Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Scrupulosity, a useful concept for understanding some moral warriors

Simon Kongshøj wrote,
I recently learned about a concept from the psychology of religion: Scrupulosity. This isn't the same as being scrupulous (which is a good thing), but means a pathological concern with own sins and sinfulness, which drives the sufferer to compulsively engage in religious ritual in self-harming or self-denying ways: Going to confession daily, "confessing" minor unwelcome stray thoughts, excessive fasting, self-flagellation, etc. In the Catholic world, scrupulosity has been studied since at least the 1600s, where priests would write about how they desperately attempted to calm down some of their churchgoers who had become unable to function socially and unable to maintain normal daily lives. Today, it's considered a form of OCD.

But the Catholic church in the 1600s was a major social institution, and the priest *had* to be concerned about whether some of his churchgoers became so dysfunctional they couldn't contribute to society anymore. In a cult, where isolation from the surrounding society can be considered a value, leaders are probably more likely to try to *strengthen* these impulses in sick members. And the more miserable their lives become, the more demands for self-sacrifice the leaders can make.

I think certain strands of modern progressive politics can form a very fertile substrate for a kind of secular scrupulosity. And in activist communities that pride themselves on being a counterculture in opposition to the surrounding society, much as I think such a counterculture is *good* and *necessary*, I think the cult-like expression of it is likely to flourish, except that the pressure of a cult leader might be replaced with peer pressure from the community.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What's wrong with the people who get called Social Justice Warriors?

On Facebook, Elizabeth Bruenig commented,
last night i said i think abortion's a sin but shouldn't be criminal and that i would try to reduce it with welfare, not the penal-carceral state. the result: "she's disgusting trash" "you're a prominent leftist and you CANNOT be anti-choice" (i'm a 26 y/o office worker) "you're not a leftist hero" ( worker)

what is the matter w these people
I answered,
I have figured out part of what's wrong with these people: their intellectual roots begin with Critical Race Theory and intersectional feminism, whose theorists believed "hate speech" should be banned. The underlying assumption of banning speech is that deviance must not be allowed. (Henry Louis Gates wrote a good response to that in the early '90s.)

None of the original CRT/intersectional crowd were socialists. They came from a Christian tradition, as their love of the Catholic concept of "social justice" indicates. But they've divorced their social justice from Christianity, so what's left is sanctimony without substance, a demand for conformity to a list rather than a principle.

Access to abortion is on the list. Logically, you should be able to oppose abortion for moral reasons and support legal access to it for moral reasons as well, but that calls for nuance and a willingness to have laws that are more tolerant than you are. But people who pride themselves on the purity of their beliefs never do nuance or tolerance.
ETA: "Let Them Talk" by Henry Louis Gates 

Presidential Lectures: Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

LATER: Just to be clear, the people who use "social justice" today are not necessarily Christians. The concept spread from Catholicism to other religious groups, and now there are atheists who accept it, and even use its Christian metaphors such as calling slavery America's original sin.