Tag Archives: sam harris bart erhman podcast

The US’ Other Opiate Problem

The same incredulous question arises nearly every day:  How can Trump still have a thirty percent approval rating considering his bungling, lying, crudeness, and refusal to lead? Who would still support him after child separation, farm bailouts due to trade wars, and Putin’s obvious influence in his decision making? Who? I have my own hypothesis, drawn from my experience as a former evangelical Christian/Republican and it echoes another voice:  Religion is the opiate of the masses.

There is a backbone to the idea that religion numbs the senses of the masses. It is the belief that the bible is right, the inerrant word of God, and to doubt it is to doubt God himself. This notion is infused into church teaching.  It’s preached to little babies, “The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me!” Then as an adult, “God said, I believe, that settles it forever.” We’ll even put ourselves through some hefty mental gymnastics to prove the argument. Confining a person’s knowledge base to only the bible acts like a spinal block to the logical, analytical areas of the mind, leaving them unresponsive and worthless.

Church leaders utilize the spinal block effects to their advantage and employ some impressive acrobatics to re-enforce the group-think. For example, Stephen Strang, founder of Charisma magazine, demonstrates his support of a lying, crude, selfish, president by tweeting that “God can use even a corrupt man.”

Here are the recent words of Jerry Falwell, Jr.

“It’s a distortion of the teaching of Christ to say Jesus taught love and forgiveness and therefore the United States as a nation should be loving and forgiving, and just hand over everything we have to every other part of the world.”

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, but this guy says that as one of the richest, ‘Christian’ nations in the world, we shouldn’t be concerned about starving Yemeni babies. Then again, if the spigot of information is drawing from just one well, the people tuning into Falwell most likely don’t even know about the crisis in Yemen.

Check out the amusing amount of hair splitting going on about affairs that happened while in the Oval Office and affairs that happened eleven years ago before a guy became president. This is particularly galling to me as I recall distinctly the thrashing Clinton got from local and national church leaders (I was still in the church at the time). Those same people now liberally tease out some very obscure angles from which to view morality in order to justify supporting Trump. Guess what? If the mind of the flock is numb, constricted by a singular source of information, its malleability around strangely shaped ideas is inevitable.

Falwell and Graham’s grandiose proclamations are reinforced with publications such as Charisma magazine. Its stories massage the marriage of politics and religion, interpreting political developments through the pinpoint lens of evangelical Christianity. A scroll through the sites’ news feed is anemic on information and knowledge, but fat on reassurance to their reader that, despite our current mess as a nation, all is going according to God’s plan. It’s like a little booster shot of Novocaine to the soul (Televangelists are superb administrators of similar anesthesia).

The pinnacle of evangelical Christian thinking is some apocalyptic end times gig, based upon the book of Revelation. So when Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it was a sign that god did indeed pick the right man to fulfill the role of ushering in His plan for the end of the world. You might wonder how we could buy that line of thinking. If I’m already subscribed to the mystical stories of talking snakes and partings of seas, then a drug induced hallucination including political developments as indicators of the rapture is easily plausible.

I was doing my own research outside of the church offerings by the end of Clinton’s tenure. I compared what I read in publications such as Charisma to what was being reported by outside sources that had decent track records of accuracy (WaPo, Guardian, Al Jazeera, NYT, LA Times, to name a few +  books). I found a lot of lies on the side of the church, which to me appeared necessarily invented solely to stir up fear. I observed that the wild prophesies I’d heard about Clinton simply didn’t manifest. I came to realize that having a mainline of information from just one source leaves the mind paralyzed; cut yourself off from the mainline, and the mind wakes up.

There’s not much to be done for a numbed mind and paralyzed logic. A person has to answer their own curiosity in order to shrug off the dense effects of evangelical opium. It is important to recognize the dynamic involved with Trump’s persistent portion of support, though. Evangelical mind-think is a contingency that’s not going away since it soothes the uncertainty of many a soul, we must acknowledge that. Perhaps we should stop questioning the “How?” and focus on a social coping mechanism instead: Do we ignore that faction? Engage with it? Exemplify an alternative?

I am open to suggestions…

Frankie