Podcast: Tribalism

Mere FidelityIn our most recent Mere Fidelity podcast, Matt, Derek, Andrew, and I discuss the subject of tribalism, taking Scott Alexander’s recent Slate Star Codex post on the subject as our starting point.

You can also follow the podcast on iTunes, or using this RSS feed. Listen to past episodes on Soundcloud and on this page on my blog.


About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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6 Responses to Podcast: Tribalism

  1. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I comment a lot under the The Ideology is Not The Movement and A Theory About Religion.

    Community has to be about something. Community can’t just be about community. The flag can’t simply just be arbitrary.

    For example, religious groups have to be about religion.

    Also, it does matter which particular scripture and creed a community rallies around.

    • I would add that instead of speaking merely about ‘arbitrariness’, we should also recognize the importance of ‘particularity’. That I have been born into a particular nation or family, for instance, is not a necessary truth of absolute importance, but nor is it merely arbitrary. There is a benign tribalism that can flourish as we appreciate and value the realm of our particularity.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      I also make some distinctions between tribal religions (considered broadly) and ideologized religions. The latter tend to develop when a tribal religion is yanked out of its context.

  2. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I don’t think the quality of Rob Bell’s work is the main reason he provoked Evangelicals. I don’t think a more theologically rigourous book advocating universalism from somebody on the “inside” would have met with a better response.

  3. Stephen Crawford says:

    I think Matt’s right. The abuses are much more prevalent than were credited in the conversation. People refuse to take other people’s arguments seriously in the face of the accusation of tribalism.

    Doesn’t it seem like part of what messes us up is a long-held habit of thinking about people as courageously seeking the truth apart from or even over-against seemingly superstitious traditions or corrupt, illegitimate claims to authority? We’re still haunted by the self-contained subject who is at least theoretically capable of grasping the truth by herself. It’s closely linked with the more general orientation of suspicion. Don’t trust what anyone tells you; find out for yourself. I also wonder if a little further back in the family tree a faith-versus-works idea is at play. The act of believing is seen as something dramatically different from anything else that we do. So we lose sight of that fact that we learn how to believe just like we learn to do most other things: someone teaches us.

    Basically, I think that there’s a necessary political dimension to truth, but that this has been obscured from us. Now uncovering the politics of a truth claim is seen as a way to discredit the claim. Alexander’s piece does helpfully draw out the political dimensions, that beliefs are formed in one continuous motion with the formation of a group. What we need is to really learn that that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like Alastair was saying, we don’t have to jump to the conclusion that a group’s rationalizations are irrational.

    (Obviously I’m influenced by MacIntyre and his stuff on tradition and rationality here.)

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