We are now no longer fellow citizens, we are fellow believers

At the Spectator 

We were all taught at school that in-groups and out-groups are necessarily poisonous things that lead to man’s inhumanity to man. Yet maybe the sort of ideological tribalism which is now so common, and which carries almost nothing in the way of social taboo or stigma, will be more dangerous in the 21st century than the ethnic or religious variety.

Strangely enough, I’ve recently been reading about another bunch of guys who were on the Wrong Side of History – the pagans. Peter Brown’s The Rise of Western Christendom describes how religious identity came to replace older civic attachments in the Middle East – sectarian identities that are still relevant today.

‘Large Christian groups, Chalcedonians quite as much as Monophysites, were prepared to forget their ancient loyalties to their cities. Religion provided them with a more certain, more deeply felt basis of communal identity. Even when they lived in villages and cities where their own church predominated – as was often the case in strongly Monophysite regions, such as Egypt – they saw themselves above all else as a religious community. They were fellow-believers. They were no longer fellow citizens.’

Alas, that sort of seems to be the direction we are heading in right now, with older bonds of citizenship replaced by communities of like-minded people. We are no longer fellow citizens, we are fellow-believers.

Read it all there

What do you think?

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