New Religious Zealots

The remains of ten America Indian children who died more than one hundred years ago while attending Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania are being to their communities in Alaska and South Dakota, according to a notice from the Department of the Army, which oversees the cemetery.

The Carlisle Indian School student body circa 1885

Life expectancy in 1900 was around 45 years of age. If you lived to 60, your life expectancy going forward was at the beginning of the century comparable to what it would be at the end of the century. The low life expectancy was attributable in part to a high rate of child death. Children in orphanages, asylums, and other institutions for children suffered a particularly high rate of death.

The normal practice of the day was to bury the dead on the grounds of the institution. If we start digging up cemeteries, we are sure to find a lot of skeletons. If we do it selectively, then narrow claims may be manufactured. This is not to excuse the practice of removing American Indian children to industrial schools. Nobody alive today is responsible for that practice. It is to note sociological processes that manufacture social problems and the interested ways in which such manufactures happen.

Watch for moral panics useful for political agendas. We are living in a time where people use ghosts to extort the living. Ancestor worship and intergenerational trauma are primitive and irrational notions. The regressive demand that we act as if crimes are passed through our genes is part of the war on reason and justice waged by those who want stuff for nothing. Lots of stuff. For literally nothing. (See For the Good of Your Soul: Tribal Stigma and the God of Reparations; also A specter is haunting America—the specter of reparations.

Have you read Caroline Randall Williams’ June 26, 2020 essay on her “rape-colored skin”? Folks are sharing it again. In the essay, published by The New York Times, William’s offers her body as a monument. It is bad enough that she repeats the false claim that race is a biological reality; on that basis, she claims trauma from events that she could not possibly have experienced in order to insinuate that white people are guilty of crimes they could not possibly have committed. She writes as if she were a rape victim. Raped by history. Wearing rape-colored skin.

There is a very obvious psychological need here to draw attention to herself by claiming the mantle of martyrdom and the status of the victim—while politically reducing generations of white men to rapists. This way of thinking is simultaneously crazy and despicable. Why are we promoting crazy rather than treating it? Why are we tolerating the ideology that gives rise to racial hatred? (See The Endless Relitigating of the Past as a Postmodern Condition.)

* * *

Have you seen this circulating on Facebook?

A meme circulating on Facebook

I don’t believe in Jesus (I don’t think he was a real person). Why would I care if he waves my flag? But I should care when those who believe in Jesus or any other mythological figure try to tear down my country. Putting religion before country is not exactly the point of enshrining secularism in the First Amendment of US Bill of Rights. Indeed, the First Amendment was established precisely to counter the destructive notion that a people organize first on the basis of religion.

Why a destructive notion? In a theocracy, there is no freedom of conscience or freedom of thought. If the secular nation-state has any primary function, it is surely to protect the individual from forces that would deny his human rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of thought. The type of Christianity expressed in this sentiment is the political and moral equivalent of Islam. Very dangerous.

I remember quite clearly all of us folks on the left condemning conservative Christians for telling us what to think, how to organize our culture, how to live our lives. But there is another moral and political equivalent to Christian theocracy. And it hasn’t yet been reformed. The Woke crowd are the new religious fanatics. And anti-Enlightenment is the driving force behind their interventions in the world. Is it any wonder that the social justice warrior is so eager to defend Islam? (Islamic hostility to homosexuals and women may not signal a contradiction.)

I oppose organizing the world by the lights of Woke with the same enthusiasm as I do with any other theocratic endeavor. A diversity, equity, and inclusivity workshop is a come-to-Jesus meeting. Teaching children critical race theory in public schools is Bible study. Teaching it to soldiers is ideological indoctrination. Working it into law and policy violates the First Amendment. All this betrays the nation’s principles, which are humanist, rationalist, and secularist. Why are we allowing this to happen to our country?

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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