Someone I know engaged in an online blog correspondence with a fundamentalist who was ranting about how the new dollar coins do not have "In God We Trust" on them and that this was yet more evidence on how God and Christians were being marginalized by a hostile government. When this person pointed out that "In God We Trust" is stamped in bold letters on the coin's edge (much like the Brits do with the "Dieu et Mon Droit" and other mottoes of the Court of St. James on their coins) her correspondent huffily replied "Well, if you can't see it, it isn't there!"
I remember my instant thought when I was first told this story: "You mean like GOD?!?"
Yes, I am an atheist, but I don't tell this story to denigrate religion. I'll tell you another story and how this all ties in with the Romney campaign after the fold.
The other story comes from a conversation I had with one of my few Republican friends. (Yes, it is possible for a flaming liberal and a fairly conservative Republican to be friends). I worked with this man for quite a while and we even wrote a book about Java programming together. He was a devout Lutheran. I am a recovering Lutheran. Every day when we would sit down to lunch, he would briefly pause to silently pray. One day, I remarked on his devotion and how rarely I see it. At some point I remember saying "And yet you don't deny evolution, and you enjoy reading Harry Potter with your kids. So many avowed and 'vocal' Christians are hostile to these things." In response he said something that has stuck with me ever since:
"Their God is too small."
Belief is an important human trait. Much real human progress has depended on people persevering aginst what seem to be impossible odds. I think it is fair to say that if reason alone motivated human behavior, the abolitionists would have given up, the marchers would have turned back before the bridge in Selma, and those of us opposed to the Minnesota Marriage and the Voter ID amendment would not have turned out in sufficient numbers to defeat both measures.
Belief and faith can carry a person or a people over barriers that seem insurmountable. But there is belief and there is delusion. No amount of belief will allow us to breathe under water, to bring back a loved one, or, perhaps more tellingly, make the internal angles of a triangle add up to anything other 180 degrees.
So the distinction lies not in the quality of belief, but in the nature of the obstacle to be overcome. When I read the front page piece about how unprepared the Romney campaign was for defeat, I found myself oddly touched with sympathy. Not for their defeat. I earnestly hoped and worked for their defeat. But for that sense of shock and loss they all must have felt. From the front page piece "They really believed their own b.s."
"I am shocked, I am blown away," said Joe Sweeney, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "I thought I had a pretty good pulse on this stuff. I thought there was a trend that was going on underground."Two of my "pet policy concerns" are global warming and energy (specifically the so-called "peak oil" issue, but also the general resource depletion and sustainability issue). I keep reading all sorts of what I think of as "magical thinking" on these, even from very well educated economists who seem genuinely to believe that demand creates energy. They believe this, in part, because in some ways it does. For example, high demand drives up prices to the point where it becomes economical to exploit tar sands. Demand creates supply! Magic! But this ignores a physical fact: At some point it will take an amount of energy to extract a barrel of oil that will equal the energy you can obtain from burning that barrel of oil. At that point, the magic stops. And no amount of additional magical thinking will change that.
The Romney campaign and the Republican party and their FOX News propaganda machine have spewed the lies to the point where they, themselves, believe it. But many in the broader public are either getting wise to the lies or becoming aware of how the interests of the liars run contrary to thier own interests.
Reality will not give in to wishes.
But while my joy at Romney's defeat is tinged with this pity and sympathy, it isn't my generous heart that gives me that pity. It is a sense of "there but for the Grace of God" (odd phrase for an athiest, I will admit) go we.
We all must be on our guard against magical thinking. Yes, we need faith to go on fighting for things that seem hopeless. Yes, we need to believe in the rightness of our causes or we will not fight for them. Belief is the enemy of despair. But nothing happens that is magic. We all play in world of real facts and truth. You should not believe it when people tell you that your skin color means you can't succeed. You should not believe it when people say "Your same-sex love is unnatural." But you should always check and see if you are being asked to believe that the internal angles of a triangle add up to 270 degrees.
I guess my point is that while the Republican Party is presently lost in a delusion produced by lies and irrational dogma, they do not have a monopoly on these failings. And it is incumbent on each of us to constantly fact check not just the opposition, but also ourselves. Lest we find ourselves facing a similar moment.
Just a cautionary thought. Not a "concern troll," just a little parable I guess. Now I'm going to go back to feeling unabashedly excellent about the whole election in general, and my home state of Minnesota in particular!
Well done all!