There is a sense of delusion guiding the Social Justice Movement that I didn’t realize they weren’t aware of until the Grammys, and the funny thing is we’ve seen it before in New Atheism. It comes from the idea that they are fighting some massive, monolithic figure with a stone and a sling. Instead, they are fighting the version of that which they despise most that makes them feel like they’re under pressure to defeat him for the good of the world. They’re trying to be something they’re not, by fighting a caricature of what’s actually there. We’ll tackle the New Atheists first and move to parallels with the SJW as the New Atheists approach is the bedrock for the activist of today.
The subtitle of “Fighting God” by American Atheists President David Silverman is “An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World”. The implication of the subtitle and a running theme of the book is that Atheists in America are fighting an uphill battle to have themselves be heard, to have religious talk expunged from the political sphere as though it were a common presence, and to adopt a fighting style called “Firebrand atheism”. Firebrand Atheism is, Silverman claims, “simply telling the truth with emphasis on the telling”, it’s the brand of in-your-face Atheism advocated by Richard Dawkins as well, though he used the term militant. They believe they are fighting a monolithic political power, even if we just isolate the US, and that secularism has a negligible impact on society and the conversation at large. It is difficult to see where this is true. Where is religion’s influence noticeable in America today? There are the occasional complaints of “So help me, God” at the end of the Oath of Office every four years, but otherwise there does not appear to be much of society that is actually grounded in a Christian ethic.
We’ll start with the sexual climate as that is the most current of current issues today. It is difficult to see a religious influence here. Erick Erickson, on his radio program in Atlanta (11:45 in Soundcloud), noted what we’re seeing now is a culture that threw off the admittedly heavy hand of the “Moral majority” Christian right of the 90s and went so far into the opposite direction that all but created an environment for the MeToo movement to respond to. The MeToo/Time’s Up movements themselves appear no different than any other millennial activist party and lives by the same tenets: religion is not a source of moral guidance, we can fix the problem we created all by ourselves if we just keep talking about it. Anyone who thinks we have an ulterior motive (like attention or something) or we can’t fix the problem ourselves is either hateful or part of the problem in some small way even their little minds just don’t realize. In other words, everyone not with us is against us and everyone against us is guilty. This wasn’t great when McCarthy did it and it hasn’t shined any brighter since.
Moving on to the political discourse. There is no secular call to deal with one another with respect. One of Silverman’s tenets of New Atheism (Point 2: Don’t feign respect for the unrespectable), suggest it is better for one who strongly disagrees with a position to run that position over with any kind of rhetoric they feel is appropriate. Bill Maher’s approach to debating Christian’s seems to be the same straw-manning and scorn one might expect of an internet atheist after a Hitchens YouTube binge. As a matter of fact, this “run-them-all-over” approach to debate is now prevalent in the social justice movement, only worse. While the New Atheists rarely share a platform with speakers such as Ravi Zacharias, the social justice movement seems more content to stop speakers like Ben Shapiro or Milo from getting to the stage at all, rioting in the streets, throwing fire alarms, assaulting attendees and the like. While someone can make a claim to some greater moral calling, and even express rightful disgust at the approach, it is merely the consequence of a group moored in nothing but relativism, the cause of moral disengagement.
Indeed, when it comes to political power, the church has a colorful stained-glass house. Whatever you may say about the theology, the church is subject to internal politics like any other human organization. It has consumed even small churches, and I’ve seen it destroy one. I do not mean to brush it aside, however the counter that rhetorically suggests Christians should have it all together or Christianity is untrue, needs to addressed. In regards to the Catholic Church protecting the powerful, it is best to admit the failing and work to correct it, as the last three Popes have been. However, if the hypocrisy of a belief’s most prominent advocates significantly affected the validity of the message, global warming (An issue that sees its leading priests own several mansions and private jets) and gun control (armed security) would not have any truth to them at all. Whatever the reputation of the believer may be, the validity of the claims survive with fewer wounds and must still be examined on their own merits.
What we’re seeing in the social justice movement now is an extension of the view Silverman and Dawkins express. It is a militant, destructive onslaught of emotion that runs over disagreeable information or people, that believes it is fighting an opponent with a considerably smaller grasp on society than it thinks it does. This is a group that calls itself “the resistance” (with a hashtag for added street cred), which implies they are fighting some dictator or tyrant and not a celebrity. (Though, I will say, if you’re that afraid of a President though, maybe consider fighting expansion of government while your guy is in power. You will have to live one day with the government you helped build.) Despite this oppressive tyranny, we see innumerable protests with hordes of people. And yet, we can easily assume that most of these are there because these things are just easy to organize and a large portion may just be a horde of feel-good slacktivists with no real interest in the issue.
The #resistance is proving to be a feelings-based, self-destructive bunch of unaffiliated, bored, possibly angry, occasionally violent but always politically indifferent internet activists, much like New Atheists used to be. However, the activist of today takes the insanity one step further. Believing they are fighting is actually a Bond-ian caricature of Donald Trump, seeing Russians around “every dark corner” and occasionally eating each other with “Yeah it’s admirable but” (when a woman, who may be a much bigger star, no less, is paid more. Which is good. But the problem is she’s white, which is bad) and they continue to be his best asset.
In regards to MeToo, I do not mean to reduce the problem of sexual assault or racism to something that should not be fought. The issue however, is that the people most loudly proclaiming that they are the fighters seem intent to burn the innocent while they’re at it, when they are not practicing the behavior they outwardly condemn. We have not gotten past the “bomb-throwing” phase discussed in the Silence Breaker article. There does not appear to be a push for due process, an accusation still holds the same weight as a conviction, so where has this gotten the movement, and in what way is that a victory?
In the video game Spec Ops: The Line, you play a soldier stuck in a dilapidated Dubai, ostensibly there to search for a missing comrade. You hear his final transmission at every turn. You see horrifying things, and battle scores of men looking to prevent your progress. Eventually, you find a powerful but brutal weapon, the white phosphorus mortar, and firebomb a crowd of what you believe to be the enemy, but your friends insist are not threats. As you survey the damage, you come upon a soldier who’s face has been badly burned by your actions. After a terse exchange, the soldier weakly moans “we were helping” before dying. As you look over at the crowd, you see scores of civilians dead, some burned to the muscle.
Near the end of this long war, you find the body of the man who’s transmission brought you here in the first place, rotting, dead, and tied to a chair. And now you don’t know what you really came here for. A vision of the person in the chair comes to you and explains what just happened. Some of the people you thought were shooting at you, were innocent people, this includes the crowd you firebombed, and half the people you buried under sand that were just trying to get out.
He ends the monologue with a telling phrase “All this happened because you wanted to be something you’re not: a hero”.
In the last five months, MeToo activists heard a transmission calling for help everywhere they went. They began to fight for an end to sexual harassment with more vigor than the “It’s On Us” campaign ever mustered. It started with the voice of the oppressed calling out Harvey Weinstein, then Kevin Spacey, then tens of others, culminating in the humiliation of Aziz Ansari over nothing more than a hugely awkward sexual encounter and the further shoving of due process to the side in the name of their special, better brand of “justice”. Just like BLM, Antifa and the #resistance before them, they’ve claimed innocent careers, alienated or destroyed those who would’ve otherwise supported them, and find themselves alone. They do not appear to be warriors for victims, they barely appear to be virtuous themselves, and now they don’t know really know where they are or where they’re going, if they ever did know that to begin with.
All of this destruction caused because they wanted to be something they’re not.