Are we posting too much about the Presidential election?

October 1, 2008 | By | 32 Replies More

How many posts at this site have been about the election? I haven’t counted them, but there are so many that it almost seems like an obsessive pursuit. It’s almost a little embarrassing, especially for a website that does not present itself as a current events or news commentary site.

On the other hand, the upcoming election is compelling to many of the authors at this site (I am the most guilty), because John McCain and Sarah Palin embody so many of the characteristics that inspired the creation of this blog in the first place.

Back in 2004, a handful of my acquaintances became emboldened by the national political mood and came fully out of the closet with their fundamentalist explanations for how the world works and how it must be changed. The positions were strikingly uninformed and one-sided. They were proud of their lack of any basis for the conclusions other than the Bible or their version of our “Christian” government. They showed no ability to understand the basis for the beliefs of people who disagreed with them. They quoted the Bible incessantly without showing any understanding of the historical development of the Bible as a book of stories, many of them entertaining or inspiring, but many others disturbing and self-contradictory.

I took advantage of this opportunity, just as I still do today, to question such beliefs.  Because I was hearing such silliness out of the mouths of real human beings, I was inspired to write, research, converse, and write some more, in an attempt to figure out what was going on. I wanted to know if my worldview was utterly and starkly disconnected from that of fundamentalists and neocons or whether there was some possible translation by which we could still communicate with each other.  In those early days of this blog, I remember feeling frustrated, sometimes angry with fundamentalism of all stripes.  I now realize that good-hearted people who happened to have traditional religious beliefs (but who were not fundamentalists) got caught up in my frustration. It’s not that I don’t have differences of opinion with non-fundamentalists religious believers, but I have gradually come to the conclusion that it is fundamentalism that is the real problem.  I am now fully aware that there are many good hearted people who sincerely believe in a sentient God who are my full-fledged allies, despite our many differences in the way we respond to the mysteries of life.

One way of illustrating my re-orientation is to consider that there are many agnostics, ignostics and atheists out there with whom I have less in common than with many good-hearted and thoughtful believers in gods and religions. This becomes all the more clear when I articulate what really should be our main concern as inhabitants on this planet: to get along with each other and to make the community a better place for all people.  Yes, many nonbelievers are also good-hearted (Ebonmuse of Daylight Atheism is one of my favorites), but not all nonbelievers are good-hearted. The ultimate question is to ask with whom I would have more in common: a goodhearted thoughtful believer in “God” or a self-centered and intolerant nonbeliever?  Because the answer to that question is clearly the former group, this means that I am not here to wage a war on religion itself.  It is my firm belief that each of us acts on beliefs that we cannot prove. My attack is on destructive impulses, regardless of the manner in which someone packages his or her destructive belief system.

I will continue to explore why people who claim to believe in God make their (to me untenable) supernatural claims. This is a fascinating topic that deserves the increased amount of discussion that it is now getting.  It is clear to me, however, that thoughtful and kind-hearted people who believe in gods and who belong to religions are not a threat to my way of life, whereas fundamentalism is a threat because it shuts down the brain in a way that prevents meaningful discussion of real-life issues and all too often inspires heavy-handedness, reckless and insensitive conduct. Fundamentalism is usually based upon out-of-control anxiety and fear, hyper-groupishness, obeisance to authority, and intolerance to the differences of others. It is also clear to me that fundamentalism comes in a variety of flavors, the most visible being religious fundamentalism (there are Christian, Muslim versions, for example). There is also political fundamentalism, of course. Those who are neoconservatives represent an especially dangerous version. It is my belief that the highly visible decay of the United States is due to the rise of both political and religious fundamentalism.

I started this site back in 2006 because I realized that humans need a constant and a healthy dose of skepticism to keep themselves from falling prey to various types of fundamentalism.  This self-vigilance needs to be unrelenting, but our inner personal battles also need to be fought intelligently. Those of us who are too skeptical become paralyzed with doubts and we thus fail to reach back out into the world to actually make the world a better place. For fundamentalists–those who reject skepticism–there will be lots of reaching out in the community because movement always seems like progress, but there is a huge difference between changing one’s community and intelligently changing one’s community. There is no better example than the US invasion of Iraq, where our political and social leaders were anxious for some sort of tangible activity that would “respond” to the 9/11 attacks.  It is clear now that what we got is an extremely expensive (in terms of money and lives) endeavor which made the world and the United States worse off and completely failed to “respond” to the 9/11 attacks.

John McCain and Sarah Palin now assert that they are different than George W. Bush.  It is equally clear that they wish to continue the same failed policies of the current Administration, especially the war-mongering.  Based on the kinds of answers they are giving to questions posed to them, it is also clear that McCain and Palin are political fundamentalists who reject any evidence that does not fit in their pre-conceived notion of how the world works.  We can’t afford any more leaders who reject the importance of inconvenient evidence.  We desperately need leaders who are self-critical and who are not embarassed to admit this.

It is without apology, then, that we will continue to take an unrelenting side-excursion into politics, at least until November, because it is really not detour at all. Rather, the current campaign is allowing us to see, in a tangible and high-stakes way, the intellectual concerns raised in this site ever since we appeared in 2006.

