Government Watch / Politics

Secular Radicalization – Bad for America


Americans are not radicals. It is time we rethought this idea that we can indulge “secular radicalization,” or any sort of radicalization, without profound, adverse consequences.

Have you ever found a random quarter on the ground, stumbled over cross-application of an idea, and said – yes, that is the real problem, and lights go on? That just happened for me.

“Radicalization” is a word often applied to religious or political zealotry, a narrowing of perspective, intentional disinterest in contrary opinions or reasoning, cultivating a “pure” and objectively “extreme” perspective on life, religion, or politics.

“Violent radicalism” takes it a step further. Those ideologically radicalized justify any behavior, including violence, in pursuit of idealized aims, whether radical Islam or some other zealotry.

Libraries are filled with literature about how and why individuals and groups fall into step with radical ideas, begin narrowing, dismissing, delegitimizing those with whom they disagree.

Missing from the literature is the notion that radicalism and progressive violent radicalism – including isolation, reinforcing habits, condemnation, physical violence – can be highly secular, issue-specific, not linked to any religion, ideology, or “-ism.”

In other words, individuals can get preoccupied and thus close-minded, habitually distracted by a secular concern as easily as religious or ideological ideas. As if stumbling over that quarter, a recent Pew study caught the trend.

The world seems awash in rejection of other people based on purist political, religious, ideological, cultural, and even issue-specific ideas. Tolerance for the difference is low, pride high.

The study signals growing rigidity, loss of mental plasticity, as if flexible minds are being replaced by inflexible thinking – or non-thinking, contentment in convictions not revisited.

The study suggests many Americans are teaching themselves or allowing themselves to be taught that a nimble mind, principled but open to amendment by reference to logic, history, or persuasion, is out.

Moreover, they are increasingly aware others are inflexible, reinforcing the trend, gradually radicalizing sentiment. They see “fading trust as a sign of cultural sickness and national decline,” accentuated by “increased loneliness and excessive individualism,” radical retreat.

The poll reports, “many ascribe shrinking trust to a political culture they believe is broken and spawns suspicion, even cynicism, about the ability of others to distinguish fact from fiction.” In effect, we are beginning to wonder about the mental state and reasoning ability of others.

Of course, much of this involves differences over government, but other bits are as serious.  In an age of unregulated social media, distaste for difference, unwillingness to question ourselves, no appetite for being wrong, and no openness to compromise, radicalism thrives.

What we are seeing is a fracturing of the “public mind,” into thousands of slices – and an openness to “secular radicalism,” the idea that we can get religious about an opinion – to the exclusion of all others, radical in support of our slice.

Today, extremism in support of every political, ideological, social, economic, environmental, experimental, health-related, ethnic, racial, tribal, even personality-driven prejudice is suddenly justified – as an all-consuming life mission, worthy of radical adhesion or condemnation.

“Secular radicalization” – even if not violent – is unhealthy. It elevates everything to urgent, pits us against each other, turning us into windup toys, defending narrow opinions as all-important.

Thus, we fight to the death over being pro- or anti-climate, law enforcement, renewable energy, transgender, arguing over what parts of history to destroy, statues to tear down, riots to permit, children’s books to ban, demanding new genders, “pronouns,” apologies for slights, whether our neighbor is wearing a mask, the right shade, worthy of being violently confronted.

Worse, complicit social media enablers and big tech encourage us to habituate these behaviors, repeat our prejudices, reinforce isolation, separatism, condemnation, acts that narrow us.

In short, we are becoming – and literature has not caught up – a self-radicalizing society, a collection of insanely self-assured social misfits, content to drift into pitched battles over narrow policy differences with religious conviction, then declare all the world heretics.

We are indulging – or some of us are – the idea that hysteria is permissible. In effect, too many Americans are accepting “secular radicalization,” self-taught irrationality in defense of a cause or prejudice, climate change to unisex bathrooms, defunding police to vilifying neighbors.  

Bottom line: Americans are not radicals. It is time we rethought this idea that we can indulge “secular radicalization,” or any sort of radicalization, without profound, adverse consequences.  If you have stumbled on the same quarter, pocket it – and let’s start turning things around.

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Patricia A Arsenault
5 months ago

What a great article, but very concerning.

Stephen Russell
5 months ago

Radicalized by Unvaxxed & by Race, for Race rerun to the 50s-70s Civil Rights era

5 months ago

It’s a battle of the Karens on both sides.

5 months ago

People are forgetting that God is still in charge.He is just waiting for the citizens of
this country to remember that,trust him and tell him so. Pray

5 months ago
Reply to  nannie

And you my friend have the real answer. God is in charge of everything! Amen

5 months ago

Unlike the Democrats, I blame it all on the pandemic. People all over the world were running scared just trying to cope with something we’ve never seen before. The world has changed and people are still frightened but, unfortunately, now they’re angry and they don’t know who to take it out on so they are blindly flinging left and right and if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time BEWARE!

5 months ago

The problem these days is that the enemy doesn’t wear uniforms, so most people have a difficult time recognizing the enemy. Those of us who do recognize the enemy can’t just blast them, because the enemy has infiltrated our society and hides behind our laws, not that they obey them, but they use them against us now.

Philip Hammersley
5 months ago

True “radicalism” would be fine. Radical is from the Latin “radix” or root. Our roots as Americans are the Bible and Judeo-Christian ethics. Marxists’ “roots” are envy, death, confusion, and Satanism.

Tim Toroian
5 months ago

Secular Radicalization is part of the Democrat’s philosophy of POSITIVISM, which I wish more people examine. If you do you will be less surprised when they promote abortion, get snarky about Christmas, and denigrate the constitution. Basically, positivists do not believe in a higher power or moral standard.

5 months ago

Eric Hoffer describes this very well in his book, “True Believers” from the 195Os. He examined the similarities of hard core secular political beliefs and religion.

We always have had radical believers. We always will. They are often successful for the very characteristics we don’t like.

Fanaticism, organization, persistence, ruthlessness, high personal energy.

That’s why radicals often win against more numerous, calmer, don’t rock-the-boat average folks.

So, if what we value in life and society is important to us, we sometimes must become as organized, persistent and ruthless with all the energy we can muster if what we love has any chance of surviving.

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