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Thu Aug 2, 2012, 01:08 AM

Is leftism more apt to thrive in non-traditional religions as opposed to traditional ones?

In this forum and elsewhere I've seen several posts, articles, etc, discussing the death of liberalism, leftism, etc in Christianity. That got me thinking, is leftism more suited to newer religious movements than older ones simply because of the culture it came about in? My main example for this will be Wicca. So please bear with me as I explain with me because this thread may seem like it is simply an informative thread about Wicca, but I'm not trying to make it that way.

In her book Drawing Down the Moon sociologist Margot Adler mentions talks in some length about the leftist political undercurrent in Wicca. She mentions how one group of people she talked to in England were proud socialists. She mentions the strong feminist current in the movement and the opposition to patriarchy.

She also discusses the strong anti-authoritarian element that is found in Wicca. In Wicca everyone member of a coven is made a priest or priestess after a year and a day, and you can become a high priest/priestess after a 3 years. I mention this because I think this idea of distributing authority among all members as opposed to giving all spiritual authority to a single pastor is an important distinction and ties into the leftist undercurrent. I know Protestantism has the doctrine of "Priesthood of all Believers" but in practice it doesn't seem to work that way. I went to a Baptist school and the pastors seemed to hold all the spiritual authority and wisdom.

Finally there is a traditionally called Reclaiming that is anarchist in its outlook. I'll link the Starhawk's (Reclaiming's founder) 5 Points which outlines the group's political views at the end of this if anyone is interested.

Like I said I'm using Wicca as an example of a modern religion that has some strong leftist undercurrents. I'm actually hoping we can use this thread to discuss leftism in non-traditional religions more generally, Wicca is simply the best example I can think of. So overall do you all think that leftism, liberalism, etc. is more prone to survive and thrive in non-traditional religious movements as opposed to traditional ones? And if so, why? Does it simply have to do with the culture in which these new religions are being formed? Maybe the reason liberal Christianity has failed is because it must combat the conservatives in its ranks whereas these new religions don't?

Perhaps, I'm wrong though, I'd love to see some liberation theologians kick the right-wingers out of the pulpits in Christian churches.

If anyone is interested here are the 5 Points I mentioned, they touch on issues such as economics, environmental issues, social issues, etc. It is probably only a little longer than this post, not very long at all.


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Reply Is leftism more apt to thrive in non-traditional religions as opposed to traditional ones? (Original post)
white_wolf Aug 2012 OP
TreasonousBastard Aug 2012 #1
trotsky Aug 2012 #2
dmallind Aug 2012 #3
white_wolf Aug 2012 #4
dmallind Aug 2012 #5

Response to white_wolf (Original post)

Thu Aug 2, 2012, 01:49 AM

1. What I've noticed...

primarily among Christian denominations, is that most of the liberal ones are in steep decline, while the fundies are growing. It appears so among Jews, too, with attendance at reform synagogues declining while ultra-orthodox is growing.

I haven't heard a good explanation for this trend, but some of it involves "liberals" finding other resources for whatever the church used to provide, and the old theology isn't going to hold them. Another thing is the human need to be given direction and told what to do and what to believe. Many of us deny this need, but we all have it to some extent, and it's central to a working society. Those who have it the most would gravitate to a fundie church, temple, or mosque while the rest of us are more freethinking and just do without.

Another element is that the fundies are just better at selling their product. While I'm not sure I want Buddhists knocking on my door any more than Jehovah's Witnesses, I gotta say that the fundie churches have marketing covered. Nobody knows what the liberal Lutherans are up to, or even knows that there are lots of leftwing Baptists, but we all know what the Pentecostals are up to, and they make it easy for the curious to check them out.

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Response to TreasonousBastard (Reply #1)

Thu Aug 2, 2012, 06:09 AM

2. An explanation can also be found by looking at the talk radio market.

Completely dominated by right wing nuts. Sure, there's some liberal programs here and there, a few hosts, but nowhere near the empire of right wing radio.

What's the connection here? The conservative mindset is a submissive one. Submit to authority. Do what you're told. Don't question authority. Do something because an authority told you it's the right thing to do. You don't need to think about it, here's what is right. Works for talk radio, works for religion.

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Response to white_wolf (Original post)

Thu Aug 2, 2012, 09:56 AM

3. I think we are looking at two results of the same cause

Certainly the two are correlated - any survey on religious and political beliefs always shows far more Dem support among those with either an unusual or no religion, and Christianity makes one about 12% more likely to be a Republican. Note that it really isn't more serious than that. There's a definite link, but it's not as if Christian = Republican one for one.

It's tempting to put it all down to "good" traits for Dems and bad for Reps but it's not quite that clean IMO. Independent thinking, open mindedness, education, etc all make people move from the religion of their parents into nontraditional ones, but so do gullibility, lack of critical thinking, aimless desire to be "different", etc. The countercultural inclination is certainly a factor of course. Authoritarian attitudes play a part in normal religiosity as mentioned above for sure, as does conformity and small c apolitical conservatism.

So to me it's a single cause, namely personality - but with multiple factors. A personality type that is attracted to Wicca et al will almost always be attracted to leftist thinking. A personality type that is attacted to traditional religion will usually, but far less so, be attracted to RW thinking. Because however many more factors keep you in a traditional faith than move you to an outre one, including extrinsic factors such as inertia and peer pressure, the correlation is much weaker in the latter case.

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Response to dmallind (Reply #3)

Thu Aug 2, 2012, 08:12 PM

4. Thanks for the post.

It was very informative and the stats about Christianity and conservatism were interesting. Thanks.

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