I’ve been on vacation for the last week, which is why I’ve been quiet on the posting front. But my brain’s still been working, and I’ve got a few thoughts from various moments over the past few days.
Faith-Think in Action
I write a lot about the macro effects of religion and faith-ism. But sometimes this kind of mindset contributes to one person doing something awful to specific individuals. And in the last week or so, the most prominent purveyor of faith-think in the news has to be Sarah Palin. A recent article in USA Today complained that her TV show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, is not only a caricature of Alaska but of Sarah herself. It uses emotional appeals to the exotic, the rugged, and the “traditional American frontiersman” to fuel her popular and political success. But beneath the veneer, there’s simply nothing there. She’s still undereducated, and her political views are dangerous. She could still set women’s rights back half a century if she got her way. And the fact that she’s so popular proves that lots of people buy the faith-think hype.
But all of this is sort of old news. We all know that we dislike Sarah Palin and what she represents. However, since the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, the implications of faith-think have come into sharp relief.
Twenty-two year old Jared Loughner is a disturbed young man. He’s highly susceptible to rumors of conspiracy. Like many mentally unstable people, he was a prime candidate to act out his fears and paranoia if given half a suspicion that it would be for the greater good. Want to guess who helped give him his mission?
Yep. That’s a gun sight on Arizona, with Representative Giffords listed as a target. With Sarah’s Signature on the bottom. Like an executive execution order.
The sheriff had something to say about it:
“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous,” he said. “And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.” (LINK)
I don’t know if it’ll turn out that Loughner relied heavily on Sarah Palin. It honestly doesn’t matter, because Palin’s website is just one example out of hundreds or thousands that can be found with a few clicks of a mouse. It’s part and parcel of our culture.
One of the victims was a young girl named Chistina Taylor-Green, and incidentally, she was born on September 11. This got me thinking about more faith-think in action. You may be tempted to suggest that poor Mr. Loughner shouldn’t be used in this kind of discussion. After all, he’s not normal. What faith-think does to him shouldn’t be used to indict the same kind of thinking in people with all their rational faculties. But that’s exactly the point. (I’ll get back to this idea in a moment.)
We’re coming up on the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And in the past decade, the number of quack-pot conspiracy theories and calls for the overthrow of the American government have done nothing but grow. At some moments, as many as four out of ten Americans reported believing that the U.S. Government enacted the grandest conspiracy of all time, complete with American agents posing as Saudis, computer generated cell phone calls impersonating real people, the disappearance of all the “alleged” passengers, the secret demolition wiring of both towers, and a unilateral stand-down order given to our air defenses by Dick Cheney himself.
Do you think it’s coincidental that 40% of Americans also report disbelieving that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors? I don’t.
The exact same kind of mentality necessary to believe a talking snake tricked a woman into eating a magic apple is the fuel behind 9/11 conspiracies, tea-bagger politics, and the kind of vigilante violence we see all too often in America. It’s all the same thing, folks.
The reason we can’t ignore the effect of faith-think on the “fringe” elements of society is that there’s apparently a 40% FRINGE.
Yeah, I know. It’s not the same 40% of people who believe in 9/11 conspiracies, tea party politics, and the ability of Sarah Palin to save America for Jesus. But this realization only makes things worse. I think it’s safe to say that well over 50% of Americans subscribe to at least one crack-pot faith-think belief system.
And that majority is what gives people like Sarah Palin and Jason Loughner — both crack-pots in their own way — credibility that they wouldn’t have if they simply held themselves to a standard of reasonable evidence. The acceptance of ANY faith-think encourages and promotes all other forms of faith-think, even when the positions disagree.
There are a lot of people in America who would never do what Jason Loughner did. But deep down, they think a greater good might have been accomplished. After all, there’s a war on freedom in America, and those nasty Democrats, liberals, commies, gays, and atheists are behind it. Just because one man was deranged enough to follow through with the assassination attempt, don’t lull yourself into thinking that this is an isolated incident, or that the faith-think is only harmful to mentally ill people. It’s harmful to all of us.