30 August 2009

Faith metastasizes

Johann Hari has written an excellent article on the vexing topic of right-wing reality-denial. A sample:

Indeed, if you spend any time with American right-wingers -- as I have.....you soon find that your arguments don't center on philo-sophy. You have to concentrate on correcting basic factual errors about the real world. They insist Europe has fallen to Islam, since Muslims immigrants are becoming a majority and are imposing sharia law. In reality, Muslims make up 3 percent of the population of Europe, and most of them oppose sharia law. They insist Franklin Roosevelt caused the Great Depression, and should have cut government spending. In reality, whenever he did cut spending -- as he tried periodically throughout the 1930s
-- the economy began to tank. But explain this patiently -- with a thousand sources -- and they simply shriek that you are lying, and they know "in their heart" what is true. They insist gay marriage would cause the institution of the family to collapse. In reality, where it has already been introduced in Europe, hetero-sexual families continue just as before. On the list goes: evolution is a lie, a blastocyst is akin to a baby, torture produces actionable intelligence...

The most interesting part, however, is when Hari asks why the right has become so susceptible to reality-denial, and puts his finger on something I've long believed. This eruption of delusional thinking is not something that could equally easily have occurred in any ideological movement, and just happens to be afflicting the American right wing at the moment. On the contrary, it's solidly linked to how the American right, over the last decade or so, has increasingly based its very identity on a form of belief which proudly and stridently rejects logic and evidence as standards for evaluating truth -- that is, religion. Here's the key passage:

It begins, I suspect, with religion. They are taught from a young age that it is good to have "faith" -- which is, by definition, a belief without any evidence to back it up. You don't have "faith" Australia exists, or fire burns: you have evidence. You only need "faith" to believe the untrue or unprovable. Indeed, they are taught that faith is the highest aspiration and most noble cause. Is it any surprise this then percolates into their political views? Faith-based thinking spreads and contaminates the rational.

Once a person finds it positively virtuous to hold a certain set of beliefs regardless of how much evidence and logic contradict them, it becomes all too easy to accept and cling to a widening range of other beliefs which also defy evidence and logic.

Not every religious person ends up becoming delusional across the board, and not every delusional person got that way because he started out religious. But it obviously makes it a lot easier.

4 Comments:

Blogger vamp said...

Hence why a lot businesses here, and it pisses me off, have "Jesus" or "Christian" in their name. I love the one down the street(in our ultra conservative town), it's called Jesus Team Dish Network. Like that's going to makes you have "faith" that they're not gonna rip you off. *face palm*

30 August, 2009 16:45  
Blogger ZIRGAR said...

This confirms my exact same long held belief, based on observation and experience with religious people and politics, but I prefer to call it blind faith, instead of just faith. I mean, faith can be a valuable thing, such as having faith in someone you love or faith in your favorite sports team, as long as it is tempered reality and observation. It's blind faith that causes all of the problems, in my opinion. Thanks for posting this.

30 August, 2009 17:40  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Vamp -- Even here in Portland I've occasionally seen ads for businesses having nothing at all to do with religion, which have that Jesus-fish symbol in one corner or something similar. I guess it helps them reel in Christian customers. (Wouldn't be very effective for advertising this blog, unfortunately.)

Zirgar -- I think what you're talking about -- say, confidence in a person you know from experience is trustworthy -- shouldn't be called "faith" at all. That's knowledge, not faith. If you just know that your favorite sports team is going to win this time even though in reality they've almost always lost, that is faith. I wouldn't recommend betting on the team based on it, though. :-)

Thanks for stopping by.

30 August, 2009 18:58  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

I liked the post here...of coarse the republican party is doing themselves in as well. They are even starting to loose more and more touch with the reality of the peoples,free market,capitalism and the list goes on...even the values thing...well... has no more value. It's a shame...but its the reality of now. I was even hoping to vote for Kay Bailey Hutchison(R) for governor of Texas ... but the way the republican party has been going...its not a proper move on my part. And the only reason I voted republican so much in the past was only for a few reasons that I thought were important...which are...strong defense/security .. lowest possible tax rates,smallest government needed,reduce unnecessary spending, and I am very pro 2nd amendment, and I support the death penalty ... other than that...I had no other reason to vote for this party. As for the moralities,or the concept of god, or the issues on sexuality...I never gave a rat's ass about god or any of it actually,whether there was a god or not...I could care less...it doesnt put food in my belly or pay my bills, and I have always been for same sex marriage anyways. The republicans didnt have to do this...and nobody took them down but themselves...they have even lost value for the peoples to the worst degree...and this is essential...they have abandoned almost everything that is truely democracy ...especially recently. Even abandoned the American Dream...and chose to sell out.

Thank You Mr.Infidel!

31 August, 2009 15:22  

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