In Identity Politics, Old Religious Ideas Live on in a Post-Religious Society

The 19th-century French writer Alexis de Tocqueville observed that the thinkers of the generations before him were wrong in their expectation that religion would slowly wither away, noting drily that “the facts do not fit this theory at all.” At almost two centuries’ remove, Joshua Mitchell notes that “religious zeal” indeed persists—but not exactly in the way Tocqueville expected:

Religion, [Tocqueville asserted], is a permanent feature of human life. And it is because there are eternal longings in the human heart that cannot be erased. Tocqueville’s brilliance was to have seen that the “secularization thesis” that took hold in the academic world a century after he wrote was a delusion. Man is a religious being. Human nature perennially makes its claim.

Tocqueville was, I think, a bit too confident. Man is religious, he thought, because his sorrows and suffering cry out for answers that the world cannot provide. In offering a language of hope, Tocqueville thought that religion “could reign in the democratic age and in all others.” Yet religion in general, and Christianity in particular, offers more than a language of hope; it provides a language of transgression and innocence. About this, Tocqueville says little in Democracy in America.

Our problem in America today begins there, with the way we are haunted by the language of transgression and innocence, but no longer have a Christian way of understanding it. This development suggests neither the permanence of religion nor the advent of an entirely new, secular, stage of history that Tocqueville thought impossible. This strange intermediary is identity politics. Because it is not quite Christian and not quite secular, it is perhaps best understood as Christianity’s Walking Dead.

Once, because of the doctrine of original sin, there was a presumption of guilt in the churches and, because of our legal history, a presumption of innocence in the realm of politics. Today, this abandonment of the doctrine of original sin has had the curious effect of lifting the burden of guilt in the churches—and of shifting it to politics. Whatever the law may say about our innocence, the presumption of identity politics is that man—or rather the white heterosexual man—is guilty.

Read more at Law and Liberty

More about: Alexis de Tocquevile, American Religion, American society, Decline of religion

Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy