The Religion of CT/CRT/Woke
I hope everyone had a glorious Christmas and wonderful, safe, and joyous New Year festivities. With the celebration of Epiphany and the end of Christmastide, we return to our discussion of Critical Theory/Critical Race Theory/Wokism.
Having had time to mull over this series during Christmastide, I’ve decided to forego the dissection of Christopher Rufo’s helpful article on CT and wrap up this series with a brief incursion into the religious elements of CT. Yes, you read that correctly.
Before delving into that directly, allow me to succinctly set the stage (at this point you might want to quickly review the past article on the source of CT). Early on, you might recall, that I mentioned that the twin German giants of modern philosophy, Kant and Hegel, were in their own specific ways, attempting to “save” religion from severe skepticism. With the ascendency of David Hume’s radical skepticism, Kant turned our concepts of knowledge on their respective heads so-to-speak.
Once again, for those who have some (or a lot) of philosophic training, this is a very superficial presentation for the sole purpose of demonstrating connections. If interested, I’d be more than happy to privately discuss the intricacies of both men’s philosophies privately; German Idealism, and hence, Kant and Hegel (also Fichte) were my concentrations in graduate school.
Back to Immanuel Kant. Prior to Kant, the manner in which we asserted we “knew” anything to be so, was, we’d identify our idea and compare that with the “real” world. For example, I’m sitting in my office and if I look over the top of my monitor I can see, outside my window, a tree. I have "a thought" of that tree. Therefore, to determine if I am correct in identifying that as a tree, I would compare my thought with the external world, the tree, and if my thought “corresponded” (a technical term in philosophy) with the external world, the tree, then my idea was correct.
Kant turned that upside down. Due to Hume’s radical empiricism which leads to skepticism, Kant immediately identified a problem. For Hume and the empiricists, all “knowledge” (whatever that is) is derived from our senses and received via “sense-data;” another technical philosophic term. Hume would argue that all we receive are “sensory impressions” of physical objects, NOT the object itself. So, when I look at the “tree” outside my window I’m not “actually” seeing a “tree” I’m merely receiving some type of sensory impression, data, of something (again, this is a very simple explanation).
Kant, by his own admission, was awakened “out of his dogmatic slumbers” of rationalism and realized, Hume had a point and this created a problem in how we determine what we know. For, if all we “know” is what we receive via sensory impressions of an object, how can anyone know anything about God? No one in the modern era has seen a sensory impression of God. How then can we know God exists?
Kant's solution was worse than the problem. Kant said, rather than our ideas corresponding to the external world, what transpires is, our “mind” receives sense data (per Hume), but unlike Hume and the sense impressions acting like an imprint on our mind, Kant said, as our mind “receives” this sense data, it then organizes and structures the data and imposes what it creates upon the external world (you all have either said or heard this expressed as "I create my own reality;" or, "I create my own truth"). Therefore, for Kant, knowledge of God isn’t a matter of empirical or rational inquiry but, a matter of practical inquiry. He differentiated the two by calling the former Pure Reason and the latter Practical Reason. We postulate God because He is a practical benefit in the areas of freedom and morality.
Hegel took this and squeezed it even further. For Hegel, rather than being a practical theoretical postulate, God is a part of the ever-progressing “Absolute Spirit.” That spirit isn’t what we consider “God,” it is more of the inherent, drive of “universal” consciousness that leads all of human history to a discovery of that consciousness within – i.e., self-consciousness. So, for Kant, "God" (whatever that is or, even "IF" it is), is something out there, utterly transcendent, in the conceptual ether but for Hegel, "God" (whatever that...well, you get the point), is something utterly and completely immanent.
What eventually results from this is, with Kant we are left with a form, ultimately, of theistic agnosticism and with Hegel a bizarre pantheism or panentheism (there are those who would contest this, Laurer, Durkheim, and others, but what I’ve presented is the standard interpretation of Hegel’s eventual position on religion).
How does this impact our discussion? Well, if you follow the flow of thought, if Kant and Hegel were attempting to “save” religion, and Marx appropriates Hegel’s Master/Slave Dialectic in his own Dialectical Materialism, then Marx, in some manner, is transposing (Nietzsche would call it “Transvaluation”) Hegel’s “religious” substrata into his concept of dialectically opposing forces – capitalism v. communism - we have the setting for the foundation for CT and the religious undertones exhibited therein.
It is important to remember what we’ve said about “what” CT was criticizing – rational, objective concepts as exemplified in the Enlightenment. But these concepts, rationality, objective analysis, logic, are ingrained in, not only the Enlightenment project but all of Western thought as it is influenced by it. That would also include Christianity as it was - for better or worse – very much informed by Enlightenment thinking. American Christianity in particular absorbed this through the Scottish influence.
CT then comes into headlong conflict with the heart of American culture as American culture was imbued with Christianity via the Scottish Enlightenment. Read Alexis de Tocqueville or Max Weber (German, Faber), and you will see how these two European observers and thinkers, attribute Christianity in general (de Tocqueville) and Protestantism in particular (Weber), as the heart of what it is that makes American such a distinctive and “successful” culture.
Thus, when we see CT arrive on the scene, what we are seeing, isn’t exclusively an attack on Enlightenment rationalism, but on everything associated with the Enlightenment – rationalism, logic, objective truth, Christianity! The challenge manifests itself when we see how, over the last 100 years, the pervasive influence of Christianity in American thought and culture, eroded to the point of creating a moral/spiritual vacuum. De Tocqueville and Weber’s assessment of the U.S., that it is a “Christian” nation at its core, is now no longer the case. Yet, as we know, nature abhors a vacuum and in this case, it’s a spiritual vacuum.
The spread of religious ideas in the 17th century exploded with the creation of the printing press 200 years earlier. The spread of CT exploded with the introduction of the Internet as the vehicle to disseminate its core values. To mention Derek Bell, Kimberle Crenshaw, Kendall Thomas, and Patricia Williams (the final three being professors at Columbia University) would tell you very little. However, their ideas are all over the internet via the LGBTQ, Queer Nation, Act Up, Me Too Movement, BLM, etc. What is fascinating is, while they advance a platform of “equality,” it is propagated via anarchy and the utter insanity of any anarchical position is demonstrated in neon lights via the internet.
In looking at CT what does one see (thanks to British Historian, Niall Ferguson for his succinct presentation)? You must be “saved” from your horrendous “white privileged” conceptions, but saved nonetheless. Are you one of the elect? Are you “in” the community? Do you exhibit the “fruits” of being Woke? If not, you’re persecuted as advancing heresy and identified as a heretic and must be punished (in some cases, violently). You must be able to express yourself using the correct formulas and rituals of language and speech; but, these “speech patterns” are only preserved by “believers!”
This is usually what we call “religious” behavior; at the very least, it’s cultish. And it has been pointed out on numerous occasions that the following is the case:
Communism Marx was a “prophet”
Socialism is a religion
Nazism Hitler was called “the
savior of the German Nation.”
I’m going to conclude by including a chart that I saw online presented, I believe by, “Teach 4 the Heart.” It sets the two world views, Christianity and CT, side by side. When you deal with CT/CRT/Wokeism, you must remember, this is not merely a social or political disagreement; this is a battle for your soul.