one problem with this comparison with the Salem Witch Trials and the assumption that the Elect condemn those who don't align with their religions as a "witch" is that many of the woke Left embrace a witch identity as part of their countercultural fuck you to the cis white hetero patriarchy. i am acquainted with many who adopt this witchy attitude and identity and a proud to claim they are casting spells and putting a hex on the patriarchy. The reclaim witches as a wrongly accused powerful feminist identity, and so would not use this word to malign their enemies.

Expand full comment

Are you familiar with Peter Rollins? A Marxist (a)theologian who is still able to identify certain forms of progressivism (i.e. wokeness) as religious in nature. What a conversation you might have!

Expand full comment

Hi John, I am hopeful this reaches you as I know it's a bit late, but I sometimes I can't read as quickly as I would like.

First, I think you might want to re-think this:

"...people being drawn into Election."

I'm not sure what a better term is, but I found 'Election' confusing and probably would have preferred 'Electhood' or "...drawn into the Elect." If the precedent is 'Election' then 'nuff said.

Secondly, you discuss people in terms of 'in' and 'out'. I don't have a sense if you're familiar with Scott Alexander and his blog Slate Star Codex, but one of his most important pieces, one I suggest you read immediately if you haven't is called: "I Can Tolerate Anything except the Out Group" https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/30/i-can-tolerate-anything-except-the-outgroup/

It's a fantastic look group dynamics and sets the scene for the Rationalist discourse on in-group, out-group and far-group. I think his essay would dovetail directly with your ideas.

Expand full comment

I am very sympathetic to this argument, and it's something I've been pondering myself during the last couple of years. I suppose it boils down to whether Wokery is LIKE a new religion, or whether it IS a new religion. For those who insist that a religion must include supernatural entities, I would respond that after the death of God, new religions in the West are likely to be godless. As a friendly but skeptical reader, I would like to suggest that Dr. McWhorter run this by a few distinguished scholars of religion and incorporate their comments in the final draft of this chapter. Best wishes on this project.

Expand full comment

Thank you, Mr. McWhorter, for your incisive analysis of this new religion, aka "The Great Awokening". I look forward to your next series of installments.

I wonder - if Ibrahim X. Kendi is the new baby Jesus, and Ta-Nehisi Coates and Robin DeAngelo the High Priests of this new secular religion/cult...how long before you are called the Anti-Christ? Like Nietzsche in Twilight of the Idols, I appreciate you taking the hammer of the light of day to smash these neo-idols. I will dutifully sweep up the shattered clay feet you leave behind, and gladly toss them into the dustbin of history.

Expand full comment

Basically, the whole point of the elect and their religion is for them to compete with one another for the Tiara of Wokeism. And for a lot of them, it's the Tiara for Wokest White Person in the Room. They're just jockeying for position with each other; whether their "solutions" actually result in better outcomes for Black Americans means nothing to them. As far as white wokeists are concerned, the point of the civil rights movement was for nice white people to show off how very nice they were, and not for Black people to gain access to the rights and opportunities that they had been unfairly kept from.

Basically, this is what happens when trust fund kids take over left-wing movements.

And don't get me started on reparations. You must be familiar with the concept "A fine is a price." If not, please, please google it -- you'll read about a study that was done whereby unwanted behavior was punished with a fine, and what happened was that the behavior increased. Once a fine was put on it, it was seen as an opportunity to buy the right to engage in the bad behavior guilt-free.

Reparations will work out the same way. It's a noble idea, but it will go pear-shaped badly. Well-off people (who have the most power to dismantle systemic racism) will pay the fine without pain and figure they've done their part and never think about it again, and poorer people will be pained by payment, and will then feel anger in response to it -- an anger which in their eyes they will have paid for the right to feel.

Since taking over liberalism and the left, trust-funders have made a habit of proposing "solutions" that make things worse, mostly because they stand to lose nothing from them and gain lots of good vibes from appearing woker than the other people at the country club. Again, to them, the point of civil rights movements is for them to look better than everyone else, not for the problems plaguing minorities to actually get solved.

