A Look Inside The Evangelical Mind
It can be easy to feel superior to theists who blindly follow around like docile then alternately hostile sheep, parroting whatever nonsense is fed to them by their minister or media of choice. They can seem stupid, however they are smart enough in some respects to be unnerving and to keep most of us supposedly intelligent freethinking atheists hiding in our closets. Although any mob is dangerous, and sheep are no exception.
What are the causes of sheep mentality? Does it only happen to dumb people? These are questions I am curious about especially after reading an excerpt from Matt Taibbi’s new book, The Great Derangement. I’ve never heard of Taibbi before, but he has his own Wikipedia page. He works for Rolling Stone, oh, and it seems that he is a regular contributor to Real Time with Bill Maher.
So my friend linked me to freethoughtpedia to an excerpt of this book. It’s kind of long, but I found this to be an exceptionally compelling must-read.
Taibbi infiltrates a christian zionist church in Texas. He’s an atheist but he goes undercover to an “Encounter Weekend” to get a look “inside the evangelical mind-set that gave this country eight years of George Bush”.
I found it to be very insightful, frightening and downright hilarious reading. I would highly recommend it. If you’re going to read it and want the full experience, click here. Otherwise if you need more tempting, here are a few really compelling quotes from the excerpt:
There is a transformational quality in these external demonstrations of faith and belief. The more you shout out praising the Lord, singing along to those awful acoustic tunes, telling people how blessed you feel and so on, the more a sort of mechanical Christian skin starts to grow all over your real self. …
…those outward ministrations assume a kind of sincerity in themselves. And at the same time, that “inner you” begins to get tired of the whole spectacle and sometimes forgets to protest….
At any given moment, which one is the real you?
You may think you know the answer, but by my third day I began to notice how effortlessly my soft-spoken Matt-mannequin was going through his robotic motions of praise, and I was shocked. For a brief, fleeting moment I could see how under different circumstances it would be easy enough to bury your “sinful” self far under the skin of your outer Christian and to just travel through life this way. So long as you go through all the motions, no one will care who you really are underneath. And besides, so long as you are going through all the motions, never breaking the facade, who are you really?
…By the end of the weekend I realized how quaint was the mere suggestion that Christians of this type should learn to “be rational” or “set aside your religion” about such things as the Iraq War or other policy matters. Once you’ve made a journey like this — once you’ve gone this far — you are beyond suggestible. It’s not merely the informational indoctrination, the constant belittling of homosexuals and atheists and Muslims and pacifists, etc., that’s the issue. It’s that once you’ve gotten to this place, you’ve left behind the mental process that a person would need to form an independent opinion about such things. You make this journey precisely to experience the ecstasy of beating to the same big gristly heart with a roomful of like-minded folks. Once you reach that place with them, you’re thinking with muscles, not neurons.
By the end of that weekend, Phil Fortenberry could have told us that John Kerry was a demon with clawed feet, and not one person would have so much as blinked. Because none of that politics stuff matters anyway, once you’ve gotten this far. All that matters is being full of the Lord and empty of demons. And since everything that is not of God is demonic, asking these people to be objective about anything else is just absurd. There is no “anything else.” All alternative points of view are nonstarters. There is this “our thing,” a sort of Cosa Nostra of the soul, and then there are the fires of Hell. And that’s all.
I originally posted this article in September 2008 on HDC. So it’s been over 8 months, and what Taibbi wrote has really stuck with me. What would it be like to “belong”? To not have to think and reason? That’s what resonates the most, I guess. I don’t really have any answers. It’s just a thought in the back of my mind sometimes, especially when I hear the news or deal with christians.
Maybe I’ve been an atheist for so long that I just can’t get back in that mindset. I’m not complaining about that, of course. It’s just an observation. Anyway, I thought I’d share this with you.