White privilege; Religion is personal?

Here is a very good John McWhorter piece about "white privilege." I agree with almost everything he says: this obsessing over white privilege, or constant self-auditing as to whether one was ever scared of a few black people, is just self-indulgence, and a means to feel OK about continuing to hang out with one's white liberal friends in Park Slope because one keeps confessing to how privileged one is. McWhorter hits the heart of the issue:

"For example, it’s a safe bet that most black people are more interested in there being adequate public transportation from their neighborhood to where they need to work than that white people attend encounter group sessions where they learn how lucky they are to have cars."

Yes, yes, yes.

But McWhorter does say something he takes for truth but is instead "true of the way people like to think about this today":

"Politics is about society. Religion, however, is personal."

No society in the world before the culture of the West since the 1700s would have been able to make any sense of this idea: religion didn't really even exist as a separate category in most cultures: it was simply how a people came together socially to express a sense of the sacred, and was intimately connected to the rest of a people's life.

August Comte, while rejecting traditonal religions, was at least intelligent enough to realize that a people, to hold together, need some sort of communal religion. When we try to deny this is true, the end result is not a "secular society," but a society with a sort of "KMart blue-light special" religion consisting of ritual football watching, rah-rah American boosterism, the Pledge of Allegiance, prayers to the gods of NCAA basketball pools, Lincoln sainthood, Oprah Winfrey platitudes, Arianna Huffington self-help books, and so on.


  1. Oh, I want to hear more about this!

    1. Great, but this was a "double" post: of which part are you speaking?

    2. Gene, my "want to hear more" was a reaction to your paragraph that begins "No society in the world before the culture of the West since the 1700s..."

      I would have rejected the importance of religion in society, that you express in that paragraph. But I worked through that when I read the abridgement of Arnold J. Toynbee's A Study of History. Yes it is important. Yes it is the opium of the masses. Toynbee, Marx, it's all a blur...

      As I recall, Toynbee saw religion as some sort of driving force. I still think he was wrong about that. I think the driving force is economic and Toynbee missed it and that was his big mistake.

      But I would like to know some of the ideas that lie behind your "No society" paragraph. Some of the sources maybe. (Note: I read terrible slow.)

  2. Not that there is anything wrong with that?

    Ok, everything becomes a little gray and murky.