Christianity and the Alt-Right in America

November 5, 2018

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The emergence of the alt-right into mainstream American politics during the 2016 presidential election caught many commentators by surprise. Prior to the election, loosely connected far-right groups were typically considered fringe and politically insignificant. After the election, the alt-right seems to be a dynamic and effective force, one that is both courted and denounced. While some may be tempted to write off the alt-right movement as a vocal and disruptive but fissiparous minority, Professor George Hawley has warned: “Everything we have seen over the past year suggests that the alt-right will be around for the foreseeable future.” In some ways, it appears that the alt-right is expanding beyond an extremist political ideology into an alt-religious movement, providing its followers with identity, community, and purpose at a time when many are drifting away from churches. Some alt-right leaders urge their followers to abandon Christianity, arguing that it has inserted a “pathological altruism”—self-distrust, concern for victims, and fear of excluding outsiders—into American culture. Others claim that Christian theology in fact supports the alt-right movement.

This week the Berkley Forum asks: What is the role of religion in the contemporary alt-right movement? What role might religion play in the movement’s future? What does the rise of the alt-right imply about the relationship between religion and politics in the United States?

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