Blow states that "Beliefs are a more complicated blend of facts, or lies, and faith. And, they can exist beyond the realm of the rational." Indeed, as contrasted with science and its defining demand for the accumulation and analysis of relevant data, all in the pursuit of some element of an observable or demonstrable "truth," a truth that is only valid until weakened or destroyed by subsequent accumulations and analyses, religion has need of none of these conditions. All that is necessary for religion is that whatever it claims to be so are believed to be so by those subscribing to that religion or sect.
In other words, religion has no rigor. It's easy. And anyone can believe its assertions, regardless of educational background or passion for unfettered inquiry. In fact, with religion, less is most frequently more. Perhaps a reductio ad absurdum (invoking that which approaches the absurd, or actually is absurd) example or two.
Blacks are lazy.
Scots are thrifty.
Irish are drunks.
Jews are shifty.
And no good thing comes from Samaria; the bigotry that Jesus pilloried in his Parable of the Good Samaritan. Were he around today, he might employ any of the absurdities I called upon . . . to make his point.
Ah . . . but the point: A multitude of folks believe to this very day what they do about individuals, about entire populations and about entire notions based on not the first scintilla of evidence. For them, all that is necessary is that they believe it to be so, and it is sufficient.
Another example: For nearly one and a third millennia, without any substantiating reason behind its presumption, other than dogged ignorance, the Roman Catholic Church so insisted an astronomical error was factual truth that it subjected Galileo to the Inquisition, and condemned him. He was to no longer promulgate the idea that the earth revolved about the sun. The Church, the Church held, was "Infallible." And it was infallible because it believed it was, and that was all that it could ever take, in order that it be infallible. (That in the face of observations and calculations by Egyptian and Phoenician and Greek sailors and astronomers that were more than a thousand years ancient at the time!)
"Religion" can be a very dangerous thing, especially when it attempts to trump scientific findings, or scientific inquiry. Once again, go all the way back to Jesus himself, and the scientific question he put to those who were predisposed to a judgment that was based exclusively on a person's origins.
So, where is this going? To answer that I'm going to quote Blow, whose issue focused on the scurrilous attacks the Right has been levying on President Obama, attacks that, based on the most recent poll numbers, a majority of Americans have taken to heart. "This focus on faith has allowed people like Limbaugh to mislead and manipulate large swaths of the right.
"According to another Quinnipiac poll released last week, Republicans were far more likely than Democrats to say that they follow public affairs most of the time. But how? They listen to people like Limbaugh, and they're more likely than others to watch Fox News. (It's also factual that Republicans and Fox viewers are less well educated.)
"But invectives are not information. For example, a poll released on Wednesday by the Pew Research Center found that most Republicans say that they still don't understand how the new health care reform will affect them and their family.
"They don't know what it means, but they believe it's bad. Rush & Co. said so. In the vacuum of confusion and misinformation, they strum their fears and feed their anxiety. And, by worrying, their faith is made perfect."
As I suggested above, the genesis that has resonated as somehow valid with so many resides in a basic religious problem-solving schematic. It's so much easier to believe something, even matters that tend to be contradictory, even matters that on their face are absurd, than it is to subject the question to diligent, honest inquiry.
This was slammed back to especial pertinence by a review of MSNBC's "Hardball" program of August 13, 2009, while Lawrence O'Donnell was filling in for Chris Matthews. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvy9MA9D6Yo )
In a town hall meeting the day prior to the "Hardball" broadcast, Pennsylvania's Senator Arlen Specter, amidst howling, roaring cheers of approval from the audience, was verbally accosted by 35-year old Katy Abrams, "This is about the systematic dismantling of this country. I don't want this country turning into Russia, turning into a socialist like country. My question for you is: What are you going to do to restore this country back to what our Founders created according to the Constitution?" Ms. Abrams continued pumping her demanding fist up and down, and the crowd was on its feet, clapping and whistling its approval of her.
But when O'Donnell gently questioned Ms. Abrams of her basic understanding of the Constitution, or of programs like Social Security and Medicare, which her parents were enjoying, as did Sarah Palin, when she was asked concerning the "Bush Doctrine," or the newspapers she read to keep informed, she stammered, she hemmed, she hawed . . . she tripped over herself being dumb (as in both definitions of the word).
One of the many free sources I subscribe to and recommend is Pewresearch.org. Numerous, highly legitimate surveys reveal the tragic state of American ignorance over matters that no democracy can long suffer and expect to survive. Ms. Abram's demonstration and that of virtually all in the Tea Party movement, as well as that by Fox viewers mirrors those survey conclusions. Shouting about the Constitution and Founding Fathers may sound impressive, and may impress many. But unless one actually has a little knowledge about what one is ranting on, the sad truth is that that person, by definition, is ignorant, a fool, and is entitled only to ridicule, certainly not anyone's esteem or attention.
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