J. Dean on Purity

The right values purity by association, but it’s not necessarily tied to self-worth. For instance, old-time Christians as you find here in the bible belt have a strong belief that self-worth or love of self is wrong, that we are all sinners and thus fall short of the glory of God.

I would say instead that we are flawed because we are all subject to our survival instincts, and when we act in the interests of our survival we do not know what the ultimate consequences will be. Only an all-seeing perspective, that sees across all time and space could determine that, and none of us have that perspective because we are human.

Christianity explained this by the concept of original sin. The problem is that it focused on shame, but shame is probably linked to the disgust response, which helps us survive, so it’s hard to separate it. The disgust response triggers us to shame the bad thing and make it go away. Shame triggers us to question what we could do differently, which can have some utility but also may inhibit action. Shame motivates us to act, but it takes a fair bit of mindfulness not to get mired in it.

People who view themselves as shameful have a false self-image, and often become very self-righteous. It’s difficult to unravel that. Self-image, even when it is accurate, tends to limit perspective.

It’s no accident that our language uses the word right, or rite, in multiple ways. In righteousness we claim the moral authority or the right to act, in the good faith that we may do what is right. We may not know with certainty what is good or right, but we can identify what is bad or wrong. Rites of purity cleanse the bad. As the saying goes, cleanliness is next to godliness.

The aim of being godly is to widen perspective, to let go of the singularity of ego. It’s hard let go when your sense of value or worth is invested in the ego. And it’s hard to let go of ego because it is fundamental to your survival, and we face continual threats to survival.

The ideal of purity is the removal of threats, which we all know is impossible, but purity rituals allow us to escape the ego by negating the threat. And ultimately we all want to escape the ego which is why humans are so prone to addiction. Purity helps us feel like we can survive a threat and feel closer to something eternal.

Cancel culture is basically a purity ritual. It works well for people like the Amish. Do they do it because it helps them feel like they are good people? Maybe that’s a side effect, but it seems more like they use shunning because it preserves their culture.

You have done great work of explaining how people with different and competing strategies threaten each other. Maybe you misunderstood how strongly the right would perceive a threat in your actions, and why.

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