Half a Century a ago, the firebrand civil rights leader Malcolm X observed that all people need religion. In his case he chose an odd brand of Islam known as the Nation of Islam, which he viewed as the ideal religion for black people.
Clearly, most black people don’t necessarily agree, but it’s interesting that when Malcolm X made this observation in the 1960s, no one found it odd. The only thing most Americans (black or white) found odd was that he’d choose such an oddball religion. Everyone already knew that it was natural and normal to have a religion; in the time and place he lived, this would likely be some flavor of Protestant Christianity, but it would have been considered abnormal to have no religion at all.
Indeed, if you had asked quite a few people, they’d have told you that having no religion was impossible. If you did not have a religion in which to focus your spiritual thoughts, you would likely seek God in worldly things: acquiring fame, or money, or sex, or drugs, or some competitive endeavor like sports.
Today it is fashionable to declare that “religion” and “faith” are “believing things without evidence”– both of which are demonstrably false assertions. Everybody believes things based on evidence; the only material question is what you will or won’t accept as evidence.
You might doubt that there was a conspiracy to, let’s say, fake the moon landing or assassinate President Kennedy because you find the evidence unconvincing — and yes, I do believe Oswald acted alone and that the moon landings happened pretty much as we were shown. Nevertheless, I would never stupidly assert that there was “no evidence” for these theories; rather, I would say that I honestly find them unconvincing, although some conspiracy theories have more meat than others. (For example, the idea that the Mafia or the CIA or KGB were involved in a conspiracy is generally more believable than the idea that space lizards were.)
While it’s high heresy in some anti-feminist circles, it seems to a growing number of us that the late 20th and early 21st centuries have brought a new form of religion — what we might call a “secular” or “Godless” religion. Examples of this in many minds are Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, almost any form of Marxism, and of course feminism.
Unlike some writers, I do not hold that feminism is a religion because it is “without evidence” or “has things it can’t prove.” Most ideologies, religious or non, have things they can’t reliably prove. Feminists can, for example, point to many quite true examples of what we would call oppressive or gross mistreatment of women. The problem is that their case generally falls apart if you look at what men were put through at the same time in history, or in nearby other examples in history.
It’s not just feminism either. I defy you to pick any secular, atheistic or religious belief system and not find questionable things in it, lacking sufficient evidence to be sure of all their presumptions, or logical tail-chasing exercises and word games. Feminism is no different.
Feminism relies on things like a “wage gap” that do in fact involve reliable data and math that adds up just fine. But as we who study feminist statistics closely have learned, they are often plain dishonest in their assumptions. Ditto with things like the statistics on domestic violence, on rape, on workplace discrimination, and so on: it’s not that they lack evidence for their feminist claims, it’s that their evidence is lopsided and dishonest, leaving out at least as much as it leaves in.
Thus the fact that feminists have dodgy statistics and questionable beliefs based on them is not what makes feminism a religion. No ideology is without questionable beliefs and statistical analyses that you could probably pick apart if you tried hard enough. Statistics, even if they are good math, are as much art as science; you can rarely pull out ANY statistic, on any subject, without making an at least somewhat arbitrary judgement on what you will include or exclude from your final statistic.
The issue with feminism seems to be that it has placed itself above criticism. It’s an idoelogy which is, as Nicholas Taleb might say, “not fragile.” Feminism behaves as more than a mainstream religion in this way; whenever they are finally embarrassed and proven wrong, feminists behave as if nothing has happened and simply change the subject. In the end, their faith wasn’t in the science or the statistics: it was in FEMINISM ITSELF.
If you look at many ideologies, most still have something you might consider their God and their Devil: the ultimate source of Good, the ultimate source of Evil. If you don’t actually have an infinite eternal divine entity or entities to assign those to, your brain will do it anyway; perhaps you will go to racialist extremes, and Black people are good and White people are evil, or vice-versa. Or you will decide that the acquisition of capital is the ultimate good and the ultimate evil is government redistribution of wealth; your God is money and the devil is those who want you to share your money for the common good.
With feminism, something called “Feminism” is clearly God and the source of all good and noble, and something called “Patriarchy” or “Intersectional Oppression” is the devil.
Any scientific assertion or statistical fact that supports “The Patriarchy” is considered an evil statistic; any scientific assertion or statistical fact that supports “Feminism” is considered obviously correct and to be accepted as inerrant.
How if a statistic or scientific fact is proven false? The feminist will either produce a new statistic, or simply ignore your data in favor of their own predetermined conclusion.
What’s more, feminism has its unquestionable dogmas (women are always suffering everywhere, women were disadvantaged by men in earlier generations, and so on) and its treatment of heretics who challenge said dogmas. We who have watched Feminism since at least the 1970s have seen how every generation the older feminists are sidelined or outright assaulted by the younger generation.
Some people deem all religions to be cults, or claim that the only difference is size or age. This is just cheap; the whole point of an organized religion is to keep the crazies occupied while saner, cooler, more accountable heads assume leadership. This is true of Jews, Hindus, Christians, and most other sane religions–which may experience corruption, but who have people in charge who will have to face the music sooner or later if they’re corrupt. Even if occasionally a corrupt cleric goes to his grave not answering for his crimes, most do get caught and those who don’t tend to fear that they’ll be answering for their misdeeds in the afterlife.
On the other hand, a crazy cult leader like Jim Jones of Guyana might kill himself and all his followers because he’s convinced that he needs to. Whoever thinks the cult of Jim Jones and the People’s Temple is the same as your local Methodist church does not have his head on straight. If you prove to a Methodist that X is not a scientific fact or that his math doesn’t add up, he will probably believe you. By comparison, a deranged cultist will accuse you of attacking “the cause” if you prove that Dear Leader’s numbers are cooked.
