Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Certainty Built on Sand

I was reading an editorial column entitled "Politics as Religion" by an LA Times writer in the Tribune today. In it, the columnist contends that modern politics, in many circles, has become a religion. He reasons it this way:

"For centuries, American democracy as a process of conflict resolution has been based on give-and-take; negotiation; compromise; the acceptance of the fact that the majority rules, with respect for minority rights; and, above all, on an agreement to abide by the results of a majority vote. It takes compromise, even defeat, in stride because it is a fluid system.... But religious fundamentalism rests on immutable truths that cannot be negotiated, compromised or changed....

He goes on to say:

"The fundamentalist political fanatics will always be more zealous than mainstream conservatives or liberals. They will always be louder, more adamant, more aggrieved, more threatening, more willing to do anything to win. Losing is inconceivable. For them, every battle is a crusade -- or a jihad -- a matter of good and evil. "

This reminded me of a video I saw where a man went and interviewed people who were protesting at the 9/12 event in Washington. People there had very strong opinions. What caught my attention was that, very often, it seemed that the weaker the knowledge an individual had on the subject, the more vehement they were in their stance. As the author of the article said, their opinions almost seemed to have more of a religious bent than a political one.

Not that I am against people having strong opinions. However, I do wonder where we are headed politically when there seems to be little relationship between our knowledge of a topic and the tenacity with which we will hold an opinion.

I hold fairly strong opinions on the educational system and on aspects of the Christian religion... but I also have a fairly deep level of knowledge and experience. When it comes to things like the present health care argument, I hold my thoughts a little more open-handed. I tend to be a proponent of universal health coverage... but I try to keep my opinions to a personal level and reasoning. The matter is too nuanced and complex for me to be very emphatic with my opinions.

In this video, you will see people who are passionate to the point of anger, disgust, and frustration. Yet, it takes only the simplest question or bit information to upend their view and leave them stumbling. These are cases of fundamentalist-like belief on a political topic. They are 100 % certain... on a topic of which they have little, to no, experience or education.


Redlefty said...

I think all of us are guilty of that.

While you shared that you are more hesitant on issues you know less about, I'm not always that way.

I'm quite humble in some areas of business management, even though I have an MBA from a top school. My education has shown me that business is ininitely complex.

But in neuroscience, physics or politics I can feel pretty smug after an article or book. Becuase I don't know enough yet about those topics to realize that I know almost nothing about those topics.

WES ELLIS said...

That video is strangely encouraging but profoundly depressing. Encouraging because it reveals that there is not true logical force behind the positions being expressed... they have no idea what they're talking about anyway so I don't really need to take them seriously. But depressing because it's sad to think that people could be so mislead, so confused, and so influenced by propaganda, while at the same time, they make up a percentage of the voting population in this country. I am glad to say that the Jesus they keep mentioning in the video is probably very different from the Jesus of the Bible.

Andrew said...

Very true Red. It is amazing how knowledgeable we can get after one magazine article. :)

Wes - yep, people are intelligent... mobs are pretty mindless.

When I see things like this, I understand how people ended up being forced into baptisms or burned at the stake.

I had a great conversation the other day with my neighbor who runs a nursing business (his home next to mine is ONE of his homes). For about 40 minutes he gave me a calm explanation of how the medical system works, what he would like to see happen, and what he is worried will happen; what works and what doesn't. No yelling, no hyperbole; pros and cons presented.

Absolutely refreshing!

Steve H. said...

Love the line about the relation between knowledge and opnion. Its amazing what happens in politics when you read both "National Review" and "The New Yorker" its like matter and anti-matter if you can balance them...but I realize most can't

The Metzes said...

well put Andrew . .. one of the first steps in overcoming the partisan black eye in churches is to be careful not to react to right-wing majorities with left-wing responses. We need to free the Gospel of partisanship, confess our bias and work through them in conversation with "opponents". Nothing happens when conversation breaks down. With media outlets that simply echo what you already believe, it is very easy to isolate your perspective from the conversation at-large.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit - I cannot stomach the hatred these people spew - so illogical and so slanderous.

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