Reparations is yet one more non-solution that will make things much worse, but the trust-funders will go back to their all-white gated neighborhoods and never have to live next door to the consequences of their failure. That's what's up with the white wokeists.

And I think that a lot of Black wokeists are being fooled by them. They are thinking, understandably, that they finally have powerful white people on their side and should run with it. But when trust-funders gravitate over to the side of historically underprivileged people, those people need to run as far away as their feet can carry them. When graduates of Evergreen and Princeton grab the wheel of your movement out of your hands, you will head over a cliff very shortly.

Expand full comment

Sorry, if this was covered, but there were a few typos in this sentence, I think:

"But it would *be* hard to say that Coates’ case outstripped Robinson’s (or many others) in any suasional way..."

(I assumed 'suasional' was a word I hadn't heard before, but couldn't find it defined anywhere and think maybe it was meant to be 'persuasive')

Expand full comment

As a Christian, I dislike the idea of Christianity being a matter of beliefs. To me that is the result of several wrong turns. First of all, from Paul, and second from Martin Luther. I guess though, that the facts are what the facts are, most churches are gonna talk about faith and tell their stories - about virgin births, and mangers and walking on water and rising from the dead, etc., etc.

Against this I might quote Micah 6:8, James 1:27, or Matthew 25:31-46. To me, a good sermon is not one that tells one of the old, old stories, but one which makes the stories relevant to the way I live and challenges me to live better.

At this point, I am not sure that reparations are NOT going to be paid - somehow. I feel pretty sure that no matter how much is paid, it will never be considered to be enough. (I think of Fogarty singing "ooh, they only answer more, more, more") Other have mentioned payments to Indians which they feel are also owed, apparently unaware of the Claims Commission act which from 1946 to 1978 evaluated claims and paid $818 million dollars (or $2.5 billion in 2015 dollars) to various Indian tribes.

And still the general public perception is that we whites still owe more. (and we actually have given more, much more - 40 million acres and a billion dollars award to Inuits in 1971, millions of acres and millions of dollars to Indians under Collier in the 1940s, $122 million to the Sioux in 1980, and so on).

Some of this feels like a Thomas Kuhn paradigm shift. Peggy McIntosh formulated her sociological theory of Relativity (privilege) and it has spread like a virus, partly by being taught to younger and younger people. It seems to me that it appeals to a wide variety of people because of self interest. The status of being a "victim" is a powerful thing, and everybody gets it - except the cis, straight, white male (who is the Satan in this paradigm). Everybody else gets to be part of the team. Not only has it seemingly become conventional wisdom, but it often has the power to destroy those who dispute it.

Expand full comment

You are a master of language. Keep speaking

Expand full comment

Thank you again, sir. Brilliant and perfectly stated. The fact that Andrew Sullivan was cast out while working in a mostly virtual space was something that had not previously occurred to me. By the way: perhaps you will write something about how necessary the mainstream media has been to make this religion so ubiquitous. I am a lifelong Democrat, but the double standards I have seen them use on these issues have been flagrant and egregious. I am not a fan of racializing things, but it's all the media has done for at least the past year, and I could not help but notice that a disproportionate number of the videos I have seen of Asians being physically assaulted involve black or non-white attackers. And now, all of a sudden NBC News is warning everyone to be careful what to label a "hate crime" and distinguishing between actual acts of violence and non-violent hate crimes. Were they ever so cautious or nuanced before? https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/violence-against-asian-americans-why-hate-crime-should-be-used-n1258793

Expand full comment

I read dozens of articles every day, and yours is the first substack account I have subscribed to. I was inspired by your preview of The Elect. Thank you for your work.

I have a question. Wouldn’t climate change warriors also be practitioners of a new religion? For instance, it doesn’t matter if electric cars ultimately have a lower carbon footprint or not, we must all drive them. Something else is animating these people. I’m just not sure what it is.

