Moral outrage at ‘sinners’ in the age of woke

Moral outrage at ‘sinners’ in the age of woke. By John Carroll.

Harry Potter is being phased out in a Perth bookshop because author JK Rowling has heretical views on sex and gender. This act is not some marginal aberration but is typical of progressive opinion today. …

The old religion, when civilization was on the way up:

For much of Western history [sin] served as the pivotal moral concept, the means for judging behaviour. The Jewish prophets railed: “Sinners repent or be damned!” Christian theology, under the influence of Paul, stressed that individual salvation was the only worthwhile goal in life, and it depended on a life conducted without sin. To lead a life largely free from sin was, at death, to enter the kingdom of God. …

Sin became obsolete once it was uncoupled from a religious conception of salvation. Once the bad has no link to some supernatural order of judgment, once there is no God to set the rules and to pray to for instruction and forgiveness, then the bad exists purely as a secular moral category.

The seven deadly sins of medieval Christianity illustrate. Pride, greed, avarice, lust, sloth, anger and envy are as present in human behaviour as ever. Most of the seven sins today would be regarded as character flaws unless they trigger crimes. Such is the case for people who are vainly narcissistic, gorge their food or get blind drunk, glory in possessions or are driven by uncontrollable sexual desire, are lazy and idle, hot-tempered or envy the success or superiority of others. …

The new religion:

The biblical language of apocalypse seems forced and anachronistic, belonging more to the netherlands of paranoia than to mainstream discourse. At the same time, collective moral outrage such as that expressed by Thunberg continues to surge in the modern secular West.

Highly charged rhetoric is being levelled against people deemed to be climate change deniers, racists, misogynists, homophobes, elitists and other exploiters of disadvantage, accompanied by calls for them to be silenced, sacked, prosecuted, stigmatised and socially ostracised.

Hatred directed towards others because of their beliefs, hatred to the extreme of wanting them removed from the communal domain, shamed and shunned, seems to be a primal emotion, springing up unprompted from the individual unconscious.

We may conclude, extrapolating backwards into the past, that the theology used to justify heresy trials in earlier times was mere rationalisation. That is, it was surface justification and an excuse for common psychopathological drives. …

In other words, righteous indignation does not need a supporting theory. In practice it may well employ one — as today with diversity, inclusiveness and so forth– to proclaim its singular virtue and justify its crimes. But that theory is no more than decorative icing on the cake of malice.

Bleak implications for human self-esteem derive from the conclusion that any theology of sin is mere rationalisation to allow insiders to persecute those they don’t like with a good conscience, even though that is only one function of a theology of sin. That conclusion implies that a competitive will to power is at the core of human drives. The power impulse is ever near: to triumph over others, to suppress them, even to maim them, and to do so under a banner of virtue. Gossip often is a more modest expres­sion of the same malicious impulse.

Accordingly, the civilising process, and the inhibitions it develops to control individual instincts, becomes necessary to enable tolerably orderly and peaceful social relations and a flourishing society.

We never claimed the Wentworth Report was safe for work.