A global pandemic, historic election, and economic crisis came together to make 2020 a year we all want to forget. It’s tested the mental fortitude of just about everyone—and has even broken a few brains along the way. And that was long before the election even happened. Now, with the daily “will-he-won’t-he” drama over whether Donald Trump will leave the White House puttering toward its inevitable end, many of the president’s supporters have been left adrift, unsure of where their futures may lead.
The latest casualties? Far-right online provocateurs who are suddenly pivoting to God content.
Just as men whose lives changed once they discovered pickup artistry were “red-pilled,” doomer millennials posting nihilistic sentiment about the world at large became “black-pilled,” and leftists recovering from the roller coaster of the 2020 primaries who began grilling steaks together instead of participating in politics became “grillpilled,” so too have many members of the mostly secular far-right taken the God pill.
“When you ask for mercy instead of specific outcomes, you ensure that God treats you with love and compassion in a way that preserves your salvation.”
The most shocking thing about this sentence is the fact that it was written by Roosh V in a Nov. 8 blog post titled “Learning To Love God.”
Yes, Roosh. The same one who created the pick-up artist haven Return of Kings and spent years teaching the men of the internet how to coerce women into having sex with them under the guise of “men’s rights.”
The sudden pivot to religion for Roosh began in 2019, when he announced that he was committing himself to becoming a member of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Since then, his posts have become a steady stream of vague spiritual observations like “life is hard but smooth” and even condemnations of promiscuity, which was once his bailiwick.
In a recent post, Roosh spoke at length about his masculinity-related anxieties (“Is the Tinder algorithm only showing you ugly women?”) and how becoming religious and dropping the pick-up artist act stopped those feelings of inadequacy. “With God in my life, I’m less alone than even when I was with a sexually exciting woman,” he writes. “I may seem to receive no pleasure, but watching a cardinal bathe in a stream on a warm day gives me more joy than when I attended a packed nightclub while under the influence of lust and alcohol.”
Shockingly, most of the commenters on Roosh’s posts are supportive. Many claim they had the same revelation. But it wasn’t always so easy for Roosh; when he first announced the change, his fans were shocked and angry. Roosh had reassured them for years that they needed to wake up to a reality that women were ruining their lives, and in 2019 he pretty much walked it all back.
Roosh’s sudden transformation is not at all shocking to anyone who keeps an eye on the far-right. In May 2019, Tara Isabella Burton pointed out in a Washington Post article that religious symbols were growing in popularity at right-wing gatherings, even outside the mainstream. She noted an increase in references to the Catholic term “Deus Vult” on 8chan and Steve Bannon’s then-jarring transition from White House aide to Catholic gladiator school founder.
Even noted edgelord Mike Cernovich recently announced in an Instagram story that he had found God. When asked by followers if there’s anything he had changed his opinion on recently, Cernovich responded with “For sure, it’s God. 100%.” He alluded to an upcoming spiritual project as well.
Head to the social media page of any once-prominent Trump media figure: Where we once scrolled through posts deifying Trump, these same figures are now worshipping a new God.
So what’s behind the sudden appeal of Christianity to far-right figures?
It’s not really a pivot. The specific brand of Christianity that’s on the rise is more a rosy-colored version of religion that emphasizes traditional values and gender roles, such as that of the oft-memed tradwife. So it makes sense that it would be appealing to a group of people whose success hinges on their ability to sell palatable misogyny by condemning the trappings of modern culture.
And after years of being forced to run cover for and worship a president whose other claims to fame include serial philandering and reality TV drama, it must be nice to shift that energy away to worshipping someone like God, whose entire reputation doesn’t run counter to conservative Christian values. (Well, mostly doesn’t.)
Pivoting to God content can also rehabilitate the image of someone like Roosh whose entire online presence would be enough to cost any regular person a job interview. Now that outgoing President Trump’s brand of blunt online antics has been rejected by voters nationally, even many who used to support him, it’s difficult to want to keep your boat moored at his dock. A sudden and convenient discovery that you’ve “found God” is a quick way to absolve yourself in the public eye.
In part, the rise of the fundamentalist evangelical Right in all areas of the United States government has made Christianity more appealing to people who might feel like their ideas are no longer mainstream or acceptable anywhere else in modern society. Most of the prominent political intellectuals of the 2000s like Bill Maher, Ricky Gervais, and Jon Stewart were outspoken atheists who built an entire brand on critiquing mainstream culture and conservatism through the lens of religion, inspiring hordes of online atheists to rebel against their religious parents.
Ultimately, this brand of atheist political critique became synonymous with “The Left” and making fun of Republicans. Modern leftist ideologies tend to be secular, despite their roots in organized religion, so religion still remains largely associated with the Right rather than the Left. With more people than ever before identifying as atheists and agnostics, it can be appealing for cultural critics to now cling to religious conservatism in a reactionary way.
Because with everything wrong in the world right now, it’s a safer explanation to fall back on than reevaluating your own politics.