And if so, why do these two religions get along? If they have alternative views on the one-and-only true priority, one would think they would hate each other?

I hypothesize that it is because neither the antiracist movement nor the climate change movement are really about racism or climate change at all. They are both just covers for tired Marxist ideology. It is just that the ideology has been so thoroughly discredited by history that they can’t generate any public support when openly espousing their ideas, so they coopt ideas that many well-meaning people will agree with without paying much attention: against racism, for the environment. Who would disagree with those?

I accept the notion that I may be a hammer for which every issue is a nail. I am concerned primarily with how we as a society organize ourselves to provide the greatest prosperity to the greatest number of people, and I see smartly regulated free market capitalism as the system that has proven to be the most successful model. I was therefore intrigued by your somewhat different explanation for the current antiracist environment. However, in Kendi’s book he does say racism is capitalism, capitalism is racism. So I think I have some support for my hypothesis.


Expand full comment

Knowledge is something you can use. Belief is something that uses you. Idries Shah

Expand full comment

Praying for rain, notions that the gods influenced everything, these are in part examples of an external Locus of Control. Woke True Believers I know personally have had rough childhoods. Robin Diangelo has such in her past, likewise that woman who wrote in the New York Times about being afraid of all men including her sons. To what extent to wokism spread through such vulnerable people?

This Atlantic article about cults is suggestive. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/06/the-seven-signs-youre-in-a-cult/361400/

Expand full comment

I always learn from JM’s writings. I do believe he is constrained by the pure comparison with Christianity and this potentially limits the power of his message. I am not saying there are not interesting parallels, nor am I here to defend Christianity in this response, but to point out some flaws in his analogy. In Christianity sins are forgiven. And not by another group of men, but by Christ/God. I think that is simple enough—no need to write a book on it. Again, I am pointing out a difference. Who forgives “whites”? As far as I can tell, no one. Let’s say we all agree with the most extreme form of this anti racism. Where is the exit? It appears there is no way out. Whites need to accept it—-but it’s just another self appointed group of people who now determine what comes next. What does come next? How is one forgiven. Then what?

Christianity’s sins can best be summarized as original sin (forgiven by God thru baptism) and post baptism sin—-like the 10 commandments. I am sure there are and were hypocrisies in how this played out in history, and that “it is really men doing the forgiving not God” but that misses the point. Its message is still God who forgives, not other Christians—-although all humans are allowed to forgive.

Anyway—enough on that. I say get rid of the religious analogy—although JM’’s point that it functions as a non rational faith system is still a good one——and it is like religion in some way—clearly——but the worst part is it’s people versus people, and from what I can tell, no way out. JM seems to believe this too. I think he can stretch the thesis in more flexible ways without attaching it to tightly a Christianity analogy.

Expand full comment

The Elect should take their demands for reparations to the Democratic Party. One thing that is remarkable about this political unfolding is that The Elect has been entirely embraced by the Democratic Party. The "shameful history we still have failed to confront or understand" applies wonderfully to the Democratic Party. Quite literally on their official website the Democratic Party claims in their history:

"For more than 200 years, our party has led the fight for civil rights, health care, Social Security, workers’ rights, and women’s rights. We are the party of Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy, FDR, and the countless everyday Americans who work each day to build a more perfect union. Take a look at some of our accomplishments, and you’ll see why we’re proud to be Democrats."

Is there any bigger lie expressed in America than the notion that the Democratic Party, the Confederacy, which fought to keep slavery, has led the fight for civil rights for 200 years? And this is the party that The Elect has chosen to carry their message of antiracism? 200 years ago, Democratic leaders were whipping slaves.

