This article originally appeared on the Backbench website on February 23rd 2016.
Religion is on the way out in the West. Recent data shows that the number of people who give the "none" answer when asked about their religion has risen 7% in the US since 2007 and now accounts for 1-in-5 Americans. In the UK, the figures show a similar trend. The latest census data (2011) shows a 10% increase in non-religious Brits with a steep decline (12%) in the number of Christians and only a token rise in Muslims (2%). Indeed, there is a rising trend for people giving up on traditional religion.
This may be true for practicing religion in an Abrahamic, "you go to this building, listen to this man, pray and go home" sense but the religious impulse is still ingrained in the West and can be found in an unlikely form because, as I intend to show, the culture wars that span the internet, student unions and journalism have taken on the characteristics of a Holy War initiated by the fundamentalists of feminism and social justice.
The social justice movement is a confederation of several different groups. It includes, but is not limited to, radical, third-wave feminists, the products of "you're all special" childrearing, the enforcers of political correctness, professional victims and their activist valets plus those in the media who have kowtowed to them. 'Confederation' may be the wrong word - it is more of a sinister cabal. On a personal level, whenever I stumble across a Tumblr post or Salon article by a social justice type I hear, "meanwhile, at the legion of doom" in my head.
The social justice movement has its very own dogma and unquestionable articles of faith. It is universally accepted, for example, that gender is a social construct and has nothing to do with biology (patently absurd - check the sports pages for more details), and that women are subject to a conspiracy known as the 'patriarchy' that constantly oppresses them and prevents them from accessing opportunities. Incidentally, this article of faith very rarely touches on the astonishingly high male suicide rate, male deaths in the workplace or the better access women have to educational opportunities, but what does that matter? It is an intellectually insultingly, hyper-simplistic explanation offered to a litany of complex problems and it is held as sacred by the social justice movement.
No article of faith is held as deeply as the 'gender pay gap' - a phrase absent from the vocabulary of any serious economist. Where Christianity has Jesus dying on the cross and Islam has Mohammad as God's chosen prophet, the social justice religion has the pay gap - the premise that women are paid less than men (usually floating between 70-80p for every £1) for the same work.
Granted, if you take the total sum of money paid for employment to women (x) and the total number of women (y) and the sum of money paid to men (z) and the total number of men (a), do x/y and z/a, the ratio of the two numbers is roughly 0.7 to 1. However, even the most uninitiated economics student can tell you that this assumes ceteris paribus, a massive assumption when all things are certainly not equal. Men, for instance, work more overtime and don't have to take time off to have children - even these two simple variables, regardless of their moral content, put the mathematics behind the wage gap calculation into serious dispute.
Moreover, in the places that the social justice movement wields almost absolute power - the universities - it is possible to be shut down, shut out and barred from speaking if you are in the habit of questioning any article of the social justice faith. Recent history features several examples of this clericalism being used, always with the ubiquitous and Orwellian language of "safe spaces" and "equal opportunities", to prevent two men discussing abortion at Oxford (a decision to discriminate based on gender - hilarious if weren't so tragic), to try to bar Germaine Greer, herself a lifelong feminist, from speaking at Cardiff University, and to shut journalists out of a university in Missouri. If these are not the actions of fundamentalists, I would appreciate being shown what is. Should the reader be sceptical, I invite them to visit a modern university (even an ancient one) and start questioning the Holy Tenants - do let me know how you get on.
The similarity between religious zealots and the student-led, social justice movement also extends to their patron saints - similarly immune from scrutiny. If one is sceptical, for example, of the sincerity of Anita Sarkeesian as a gaming critic and may have certain questions to raise about her journalistic integrity, one is automatically a misogynistic 'neckbeard' who deserves a good Tumblr-bashing.
If you question the ethical and psychological state of Stefonkee Wolscht, a middle-aged trans woman living as a six-year-old girl despite enjoying smoking, having boyfriends and driving a car then you are automatically a transphobic 'shitlord'.
Don't think that Shaun King or Rachel Dolezal are the right people to be leading figures in the #blacklivesmatter movement because both of them are biologically white? Congratulations, you just bought yourself a visit from the vast, slobbering, rapacious Twitter guard dog of social justice faith.
This is an extremely unhealthy and anti-intellectual attitude with more in common with the crusades or the Inquisition than with scholarship. The reader is directed towards Brendan O'Neil's work, especially his piece on the 'Stepford students', on this point.
As if the similarities between religious fundamentalists and social justice warriors already alluded to were not enough, we find that they are in the midst of their very own heresy hunt. Stephen Fry, an affable and charming left-leaning liberal, was forced to abandon Twitter recently after he referred to his long-time friend Jenny Beavan as a "bag lady" in an in-joke made during the recent BAFTA ceremony. Julie Bindel, the long-time feminist avenger of the Guardian, has been made an outcast in SJW circles for remarks she made that go against the received wisdom on gender. Other examples of social justice excommunication targets include Benedict Cumberbatch, for his role in Zoolander 2, Rebel Wilson, and Ricky Gervais pretty much every time he opens his mouth.
Each one of these individuals, and most of the others who have felt the ire of the social justice movement, used to be considered allies and now, for going against the articles of faith, they have been banished. It is important to point out that, in the same way as Islamic fundamentalists hate other Muslims more than anyone else, the extreme, regressive, social justice warrior left hates the people it considers to be left-wing heretics more than it does any one else.
Finally, a warning to those unaffected so far - you're probably next.
The saddest effect of bullying occurs when the previously bullied and marginalised become abusers themselves; sad because they really ought to know better. The Church of the Cult of the Victim comprises of people that have known hatred and oppression as well as those who, somewhat cynically, fight on their behalf for whatever reason. These movements have fought for the liberties and freedoms that we all now enjoy and it would be a sad twist of irony if the radicalisation of this church continues taking it in the current, appalling, direction.
All together now, "Ze is stamping out the free speech where the...."