You might ask “what about religions that believe strange things such as life after death, out-of-body experiences, religious leaders with miraculous powers, and so on?” The usual answer would be that if your miracle worker is alive and walking around it is far more dangerous than believing in a miracle worker in history.
Also, to believe that you can exit your body and float around may seem strange, but it’s nowhere near as destructive as believing there’s an epidemic of men beating up women that requires massive legal action, or that we have to shift the entire economic system just to take money away from one class of people and give it to another.
I submit that religions which teach morality and kindness, which frown on violence and abuse, which emphasize honor and honesty, (even if they do believe “strange” things like life after death), are demonstrably less dangerous than religions or cults built around charismatic individuals who would redesign society based on “science” and “statistics: for this would license them to redesign society based on their personal whims.
It is inherently oppressive to tell people they cannot vote their consciences or bring their religious beliefs to the table when discussing public policy; a government which grants no respect for individual, family, and community differences of belief is inherently oppressive.
Probably most dangerous of all is the notion that you can exclude an idea–or worse, a person–from the discussion, simply by declaring it “religious.” For the next question obviously becomes: who has the power to declare what is or is not a “religious argument”?
Do I get to throw your arguments out because I have arbitrarily declared them “religious?” That would be quite a bit of power you’d be handing me; believe me, if I get to shoot down every idea that’s not MY idea by just shouting “that’s religion!” I will be declaring a whole lot of things out of bounds–pretty much everything that doesn’t agree with me I will just declare “religious.” Then I get to win by default. See how that works?
Think taxes should be lower? That’s libertarian religion, so I get to reject it. Think taxes should be higher? That’s socialist religion, so I get to reject that too. Think we should worry about Global Warming? How about I declare all Global Warming research to be “religion”? Poof! It’s gone. What if I declare skepticism of Global Warming theory to be “religious?” Why there we go again, poof! No matter which side you take, so long as I can declare what’s “religious” and what’s not, I can have my way no matter what.
All I need is the power to declare all ideas I don’t like to be religious.
Indeed, if you look carefully at feminist behavior, they do this a lot. Whether it’s their opinion on abortion, birth control, wages, what is or is not rape, or anything else: they always concoct a “religious” or “patriarchal” bogeyman that is going to destroy women and their rights. Needless to say almighty Feminism is going to fix it, and any objection which the non-feminist raises can be labelled “patriarchal” or “religious” and flung away — because a feminist said so!
The real swindle here is in the artificial declaration that some ideas are “religious” and others are not. The global movement to end slavery was religious; should we not have had that? The idea that the world is improved if all people are literate is an ancient Christian idea, and belongs to no other religion; was the historic move to build universities and then primary schools by the Christian Church a bad idea because it was religiously motivated?
While many critics of feminism are probably shouting with glee that they have figured out that feminism behaves like a religion, and that if we get it declared a religion we can throw out its pernicious influence. But think what you are saying when you declare that: if you get to declare their political beliefs to be “religious” then they can do the same for whatever you propose.
May I propose a more radical, even insane, idea? How about this: stop declaring that in a democratic system of government, you can possibly overrule religious people or their beliefs and still call yourself free egalitarian and democratic; democracy and equality, in their real historic sense, requires GETTING ALONG WITH PEOPLE YOU DISAGREE WITH.
The exact opposite of any form of liberalism is to declare whole classes of people and ideas you don’t like to be “religious” and thus to be thrown out or ignored is the real tyranny.
So I say yes, recognize feminism as a religion–and start recognizing that all ideologies are full of dogmas, doctrines, catch slogans, shibboleths, and more. Whether your ideology is technically Godless or not, it will likely contain something that it treats as the Ultimate Good and something it treats as the Ultimate Evil.
In a democratic system of government, the real question is whether the system produces results most people would find reasonably acceptable. That will not be accomplished by silencing voices we arbitrarily call “religious and therefore out of bounds.”
Of course feminism is a religion, and all but the biggest idiots know that some religions are far more sane and reasonable than others. Some are cultlike and centered around living individuals and organizations, while others are more broad and intellectually open and willing to live with diversity of opinion. The question isn’t whether the “religion” in question recognizes supernatural forces or entities; the question is whether that religion and its ideas can coexist with other systems of thought.
It’s clear that Feminism has no interest in coexistence with anyone who is non-Feminist. That makes it a dangerous, totalitarian ideology.
However, the solution will not be to relegate all who embrace Feminist ideology to 2nd class citizen status, where their “religious” beliefs hold no weight when the votes are counted. The solution will be to stop arbitrarily declaring ideas out of bounds merely because they are religious, and to start instead discussing ideas, and whether the ideas people bring to the table are good ones or not, and whether those ideas match what most people want.
Don’t stop at declaring feminism a religion. Declare all systems of thought worthy of being in the public square and part of the debate. And tell feminists they’ll have to stand next to the Free Market Dogmatists, the Socialist Faithful, the High Priests of Objectivism, the Scientologists, the Mother Earth loving environmentalists, the Rabbis, the Priests, and all the rest of the weird “religions.”
The biggest task of all is to stop feminists from pretending they speak for all or even most women, and to stop letting them forbid all ideas they find “triggering” or “sexist” or “patriarchal” or “religious”.
Instead, let purveyors of the wacky “secular” religion known as feminism stand on equal footing with all the rest of us.
Stop letting feminists privilege themselves in the discourse. The average feminist is no more worthy than a Fundamentalist snake handler to have his or her ideas respected. In fact, the snake handler might just have more common sense anyway.
Posted by Dean Esmay