It baffles me how any American can read such a passage and not be revolted -- especially so called antiracists that are obsessed with the legacy of slavery. The legacy of slavery is the Democratic Party's legacy. When will the Democratic Party "Come to Terms" with its own history? How long will Americans, particularly Democratic leaning voters, continue to tolerate such a wretched lie? Black people have been pawns of the Democratic Party for 80 years, since Roosevelt first offered political patronage for votes. The Party is in a precarious position, but people don't seem to see it. Black people are given lip service for having won the election for Biden this past election; why don't the black people who are demanding the random Indian immigrants pay them reparations not stand up to the Democratic Party and demand reparations from the organization that originally seized the reparations their ancestors received after the civil war? Who will resist such a overthrow of White Supremacy in the Democratic Party? The Elect -- who genuflect with pious hearts about how much the history of racism has harmed black people? Why doesn't the Democratic Party actually live up to the doctrine it is embracing? Why don't Democrats demand it?

Do Democrats simply wish to see the State use its power to steal from innocent citizens who had no responsibility for the history of slavery and racism that is so repulsive to them? Why not demand that the Democratic Party--with all its inheritance from the days of slavery, with all its capitalist billionaires donating to its coffers--actually provide the reparations that they dangle in front of black people like a carrot? How about 20% of all income to the DNC be given over to a reparations fund for the Democratic Party Legacy of Slavery that can be given to descendants of black slaves? Democrats are concerned about the health care of black people? PAY FOR THEIR HEALTH CARE. Why wait until the government can use its power to involuntarily take the wealth from other people when there are millions of Elect who claim to care about black people?

I'm sure the White Supremacists that lead the Democratic Party would just love to see the guilt of their history be paid for by minority immigrants. But is that what the base wants? When will the base see that the biggest symbol today of White Supremacy is not the Confederate Flag wielded by Florida man storming the capitol, but the Democratic Party, which carried that flag in 1863, and has never taken responsibility for its horrific past up until the 1960s, but now wishes to lay its crimes at the feet of America, which defeated the Democratic Party and the slavery it cherished in 1865?

Read it again:

"For more than 200 years, our party has led the fight for civil rights, health care, Social Security, workers’ rights, and women’s rights. We are the party of Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy, FDR, and the countless everyday Americans who work each day to build a more perfect union. Take a look at some of our accomplishments, and you’ll see why we’re proud to be Democrats."

They have been trying to cover up their history for 60 years; most Democrats still think that somehow because some Republicans were racist in the 70s that the parties "flipped" and all of the history of the Democratic Party was magically passed onto the Republican Party (except Roosevelt somehow) despite no significant change in the composition of congress at the time. Democrats have to do the work and accept history, not as they would like it to be, but as it is. They are the party of Barack Obama *AND* Jefferson Davis, and it is about time they Come to Terms with it. They have a debt to pay if they want redemption, and stealing from others to pay that debt will not count.

I wonder what the Elect will think about that plan for reparations. My hypothesis is that they will have greater loyalty to protecting the wealth of the Party of Slavery since they see it as their ladder to power rather than fighting to have the Party of Slavery repent for its sin.

Before blowing me off as some Trumpian - recognize I campaigned for Obama in 2008 in Cincinnati. I walked around and knocked on doors for 3 months. Unfortunately, most Democrats and "liberals" I have spoken to about this do not have the courage or integrity to acknowledge "the shameful history we still have failed to confront or understand."

The greatest symbol of White Supremacy today is The Democratic Party, the party of the Elect, the Party of Slavery. Until they repent for it, they will always be the Party of Slavery.

Expand full comment

John just steps in the dung pile deeper and deeper with every post.

His notion that not all racism is bad and that in fact some racism is okay/understandable/laudible.

His assertion that Electism is religious in nature as opposed to Marxist and Fascist. He uses "Abrahamic" religion as a cover for his obvious detestation of Christianity so as to spread the hurt on Jews and Muslims.

I can't wait for his next bout of mental gymnastics.

All of this seems to me to reflect the narrow, sheltered, privileged life he has led to date in the bosom of the citified, gentrified certified coastal elite society.

Expand full comment