The Failure of Faith
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The Failure of Faith • Posted: Nov 12, 2012 04:56:01Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

While Democrats were relieved by last Tuesday's election results, most Republicans were reportedly "stunned".

Stunned? One might expect disappointment, but "stunned'? That's pretty strong, well beyond surprise. But why was that? What shocked them so deeply?

Numerous reports suggest Republicans, most especially the Christian right, whole-heartedly believed the clearly biased reporting, commentary, and pronouncements dispensed by media outlets such as Fox and American Family Radio, and by media personalities like Hannity, Beck, and Limbaugh. They also sincerely believed God was on their side and that the tides of change were rising to their favor. Any person of compassion could not help but feel their pain as results came in and they began to wonder if perhaps God might have abandoned them, or in the very least was now setting them up for some far more serious "test of faith".

How comforting to think the world so simple and understandable that its lessons, history, and future might be put down in a book, and that one might show mastery of that wisdom by memorizing and quoting its passages. And how comforting to think that anyone might legitimize their own thinking by discovering parallels within those "sacred" texts and within the pronouncements of other "true believers". And yet, when one knows how the brain works, how timing of internal events is key to the personal perception of "truth", of what is "real" and what is not, one cannot but have pity for those who fall victim to its tricks.

Under study, hallucinations occur when imagined mental imagery coincides and intermingles with waking perceptions, when the chain of causality becomes reversed from perception inspiring understanding to understanding implying, causing, and influencing perception. In other words, within the brain, the timing of waking perception is slowed while the timing of one's faculties for making sense of things is speeded up. In the process, consciousness becomes confused as to what comes first. That is, confused as to what is causing or influencing what.

On a different scale, magical thinking occurs when one becomes habituated to the confused belief that concurrence implies causality and that proximity implies contamination and influence. Put another way, French anthropologist Emile Durkheim suggests the earnest religious mind can sometimes become obsessed with need to keep what is "sacred" separated from what is "profane", forever worrying that both coincidence and proximity may endanger the "purity" of that separation. Hence, false beliefs like because Obama's father was Muslim, Obama must be Muslim too, for by the logic of magical thinking proximity and touching imply contamination. With purity breached, what is sacred becomes profane.

While it is commonly understood that hallucinations can occur through the ingestion of poisons, they can also occur as a result of disease processes such as fever and as a consequence of stress. One can, in fact, learn how to induce hallucinations without the use of drugs. Some religious and cultural rituals do just that. Magical thinking, on the other hand, is entirely learned. That is, the institutions of our culture, as well as our families, friends, and associates, can and do educate us, teach us, and reward us to think either critically or magically. Much of the history of mankind is the story of humans attempting to break free of the cruel darkness magical thinking imposes. Only with the development of critical thinking, wherein humans have learned to separate internal perception from external reality and causation from coincidence, have we begun to appreciate the true physics of reality and our need to creatively adapt to it, instead of worship it, pray to it, fear it, or arrogantly assume we are masters of it. Unfortunately, American culture and the Internet is today awash in a resurgence of magical thinking and misguided belief in illogical untestable falsehoods.

It would not be wrong to suggest that for many Republicans "shock" at Obama's reelection goes much deeper than surprise because magical thinking is in play. From their point of view, contamination of the "sacred" is spreading, creeping up on them like a rising flood of fire. Many now believe there are fewer and fewer places left that are "safe". Some suspect prayer may be failing them. Others wonder if God has forsaken them. For those most disturbed, there is precious little hope beyond huddling together, packing a gun, and planning some final defense against the impending holocaust of fire.

How very very sad.

And one cannot help but worry what desperate tragic acts may follow as complete innocents are falsely labeled "evil" and struck out at.

Monday, June 11th, 2012
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