This is why identity politics can sometimes seem like a new sort of political theology. Belief and conviction are good things, but only if there’s something to believe in. Identity politics and the virtue-outbidding it necessitates often signal the absence of religion in search of religion—with followers mimicking its constituent elements: ritual, purity, atonement, and excommunication.

In purely practical terms, moral posturing doesn’t usually change anyone’s mind, because people intuitively interpret it “as a form of jockeying for in-group status.” But it doesn’t need to change minds, nor is it necessarily supposed to. Its point is to transform politics into a question of purity. It’s not enough to have the right opinion or intent: The precise words used to convey the right opinion become just as important, as Weiss herself quickly found out. Within this framework, acknowledging the legitimacy of different opinions—if the language used can conceivably be seen as insensitive to a disadvantaged group—becomes more than difficult, too; it becomes a moral failing.