultimately subjective and constructed by language used in service to power.

The most gauche—but not the most insidious—way pocket epistemologies work is to actively attempt to undermine standard, proven Enlightenment approaches to knowledge. They do this to disguise the deficits in their own knowledge-production methods. This goes so far as to openly insist that reason and rigor are tools of domination. Ultimately, to put it another way, for premodernists all knowledge is rooted in God, and for postmodernists all knowledge is intrinsically tied up with the Matrix of Domination.


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That is, in both antimodern cases, all knowledge is seen to be subject to the mythological cores at their centers. This is an active means for nothing more than resisting the encroachment of the technological and skeptical into the realm of the sacred and mythological, and it cannot rigorously achieve what moral tribalists employ it to do. Pocket epistemologies can be quite specific, too. Most famous among pocket epistemologies in premodern traditions is Calvinist Reformed Epistemology. Reformed Epistemology is, in essence, a way for certain premodern religious adherents to insist that their faith constitutes justification for their beliefs, down even to the point of proposing an alleged additional sense, called sensus divinatatis , that proves God exists to the righteous, anyway purely by being able to feel His presence.

These include the postmodern epistemologies, and most famous among these is standpoint epistemology , which could be said to be the philosophical powerhouse behind intersectionality. Standpoint epistemology is a derivative of a philosophical tradition dating back through Martin Heidegger to Georg W.

Other details of these pocket epistemologies and further discussion of them are better left for other essays in other venues, but there are two points to make here. The second is more important and speaks to a subtle commonality between both types mentioned above: a pocket epistemology can be diagnosed by recognizing that it cannot be adequately criticized. In Reformed Epistemology, regarding the sensus divinitatis , at least, if you doubt the existence of this alleged God sensor, it is posited that yours merely fails to work because of your sin or, somewhat less cheerfully, your depravity—i.

Meanwhile, any critic without a dominant identity position can be dismissed as appealing for favor from dominant groups to whom he or she is a sycophant or brainwashed victim of false consciousness. In astonishing parallel to the accusation that your sin or depravity prevents you from accessing the special knowledge of the faith, your power and privilege in society or desire for it do the same. The central spiritual project in most premodern religions is to connect with and serve God, which speaks to both this moral component and the teleological one at the same time.

By carefully teasing this apart, it is possible to see that this form of meaning-making addresses two primary needs: a moral need for psychosocial standing and evaluation and a teleological need that connects the individual to something not just bigger than herself but transcendent. Our spiritual lives can be summarized, then, in terms of how we approach moral standing and our efforts to connect to something greater than ourselves. It is, broadly, that which is posited to give life a grander meaning than the apparent cruelties of physical and biological reality tend to allow.

Of course, this deconstructive cynicism is their telos ; the high postmodernists lived to pick apart and render arbitrary all that is or can be established. Specifically, it adopted this purpose to remake society in the image of Social Justice. A grand sense of transcendent purpose builds a bridge between special knowledge and mythology and a sense of life well-lived.

Much of this purpose-building is achieved through drawing attention to the numinous—that which has a spiritual quality or focuses upon divinity. It is this concept, divinity, to which we should turn our attention to reckon with the moral side of the issue. Not coincidentally, moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt uses the term divinity to label the most elusive of just three dimensions of psychosocial valuation—how we evaluate ourselves and others morally and in terms of our standing in the prevailing social hierarchies in which we interact.

Divinity in this understanding is, in rough approximation, how we evaluate ourselves and each other morally , which ultimately means against the prevailing cultural thus moral framework in which we are embedded. More traditional—and often devout—societies make divinity more obvious through acts of sacred observance. These could be thought of, respectively, then as the contemporary modern and premodern approaches to expressing divinity. Accordingly, there are also postmodern approaches. Hipsters, who are essentially postmodern deconstructionists made into a kind of gratingly annoying counterculture, are a perfect example of postmodern divinity, which is often expressed through what they call irony, understood in the postmodern sense.

This manifests as a kind of being too cool for cool, as a modern culturalist might see it. These behaviors are meant to show respect and deference to numinous ideals, among other recognitions, and those factors are what imbues them with the psychosocial value that is sensed as divinity. In the context of relatively contemporary Modernity, as we all know, the one thing you cannot do is fake cool. You can only be cool by having the right attitude toward the things you do, and it is through this moral alchemy that what you do becomes cool.

Postmodern divinity requires a different kind of inward search, and, in the same way as everything in postmodernism stands in relation to Modernity, postmodern divinity is achieved through ironic reaction to and disruption of the divinity of Modernity—coolness. One achieves divine postmodern status, yet again, by searching inwardly, reflecting on the futility and superficially arbitrary nature of cool and rejecting it. Of course, the mythology of postmodernism is itself a humorous irony , as it is a metanarrative about being skeptical of metanarratives. Oppression is real in applied postmodernism, and it is rooted in demographic group identity, which is also considered real.

Divinity after the postmodern turn to application is being woke. Like in all moral cultures, the specific manifestations of local divinity are learned through interaction with the surrounding culture. Students in diversity and inclusion seminars and courses—which are required at many universities now as standard curricula—are endlessly encouraged to search inside themselves to make privilege and oppression more visible. Students are also taught to look for microaggressions , and their roles in producing them, to achieve this goal.