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Category: American Culture, Current Events, Good and Evil, Meaning of Life, Politics, Psychology Cognition, Science, snake oil, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (32)

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  1. Erik Brewer says:

    • Vicki Baker

    [Note from Admin: This comment has been stricken in its entirety because it constitutes "preaching." See the commenting and email policies of this site for further information.]

  2. Erik Brewer says:

    Now that I am being fully censored I guess I will leave (my free thinking is too much for the free thinkers).

    It has been fun. If you cannot beat them then kick them out!!!

  3. Edgar Montrose says:

    Erik Brewer wrote: "How in the world could you ever get the 'I am God' from any of the stuff that I have written?"

    Just as you cannot examine a sore on your own neck, you cannot see what others see when they look at you. The logical conclusion to be drawn from your words is that you are in sole possession of the Will of God, therefore you must be God.

    "What kind of trick are you trying to pull here?"

    A trick? Pointing out your own hubris to you is a trick? Then truly you must be God if you cannot possibly possess any human weaknesses.

    You know that God works through surrogates, and surely you've heard the old saying, "The Lord works in mysterious ways." Consider the possibility that God brought you to DI because someone needed to be taught a lesson … and that "someone" was YOU.

  4. Eric wrote:—"Abstinence with the help of Jesus Christ is the best form of birth control. Plus the choice was made when the women chose to sleep with the men. We all have the right to life in the Constitution accept for innocent helpless babies (murder them because they cannot protect themselves). What hypocrisy!"

    You're correct, of course, about abstinence. The question is whether that's preferable. In my opinion, sex is possibly the best thing humans can share with each in terms of intimacy, at least when it is engaged honestly and as an expression of love between people. It is possible to love more than one and I cannot imagine a world in which that freedom must be limited.

    But to play your own game for a moment, let's be precise—there is no such guarantee as you claim in the Constitution. "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" is in the Declaration of Independence, which is an expression of sentiment, not law.

    As to the charge of murder, well, obviously I disagree—a fetus, especially first trimester, is not human, but potentially so. Nevertheless, as in other things, there is this matter of conflicting rights, and I assert (my opinion mind you) that a woman has a primary right to determine when and if she will procreate. It is nonsensical for that right to end in the moment pregnancy occurs.

    Women have had no choice in this matter historically (and in many, if not most, parts of the world they still do not—the men who rule their lives make that determination) and this has been the foundation of the inequity that has existed between men and women. We will, naturally, disagree on this, and I expect you to. As long as the religious right continues to rail against rational sex education and contraception and we let that viewpoint stand, this situation will continue.

    —"You wrote “Oh, but that means they could have sex when they wanted to, with whom they want, and there wouldn’t be any consequences. Forgot about that.”

    There are always consequences for sex outside of marriage. Please do not be so naïve or “uneducated”. (see STD’s and how rapidly they are spreading, even in the age of the condom, which does not protect 100% by the way)."—-

    Granted. It's a matter of risk assessment. And btw there can be consequences for sex within marriage, too.

    As to your argument about the spread of STDs, there is a direct causal relation between that and lack of education. This is not an opinion, but a well-documented fact.

    You keep bringing up the failure of condoms. Has it occurred to you that the stated failure rate is due to two things? One, user malfunction. Two, liability laws make it impossible for a manufacturer ever to claim 100%.

    I became sexually active around the age of 16. Until I found my life partner, I used condoms—forgive the phrase—religiously. No pregnancies, no STDs. Granted, personal annecdote is notoriously suspect, but there it is.

    You have to ask what you're willing to give up and what you're willing to risk in order to live the way you want.

    "Just because men do it does not make it right. Men murder others, should we legalize it and make it right since people are already doing it?"

    We do. It's called war. It's called capitol punishment. It's called pollution. It's called many things that result in the deaths of people and they are legal. Prior to the advent of reliable birth control, I would argue that men murdered women—legally—all the time by continually impregnating them and causing them to bear children till their bodies wore out. There are still cases of that in this country today, but in the Third World it is rampant. Women historically did not have the right to say no.

    In the west, though, the death rate through pregnancy and childbirth declined dramatically with the advent of birth control and the dissemination of rational sex education.

  5. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Those that really know the truth will tell you:

    The GOSTAK DISTIMMS the DOSHES!!!

    and if you don't believe it, you are un-patriotic.

    BTW… I did not make this up, someone else did.

    Really,I didn't make this up! You can google "gostak" and get about 17,000 entries.

    Let me define the words "gostak", "doshes" and "distimm" and it will be clear.

    Gostak: (noun,singular) the distimmer of doshes

    Doshes: (noun,collective) that which the Gostak distimms

    Distimm: (verb,active) what the gostak does to the doshes

  6. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I for forgot to mention that if you do google "gostak" and look around a bit, you will fin the relevence to the original post.

    but to save you the trouble, here is a good explanation. http://math.cofc.edu/kasman/MATHFICT/mfview.php?c

  7. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    BTW, I forgot to add this link that explains the gostak and the doshes and shows the relevence to the article.

    http://math.cofc.edu/kasman/MATHFICT/mfview.php?c

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