One of the reasons why Wokeism, or Intersectionality, or whatever you wish to term the current new religion tearing through the Western world, is enjoying so much success is because multiple aspects of our society promote conversion to its cause.
Liberalism has been the dominant ideology in the West for a long time now to the point of entrenchment. It is the establishment already, or the Cathedral as my namesake would say. Yet the acceleration we are seeing now is the formation of a new sect in religious terms.
I do not for one moment believe that millions of people convert to a new ideology because they believe in its truth. This wasn’t true of earlier mass conversions and it certainly isn’t true now. Followers come to the new church because of socio-economic benefits.
I also do not believe that conversions are imposed from an authority above. Constantine was not the reason why Rome converted to Christianity; Constantine was just an inevitable stepping stone in Christianity’s growth. The existing power of Christianity created a Constantine.
Without Constantine the legitimisation of Christianity would have just fallen to somebody else. It might have taken a few more decades, but sooner or later the Roman state would have had to align itself with the growing power of the new Church.
Eusebius wrote that early Christians conducted mass conversions and “multitudes in a body eagerly embraced” the new religion. There seems to be little evidence for this. The growth rate of early Christians seems as would be reasonably expected without any major mass conversion.
This early Christian propaganda of mass conversion implies that the masses saw the truth of the new religion and converted due to doctrinal appeal. Studies show this is doubtful, the converted only seem to embrace their new theology AFTER conversion.
So what initially leads people to a new faith? Overwhelmingly, the answer is social networks. The vast majority of conversions take place through networks of family and friends. To use sales parlance: a “warm lead” is needed. Rarely do people convert by cold call.
Converts join causes when their relationships with believers outnumber their relationships with non-believers. It is about bringing one’s thinking in alignment with friends and family. This can be a conscious choice in some and unconscious in the more conforming.
Converting to a new way of thinking is much less about deviating from an old ideology and more about conforming to a new one. With the above said, who in our society is most placed to reject all tradition and instead embrace whatever new thing is fed to them?
There are two moments when young people in the West find themselves in new environments where new connections outnumber old connections: when they move to a new city for college, and again when they move to a new city for work.
In both scenarios, young people are overwhelmingly placed in new social networks that are closer, more numerous and more impactful than the networks they have left behind. Both scenarios also come with intense propaganda campaigns enacted on them by professors and later HR.
During the 80s, most converts to the Moonies in the US were newcomers to San Francisco whose attachments were all to people far away. As they formed new friendships, their thinking changed and they eventually believed in something they would previously consider ridiculous.
These conversions would have seem rebellious to outsiders, but actually were acts of conformity to the new in-group. This exact same process happens whenever a young American enters a new city, school or company. They leave behind the ideology of their homes & parents for a new.
The underlying process beneath young people becoming woke zealots is urbanisation. They leave their small towns and rural areas behind to find education and work in the cities, but the new social network overpowers the old, meaning conversion is inevitable to succeed.
As always, this has its precedent in the ancient world. The word “pagan” comes from the word “paganus” which means something like “country bumpkin”. Traditional Romans never used this term, it was a neologism created by urban Christians to mock backward rural unbelievers.
Being a “paganus” was not cool (if such a concept existed back then), but the early Christians successfully defined their opponents in these terms further strengthening their appeal. Similar terms like “racist”, “gammon” and “flyover country” are used today for the same effect.
Converts are also generally irreligious. Mormons have learnt not to bother wasting time on members of established churches but to find the uncommitted. Arguably, the bulk of people till recently fell into this category, lazy liberalism has been the establishment for a long time.
The struggle for their souls is now taking place. I find it easier to think of our society’s beliefs in liberalism and democracy as “the Church” (with a capital C) and wokeism as the creation of a new “sect”. What is the difference?
Church and sect differ in their degree of tension against their environment. Sects are religious groups in a high state of tension with the world, churches are groups in low states of tension. Liberalism, in authority now for decades, sits comfortably and exhibits little tension.
The old liberalism could accommodate minor heresies like Christianity because it was powerful, unopposed and entrenched. Yet as the system stagnated, not only did its teachings become moribund, but importantly so did social mobility.
This is where the Bioleninism argument comes in. Those wishing to progress upwards within the entrenched power bases of liberalism and attain what the smug rich old Boomers had gained needed to create a schism. Wokeism provides the required tension and religious fervour.
This new sect grows as our system of higher education and urban anomie encourages early attachment to a rejection of the old order and conformity to a new creed. Schools and HR departments provide the new religious tenets and social media accelerates the process globally.
It is not the poor and the ignorant who join new religious movements. This wasn’t true even in the early days of Christianity despite what some Marxist historians say. Many early Christians in the 2nd and 3rd century were well-to-do Roman citizens... not the backwards “paganus”.
The overwhelming bulk who traditionally convert to cults like Scientology, the Moonies, Hare Krishna, etc are those with higher education but uncommitted to any trad religion. They are the classic “spiritual but not religious” who believe more crap than their less educated peers.
It is this group that provides the engine for the zealotry of the new sect. Not the poor, but the educated privileged who feel they are not getting the rewards promised to them by the high church and who desire MORE privilege.
The trend of cults in the 1960s-1990s were a direct antecedent of the growth of Wokeism. Lost souls with midwit level education and few social attachments in their lonely new cities were preyed upon cultists who penetrated their social networks.
The same is happening today, but at an incredibly larger scale. Back in the 70s the Hare Krishnas would give out flowers to young travellers in airports because airports are transient places where the lost feel insecure and unrooted to one place.
The Hare Krishnas have now been replaced by liberal arts professors who enjoy a captive audience of fresh young souls delivered to their urban podiums ready to accommodate whatever beliefs are necessary to fit in with their new peers.
The process is then reinforced and repeated at an entry-level job in a Fortune 500 which demands loyalty in exchange for a living. In their free time, the new acolyte logs on Facebook and sees all the shiny successful people in the world also hold these opinions.
You can read some of @thespandrell’s essays on Bioleninism to see how the rest of the struggle goes; what I have tried to focus on here is how some of this conversion happens initially.
A lot of what I wrote came from Rodney Stark’s Rise of Christianity which examines the fall of traditional Roman belief from a sociological perspective. It is well worth a look.
The more I read about the transformation of Rome from its traditional religious beliefs to a Christian empire the more I see the parallels today... and the more I fear that what is happening is an inevitable process that must occur in all old exhausted civilisations.
The iron law of diminishing returns means that new sects will always arise so that the mid-privileged can attempt to displace the elite. It’s a rule as old as time. The difference though is the successor ideology of Christianity had positive civilisation-building elements...
... which I do not see in the successor ideology of Wokeism (or whatever we call it). All I see is ruin and chaos. There are no elements to this which can build a better future - it only offers endless struggle, tension and dopamine for it’s adherents.
Any great man who wants to prevent how the world is changing needs to realise he cannot stop this tide of history, but instead try to stem the flood into a different direction. This fervour will not dissipate. Whether that can be achieved though I am not entirely optimistic.
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