Thus there is—as we often see in religions and cults—also a great deal of manipulation of vulnerability within Social Justice, both to gain new converts and to deepen the commitment of those already present. Whatever virtues and weaknesses this discourse has, among its many impacts is ginning up a substantial amount of vulnerability in young women who are away from home, often for the first time in their lives, both in a circumstance and culture that allow for and even encourage a healthy amount of sexual experimentation.

The effort to create and manipulate vulnerability in potential converts to Social Justice is plain in the constant prioritization of feelings—as ways to knowledge, as guides to right and wrong, and in terms of close-reading every possible social interaction for real and imagined slights and offenses against the marginalized.

We see it also in the corporate focus on implicit or unconscious bias training and on the endless focus upon ways that racism , sexism, and other bigotries either happen to us the victims or are, often unintentionally, perpetrated by us, frequently in microscopic form. And what do you call someone who lies? Outside of this sort of display, Social Justice offers little in the way of a clear soteriology, unlike most premodern religions. As a pointed aside, perhaps only Calvinism—a particularly harsh subtype of Christianity—offers a plainly comparable doctrine regarding salvation, and the parallels between Social Justice and Calvinism in this case may be too deep to miss.

In Calvinist theology, salvation is reserved only for the Elect, who are the exceedingly few predetermined by God to be saved through Irresistible Grace and thus to go to Heaven. Thus, though it disclaims the fact, its ultimate focus is upon penitence and building the Utopia—the Kingdom of God on Earth—by creating converts and applying them to the project. Claiming an intersectionally oppressed identity can take many forms, which vary in their degrees of acceptability and problematics. With regard to gender and sexuality, this process can be relatively straightforward and might proceed by identifying—in earnest, experiment, or only nominally—as some gender or sexual identity that falls outside of being cisgendered and heterosexual, all the way up to and including identifying as trans.

This suggestion, if made only for the sake of argument, was vehemently deemed too problematic to countenance. Another form of subtly oppressed identity that can be and is frequently claimed—often by the so-called Tumblr crowd , named after the social media blogging platform on which they congregate most—is to adopt a psychological disability, obesity, illness, or personality disorder as an oppressed identity.

This is a distinctly anti-therapeutic invention, which comes as a corollary to valorizing identity-based victimhood. Solidarity and allyship—which are themselves fraught with problematics from the applied postmodern perspective because of their capacity to recenter the privileged while extracting a divinity resource from oppression—are deemed the necessary response to privilege.

Much of this is achieved through the act of Social Justice prayer, which primarily takes the form of making woke social media posts—which even Crenshaw has complained about in an applicable way—and attending public rallies ostensibly treated as protests. This will be, no doubt, a controversial claim to have made, so the reader is reminded that this approaches the topic of how religious-like phenomena work on a psychological and social level. Often, though not always, prayers of this type are presented in the form of blessings—bless this food for the health of our bodies, bless this meeting that it serve not only our purposes but Higher ones, God bless the USA.

For the applied postmodernists of Social Justice, the premodern numinous forces are all functionally dead, however. Among other effects, including virtue signaling and hierarchy jockeying, woke-posting on social media is a way to offer a blessing to the wokeness gods so that discourses might be blessed, problematics and dissenters might be shamed , and society might be improved. The most overt form this behavior takes is in public rallies, which superficially resemble protests that have lost all of their focus. Rather than protesting specific issues or political concerns, Social Justice adherents increasingly appear to gather together to protest against concepts that are directly derived from the Matrix of Oppression.

And how are these conducted? These are prayer rallies. This is church. At the heart of every faith is a blurring of rigor through appeals to mystery that are intended to be mistaken for profundity. Only then will Wright suggest a way forward. Section 1 first outlines the philosophical ground before post-modernism. Wright outlines the still-influential Enlightenment worldview and then distinguishes two forms of post-modernity.

He contrasts a hard form presenting a closed anti-realistic worldview with the softer form championing openness to the Other. In between modernity and post-modernity, Wright points to a critical realist education that sees both sides without conceding to either. Wright's portrayal of modernity is valuable in and of itself. Modernity stands on a tripod of naturalism, romanticism, and liberalism. Naturalism is taken to explain the natural world; romanticism is taken to allow for values, ethics, beauty, and other non-scientific aspects of life; and liberalism serves as arbitrator between naturalism and romanticism and has become the bottom line.

While liberalism to philosopher John Locke was an "interim ethic" to mediate conflict on the way to general social agreement, it has hardened into a non-negotiable worldview This liberal hardening is evident, for instance, in that only certain kinds of rhetoric are acceptable in public discourse--the phenomenon of political correctness. Wright then shows how post-modernism deconstructs the modern worldview. The naturalist leg of the tripod had already been deconstructed by philosophy of science.

Andrew Wright, Religion, Education, and Post-Modernity - PhilPapers

Romanticism was first challenged by Freud, whose exposure of motivation below the level of consciousness raised doubts about the primal experience on which romanticism was based. More recently, Julia Kristeva, following Georges Bataille, has deconstructed the self's identity as an Author: Edward J. Date: Mar.