Across the world, from India and Turkey, to Hungary and the US, a tide of religious zealotry is on the rise. Britain – ignoring the hardline anti-abortion views of Jacob Rees-Mogg – seems one of the few places to have escaped the trend: the British Social Attitudes survey shows that for the first time non-believers are in a majority (53%). But don’t let’s be complacent about the encroachment of religion into the public sphere. It’s occurring here too, and our leaders are doing nothing to resist it. The Left has “abandoned Enlightenment principles for the fractured discourse of identity politics”, and indulges “those who cry racism at every challenge to religious rule”. It stays silent about Sharia courts that discriminate against women. Its leaders “sit in gender-segregated meetings with male elders that can deliver a block Muslim vote”. The Tories are no better: they have let faith schools proliferate to please their Catholic and Anglican base. Theresa May wants to overturn even the modest requirement that selection by religion be capped at 50%. We must stand up for our secular values. That we will hold together can never be taken for granted. (Janice Turner, The Times, London).
Human beings seem to be forever tribal, feeling secure in the knowledge that others like them attend the same religious services, vote the same way, hold similar views on race or gay marriage, have attended the same schools or live in the North as opposed to the South etc etc. The outward signals of tribalism are many and various, but some people like the comfort of not being alone in their views. We are herd animals.
The increase in religiosity can be attributed to huge, growing and faceless populations you have no apparent connection with, the lack of proper jobs and liveable accommodation, a breakdown of “normal” society and neighborliness, the cost and/or scarcity of food and increasing climate insecurity. Faced with all this people rely even more on the “certainties” of religion and tribalism. In contrast, Epicurus valued every human being, slave or free, local or foreign, black or white, Greek-speaking or otherwise.
My personal tribe is the Introvert tribe, which finds hordes of other people draining. Extroverts don’t understand us at all, but since we don’t form rowdy crowds or vote en bloc we are no threat to the political staus quo. If I sound tongue-in-cheek please forgive me – the plight of religious and ethnic minorities is no laughing matter, but I grew up encouraged to think for myself about everything and listen critically to preachers, politicians, writers and TV personalities etc. with a big dose of scepticism and a desire to understand their motivations and their hidden agendas, and where the money is coming from. To some people this is something an education imparts, which is why thinking for yourself is severely discouraged in so many parts of the world.