Saturday, June 16, 2007

Religion, Conservatism, and Alphas (again)

In the comments section of a post over at Bobvis, Spungeon made the following observation:

Hey, it occurs to me that Phi may actually have had different experiences with women due to his religion. Most of us here are secular Americans. But I could believe women relate differently to men in more traditional, religious cultures.

I have heard complaints, come to think of it, by men in certain religions that the women are very concerned with money and are upfront about it. They supposedly make men jump through a lot more hoops to be in their presence than secular women do. I have heard they will cut a guy quickly for not being smooth, and seem more concerned with looks. It's strange, because I'd expect the opposite from religious people -- that they'd be more concerned with the inner man, etc. But maybe a traditional woman needs to be more concerned with those superficial qualities.

Kudos to Spungeon for shifting my paradigm. I had never really considered this before, and I think there is something to it, although I also think it is possible to be more specific. My first caveat is that the categories "religious" and "conservative" are not coterminous; neither are "secular" and "liberal". In fact, I would argue that the religious-secular axis is orthogonal to the conservative-liberal one.

I then sought to categorize my experience in these the four possible combinations. Yes, the data is noisy, there are counterexamples, and of course there are other variables as we have all talked about, but in general it holds true:

Religious Conservative: Basically, private Christian school for missionary children grades 10 - 12. Here lie my most positive experiences. I have almost no recollection of my church-related peer group in grades K - 3, and I had NO church related peer group in grades 4 - 9. (My non-church-related peer group was almost uniformly tortuous from grades K - 9.) But starting in grade 10, I finally had the opportunity to break the cycle of negative socialization that Bobvis wrote about. And this back when my religious identification was largely nominal.

Note that I didn't do much in the way of dating at this point, for reasons that would be the subject of another post. But the kindness was such that for the next fifteen years I would seek my friends almost exclusively in church.

Secular Conservatives: Basically, College Republicans. (Yeah, I know: as if my nerd cred was insufficiently established.) Again, no dating. Not much in the way of females at all, come to think of it. But the ones that were there were kind for the most part.

Secular Liberals: Basically, a handful of women I met as an undergraduate. My expectations were low, so I was tough to disappoint, but I can't say I suffered much in the way of gratuitous torture at the hands of these women. However, I CAN say that about . . . .

Religious Liberals: Odd as it may seem, most of the churches I attended in college and in my twenties were mainline protestant. While "mainline" is not exactly coterminous with "liberal", attending mainline churches will give one plenty of exposure to liberal religious women--and this is not a good thing. The young lady of the previous post may be an extreme example, but she isalso the archetype. Religious liberal women inflicted a lifetime's worth of snottiness, hostility and indifference on me during my twenties. I'm happy to be done with them.

I don't really have an airtight hypothesis why women in this category should stand out in the way that they do; hopefully, my commenters will help out here. But the lesson is clear: if you are a woman and a liberal, please be an atheist. Nothing is quite as obnoxious as religiously motivated progressive sanctimony.

Unidentified: These are the ones I can't place on the axis because they walked by while studiously avoiding eye contact. Probably religious liberals.


trumwill said...

This doesn't entirely jibe with my experience. In my experience conservative women in general seem to be more interested in what I'd call pecking-order-oriented criteria. My wife is somewhat conservative, but prior to her I dated far more people that voted for Ralph Nader than voted for Bush even though I've historically been surrounded by the latter.

On the other hand, I'm an Episcopalian and most of the people I knew from church were conservative-minded. So we might not be talking about different groups as much as labelling them such? For a little while I went to a much more liberal new agey church, but found the women there very unsnooty. To a fault, almost, bordering on completely indiscriminate.

Φ said...

Trumwill: thank you for posting.

I had so very few dates among any of these four groups that it would be impossible for me to differentiate between them, so I'm using kindness and general social civility as a proxy for dating since it's the only basis I have for my ranking. While this could skew my results, I'm not sure how it systematically biases them.

And, um . . . as a strict Calvinist, it's not clear to me how anyone could match "Episcopalian" with "conservative"!

trumwill said...

Well, the Episcopal Church is something of a disparate group ranging from liberal to conservative. The conservatives may be liberal by Calvinist standards, but if you calibrate to American politics they're reliably Republican and are angry as all get-out about what's going on with the church leadership. Of course, I come from one of the more conservative parts of the country where most Episcopalians are such out of tradition rather than theology. I'd imagine in other parts of the countries the pews have more people that are there so that they can expressly be a part of a "liberal" church.

For the hair-pulling, teeth-gnashing perspective of an irate conservative Episcopalian, you can check out the Midwest Conservative Journal. His "The Episcopal Church: As Inclusive as Hell" shirts are pure genius.

whiskey_199 said...

I think the main determinant is class from which religious perspectives and much else flows from.

Consider liberal women from middle to upper-middle class homes. Status and the competition for status is the driving determinant for those women, particularly in dating and marriage.

While less higher status women may trade off to other values, such as "agreeability" and loyalty, humor, etc.

Religious Liberal women may simply be women with relatively high status seeking to increase it, as such they will be brutal with lower status men and wish them to go away or become obviously gay.

So that they do not inadvertently block access of the Alpha Males. Particularly if the woman is lacking in extreme beauty. Even Angelina Jolie on the extreme edge of the attractiveness spectrum does not like Brad Pitt around George Clooney because she fears his influence on him (wrt cheating). Or so the gossip mags inform me.

Status chasing is an ugly game, but for those who crave it, any sacrifice seems agreeable. The beauty arms race, cosmetics, plastic surgery, fitness, diet, etc. fits into that model, as do the hatred of the beta male.

whiskey_199 said...

I'll add Amanda Marcotte, of "God Bags" and other epithets for Christians, the blogger hired-unhired-hired-fired by John Edwards is a good example of the liberal atheist woman.

trumwill said...


How about that, we agree! I harbored the biggest grudge against the upper middle class because of the social environs of my high school. The people I knew from church were better, but only in comparison to my classmates. A lot of the people I knew from the area that I remember fondly actually went to our poorer rival school.