God Does Exist After All — Part 2.

Part 2. Are You a TRUE Patriot?

In the last part of this series, I described concepts such as libertarianism, pacifism and Marxism; and what it means to say these things ‘exist’. I said that we can group people together based on their ideas of what Marxism (for example) is. If we are generous about this grouping, we might get one nebulous global idea of Marxism, everyone in one group. If we divide further, we might have many Marxisms.

What I didn’t talk about what whether any of those individuals think they are Marxist, or whether they just have opinions about Marxism. In other words I want to bring in sectarianism into the discussion.

I’m bored of talking about Marxism though, so let’s change our concept. Patriotism works just like Marxism. Most of us have some idea what ‘Patriotism’ means. At one level we’re all right, and Patriotism is some nebulous concept that includes all our views. At another level we might split into specific (possibly political) understandings of what is Patriotic, and at the extreme everybody’s view is different in some way to everyone else’s. [That much is a summary of last time].

So we can group people that way. For any arbitrary threshold in our heatmap, we can imagine the groupings of people that arise – groups of people who have the ‘same’ view of Patriotism.

But we can also group people according to their sectarian understanding of the concept. A certain group of people will recognize themselves as patriotic, and will characterize other people as un-patriotic. This is the first time I’ve mentioned un-something. And it is important when considering sectarianism.

So what does this do for my thesis?

Well. Glad you asked.

Two Different Criteria for Making Groups

Sectarian understandings of Patriotism are fascinating. They fill books. They start wars. They assassinate journalists. But they aren’t what I want to talk about in this series.

You see, in the first way of looking at concepts, we might put two people in the same group. For some level of detail, they have the same understanding of Patriotism. But they may think they have different understandings. They may loathe each other. They may think each other the worst kind of traitor possible.

In other words, beliefs about sectarianism are not the same as natural groupings around concepts.

Now, I think the two things often go hand in hand. We might naturally have a different opinion of what is Patriotic, if we’re on opposite sides of some civil war, for example. But the correlation should not be confused with identity. And, when I’ve been trying to think through these issues, one of the things I find, over and over, is that I’ve accidentally slipped into thinking about the wrong kind of group, and that is clouding the issue.

Why Bother Talking Sectarianism?

So, this was a waste of a post then, talking about what isn’t important.

Well. I think it feeds into the next post, because there is one feature of sectarianism I want to point out.

When sectarianism is in place, people listen more to those in the ‘in’ group than the ‘out’ group. So if somebody’s concept of Patriotism is changing, it is likely changing because of influences from the ‘in’ group, and reactions to the ‘out’ group.

Over time, these groups tend to wander over the heatmap I drew in the last post. And they do so by coalescing around people they sympathize with, and fleeing from those they hate.

These kinds of dynamics are the main topic of part 4 (which may be the final part, I don’t know). But first part 3, where we get into the really juicy stuff.

This mini-series is exploring the theological model I am using for some work I am doing at the moment. I am experimenting with different ways to express the core ideas, because I’m not sure what makes the most sense. I’d really appreciate feedback, suggestions and links to other similar work.

Oh, and I’m still an atheist 🙂



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9 responses to “God Does Exist After All — Part 2.

  1. uzza

    I’m not entirely sure I get it. I’m picturing a Venn diagram with three circles, the part where they all overlap is the basic concept, and circles B and C hate each other, so B is slowly rotating over closer to overlap more with circle A. Is correct?

    But they make think they have different understandings.

    The typo doesn’t help (I assume ‘make’ should be ‘may’ ) but this sentence throws me off.
    Presumably for any group that characterizes their own group as the only ‘true X-men’ the other group may do just the opposite.

  2. Ian

    Thanks for the spot – edited the typo.

    I was making the distinction that being in the same group, as far as the concept is concerned, isn’t the same thing as identifying yourself in the same group.

    Another example. Two people might have exactly the same concept of ‘pacifism’, so in my first post, they are in the same group (unless you set the threshold at the point where everyone forms their own group, of course). But one of these people is a pacifist, and the other isn’t. So from a sectarian point of view, neither of them thinks of the other as being in the same group.

    Where you think you are sociologically, isn’t the same as where you are conceptually.

  3. uzza

    Less clear now. Still thinking in terms of Venn diagrams and feature sets, dunno if that’s appropriate.

    “having the same concept of patriotism”—wouldn’t that necessarily include a feature [+/- like me] ? It’s hard to see how you could have a concept of an -ism that didn’t include data on whether you yourself were included or not.

    Does this person know for sure, or are they believing mistakenly that they are/aren’t in the group?

    If “neither of them thinks of the other as being [patriot]” yet they “both have the same concept” of [patriot], then aren’t we talking about their concept of each other, rather than the concept at hand?

    Is there any objective test one can make to determine if d00d X is or isn’t a patriot? If not, and maybe anyway, we are bringing in a third party’s concept of, if not the pacifism concept, at least the other two d00ds. Maybe both. The third party here I imagine would be the sociological construct [patriotism], yes?
    My head hurts.

  4. Ian


    Good point. I hadn’t thought about it in terms of having +/- like me as one of the predicates in the concept. That would certainly influence things. It would act to strengthen the correlation between the sociological groupings and the conceptual groupings.

    I still think, however, that unless we’re right down at the highly-fractured level, that the vast majority of two people’s concepts could be the same while they considered themselves in different groups.

    Thinking in terms of Venn diagrams and feature sets is appropriate. As long as we keep in mind that from the first part (i.e. in terms of the concept only, ignoring sectarianism), there is fluidity: things can have one group or many. Nobody can say where the line is drawn, every such line is as arbitrary as any other.

    Sociologically, folks can and do choose a line: they choose the in-group and out-group.

    It is another difference between how a concept ‘exists’, and how people may or may not identify with it.

  5. I will wait for part III

  6. I always same that the family is a cult in itself. And even in that small group sects can be found. In my family, we had the core values that we all shared, but the people with white skin (3 of them) thought the rest of us, of brownish skin, were inferior. We, in turn, disliked them, to put it mildly.

  7. Ian

    That sounds a rough place to be, Lorena, I’m sorry.

    But its also an interesting angle. Sectarianism working at different levels.

    But ultimately, Luke 12:51-53 is doubly repellent when it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Do you think I am come to give peace on earth? No; but division instead: For there will be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. And there will be divisions: father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

  8. LOL! I definitely come from a biblical family. I never thought of that aspect of my religious family. Those people I never call or visit who are hoping I’ll show up to kiss their stinky feet.

    It would be nice to have “a” family, I must say, but I won’t have the one I was given. Church didn’t work as such. But I am still hoping that, eventually, I will have my place in the world.

  9. Pingback: God Does Exist After All — Part 3 | Irreducible Complexity

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