by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
For years now, pollsters and demographers have been chronicling the decline of religion in America. And it’s not just religious affiliation that’s declining. Along with lower rates of church attendance, religious weddings and religious activities in the household are also waning. By every measure, America is becoming a less religious country, with huge implications for our political and cultural life.
But the story of the decline of religion in America is incomplete. What has gone less noticed, and less studied, is the rise of ersatz religions in America—secular substitutes for traditional forms of faith. The fastest-growing of these pseudo-religions occupy either end of the political spectrum, and are themselves explicitly political. They are also dangerous cults with almost no redeeming qualities, and if left unchecked will inspire their adherents to commit violence. In some cases, they already have.
On the right, there’s the big-tent conspiracy theorists of QAnon, a kind of gnostic quasi-religion centered on the struggle between Trump and a shadowy “deep state” comprised of wealthy global elites, celebrities, and politicians. …
… On the left, there’s the entire institutional edifice of critical social justice theory, or what we’ll call the Cult of Woke, the most visible manifestation of which is perhaps the Black Lives Matter agenda, whose most fervent adherents come predominantly from academia, Hollywood, and corporate America. Here we should distinguish between the BLM movement broadly, which consists of a lot of suburban educated people who vaguely sympathize with antiracism, and the BLM organization and agenda, which is explicitly Marxist. …
… Both of these forms of pseudo-religion offer ironclad answers to questions about what’s wrong with the world and what to do about it. But unlike established religions, they have obvious and sometimes menacing political undertones, and their effects on civic life are not salutary.