Jordan Peterson’s Religion or Lack of It

I am a Jordan B Peterson fan. But he is a bit of an enigma for me.

Jordan Peterson came to my attention in late 2016 when he appeared on the Joe Rogan Podcast in November 2016. The podcast is no longer available on YouTube, although it is available on Spotify. He was explaining why he was against Canadian Bill C-16 that would have policed speech on Canadian campuses with regards to transgender people and their preferred pronouns.

On the podcast, he spoke out against political correctness and was clearly intelligent. I was instantly a fan of this Canadian psychology professor.

That podcast episode appears to have been the catalyst that propelled Dr. Peterson into being one of the more famous and controversial public intellectuals in recent years. Since then he’s appeared on the Joe Rogan podcast many times, wrote a bestseller called, “12 Rules for Life: an Antidote to Chaos,” and went on a speaking tour across the world.

His fan base is comprised of mostly young men. And given that he is against political correctness and an advocate for free speech, he’s been maligned by the media being called alt-right and a slew of other names. His most memorable interview is with Cathy Newman, where she plays the gotcha game with him and he dodges every attempt. It’s quite the spectacle.

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As a conservative man in my twenties, how could I not become a fan? Finally an intellectual was fighting for things I believed in, he is a clinical psychologist after all. I bought his book, I listened to his podcast, and when he came to New York I went and saw him live. There is even a high probability I will buy his new book, “Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life.”

As a Conservative

I appreciate what Dr. Peterson is doing. He stands against Marxism and the post-modernism. Two forces that are clearly against tradition and religion. The spread and ubiquity of identity politics that came out of the Frankfurt school has been disastrous for the country and for the population.

Dr. Peterson is known for espousing Judeo-Christian values. He discusses rather eloquently that the politics of gender identity and hate speech are Marxist tools. And in the case of the Soviet Union, this led to Gulags.

Not only is he a good critic of leftist and progressive ideologies, but he also builds up as much as he tears down. There is a crisis in manhood. Our traditional institutions are crumbling or have been captured by leftists. That’s part of the reason why this site exists. Dr. Peterson’s bestseller, 12 Rules for Life: an Antidote to Chaos, is a self-help book that helps people, but mostly young men take responsibility for their own lives and to live a life of meaning.

On the whole, this is good for our society and for men in particular.

Christian Works

While Dr. Peterson got famous for combating pollical correctness and helping lost men. His worldviews are not only a rebuke of woke ideology.

His first book, “Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of belief” can be summarized as a Jungian breakdown of myth and religion specifically looking at biblical stories. His YouTube channel has several videos on the topic.

I highly recommend watching the videos and going through his analysis. It’s a unique way of going through the old testament. The use of narrative archetypes to study the Bible from a clinical psychologist is novel and helpful. He does this analysis in good faith. He’s not out to disprove or “dunk on” the Bible, which is surprising in our time. He finds great utility in the Bible, which is good but also problematic.

What makes Jordan Peterson an enigma or even troubling is that he doesn’t believe in God. In a debate on religion with Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson stated about his religious beliefs that he, “Does not believe in God, But acts as if he does.” The source is clearly biased but is consistent with what I’ve seen from Dr. Peterson. Also, if a debate between a new atheist in Sam Harris and a sympathetic atheist in Jordan Peterson on religion isn’t a sign of the times, I don’t know what is.

Christian Faith

This is problematic for Christianity, but also good for Christianity. Anyone who is a professed Christian knows that faith is difficult. There are days when atheism makes a lot of sense.

In this YouTube clip, he goes through the mental struggle of what it means to believe in God. I appreciate it and I sympathize with the man.

It feels like the story of the Rich Young Man that came to Jesus:

Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Mathew 19: 16-22

(Funnily, I wrote this before re-listening to the clip. Dr. Peterson quotes this exact story.)

We get to see Jordan Peterson struggle with what it means to believe. That belief in God requires the entirety of the person.

Jordan Peterson’s atheism is painful atheism. It’s not the arrogant atheism of the New Atheist’s that is just nihilism and hedonism hiding behind scientism and paraphrases of Nietzsche.

No, Jordan Peterson’s atheism is the atheism of struggle of doubt and fear. It’s the type of atheism a Christian understands. The atheism that says it would just be easier if there was no God. Atheism that can bring relief from the anxieties of Hell. For it would be much better to cease existing than to be condemned to an eternity in Hell.

Popular culture has made Christians out to be zealots with unbreakable faiths. This is not true in the slightest. To be a Christian is to take up your cross every day. And on some days that cross is particularly heavy.

This is why I have difficulties with Jordan Peterson. On the one hand, it’s far from ideal that the most popular public intellectual speaking about the Bible is an atheist. But on the other, he exemplifies the personal struggle Christians go through.

I appreciate what he’s done. He’s spread the word of God. It’s very likely that more young people have learned about the Bible through Jordan Peterson than through their local church. But he’s done so from the perspective of an atheist. His main point is that the Bible is useful to society. This sentiment is even captured in his definition of truth, “We know it’s true because it works.” And while that’s not the worst definition of truth, it’s not a Christian definition.

So while I appreciate Jordan Peterson for what he’s done. He’s done more good than harm. And I think there is plenty for Christians to learn from Jordan Peterson. It is important to keep him in perspective. He’s an atheist just like Sam Harris, he just finds the Bible useful.

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