The Moral Power Vacuum



I was discussing the state of our society, American society, with my Uncle the other day and we both agreed with the notion that there is something seriously wrong. It is hard to conceive of an American who would unironically endorse the idea that everything is going just swimmingly in America at this point in time. But, one of my initial thoughts about this agreement that there is something majorly wrong was the idea that people in a society might just always feel this way about their society. An almost perennial qualm that the modern member of society has.

My Aunt jumped in and asked me what I thought it was that is so seriously wrong with our society. I took her question to address the root causes of what is going on as opposed to the various ‘symptoms’ we see around us. After some thought, I replied that I thought people are becoming dogmatic in domains that need not require dogmatism. For example, why are millions of Americans behaving dogmatically with regard to COVID guidelines? That shit ain’t science, and science is a domain that is inherently opposed to any sort of dogmatism. Religion, on the other hand, is a domain that thrives on dogmatism. In any case, this all just pushes the question back further doesn’t it: why are people becoming so dogmatic in these domains?

I’m considering the idea that we are currently living through a sort of moral power vacuum. Let me explain what I mean here. Empirically speaking, people have been abandoning religion for the greater part of a century and I am under the impression that we are at the peak of this phenomenon in 2021 if we haven’t hit it already. I should note that there are good reasons to abandon religion but it would be naive to think there would be no consequences of such actions. One obvious result of this fleeing is the abandonment of the accompanying moral framework of such religions, meaning that people no longer have a moral authority to govern their lives.

If there is no moral authority, then, I argue, there is no moral power present and thus a moral power vacuum occurs in which anything persuasive, compelling, or manipulating will rush in to try and fill it, intentionally or unintentionally. I believe we see this play out in American politics now more than ever but we have also seen it with COVID where people have let scientism become the moral authority in their lives, faithfully adhering to its doctrines no matter how absurd.

I believe this will only get worse as I don’t see a return to religion anytime soon with the level of bullshit that currently resides within the Abrahamic religions. Those who have also observed this phenomenon may feel compelled to return to the faith, such as myself, but it is incredibly difficult to accept some of things that these organized religions profess and it is even more of a challenge to look past the twisted histories of these institutions. So, this remains a very hard problem to solve.