Is politics filling the void in religion?

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This Atlantic Author Helen Lewis, now an atheist, grew up in the Catholic Church. She was once asked if her feminist beliefs as an adult played a similar role to her Catholic youth. The question is particularly interesting to her because “the decline of organized religion is one of the most important trends in postwar history,” she says in a new BBC Radio documentary, social justice church. I talked to Helen about the documentary and her company Atlantic article.

But first, here are three new stories atlantic organization.

good and evil

Isabelle Fattar: You write that some young liberals in the US and UK have “substituted one religion for another.” Can you help me explain that argument?

Helen Lewis: If you take the time to follow social justice movements online, you start to see very high-profile language, often with a shadow of fire and brimstone—the idea that people are evil, go to hell, and need repentance and atonement. This is strange because all the data we have shows that organized religion is in decline in both the UK and the US. Church attendance is falling.

But I don’t think that sentiment is necessarily going away. It’s interesting to me to consider the debate about politics competing to fill the good and bad sides of religion.

Isabelle: What do you think is the danger of politics filling the religious void?

Helen: In the 20th century, political divisions were primarily economic. We have class politics, at least in Britain. This is no longer the best way to think about these differences. They are best viewed as differences of age, education, and identity. values Divide. So you can move from politics based on your economic status to politics based on your cultural status. This brings about a different type of politics, one that is more concerned with questions of good and evil. American and European politics have gotten more exciting over the past few decades, but the exciting ones aren’t the politics you’ve always wanted.

Isabelle: The point of your work and documentaries is how the left plays out. You mention that, of course, rights are not immune to strongly held beliefs, many of which are not justified in fact. Why are you focusing on the left and how is it different from what you see happening on the right?

Helen: More so in the UK than in the US, where the left is less overtly religious. New Atheism and those traditions of the 2000s are left-wing movements. There’s an idea that being left means you’re skeptical and rational – driven by reason, not these old superstitions. So what initially interested me was that people who call themselves rationalists still behave in these very belief-based ways. On the right, there is a more obvious synthesis: the public display of religion into which politics is integrated. It’s not a substitute, it’s a supplement. Something like QAnon is a good example.

Isabelle: One difference you make, especially in documentaries, is that it’s not religion This should be compared to some social justice movements in general, but religion Fundamentalism. As you can see, what is the difference between the two?

Helen: Rabbi Laura Jenner-Klausner [of the Bromley Reform Synagogue in South London] It illustrates this well, you can be a fundamentalist for all sorts of things. You can be a fundamentalist vegetarian, a fundamentalist about Peloton.It’s a state of mind that says I’ve got all the answers.I believe it is true, there is no room for discussion at all. I’ve looked around online and I do see this mentality in a lot of places. What gets criticized here is the inflexible and inflexible nature of thinking that you have all the answers.

Isabelle: You also talked about whether and how social justice movements adopt some of the “good points” of religion. What would that look like?

Helen: As someone who grew up in the Catholic Church, I do see the way it ensures people are cared for. There is a bond between people, a sense of community, and shared values.

Isabelle: What’s the best criticism of this argument you’ve heard since the article was published?

Helen: This article has had a great response, both positive and negative.Jamel Booy This New York Times Say I know nothing about religion and this will be sad news for my father, the Rev. Mr. Lewis.He also argued: “To say that certain social phenomena in the United States have [American] The evangelical aspect of it just says it’s American. That’s an interesting point: it’s a phenomenon I’ve observed in the UK as well, but we do tend to import our culture wars from the US. Booy also said I’m just describing an ‘ideology’, but I’m not sure Does this capture what I’m trying to say, that this type of politics involves the idea of ​​morality, the idea of ​​the saved and the unsaved – and, in a positive way, it provides moments of transcendence and “selflessness”.

One of the most common negative responses is to assume that I’m being derogatory when comparing social justice politics and religion. But religion is a force for good in many people’s lives, including those of my parents who I interviewed in the BBC documentary.

Isabelle: In your opinion, where did the social justice movement come from?

Helen: I think if we want people to actually admit their mistakes, then you have to offer the possibility of redemption. Otherwise, all incentives point to denial and reckless continuation. I think our current social justice movement is a series of sins, but we don’t yet know what the mechanics of confession, repentance, and forgiveness are.


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late reading
(Getty; Atlantic)

help that never came

by Anya Kamenez

At the start of lockdown in 2020, we had a 3-year-old who needed near-constant supervision. My third graders, in public schools, usually have about an hour a day of unchallenging distance classes. We are grateful to the tenant downstairs, who lives alone and is a freelancer, agreeing to share a bubble with us and provide 20 hours of childcare per week in exchange for a break from rent.

My husband has a challenging job and earns more money than I do. He strives to be equal. We distribute the direct time in daily nursery as evenly as possible. But there is a subtle imbalance in our relationship that is prevalent in many heterosexual couples.

Read the full article.

more from atlantic organization

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actress Janet McCurdy
Jennette McCurdy (Getty; The Atlantic)

read. zama, by Antonio di Benedetto, is a novel with a distinctly comedic twist with a heartbreaking ending. Or try another pick from our list of books that will lead you down a rabbit hole.

Don’t judge Jennette McCurdy’s memoir, I’m glad my mom diedby its title.

watch. heritagethe Lakers’ documentary on Hulu is appealing even if you’re not a basketball fan.

And 10 must-see indie movies this summer are waiting for you.

listen. Helen’s BBC Radio Documentary, social justice church— in which she interviewed religious leaders, activists and her own parents — was a fascinating companion to our conversation above.

Play our daily crossword puzzle.


I asked Helen what she was reading, and you should too. Her pick: “I just finished CJ Sansom’s historical novel set in the Tudors of England, revelation, which is about a serial killer obsessed with the apocalypse.if this sentence tudor serial killer It’s fun for you, then you’ll love revelation. “

— Isabelle


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